Using a GPS for Geocaching
I’m not an expert, but here goes. GPS stands for Global Positioning System. For practical purposes a hand held GPS unit is the most common unit used. GPS data is transmitted by DOD (Department of Defense) satellites. Most all current GPS units are 12 channel parallel receivers which means they are capable of receiving data from up to 12 satellites at once.
This gives you very good reception on cloudy / overcast days as well as good reception when in the BIG WOODS tree cover. The data received by your GPS unit is converted to the Longitude and Latitude for the location you are at. Now remember that the satellites are operated by the DOD so they do toss in a varying amounts of error so your exact location may be off a bit. (Don’t want Saddam to be able to send a missile right through your front door do you??)Even with this error most times accuracy will be within 20 feet.
The number of satellites being received will also contribute to accuracy. Remember your GPS unit is capable of receiving 12 at once but because these are orbiting satellites the number available in your area at a given time will vary. Now what can we do with the GPS?? Once you have a reading, say at your parked car, you can “MARK” it as a way point then after a hard day of hunting for deer or looking for morels you can take out your trusty GPS and use the ‘GOTO” feature to get a heading and distance straight back to your car. No more worry about getting lost or finding your way back.
If you find a hot spot for morels you can also use your GPS to take a reading and “MARK” the spot so you can return to it later, even years later. Most GPS units are capable of holding several hundred way points and they also let you name the way points so you can remember what they are. Some GPS units (I use a Garmin GPS12CX) have a “TRACK BACK” feature which means if you leave your GPS on while you are walking you have the option of following your exact track back to your starting point. So now that you know what your GPS can do, a really fun thing is to check out Geocaching.
Geocaching is nothing more than high-tech treasure hunting. If you go to the web site Geocaching.com you will find that people all over the world are hiding treasure caches (pronounced cashes) and listing the Latitude and Longitude coordinates for them and sometimes some hints to help in finding them. These caches usually consist of some type of water proof container such as a military ammo box or Tupper.
Ware container with a log book and miscellaneous knick-knacks. Once you find a cache you can leave a note in the log book and exchange an item if you want. You can then register your find on the Geocaching website. These caches are usually hidden on public lands such as state parks, nature preserves, etc. It’s great practice at using your GPS. Check the website out for more detailed information. While there enter your zip code and see just how close a cache might be hidden to you.