How to find treasure in the woods with a dork machine

8 07 2011

An amazing sculpture garden I never would have known existed if there had not been a cache nearby.

Yeah, that’s pretty much what geocaching is. And its fantastic. The “dork machine” is a GPS (Global Positioning System) device that, after you type in some coordinates, will tell you which way to go to find your “treasure,” which is the cache (or container holding a log book for those who found it at the least, and full of goodies ranging from a McDonald’s toy to a Gameboy Color my brother once found at the most.)

This activity is FREE. It gets you outside. You can choose to do incredibly easy or incredibly difficult caches, making it great to do with kids or a group of intensely active adults. You might not have a GPS device. The one I have is incredibly basic. Pretty much I can type in the coordinates for the cache and set a marker for my car so I can find my way back. If I really wanted to, I could probably figure out the two other functions that it has. But it works. Have a GPS system in your car for directions or a cell phone where you can download apps? Odds are you can use them to geocache, as well. While most car GPS systems are not so great for off-road hiking, there are a few models that can do both like the Magellan Crossover and Garmin Quest (and Quest 2.) Or, if you have a cell phone, odds are it has a GPS chip in it already. All you need to do is download the Geocaching Live App. So while initial investment can be extravagant, it probably doesn’t have to be.

You go to the official geocaching website and create a FREE account with your email address to find caches in your area. By typing in your zip code, it will find a ton of caches (treasures) close to you. You find one that fits your desired difficulty and goals (there are historical caches, eco caches, themed caches, the list goes on…) and plug the coordinates on the website into your GPS device (if you’re using the app, it’s a different but nonetheless easy process.) A lot of caches will also have parking coordinates so you’re ready to go.

Showing our travel bug some classic Pittsburgh at Primanti's.

Geocaching is a very new and green sport. When you’re visiting the site, leaving nature better than you found it is more than encouraged. When you find the cache (which will be hidden under a rock, inside a stump, inside a crack in the cement, another endless list…) you will undoubtedly find a log to sign. You may also find treasures. When you take sometime out, you MUST put something back in! Trade a pack of cards for a bracelet, a pokemon toy for a batman figurine, whatever. Just try to keep your item equal to what you’re taking. I’ve used McDonald’s toys, cheap little things from tourist shops I’ve picked up while on vacation, and dollar store items to keep my caching cheap. Once you’ve started, you can also recycle items you’ve found but don’t necessarily need to keep.

If you find an item inside with a tag on it, it’s a trackable. These items should be logged into the geocaching website and be moved on to a new cache. My favorites are the travel bugs, which are little toys that you can take pictures with to upload onto the site. Then when they’ve passed on, you can continue to follow them and see where they’ve traveled after you’ve let them back out into the wild. Geocaches are hidden WORLDWIDE so I’ve seen some of the ones I’ve found make it to Australia, Guam, and all over Europe. It reminds me of Flat Stanley from Kindergarten.

Starfish at the Ovens

The best part of geocaching is the adventures. One time we rescued a starfish and saw a seal on a cache. Another time we found a teepee someone had made in the woods. It can also force you to be a tourist in your own town. I’ve been so many places in Pittsburgh that I never would have even known existed without geocaching. One time we were visiting family in Maine, and found a cache in a place called the Ovens, which is a series of amazing rock formations that is covered by the tide during certain times of the day. Our family was amazed that they had lived in the area for 10 years without knowing this place existed.

Example of what a cache container may look like.

I’d love to hear about your adventures and do my best to field your questions or help you get started!

For more information:
Geocaching Website
More Info on GPS Devices

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Pittsburgh Movies in the Park

30 06 2011

Every summer a ton of parks in the Pittsburgh area host FREE movie in the park nights.  They’re spread all across the week at a ton of different locations…the city, North Hills, South Hills, East and West.  Just bring a blanket, snacks, and enjoy.   This year the County has a series at their parks featuring Classic Movies.  Wherever they are, they start at about 9PM or dusk.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, so if you know of any that I have missed, please comment and let everyone know!

film

City Parks

Grandview Park
Saturdays

July 2- How to Train Your Dragon
July 9- Justin Bieber Never Say Never
July 16- Despicable Me
July 23- The Karate Kid
July 30-Shrek Forever After
August 6- The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
August  13- Disney Nature presents “Oceans”
August 20- Secretariat
August 27- Tangled

Riverview Park (Observatory Hill)
Saturdays

July 2- Rocky IV
July 9- Duck Soup
July 16- Iron Man 2
July 23- Karate Kid
July 30- In the Heat of the Night
August 6- Double Indemnity
August 13- Disney Nature presents “Oceans”
August 20- Jurassic Park
August 27- The Twilight Saga-Eclipse

Schenley Park (Flagstaff Hill)
Sundays and Wednesdays

July 3- How to Train Your Dragon
July 6- The Other Guys
July 10- Justin Bieber Never Say Never
July 13- Iron Man 2
July 17- Despicable Me
July 20- Grown Ups
July 24- The Karate Kid
July 27- Takers
July 31- Shrek Forever After
August 3- Prince of Persia: Sands of Time
August 7- The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
August 10- The Green Hornet
August 14- Disney Nature presents “Oceans”
August 17- Jurassic Park
August 21- Secretariat
August 24- The Twilight Saga-Eclipse
August 28- Tangled
August 31- Clash of the Titans

West End Park (Elliot Overlook)
Tuesdays

July 5- Justin Bieber Never Say Never
July 12- Despicable Me
July 19- The Karate Kid
July 26- Shrek Forever After
August 2- The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
August 9- Disney Nature presents “Oceans”
August 16- Secretariat
August 23- Tangled
August 30- Tron Legacy

Brookline Memorial Park
Thursdays

July 7-  Justin Bieber Never Say Never
July 14- Despicable Me
July 21- The Karate Kid
July 28- Shrek Forever After
August 4- The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
August 11- Disney Nature presents “Oceans”
August 18- Secretariat
August 25- Tangled

Arsenal Park
Fridays

July 1- How to Train Your Dragon
July 8- Justin Bieber Never Say Never
July 15- Despicable Me
July 22- The Karate Kid
July 31- Shrek Forever After
August 5- The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
August 12- Disney Nature presents “Oceans”
August 19- Secretariat
August 26- Tangled

retrofilm

North Hills

Pine Township Park
Every Other Wednesday

July 6- Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs
July 20- Stuart Little
August 3- Despicable Me
August 17- Jurassic Park

*Deer Lakes Park*
Carp Field
Saturday

August 1- Some Like It Hot

*Harrison Hills*
Soccer Field 1
Saturday

August 8- Singing in the Rain

South Hills

*South Park*
Agricultural Hall
Thursday

July 7- Wizard of Oz

*Round Hill*
Visitor’s Center
Thursday

July 28- It Happened One Night

platform

East

Monroeville Community Park
These show at the same time…dusk, but they are also preceded by
a live musical performance starting at 6:30 PM.
Sundays 

July 10- Dreamer
July 24- Akeelah and the Bee
August 7- Enchanted
August 21- The Princess and the Frog

*Boyce Park*
Four Seasons Activity Lodge
Thursday

 July 14- Breakfast at Tiffany’s

West

*Settlers Cabin*
Gilbert Love Shelter
Thursday

July 21- Duck Soup

rolls

*From the County Parks Classic Cinemas Series*