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Retired publishing executive ecstatic with the idea of spending most of his time on the coast of Maine

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Geocaching is now 10 years old, although I've just heard of it recently. It sounds kind of neat at first blush, like a high-tech treasure hunt where the reward is in the hunt, not the treasure. A hider finds an out-of-the-way spot and places a box with a logbook and a few goodies inside, then posts the GPS coordinates of its location on a website. Seekers use their GPS devices to find the box, record their success, and exchange the coins or books or CDs inside with something of their own. Variations on the game and the contents of the boxes are legion. It sounds great for getting people out of the living room and into the world. Except, of course, if they bury their eyes in yet another screen, chalk up another find, and don't see anything of the wonders around them.

I'm reminded of the interactive map on the Portland Press Herald website showing the locations and a bit of bio/sample writing for 100 Maine authors. The pop-up box for each author has a connection to Google maps for directions, and finding Carolyn Chute (for example) eventually gives you a string of numbers, presumably GPS coordinates, and a photo of a lonely road somewhere near North Parsonfield. Is this geo-biblio-caching? Can I use my GPS to find the treasures in her books? Can I pay homage to her by going to that lonely road and hoping she's somewhere around?

We often do grasp the wrong end of the stick, don't we. Why does a walk need a device and a treasure chest at the end? Why does an author, and not her books, need to be located, like some kind of life list? What's happened to the pleasure of the journey?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Geocaches are hidden - if we kept our eyes on the GPS screen, we wouldn't find them.

Geocaching enthusiasts enjoy the game because there's a thrill to searching and exploring. We often use geocaches to show each other interesting places. A handheld GPS, on its own, doesn't hold the same appeal as say, a Gameboy or an iPhone. We use them to reach the coordinates, but the real fun isn't in using the device, it's in the search.

If it's not your thing, hey, no problem, but the negativity in your post seems unprovoked and entirely unnecessary. Different people like different things - no need to be judgmental about it.