Make winter fun by cache-ing through the snow

Geocaching is a free, easy activity in any community

Dec. 31, 2012

Germantown - They are hidden in plain site. Some are camouflaged and contain tiny trinkets. Others sit in the hollow of a tree and simply hold a piece of paper donning the names of people from around the world.

They are geocaches and they come in different shapes and sizes. Almost two million geocaches are hidden around the world. Many are planted in the Menomonee Falls and Germantown communities in areas you may frequent every day.

Geocaching is a free treasure hunt that waits outside all of our doors.

It's not about what's found inside each "cache"; rather, it is about the journey and the feeling of success when a cache is found in the most unlikely of places.

The sport is easy. Any age can participate. All you need is a GPS or a GPS app that can be downloaded for free on any smartphone.

To find a cache, people navigate to specific GPS coordinates and attempt to locate the geocache - or type of container - hidden at that site. To find where geocaches are hidden, you have to visit and register as a "basic member."

Once you've registered, login to the website using your username and password and click on "hide and seek a cache," which is in the "play" drop down menu. Then, type in a ZIP code or address of where you want to treasure hunt and caches in that location will appear with latitude and longitude coordinates. You can click on "map this location" as well, which shows how many caches are planted around the area you searched.

You can geocache anytime of year. It's a perfect winter activity to get you out of the house. Just make sure to bundle up and wear appropriate shoes.

In mid-December, I decided to go geocaching in Germantown. I searched for caches within a 20-mile radius using the Germantown ZIP code 53022.

Once I clicked "map this location" I saw there was a handful planted in Homestead Hollow Park off of Friestadt Road. That was going to be my starting point. I decided to find one called "Evan's Cache." Since I haven't done this in a while, I picked an easier one with specific clues.

Observation is not my strong suit, so sometimes geocaching can take me longer than most people. This one; however, only took about 15 minutes to find. The GPS will show you how far away you are from the coordinates, so you know when you are getting closer or farther away.

The fun part is finding the hidden cache once you reach the coordinates. Like usual, when I found it, I punched the air, celebrating my success.

The container was wrapped in camouflage tape. Inside was some spare change, an eraser and a piece of paper.

This cache must have been there for a while because some of the entries said it was found back in 2007.

Geocaching is an easy, relaxing (if you find them), family-friendly activity.

I highly recommend it when you're thinking: "It's winter. What now?"

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