Image: Dakster Sullivan

Geocaching at 15

Geek Culture Hobbies

On May 3, Geocaching turned 15. According to, just one day after commercial GPS receivers could receive accurate signals for the first time in 2000, GPS enthusiast Dave Ulmer hid a small treasure in the woods, published the coordinates, and announced the “Great American GPS Stash Hunt.” Thus was born a simple but addictive hobby that anyone with a GPS can play all over the world.

My wife, a life-long fan of scavenger hunts, decided to finally try Geocaching last month. She downloaded the iPhone Geocaching app and off we went to explore our neighborhood.

Official App-Store Screen Shot

There were a handful of caches within walking distance of our suburban L.A. home, and a dozen more within a short drive. We strapped our 11-month-old son into a wagon, our 3-year-old daughter climbed onto the tricycle she’d just learned to ride, and we set off for the Glenoaks Bridge a few blocks away.

kids on wheels
All Photos: Mark & Molly Moran

With Grace’s slow pedaling, it took us about twenty minutes to walk the half-mile, but both kids seemed excited to be outdoors on new streets. I figured there was only a 50-50 chance the cache would actually be there or that we’d be able to find it. Fortunately, the app records each time someone checks in at a cache, so we knew someone had found it just a month or two earlier.


After peeking under iron girders for a few minutes, we gleefully retrieved a rusty, round Altoids tin. Inside were various trinkets, including scraps of paper that made up a log of previous treasure hunters. The oldest entry was from early 2007, so I assume the mint box has been rusting there for almost a decade. We signed Grace’s name and added a small pirate-flag she’d recently made at KidSpace, then carefully returned the tin to its hiding spot.


We’ve been on four hunts since then and have found the cache on all but the most recent trip. Geocaching has provided a fun excuse to explore nearby neighborhoods and get our kids outdoors, even when we weren’t successful. And we absolutely plan to return to that unfinished spot and find the missing treasure.

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