Traditionals, Mysteries, and Multis! OH, my!

With more than a dozen different types of geocaches, it’s difficult for a new cacher to decide where to begin. Take a look at all the geocaches hidden in the Atlanta, GA, area:

mapSee all the different colors and symbols? I hope to explain most of those with this post.


The little green boxes denote traditional caches. “Traditional” simply means that the cache is hidden where the cache’s owner says it’s hidden. On the cache page at, you’ll see a set of latitude and longitude coördinates (I’ve circled them in purple).

Screenshot (2)A cacher will follow either the geocaching app or a GPS unit to those coördinates and find a geocache.


The icon with 2 yellow boxes denotes that the cache has more than one stage. The coördinates on the cache page lead you to stage 1 where you will find clues to lead you to the next stage. The clues can range from simple to complex. We have hunted simple multi-caches that had slips of paper with the coördinates to the next stage printed on them. Some more complicated multis involve projecting waypoints using a heading and distance. And others might involve reading clues or solving a puzzle at stage one to get to the next stage. I think the longest multi-stage cache I’ve attempted has 12 stages.

unknown_72UNKNOWN CACHE (a.k.a. mystery cache; a.k.a. puzzle cache; a.k.a. MY FAVORITE)

This type of cache refers to those caches that do not fall into the other categories. Typically, this cache requires a little extra effort to find or open. Some puzzles can be solved at home, the coordinates are revealed after solving the puzzle, and then you go find the cache. Sometimes the cache is the puzzle; when it’s found, the cacher has to figure out how to open it.  Serious puzzle-makers create multi-step puzzles that take quite a bit of time to solve. These are my favorites.


Letterboxes are SO FUN! Usually, a letterbox is a large box and not very difficult to find. It contains a small book, a stamp, and an inkpad.

Before I found my first letterbox, I purchased a little sketchbook and a stamp that I thought would represent me well. When I find a letterbox cache, I take the stamp from the cache, ink it, and add its image to my book. Then I ink my stamp and add my mark to the cache’s book. Usually, the stamp in the cache is representative of the story behind the letterbox. It’s fun to look back through my stamp book and remember the fun surrounding the days I found those caches.


An earthcache requires the cacher to observe an aspect of geology or the earth or some other natural phenomena and answer questions. Many times an earthcache means hands-on education. We have learned to distinguished different types of rock, identified erosion, searched for fossils, visited natural springs, observed currents, and measured tides. Earthcaches are excellent!


This is an event cache where geocachers get together to pick up and haul away trash. One thing is certain when geocaching: you will encounter trash. Karl and I try to practice CITO anytime we’re caching. I can only think of a few places where we haven’t seen a lot of trash; most of those places have been state parks or wildlife reserve areas. We’ve participated in CITOs in forests, around lakes, and along rivers. One CITO in particular stands out in my memory because we retrieved a headboard from the river that day.

If you’re interested in geocaching, visit and take a look at the caches hidden in your area. Choose an easy traditional cache and read the cache description. If you have a smartphone, use the geocaching app and go find it. When you find and “log” a cache, the icon turns into a smiley!

Screenshot (3)


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