Friday, July 3, 2015

Hidden Treasures at Andalusia Farm

Do you enjoy a walk through the woods, discovering new and interesting places, solving a puzzle or how about a treasure hunt? If so you may like Geocaching. What is Geocaching? Simply put, geocaching is a real-world treasure hunt using GPS (Global Positioning System) satellites, and Andalusia Farm has several of these treasures on-site!

It all started in May, 2000 when the US government removed “Selective Availability” from global positioning satellites. This meant all civilian GPS units became far more accurate. Before the month was out a GPS enthusiast hid a container in Oregon and posted the coordinates on a website and said “Go find it” and they did. Since then geocaching has grown by leaps and bounds.There are now more than two and a half million geocaches hidden all around the world. Some are on high mountain tops some in the sea but most are more accessible in the woods, parks, or even in the city.There are over six million active geocachers hunting for them. The chances are good that you have walked right by a cache. Caches are never buried but often well disguised and cleverly hidden.

What is a cache? Basically it is a hidden container with a log sheet. The cache is owned and maintained by the cache owner who is a member of The owner acquires permission to hide the cache, writes up the description for the cache page and sends it to a reviewer who publishes the page on the geocaching website.

A cache can be any size. Popular cache containers are ammo boxes, plastic Lock-Lock boxes and pill bottle sized containers. There are tiny ones no bigger than a small bullet. Regardless the size all cache containers contain a log sheet that the finder dates and signs with his or her user name. Many are disguised as rocks, bird houses, logs - the list goes on. Creative cachers can come up with very challenging cache containers that are puzzles to open. Larger cache containers contain “swag” - trinkets that can be traded equally.

There are several types of caches. Puzzle caches require you to break a code, do some math, and maybe Google some answers to questions before solving for the coordinates. Earth caches have no containers at all. The coordinates take you to a location where some interesting geological formation can be found. You must answer questions based on your observations. Other caches take you to historic sites or monuments. A complete list of cache types can be found on the website.

To play, geocachers log on and register at One’s username becomes the name that is used to sign logs sheets which are always in the cache. Once logged in you can enter your zip code, city or street address under “Play” on the website. A list of nearby caches will be provided as well as a map. Each cache has its own page listing coordinates, a map and description of area. There are codes to tell you what type of terrain to expect and how difficult it may be to find. Once a cache is found (or not found) the cacher logs his experiences on the cache page.

Geocachers use hand held GPS units or smartphones. There is a free app for iPhones that will get you started or a more sophisticated one for about $10.00. If using a handheld unit you enter the coordinates of a cache you have selected. The phone app will bring up nearby caches for you to find and includes a map showing the cache location and your current location.

Who geocaches? Families with children, retired couples, boy scouts to earn a badge and anyone else who enjoys the out of doors. There is a cache type for everyone.

Everyone caches for different reasons. For us it is about getting out in nature and having a challenging adventure. It is also the fun of discovering new places. It is finding covered bridges in Pennsylvania and Georgia, turning off the main road to find a postcard pretty town in New York, or learning about the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812. We explored a remote kite-surfers hang out in Curacao and met other cachers on a cruise. We found an old firetruck hidden in downtown Milledgeville. Finding places we never knew existed is always a thrill.

We hid our first caches at Andalusia Farm. Andalusia fit our criteria as a good place to look for a cache. The farm is a safe place for families to cache. There is the Tobler Creek Nature Trail which meanders through beautiful woods filled with wildlife. There is the history of the Clines, mid-century farm life and Flannery O’Connor. The caches will bring people who did not know about Andalusia. Hopefully they will leave with a little knowledge of what Andalusia is all about and some new cache finds.

-- Mary Anne and Paul May (aka: AstoriaRose and MayTech) are avid geocachers, and volunteers at Andalusia Farm.

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