One man's trash is another man's geocache

Marine Corps Base Hawaii
Story by Kristen Wong

Date: 11.12.2013
Posted: 11.12.2013 17:16
News ID: 116621
One man's trash is another man's geocache

AIEA, Hawaii — One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, so the saying goes. In this case, Maj. Doug Strahan found treasure among discarded chewing gum.

Strahan, an operations planner in the G-3, at U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific located at Camp H.M. Smith, was bitten by the “geobug” nearly three years ago, and dedicates some of his free time to a worldwide
hobby: geocaching.

A native of Carlotta, Calif., Strahan was a civilian in reserve status living in Oregon when he heard about geocaching. Curious, he did some research, and found out there were several geocaches near his house. From there, it grew into a hobby, and he continues to hunt for geocaches while working as a mobilized reservist in Hawaii.

Geo means “earth,” and a cache is a group of objects hidden together, according to “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Geocaching.” The staff of, which recently authored the third edition of the guide, gives a history of this technology-driven hobby utilizing the Global Positioning System created by the Department of Defense. In 2000, then-President Bill Clinton lifted the “selective availability” feature, which limited more precise tracking capability
on GPS devices.

According to the guide, computer consultant Dave Ulmer presented the more precise GPS with a challenge, hiding the very first geocache, May 3, 2000. Ulmer’s geocache was a bucket filled with assorted items including a slingshot, books and software.

Posting the challenge online as the “Great American GPS Stash Hunt,” Ulmer gave people GPS coordinates and welcomed them to use their GPS devices to locate the geocache. People were invited to “take some stuff, leave some stuff” in the geocache upon locating it.

Today, geocaching features new activities, items, terms and more, according to “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Geocaching.” People still “leave” and “take” items, calling them “Stuff We All Get,” or SWAG.

Geocachers take travel bugs, tags that can be attached to items, on an ongoing journey to numerous geocaches. Geocachers track the tags online to see where they travel. Geocachers have even created “Geocache In, Trash Out” events, where people take time to help the environment by collecting trash during geocache hunts.

Currently, there are nearly two million geocaches hidden in the world. There is even a cache hidden in the International Space Station. The website recently announced that on
Nov. 7, astronaut Rick Mastracchio will be traveling to the station with a travel bug to promote geocaching and geography education.

According to “The Joy of Geocaching: How to find Health, Happiness and Creative Energy Through a Worldwide Treasure Hunt,” by Paul and Dana Gillin, there are various types of geocaches. In traditional
geocaches, the geocacher will find a container with a log. Those who successfully locate a geocache can write their name in the log as proof of their find. In multi-geocaches, the geocacher may have to locate
several objects containing clues that lead to the geocache itself. Some of the geocaches have puzzles, while others are virtual, and require emailing the geocache owner with proof found at the site to
receive credit.

Geocaches vary in size, shape and form. Sometimes a geocache is disguised as a commonplace item that blends in well with its environment. While in Seattle, Strahan and his wife went with friends to an alley wall near Pike Market.

“The whole wall is covered with gum,” Strahan recalled. “So my wife and I and a couple of our friends started looking through (the gum) because one of these pieces of gum is a camouflaged geocache and
so it’s kind of a disgusting (feat) to try to figure out which one (is the geocache).”

Strahan said geocaches vary in difficulty as well. Websites listing available geocaches will generally indicate the difficulty level. On, each cache has two five-star scales,
denoting the level of difficulty and type of terrain.

The most challenging geocaches have a maximum of five stars on both scales, giving them the name “5/5.” Strahan said he once had to find a “5/5” geocache in Maui that required traversing as many as four
waterfalls, followed by a lengthy swim across a river.

Strahan said nearly all the “5/5” geocaches on Oahu require scuba diving. Strahan encourages people who are just starting to learn geocaching not to give up. Although some geocaches present quite a challenge, he advises beginners to start looking for the simple geocaches first, like those that are large in size.

“When you first start, you don’t know what you’re looking for,” Strahan said. “It can be frustrating.”

Now having explored nine states and five countries outside of the U.S., Strahan continues the hunt for more geocaches.

“(Geocaching) takes you places you never thought you’d have gone to before,” said Strahan, when asked what keeps him motivated to go geocaching.

Because of his hobby, Strahan found the remains of King Kamehameha III’s summer palace while searching for a geocache just off of Nuuanu Pali Drive. One of his finds brought him to Laniakea Beach, or “Turtle Beach,” on the North Shore, where they encountered turtles just as the geocache owner had said.

“The beauty of geocaching is people tend to hide geocaches in places that are interesting, (known for their) beautiful views, (or have an) interesting piece of history,” Strahan said.

Brand new geocachers can find various geocaching websites to get started, such as or Strahan also suggests that new geocachers attend geocaching events on the island. He said geocaching events allow people to meet fellow geocachers and share tips and
advice for challenging geocaches.

Several geocaching events are coming up on Oahu, like Moonlight Mayhem, scheduled for Oct. 20. For more details, visit

There is a Multi-Event: Green Flash Mob geocaching event scheduled for Nov. 10. For more details, visit