By Chase Berenson
Nearly everybody in Baton Rouge has probably heard the word “geocaching,” but not everybody has a clear idea of what it actually is.
Geocaching is a cross between a scavenger hunt and a mind game, and most importantly, it gets participants outdoors so they can walk, hike and explore the environment around them.
Even better, geocaching is accessible to anyone with a smartphone and $9.99 (which includes most of you reading this article).
Julie Leiby, a local geocaching enthusiast, explained how the whole hobby works. The first step is to download the Geocaching app for your smartphone. (There are other free geocaching apps out there if you want to experience the hunt without making the financial commitment, but in the geocaching community, it’s agreed that the official app is the best one.) Once you download the app, you click “Find Nearby Geocaches” and you’re good to go!
Hundreds of green dots pop up on the map of Baton Rouge, showing that there are geocaches almost everywhere. They are located in the heart of downtown, in suburban shopping centers and all throughout LSU’s campus, allowing new geocachers to make a few finds without really getting their feet wet.
The caches are certainly not limited to the man-made environments! Highland Road Park, Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center and Hooper Road Park are all hotbeds for geocaching activity, among many other natural areas.
Almost anywhere you can think of, there are geocaches hidden.
To begin my geocaching adventure, I met with Julie at the Towne Center shopping center where we looked for an easy cache located near Whole Foods. What was obvious to an experienced geocacher took me quite a few minutes to spy.
Julie explained that when looking for a cache, it’s best to look for a small hint that something just doesn’t quite belong. In this case, the clue was a zip tie on a metal sign that was holding a tube smaller than a 35MM film canister on the backside of the sign.
Julie went on to explain that geocaches (particularly in the built environment) can be tiny, and sometimes it’s necessary to go so far as to check every bolt on a guard rail making sure there aren’t any fake magnetic bolts hidden in plain sight.
Once I knew what to look for, I headed off to City Park to find some caches of my own. Not far off Dalrymple Drive there’s an old metal structure that presumably not many people have noticed.
Following the app’s breadcrumbs (in the form of mapping and navigation) it was easy to find the structure, and not long thereafter I had found the geocache hidden inside.
Personally, I’ve discovered an activity that I think will grow into a new hobby. If there is a park in town you’ve wanted to check out or an area of town you’ve never visited before, geocaching is a great activity to get you outdoors and exploring!