An Introduction to Geocaching
Finding your first geocache (continued)
When you get near the geocache, be sure you select the correct navigation mode on your GPS. All GPS receivers have a form of "navigate to next waypoint" mode which shows a distance and direction to the waypoint (in this case the geocache), as well as other information such as GPS accuracy, elevation, date/time and so on (depending on your GPS receiver). This is what you will use to get you as close as possible to the cache.
On many GPS units you can customize the navigation display, and so again it is worthwhile spending the time to explore the features of your GPS to gain the most from it.
As you approach Ground Zero (often abbreviated GZ) look for likely hiding spots, keeping in mind the information that you have been provided with, such as the container size and terrain. It is not uncommon for caches with an extremely high terrain rating to be somewhere unexpected, such as at the top of a tree so hopefully you haven't selected one of these caches as your first!
A "regular" type cache usually indicates a reasonable sized container, usually a plastic container or a surplus military ammo box (which incidentally make great geocache containers - more on that later). Explore the area carefully, starting by walking past the GZ several times, monitoring where the GPS is pointing to give you a good indication where the container is located. Keep an eye out for muggles - non-geocachers in the area - who may be curious about what you're doing, or worse discover the geocache and remove or destroy it.
If all goes well, you will quickly have the geocache in your hand and eagerly open it up. The first thing you should do is sign the log - this is a record that you have found the cache. Usually signing the log consists of nothing more than your geocaching name and the date, but often cachers will write additional notes such as if they traded for anything in the cache or any comments to the cache owner. If the cache contains any additional items (known as trades) swapping something of equal or greater value for them is acceptable, so long as you record in both the paper log and the online log what you took and what you left.
There are also some other items to keep watch for, known as trackables. Trackables come in many shapes and sizes, but usually they either resember a dog tag, or a coin. They will have a unique tracking number stamped or engraved on them, and often (especially in the case of tags) will have information attached to them that explains what the owner wants the trackable to do. Trackables are unique in that they come in a vast number of designs and each has their own icon. If you discover a trackable you can either make note of the tracking number and leave the trackable in the cache (this is known as discovering it), or take it with you if you can drop it off in another cache within a reasonable timeframe.