Quick Guide to Getting Started
The quickest, easiest way to get started, even without a GPS, is simply go to a cache listing site get a geocache listing. For the purposes of this tutorial, we'll use geocaching.com. (Getting Started With Other Listing Sites) In the upper right-hand corner of the home page, type in your zipcode. The zipcodes are good for the US, Canada, Britain, and Australia. Then click GO.
The resulting page will be a list of all geocaches within 100 miles. The center of this circle of caches is a point (sometimes the location of a post office) determined by the geocaching.com site -- gc.com, for short -- and might not be the closest to you. It's a bit more complicated to get the caches closest to your home, but we really don't need to do that to get you started.
Selecting a good starting cache
To find a good starting cache, there are three columns you need to be paying attention to. These are the "Icons" column, the (D/T), and the "Last Found" Column. The first two are the most important.
Icons - What kind of cache?
Under the "Icons" column, look at the green and white icon that signifies a traditional cache. You can hover over the icon (with your mouse) for each discription.
Today, we visited our site, Holy Cross Church/school. Father Michael Matthews gave us a tour of the cchruh and school. First we visited the school. There are really three parts to it, the original part which was built in 1929, an added part which was built in the 40s, and another renovation that was recently built. The school used to be the cchruh, and we were able to see the library and auditorium in which service was held. The cchruh and school are obviously going through many financial issues, as they need a lot of repairs. A lot of the work on the buildings are done through grants and donations from current and past parishioners. The cchruh was absolutely beautiful also. The statues and stained glass was simply wonderful. The neighborhood around the cchruh is really run-down. The cchruh used to be thriving, with a maximum of 1500 parishioners. But the size of the school and cchruh have dwindled. Also, they try to keep the school in high performance, because a failing school is the first sign of a failing cchruh. We were not able to see the Ash Wednesday mass, but the tour was very informative. Father Michael was awesome as well.
Size - How big is it?
Under the (D/T) listing is a representation of the size of the cache, marked by small dots for micros to large squares for large containers. Again, hover over the icon to see the sizes for that particular cache. Micros are a bit advanced and harder to find, so start off with a small or larger.
Last Found - Is it still an active cache?
Next, look at the far right column which will tell when it was last found. You don't want to start off with a cache that hasn't been found in many months because it might not be there anymore. Anything in the last couple of months should be okay.
Read the Details of the Cache
Once you've found a good prospect, click the name of the cache to find more information about it.
The cache page
We won't go into much detail on the cache page. Read the description to see if it is something you might like to attempt. If not, go back to the cache list.
After you determine which cache sounds good, scroll down to the logs and read them. If you see logs that mention the cache may be missing or the contents are wet, try a different cache, as this hunt might not be a pleasurable experience.
If everything sounds okay, then let's go!
Hunting the cache
This author hunted his first several caches without the benefit of a GPS and will be describing how it is done "sans GPS." Don't worry, several geocachers are famous for thousands of finds without a GPS. It's not as easy, but you don't have to put out the cash for a GPS unit to get started.
First, just to get you started, let's go ahead and look at the hint. Around the middle of the page you will find "Additional hints." Click "Decrypt" next to it. This will allow you to read the additional hints provided (the ROT13 chart near it allows you to decrypt manually).
Below that you should find "For online maps..." Explore those links. This should give you an idea of where the cache is. It is beyond the scope of this tutorial to go in further detail. Besides, part of geocaching is discovery, both online and off.
It is also advisable to print the cache page to take with you. There is a link in small text towards the top of the page next to a small overview map. Look for "Make this page print-friendly" and click it. Click "decrypt" again to decrypt the hints on this page, too. Now, print it out.
GO FIND THAT CACHE!
Your First Find
On your first hunt, don't worry about trading. Look through it and get a feel of the contents. Read the log book. It's my experience most people just sign the log, mention what they left and took, and thank the owner for the placement. You can write anything you want; just make sure you sign the log as proof of your visit.
When you are finished, be especially carefull to replace the cache exactly how you found it. For now, we'll not get into the nuances of "how the cache owner intended it to be hidden."
Also, please be careful about being observed when hunting, signing in, and replacing the cache. Caches aren't well protected and the only security is their secret location. Please don't reveal its secret location to anyone other than a land owner or steward, or some authority that asks (like a police officer).
After the Hunt
After you return from your hunt, it is polite to notify the cache owner of your visit. Most people do this via the online log function of the site. In order to do this, you need to be a member of the site and logged in. Navigate back to the cache page of the cache you found and look in the upper right corner and click the "Log Your Visit" button.
On the next page, fill in the form. Under log type, if you found the cache select "Found it." If you didn't find it, select "Didn't Find It." There is no stigma attached to not finding a cache, (known as logging a "DNF"). This author has many DNFs to his name. Many times a DNF log is more interesting than a Found log. Select the date you found (or did not find) the cache and then tell us about your adventure!
We hope you had fun!