Sunday, March 9, 2014
When doing some maintenance on one of our geocaches the kids ran across a "coin." We originally thought it was a Travel Bug, an item that travels from one geocache to another that is tracked online, but we were mistaken. It turns out there are all sorts of "trackables" to be found in a geocache. The one we found was actually a signature item.
The "Kayaking Loon" Path Tag we found was actually a signature item this particular geocacher leaves in the geocaches s/he finds.
Confused about the trackables in the geocaching game? I have a basic working knowledge of them but don't know the details of every kind, which was obvious upon me mistakenly identifying a Path Tag signature item for a Travel Bug.
When a geocacher finds a Travel Bug in a geocache they are supposed to look for the unique serial number on its tag and log it into the geocaching website's special Travel Bug page. This alerts the owner their Travel Bug was found. It is then the geocacher's job (because they picked up the Travel Bug) to move the Bug along to a new geocache.
A few years ago my kids' 4-H club launched a Travel Bug as part of a national 4-H program called CYFERnet and spent nearly a year tracking their little 4-H keychain (with special ID tag) online. Their Travel Bug connected with some wonderful geocachers and that little Bug made it to four different continents and traveled 21,985 miles that year. They won the CYFERnet contest and the kids could not have been happier.
The 4-H Walker Travel Bug was simply a 4-H keychain with a special ID tag that was registered on Geocaching.com as a Travel Bug.
We have had other travel bugs that have jumped states, countries and continents but none traveled as far as that 4-H one did. And these days we haven't heard a peep from the location of most of them. But that's how things happen, eventually.
So when the kids found a coin with a serial number on it, of course we thought it was a Travel Bug and wanted to do the responsible thing and move it along to another geocache. But when I noticed the website to log the find of the traveler – www.pathtags.com – I realized it was something different.
Turns out Path Tags are signature items for geocachers. They can order 100 coins (minimum order) they design themselves and drop them in geocaches, trade them or do whatever they like. It's their signature to show they've found a geocache. Over the years the kids and I have seen a wide variety of signature items – from wooden coins to small knit bags (sized to hold a GPS unit) to a little stretchy frog you get in a bag of a dozen from the dollar store. Some geocachers have a favorite item and there have been several times when we've found the same item in multiple geocaches. Even though it might sound a bit overly serious, it can be fun for the person who leaves the signature item and for the people who find them.
It turns out the Path Tag we picked up does not need to be passed on to a new geocache. It's ours to keep and collect with others. I'm not sure how many people drop these not-so-cheap signature items in geocaches around Maine but they are really nice (and clever) and we are now on the lookout for them.
There are so many fun ways to enjoy geocaching even when you don't have time to get out and hike to find one.
Wendy Almeida has been writing about enjoying the outdoors with kids in her monthly Kid Tracks Outdoors column for the Maine Sunday Telegram for 10 years. Her kids have grown up exploring the trails of Maine on foot, skis and bikes as well as through the geocache and EarthCache games. The family has found treasures of all sorts while out on the trail and the journey continues to be as much fun now that the kids are teenagers as it was when they were preschoolers.
On Twitter and Instagram at @wea1021.