Treasure Hiking Guide

Treasure Hiking is an outdoor program for Cub Scout Packs that kids (& parents too!) will absolutely love.  At the same time it promotes a large number of scouting ideals.  This combination is a guaranteed success for your Pack.This online document will help you understand the Treasure Hiking concepts, plan a program for you Pack, and plan and execute successful hikes with your Pack or Den.

Introduction

What is Treasure Hiking?

Treasure Hiking is an outdoor program for Cub Scout Packs that kids (& parents too!) will absolutely love.  At the same time it promotes a large number of scouting ideals.  This combination is a guaranteed success for your Pack.

Throughout public areas in your city/county, people have hidden “caches” to be found.  Cache is pronounced like cash, as in money. A cache is often an army ammo box, a plastic jar, or even a film canister.  Inside the cache are “treasures” to be explored and traded – typically dollar store items.  As with any treasure, sometimes there are special trinkets and surprises !

How do I find these Treasures?

Each Treasure is found through its publicly defined location – a set of longitude and latitude coordinates.  Remember those from high school?  An electronic device called a GPS unit is used to locate these coordinates by providing an on-screen map to help point you in the right direction.   GPS is an acronym for Global Positioning System and is a series of satellites in orbit around the earth that will provide a GPS unit with its current location to within 20 feet.

While a GPS unit (& hiking) will get you close, the last few feet are always an adventure.  Those who placed the Treasure are usually very creative with their hiding spots.  Some searching will most likely be required.  Hints are also provided to assist in finding the final location of the Treasure.

Is it Geocaching?

Yes !  Geocaching is the “generic” sport of finding caches enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.  Treasure Hiking is a program specifically designed for Cub Scout Packs that builds on top of Geocaching and promotes the ideals of scouting.

What are the costs?

The only required item that may cost something is a GPS unit for finding the treasures.  Everything else is free – hiking in parks, treasure locations, etc.
Usually a parent in your Pack will have a GPS unit.  You could borrow a GPS unit from your associated Troop or the local orienteering club.   If you would like to purchase your own, they start at $100.

Benefits

Treasure Hiking has sooooo many benefits.  That why its an easy & awesome activity for your Pack to use.

If thats not enough benefits for you, Treasure Hiking also qualifies for a number of awards.

Primer

In this section you will be provided with background information on Treasure Hiking in preparation for planning your own Pack program and running successful hikes.

 The first section provides the basics of Geocaching, an existing "sport" that Treasure Hiking is built on.  The second section details Treasure Hiking - geocaching for younger scouts.

Geocaching

In the year 2000, the US Government enabled their Global Positioning System (GPS) of satellites to provide location accuracy up to 6-20 feet.  For the first time  individuals could accurately record the location of an object via GPS technology so that another might find it easily.  This event launched the sport of Geocaching.

Throughout the world "caches" (pronounced cash-es - as in money) are hidden in publicly accessible locations.  These caches take the form of ammunition (ammo) boxes, plastic containers, and 35mm film canisters.  Their locations are defined by longitude and latitude (co-ordinates) readings and then recorded on the website www.geocaching.com

An electronics device called a GPS unit (or receiver) is used to help you find these hidden caches.  You enter the coordiantes into the unit and it will show you on an electronic map how far away from the cache you are and in which direction.  Given a GPS unit will only get you to within 6-20 feet of the cache, additional hints may be given on locating the hidden spot.

Technology

Orbiting above the earth are 24 satellites (21 active, 3 spare) that provide global positing information to those on land.  These satellites were originally put in place for military use.  In 2006, public access to these satellites was enabled.

Each of these satellites beams information down to earth.  Through the combination of signals from multiple satellites an accurate position can be calculated.

A handheld electronics device called a GPS unit is used to receive these signals and calculate your current location.  To calculate location, signals from a minimum of 3 satellites is required.  The more satellite signals your unit receives, the greater the accuracy of location reported.  Some GPS units can also report your current altitude if enough satellites are being received.

The accuracy of your GPS unit can also be affected by

  • Lines of sight - objects between you and the satellite such as trees, buildings, mountains, clouds, etc..
  • Weather - rain or snow may affect satellite signals

GPS units can than show your location on their electronic screen along with maps that are stored on the unit.  Topographical maps showing elevation contours, streets, and public points of interest are options on most units today.  These are extremely useful for geocaching.

Longitude & Latitude

Longitude and Latitude combined make up coordinates that can be used to locate an object anywhere on the earth.  There are different representations for these numbers.  This section will describe the different formats, how to convert between them, and which ones you should be using.

WGS-84 is the "datum" definition that is standard to all current GPS units.  It was developed globally in 1984.  The North American standard NAD83 is for all intensive purposes an equivalent.  For the most part you should not have to worry about what "datum" type a set of coordinates are in.  It is helpful to understand that there is more than one though.

On the other hand, you will most likely need to deal with coordinate "formats".  These are the most common formats.

  • Degrees  & Minutes (MinDec)
    • This is the format you will want to use for all GPS applications
    • It breaks a coordinate down into two numbers: (1) degrees; (2) minutes.
    • Minutes include a decimal representation for seconds
    • Example:   N 43° 08.156  W 077°  26.652
    • See how there are two numbers (one with a decimal place) for each coordinate?
  • Decimal Degrees (DegDec)
    • This format uses a single number which includes minutes and seconds as a decimal part of degrees.
    • Example:  43.135933  -77.4442
    • See how there is only a single number for each coordiante?
  • Degrees, Minutes, Seconds (DMS)
    • This format represents each component of a coordiante (degrees, minutes, seconds) as a separate number
    • Example: N 43 08 09  W 77 26 39
    • See how there are three numbers for each coordinate?
  • Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM)
    • The previous three formats all used the same reference model for describing a location, only varying by the format in which the location is written.
    • UTM is a completely different reference model for location.
    • You will probably never have to use it, but you will see it and it helps to understand what it is.
    • Example: 18T E 301213  N 477810

Many GPS units have tools to convert between the above formats.  Here are a few online resources for datum/format conversions.

Selecing a GPS Unit

First see if you can find a GPS unit to use initially for getting your feet wet.   Here are common ways to find one to borrow.

  • Your own Pack - Most likely an adult (or two) in your Pack has a GPS unit and would be more than willing to help out with this program.
  • Your Troop - The Scoutmaster of your associated Troop is sure to know if they have one, or could probably point you in the right direction of an adult that does.
  • Contact your local orienteering club

Here are some guidelines if you would like to purchase one because you can't find one to borrow or you are already addicted to the sport without having been out to try it !

  • Consider a used one.  Look on eBay or in the local paper.  While the starting price for a new GPS unit is $100, the cost quickly increases as you add features.  You can probably get a 1-2 year old unit with lots of features and mapping software for $100.
  • Color is not necessary unless you have another GPS application in mind, like boating.  A gray-scale display is nice though.
  • Make sure the unit has 12+ channels, meaning it can process 12+ satellite signals at the same time.
  • The unit should have some level of waterproof rating.  It does not need to have a rating for being under 10 feet of water though....
  • A connection to our PC or Mac for uploading/downloading information
  • If you unit supports Maps, make sure to check how much the Map Software is and add that to your total for comparison purposes.  This is the one feature you might want to pay more for.  Maps are invaluable out in the wilderness, especially electronic topographical maps!
  • The unit should support at a minimum
    • Points of Interest (POI) - The ability to mark a location for later use.  These are also sometimes called Waypoints.  Some units have a special version of these for geocaches
    • Routes - Plotting of a number of Waypoints in series to form a hike route
    • Track Logs - Keeps track of where you have been.

 The two larger manufacturers of GPS units are:

geocaching.com

The www.geocaching.com website is the online home for the Geocaching sport.  You will use this website to find and select "caches" to look for on your hikes.  After your hikes are completed you can also keep track of which caches you have found.  There are also forums where you can ask geocaching related questions.

Lets take a look at the website and show you how to use it.  Start off by opening a web browser and going to www.geocaching.com.  Next, type in your zip code in the appropriate box in the upper right of the screen.  A listing of caches in your area will now be shown.

 

Starting from the left and working to the right.

  • Location - How far from the search parameters is the cache
  • Icons - Why type of cache is it and are there special items in it - see below
  • (D/T) - The difficulty/terrain ratings as well as the size of the cache - see below
  • Placed - When was the cache originally hidden
  • Description - The name of the cache, who placed it, its "serial number" (example GCWWNY) and the state it resides in
  • Last Found - The last time someone found this cache and the last time you found it

You can also place the caches found onto a map to get a better idea of their "grouping" or see which are inside public parks by clicking on the Map icon in the upper right of the search results screen.

Cache Icons

The Icons section shows you three things.

  1. Have you ever found this cache? 
    • If so, a check mark will be displayed in this section and the cache will be highlighted.
  2. What type of cache is this? 
  3. Are there any special items in this cache?

Cache Types

These are the most common types of caches that you will run across.

  Standard - This is the most common type of cache.  The coordinates provided will take you directly to this cache.

Multi-Cache - This is a series of caches that leads to a final larger cache.  The initial cache (the posted coordinates) is usually a small size cache like a film cannister that contains coordinates to the next in the series.  The series is usually all contained within the same park, but could have a wider area.  These caches are a Treasure Hunt all by themselves.

Mystery - The posted coordinates for this type of cache is usually a parking spot.  When you get to the location, the cache details contains a series of clues that will lead you to a set of coordinates that are the actually location of the cache.  

Letterbox - These are very simplistic caches that usually contain only a logbook.  Most do not have "treasures" contained in them.

 Event - This is the location of an event where geocachers get together to share stories and look for caches in groups.

Special Items

In the geocaching world there a number of items that are "trackable", meaning their movement from cache to cache is logged at geocaching.com.  An upcoming section will talk more about these.  For now you need to know that as you are looking at cache listing, you can see if any of these items are contained in an individual cache.

 Travel Bugs - A "dog tag" with a serial number that can be attached to almost any item for tracking purposes.

 Geocoins - Metal coins that have a serial number for tracking purposes.

Difficulty & Terrain

Difficulty Rating

This rating is always displayed first and represents the level of "brain power" required to find the cache.  The rating scale goes from 1 to 5 in increments of 1/2 points with 5 being the most difficult.

  • Level 1 is most likely a straight forward cache.  Get to the locations, search around
  • Level 3 probably requires some thought.  The cache might not be in an obvious place and may require more searching. 
  • Level 5 could require a lot of "homework" beforehand or solving of puzzles.  It also might require special tools to retrieve. 

Terrain Rating

This rating is displayed second and describes the path that you will be required to take to find the cache.  Again, the rating scales goes from 1 to 5 in increments of 1/2 points with 5 being the most difficulty.

  • Level 1 is probably an easy walk that could be done with small children.
  • Level 3 is a reasonable hike with some grade to it and may require some thought about how to get to the cache area.
  • Level 5 could mean hanging off the side of a cliff, leave the kids at home because they would never make it through the ups/downs of the trail and the thorn bushes.

Reading the cache details will usually provide additional clues about the obstacles that led to the ratings.

Cache Size

It is helpful to understand exactly what it is your are looking for.  The cache size will let you know in general how large the cache container is to be found.  Here are some guidelines for the icons that appear on the search page.

        

 Micro - This is a very small container you are looking for.  It could be a film cannister or a specially designed key ring cache container.  Either way, you need to stand still and slowly look around for these.  Be aware, they also make hollow rocks now !

 Small - While these containers are larger than the Micro they are still easy to miss.  A good example of this size container is a waterproof match casing or a small tupperware container.

 Regular - These size containers should be easier to see with the naked eye.  Typically they are ammo boxes or "decon" containers.  Given the size of these containers, there is usually some thought as to the placement of the cache.

 Large - These size containers are not that common.  Just think larger than an ammo box.  Maybe an entire tree stump that has been carved out?

 Unknown - This "size" container is usually associated with the Mystery type cache because the owner does not want to give away the size of the final container.

Always read the cache details which will often specify exactly what the container looks like, including its color.

Cache Details

Now lets take a look at one of the cache details pages.  After typing in your zip code into the top right box of www.geocaching.com, click on the names of one the caches.

This is the "home page" for the cache and will provide you will all the information you need to make a decision about the if this is an appropriate cache and how to find it.  The cache "owner", the person that hid it and maintains it, will leave more information about cache. You can usually find the purpose of the cache, the type of container you are looking for,  clues on how to get to it, and maybe even a few pictures.  This page should be printed and brought with you while out looking for the cache.

The cache type icon, cache name, and the owner of the cache  it listed at the top of the page.  Next comes the location of the cache in WGS-84 MinDec format for use with your GPS unit.  Because we have the WGS-84 MinDec format, we can ignore the UTM format listed.  There is also an indication of how far and in what direction this cache is from the search location.

For those that have the ability to download cache information and location coordinates to their GPS units, there are two formats available to download. 

On the right hand side of the screen you may find an Attributes box which will list additional informational icons about the cache that will be useful in your decision making process.  Hold your mouse over one of these icons to interpret its meaning.  From the example on the right we can see that our example cache is not appropriate for strollers or dogs, has parking, is kid friendly, is accessible in the winter, should take less than an hour, and has parking nearby.

Also shown on the right hand side of the screen is the Inventory box.  If there are any trackable special items currently in the cache, they will be listed here.  You can click on the name of the special item to find out more about it, where it came from, and where it has been since. 

Some cache owners will also provide additional hints if you get stuck.  These hints are encrypted using the key on the right side of the page.  If  you bring a printed sheet with you, you can use them in a pinch.  You should always try to find the cache first, before using the hints.

The last section of a cache page logs the visits of others to the cache.  Please be careful in reading this logs as sometimes you will find "spoilers" - details about how to find the cache that you would not have normally had before looking for it.  Part of the adventure of Geocaching is the hunt for the cache.  If you know exactly how to find it before leaving your house, where is the fun in it?

Acronyms

There are a number of acronyms and slang used in the Geocaching world.  Here are some of the more common ones that you will come across.

  • Muggles - These are people who do not know what geocaching is and will usually be looking at your funny while you look under bushes for the cache.  Case should be taken not to reveal cache locations to Muggles as they may mistakenly move the cache or throw it away.
  • FTF - First Time Find - The person who has the honor of saying they were the first person to find a cache after it was hidden.
  • DNF - Did Not Find - You searched for the cache but were unable to find it.
  • TFTC - Thank you For The Cache - This acronym is usually used when signing the logbook of the cache, as space inside a cache is limited and logbooks are small.  This is your way of thanking the owner of the cache for taking the time to find a good hiding spot and maintain it.
  • TNLN - Took Nothing Left Nothing - You did not "trade" at this cache.  It is proper cache etiquette to document in the cache logs if you traded items or did not.
  • TNLNSL - An extension of the above indicating you Signed the Logbook.
  • XNSL - A variation on the above.
  • CITO - Cache In Trash Out - A geocaching campaign similar to Leave No Trace.
  • YAPIDKA - Yet Another Park I Did not Know About.
  • BYOP - Bring Your Own Pen - Many caches are not large enough to be able to include a pen for you to sign the logbook with.  These are usually noted with BYOP.
  • Swag - Treasure and trinkets found inside a cache.
  • TB - Travel Bug - a registered trackable item that moves from cache to cache.

Caches

We've covered the technology used in geocaching and how to select a cache to find at www.geocaching.com.  So.... what can you expect to find inside a cache?

What you find in a cache is directly related to the size of the cache.  A micro cache does not have much room for anything other than a few pieces of paper or a message to the cache finder.  Regular size caches have lots of room for "swag" however.  FYI - swag is a term used to describe the treasures found inside a cache.  The cache details page on www.geocaching.com will often define a theme for the cache and ask those visiting the cache to leave theme related items.

Here is a list of items you may find.

  • Logbook - A place for you to write a message to the cache owner.  Usually the logbook is contained inside a plastic bag to protect it from the elements.
  • Treasure - Also called swag.  These are small items that may be traded for.
  • Special Items - See the next section on Travel Bugs and GeoCoins.
  • Messages - Some caches are part of a series and will contain the location or clues to the next location.

Trading

Part of the fun for children is not only finding the hidden location of the cache, but also the opportunity to trade items found inside the cache.  The generally accepted policy here is "even trading" - replace an item you take with an item of similar "coolness" or value.  Don't take a flashlight and leave a McDonald's toy.

You should also write in the logbook the details of anything you trade, what you took and what you left behind in return.

Travel Bugs / GeoCoins

There are a few special items you will run across in the geocaching world that are "trackable", meaning that the current and past locations of the object are tracked by logging them at the www.geocaching.com website.

If you find one of these items in a cache there are a few responsibilities that come along with removing it.

  1. Log that you have removed the item from the cache at www.geocaching.com immediately.
  2. Move the item to another cache in a reasonable time period.  The home page for the item will list an objective for the item.  Please try to follow these objectives.
  3. When you place the item in a new cache, log it immediately at www.geocaching.com.

The trading policy for cache items does not apply to trackable items.  You should not keep them, only move them from one cache to another.

Travel Bugs

 A travel bug can be almost any object.  It always has a "dog tag" attached with a serial number inscribed to help track it.  Travel bugs are very special because they have a life of their own.  They were set free into the wild by their owner and usually represent some characteristic of the owner.  They have an objective.  They also have a past history of the caches they have visited and a future - in you, the person that will take them on the next leg of their journey.  Visit the travel bug's home page to find our more details about it.

GeoCoins

These are more compact versions of travel bugs and come in a variety of shapes and designs.  A serial number is always inscribed somewhere on the coin to help track it.

Treasure Hiking

Now that you have learned the basics of Geocaching, lets look at how you can integrate this fun activity with the scouting program.

In addition to helping teach your boys to be responsible citizens while out hiking and to appreciate nature, there are a number of scout programs that you can take advantage of. 

You will also need to make a decision if you want to go Treasure Hiking as Dens or as a Pack. 

The sections below provide more details on this topics of Treasure Hiking.

Dens or Packs?

How will you organize your Treasure Hikes - by Den or Pack?  There are pros/cons for both.  Here is what experience has shown for these different methods.  We also suggest another approach that has proved successful.  Whichever method of Treasure Hiking you select, your boys will love it just the same !

 As a general rule, you should not have more than 8 boys or 15 total people in a hiking group.  Keeping under these numbers will assist your boys in getting the most out the experience and at the same time being aware that you will be sharing public areas with others.  Also remember that two-deep leadership means that each group should have a minimum of 4 adults.

Den

Treasure Hiking as a Den is really easy to organize, just turn your next Den Meeting into a hike.  It is that simple.  It will also meet a variety of rank specific requirements in the process.

The boys will be with their best friends and you can even invite siblings, spouses, and the family dog along.  As the adults most trusted by the boys, you can probably also have more success than a Pack event in teaching them how to treat nature with respect and the ideals of Leave No Trace.

As the Den Leader you will have to plan the hike yourself.  This means you will need to find a GPS unit to use, select a hike location, and identify caches to look for.  Also, Den Treasure Hiking will not qualify your Pack for the National Summertime Pack Award or fulfill that component of the Outdoor Activity Award.

Entire Pack

 A Pack Treasure Hike that is treated as a Pack event will require more organization and planning .  A number of volunteers will need to be recruited and more than one GPS unit will likely be required.  At the same time, this is a great opportunity to hold a Pack picnic and host other outdoor events for the boys.  Holding a Pack event will also qualify the Pack for the National Summertime Pack Award.

You will need to determine how many boys (and accompanying siblings and adults) will be attending.  From this you can divide them into groups to go on Treasure Hikes.  You can then "stage" the groups by incrementing their start times by 30 minutes.  Sequence the group start times by age, having the groups with older boys go first and those with younger boys go last.  This way you will reduce the risk that groups will meet up along the trail and form larger groups.

Pack Optional

This is a great alternative the Den and entire Pack approaches and provides a happy medium between the two. 

Schedule one Treasure Hike per month during the summer.  Make the program "optional" vs. expecting every boy to show up at each event.  Have them sign up for the dates that work best for them.  Get the count of boys/siblings/adults that are expecting to attend and create groups appropriately.  Last minute additions can also be accommodated via this method.

This will provide your boys the opportunity to participate in Pack activities over the summer and qualify for the National Summertime Pack Award while not creating the overhead of 3 full-on Pack events. 

We feel this method holds true to KIS and focuses on getting the boys out into the wilderness hiking and practicing the ideals of scouting. 

Appropriate Caches

Not all caches are created equal. 

As you start to plan your Treasure Hiking program you will need to determine which caches are appropriate for your boys and which are not.  As your boys gain experience Treasure Hiking they may be able to tackle more difficult caches - or you may get more comfortable letting them !

Here are recommendations for appropriate caches.

  • Location
    • To start off always pick caches in public parks with know trails.
  • Current
    • Check the cache home page to see when the last time someone found the cache was.  If nobody has been to the cache in 6 months, its possible it may not be there anymore.
  • Cache Type
    • Standard caches. 
    • Over time add in Multi and Mystery caches.
  • Cache Size
    • Small, Regular, and Large caches. 
    • As you gain experience, include the Micros.
  • Difficulty Rating
    • 2.5 or under
  • Terrain Rating
    • 2.5 or under
  • Distance
    • Check on the map to make sure the cache is not too far of a hike for the boys
  • Other
    • Always read the cache home page for important information that should be included in your decision make process. 

National Summertime Pack Award

"The purpose of the National Summertime Pack Award is to encourage packs to provide a year-round program by continuing to meet during the time periods when school is out of session for several weeks or months"

To qualify all you need to do is hold a Pack event during June, July, and August and document what you did and who attended.  In return you will receive a ribbon for you Pack flag and a certificate.  Treasure Hiking is a great way to get started in providing a year round program for your boys that will fulfill the requirements of this award.

For more information refer to http://www.scouting.org/forms/33748.pdf

Individual Pin

There is also an individual award that is a part of this program.  Any boy who attends a Pack each month during the summer qualifies for the National Summertime Award Pin.  This pin can be worn on the right pocket flap of his uniform.

 

The graphics on this page are the trademark property of the Boy Scouts of America.

Outdoor Activity Award

This award encourages boys to get outdoors during the summer and to teach respect for nature.  The award can be earned for each year a boy is in scouting and the requirements vary by rank.  The Treasure Hiking program will take care of almost half the requirements for a boy to achieve this award.

Treasure Hiking will meet the following Outdoor Activity Award requirements

  • (1) Nature hike
  • (3) Buddy system
  • (6) Conservation project - the program includes an activity at the beginning of the hike to clean up the area and also has the boys pick up trash while on the hike
  • (7) Summertime Pack Award - if the Pack holds a Treasure Hiking event in each month of summer.
  • (8) Nature Observation
  • (13) Explore public park

A Treasure Hike can be combined with a picnic for the boys afterwords that would qualify for these requirements

  • (2) Outdoor activity
  • (11) Outdoor sporting event - have the kids play soccer or kickball.

Rank Requirements

The requirements for the Outdoor Activity Award vary by rank.  Here is how Treasure Hiking can meet these requirements.

 All Rank

Rank Specific Requirements 

 # of Activities Required

 

 Tiger Achievement 5 

 3

  Wolf Elective 23b

 4

 

 Bear Leave No Trace 

 5

  Webelos Outdoorsman Badge

 6

For more information on the Outdoor Activity Award refer to http://www.scouting.org/cubscouts/resources/13-228/index.html.

The graphics on this page are the trademark property of the Boy Scouts of America.

Leave No Trace

 "Leave No Trace is a plan that helps people to be more concerned about their environment and to help them protect it for future generations."

The Treasure Hiking will meet the following Leave No Trace requirements.

  1. Discuss guidelines
  2. Practice three times - requires three hikes during the summer
  3. Rank Specific
    •  Tiger - Achievement 5
    •  Wolf - Requirement 7
    • Bear - Requirement 12
    • Webelos - Outdoorsman Badge
  4.  Service Project
  5.  Promise to Practice
  6.  Draw a poster

Webelos will need to complete the Outdoorsman Badge separately to qualify for this award.

For more information on Leave No Trace please refer to http://www.scouting.org/cubscouts/resources/13-032/.

The graphics on this page are the trademark property of the Boy Scouts of America.

GeoScouting

GeoScouting is another scouting based program built around the use of GPS units. 

It can be used for Packs, but seems to be more geared for Troop use.  It details team based games for Troop Patrols and how to setup larger events that include geocaching.

You can find out more information on this program by visiting www.geoscouting.com.

Your GPS Unit

It is difficult to provide detailed instructions on how to use your GPS unit as their operations vary greatly with manufacture an model.

You should read through the GPS unit's manual to learn the following "skills".

  • Locate your current location on the map
  • Move the map around to other locations
  • Zoom the map in/out
  • Add Treasure locations to your unit
    • You can do this manually
    • You can do this by connecting your unit to a computer
  • Create a Waypoint/POI manually
    • You will need to do this at the start of each hike
    • You may want to not special points along your hike for later use
  • Reset the unit's tracking log
  • Find out how many satellites the unit is receiving
  • Find out if the unit displays the current level of accuracy
    • When you get to the Treasure location, this will be useful in determining how large an area you need to cover in your search
  • Change the level of detail shown on the unit's map

 

Program

Now that you have an understanding of both Geocaching and Treasure Hiking we will cover to specifics on how to plan a program, plan a hike, and lead a hike.

 

Geocaching Account

To access the coordinates for caches you will need to create an account at www.geocaching.com.  A basic account does not cost anything and gives you access to all the features you will need to go Treasure Hiking.

Lets do that now. Here are the steps for setting up an account.

  1. Open a web browser
  2. Go to www.geocaching.com
  3. Click "Login" on the top right
  4. Click "Create a new account" in the middle
  5. Fill out all the information on this page
    • You may want to pick a username for the Pack
    • Something like Pack123Chicago
  6. Click the "Create My Account" button on the bottom
  7. Enter your location information
    • Note: you are not required to enter your physical address
  8. Click the "Update My Location Info" button on the bottom
  9. Enter any profile information
    • Note: you are not required to enter any of this information
  10. Click the "Save My Profile" button on the bottom
  11. Wait to receive an email from Geocaching.com
  12. Click on the validation link in the email you receive
  13. Click "Logon" on the top right
    • Use the username and password you created
  14. Congratulations ! You now have a Geocaching.com account

Premium Membership

Geocaching.com offers a premium membership for $30 per year.  The basic free account will provide all the information you need to Treasure Hike.  There are two features available to Premium Members that do make Treasure Hiking easier to plan.

  • Bookmarks - Being able to save interesting caches in a bookmark list.  Without this feature, you will have to write down Cache IDs on paper to remember them
  • Pocket Queries - This is an advanced searching feature that will allow you to narrow down interesting caches by such criteria as difficulty level and receive the cache information in an electronic file that you can immediately transfer to your GPS unit.

Create a Program

How you go about creating a Treasure Hiking program is directly dependant upon which method of Treasure Hiking you have selected.

To plan a program, please select the method you have choosen.

Method: Den

Creating a Program for a Den Treasure Hike is very easy to do.

  1. Find a GPS unit to use, if you do not already have one
  2. Select a public park as the location for the Treasure Hike
    • Go to www.geocaching.com
    • Type your zip code into the box in the upper right corner
    • Click the arrow to search
    • Click on the "Map It" icon in the upper right corner
    • Move around the map looking for a park in your area that has 5+ caches
      • Public parks are usually shown as green on the map
      • You can move the map by clicking on the map and holding the button down while moving the mouse.
      • You can also zoom in/out using the + and - icons on the left
  3. Pick a date for the Treasure Hike
    • Saturday mornings or weekday nights work well
  4. Communicate to your Den
    • Send out an email (or call) the members in your Den to let them know the plan
    • An example email can be found here
  5. Find a nearby cache and go on a "test run"
    • This will help you learn how to use the GPS unit
    • It will also give you your first experience finding a cache
  6. Go to the Plan a Hike section

Method: Entire Pack

Creating a Treasure Hiking Program for a Pack will require some planning.

  1. Find more than one GPS unit
  2. Select three (3) public park as locations for the Treasure Hikes
    • Go to www.geocaching.com
    • Type your zip code into the box in the upper right corner
    • Click the arrow to search
    • Click on the "Map It" icon in the upper right corner
    • Move around the map looking for a park in your area that has 5+ caches
      • Public parks are usually shown as green on the map
      • You can move the map by clicking on the map and holding the button down while moving the mouse.
      • You can also zoom in/out using the + and - icons on the left
  3. Find a Hike Leader for each Treasure Hike
  4. Pick dates for the Treasure Hike that work for the Hike Leaders
    • Saturday mornings or weekday nights work well
  5. Decide if you are going to hold a picnic in addition to the Treasure Hike
    • Depending upon the facilities you would like, this may effect your selection of parks for hike locations
    • If necessary, reserve facilities at the parks
    • Find someone to manage the picnic
    • Add a description of the picnic to the next section
  6. Communicate to your Pack
    • Fill out the Treasure Hiking Pack Program template
    • Post a notice on your website with the Pack Program as an attachment
    • Send an email to the Pack with the Pack Program as an attachment
    • An example email can be found here
  7. Organize a "test run" for the Hike Leaders
    • This will help learn how to use the GPS unit
    • It will also give them their first experience finding a cache
  8. Have the Hike Leaders go to the Plan a Hike section

Method: Pack Optional

Creating an optional Treasure Hiking Program for a Pack will require some planning, but not as much as for the entire Pack.

  1. Find more than one GPS unit
  2. Select three (3) public park as locations for the Treasure Hikes
    • Go to www.geocaching.com
    • Type your zip code into the box in the upper right corner
    • Click the arrow to search
    • Click on the "Map It" icon in the upper right corner
    • Move around the map looking for a park in your area that has 5+ caches
      • Public parks are usually shown as green on the map
      • You can move the map by clicking on the map and holding the button down while moving the mouse.
      • You can also zoom in/out using the + and - icons on the left
  3. Find a Hike Leader for each Treasure Hike
  4. Pick dates for the Treasure Hike that work for the Hike Leaders
    • Saturday mornings or weekday nights work well
  5. Communicate to your Pack
    • Fill out the Treasure Hiking Pack Program template
    • Post a notice on your website with the Pack Program as an attachment
    • Send an email to the Pack with the Pack Program as an attachment
    • An example email can be found here
  6. Organize a "test run" for the Hike Leaders
    • This will help learn how to use the GPS unit
    • It will also give them their first experience finding a cache
  7. Have the Hike Leaders go to the Plan a Hike section

Plan a Hike

By this time you are ready to starting planning an individual Treasure Hike.

You should have the following defined before proceeding.

  • Hike Leader(s)  with email address and cell phone number
  • Hike Location - public park
  • Hike Date & Time

If you have more than 15 attending, you need create hike groups.

  • Make sure you have a Hike Leader and GPS unit for each group
  • Print out the Hike Grouping Form
  • Using the form, groups the boys trying to keep Dens together
  • Stage the starting time of the groups 30 minutes apart
  • Include siblings in the same group for convenience of the parents
  • Remember to schedule groups with older boys to go first

Each Hiking Leader (hike group) should perform the following.

  1. Print out a Hike Record Form
    • Fill out the Hike Details section
  2. Select the Treasures you would like to look for
    • Write them down on the Hike Record Form
    • Refer to the section on Appropriate Caches to select Treasures
    • Go to www.geocaching.com
    • Type your zip code into the box in the upper right corner
    • Click the arrow to search
    • Click on the "Map It" icon in the upper right corner
    • Find the public park you will be hiking in
    • Search through the available caches, selecting at least 4 to find.
      • Print out each cache's detail page
      • Write the Cache ID on the Hike Record Form
      • Download the location file to transfer to your GPS unit
  3. Find a map of the park location, including trails
    • Your county's website will usually have these available
  4. Communicate with your group
    • Send out an email at least a week ahead of time
    • Provide detailed directions to the parking location
    • Include your cell phone number for "day of" contact
    • Include your hike group's specific start time
  5. Gather all the items on the Hike Day Checklist (see below)
  6. Communicate with your group again
    • Send out a reminder 2 days before the hike
  7. Get ready to have a great time !

Hike Day Checklist

Here is a list of items you should collect prior to going on your Treasure Hike.  This list should be reviewed the night before the hike and all items placed in a bag to make sure you don't forget anything in the morning.

  • Three (3) copies of park maps including trails marked on them
  • Electronics
    • GPS Unit
    • Cell phone
    • Camera
    • Small flashlight
    • Make sure all electronics are charged and have fresh batteries
  • Paperwork
  • Treasures
    • A printout of the details for each treasure you want to search for.  Make sure to include the coordinates, Additional Hints, and Decryption Key sections.
    • Coordinates fore each programed into your GPS unit
    • A tentative order for finding the treasures
  • A waist/backpack with the following
    • Bug spray
    • Sunscreen
    • Band aids of various sizes
    • Benadryl for bug bites
    • Two (2) ball point pens
    • Two (2) small zip-lock bags
    • One (1) large garbage bag
    • One (1) kitchen size garbage bag
    • A whistle
    • A pocket knife
  • Hiking boots or sneakers
  • Appropriate clothes for the climate
    • Wear layers when it is colder out
  • Water, water, and more water

Lead a Hike

You are finally at the exciting part, going on the Treasure Hike !  We bet you can't wait.

The following sequence of events will lead you through a successful event.

  1. Things to do the night before the hike
    • Gather all you "gear"
    • Make sure your GPS unit and cell phone are fully charged
    • Check the weather forecast
  2. Get to the hike location early !

The Night Before

The night before your hike , do the following.

  1. Check the weather forecast.
    • If the weather does not look good, will you cancel the event?
  2. Gather all your "gear" near the front door in a single bag
  3. Make sure your GPS unit is fully charged
  4. Make sure your cell phone is charged
  5. Get a good nights sleep dreaming about your Treasure Hike in the morning !

Gathering

Follow these steps once you get to the hike location.

  1. Get to the hike location early
  2. Turn on your GPS unit
    • Check if you can view Treasure locations and they are close by
    • Create a Waypoint on our GPS representing where you parked. 
    • Reset the tracking log on your GPS
  3. Great each family as they arrive
  4. Use the Treasure Hike Record Form to check each family
  5. Assign an adult to lead the boys on the service project
    • Provide the adult with the large trash bag
    • Boys pick up trash in parking area
    • When finished, have boys place full trash bag in trunk of a car

Once all the boys have arrived and the parking area has been cleaned up, get them together and call them to attention with the scout sign.  Run through the following in a fun manner.

  1. Ask if anyone has found Treasure before?
    • Give the boys a chance to tell a couple stories
    • Explain what you will be doing during the hike
  2. Ask if anyone knows what the buddy system is? Why is it important?
  3. Ask if anyone knows what Leave No Trace is?
  4. Ask if anyone knows the rules of hiking?
  5. Ask if everyone is ready to go Treasure Hiking?

Hiking

At this point, you are now on your way to look for your first Treasure.

As appropriate incorporate the following while you are hiking.

  • Rotate the GPS unit
    • Make sure each boy has an opportunity to hold the GPS and "guide" the hike
    • We have found that time based rotation works for the boys
    • You will need to periodically "ask" for the GPS unit to check progress
  • Nature
    • On each "leg" of your hike (i.e. between Treasures) find something in your surroundings to point out the boys
    • Gather all the boys and take a minute to let them ask questions
    • Also take this opportunity to reinforce the buddy system by doing a buddy check
    • Don't overdue this - If you stop every 10 feet to point something out, the boys will not continue to come back to you
  • Trash
    • If you see trash along the trail, get one of the boys to pick it up and place in the kitchen garbage bag you brought
    • Encourage this behavior in the boys by keeping count and announcing their count each time a boy participates
  • Drink water as needed
    • It is important to keep everyone hydrated
  • Keep track of where you are on the trail map
    • There may be cases when you will have to back track and try a different trail to reach the Treasure
  • Most Treasures will be close to a trail
    • Therefore, stay on the trail !
    • Only those with a higher Terrain Rating will require "bushwhacking"
  • Keep track of the boys
    • At the same time let them have fun

Nearing the Treasure

When you get to within 100 feet of the location, the fun really begins.  At this point the boys will be very excited.  Try as best you can to remind them of the Leave No Trace guidelines they have learned.

The golden rule in this phase is to follow your GPS unit until your "icon" is almost completely covering the cache icon on the GPS map.  Once that has occurred you should be within feet of the Treasure.  You should also have the map on your GPS unit zoomed in as much as possible.  A scale of 100 feet should be showing.

 Look around for:

  • Fallen trees, large logs, and tree stumps
  • "holes" in existing trees
  • Look up into the trees overhead
  • Have the boys look closely, carefully, and respectfully at all of the objects around them

 You will most likely need to leave the main trail to find the Treasure.  Here are some pointers.

  • Stay on the trail as long as possible
  • Minimize your impact to the environment
  • Go past the Treasure on the main trail first, then assess where to go "off trail"
  • A smaller trail may have been created by others visiting the Treasure, try and stick to those.
  • Have an adult lead the off trail hike and demonstrate by example for the boys
  • Watch our for poison ivy and pricker bushes !

If you are having a problem finding the Treasure, do the following:

  • Use the GPS to get back to where the unit thinks the Treasure
  • Stand in place for 1 minute to let the GPS signals "settle"
  • Check the accuracy reading on your GPS unit
  • 8 times out of 10 the GPS unit is right
  • Slowly turn in place taking in your surrounds
  • Start at ground level and then move to looking upward
  • That log in front of you may not look hollow, but it might just be !
  • Have each boy fan out and walk up to 20 feet looking around

 The race to find the Treasure can on occasion cause issues with the boys.

  • Reinforce that you are a team and the team all helped find the Treasure
  • Correct any actions by the boys on pushing or shoving
  • If a specific boys feelings are hurt, help him find it on the next Treasure
  • Congratulate ALL the boys on finding the Treasure

Treasure Found

Congratulations, you've found the Treasure !

Here are some suggestions on what to do next.

  1. Have a boy (rotate this) bring the Treasure container to a suitable place where all can see it that is not too far from its hiding spot
  2. Explain that the team is going to open the Treasure and look inside.  You may take an item out of the Treasure and look at it, you must also pass it along for other to look at and place it back in the container when you are done
  3. Have the boys try and open it first.  Assist as necessary
  4. Ask the boys lots of leading questions
    • Who do you think put this here?
    • Who put all the items in the container?
    • Was that difficult to find?
    • What did we learn?  (Follow the GPS for the adults !)
    • Note any special items and explain them to the boys
  5. Sign the logbook
    • If the ziplock bag that contains the logbook has holes, replace it

 Once the boys have had their fill of looking at the Treasure it is time to put it back.

  1. Make sure all the items are back in the container
  2. Make sure the container is sealed properly
  3. Have a boy (rotate this) put the Treasure back where it was found
  4. Make sure the Treasure is hidden as it was originally

Go back to the Hiking section and the hunt for your next Treasure !

Wrap It Up

You've been hiking for some time now and hopefully have found a few Treasures along the way.  The Hike back is a great time to talk about what you have learned.  This can also be done in a gathering back at the parking lot before everyone leaves.

 Ask the boys

  • What wildlife did you see?
  • Did you notice any new plants?
  • What did you like about Treasure Hiking?
  • What was your favorite Treasure?
  • Would you like to do Treasure Hiking again?
  • Did we follow the Leave No Trace guidelines?
  • Did we complete our Service Project?

Remind the parents that the boys have an activity to complete at home

  • Draw a poster of what the boy learned about Leave No Trace guidlines and bring it to the next Pack meeting for display

 

At Home

Soon after you Treasure Hike has completed, you should do the following.

  1. Throw out the trash you collected
    1. Leaving this in your trunk is not a good idea, although you will notice it quickly
  2. Log your Treasures
    • Go to the www.geocaching.com website
    • Go to each Treasure page and "log your visit" in the upper right
    • You should do this for all Treasures you tried to find, if you found them or not
    • Share some of the details in your message
  3. Complete the Treasure Hiking Record Form
    • Make sure a copy gets to the leaders who are processing awards
  4. Get the boys to share their experience at the next Den or Pack meeting 
  5. Start planning your next Treasure Hike !
    • Think about what worked this time
    • Think about what you might like to change

Resources

Useful resources for Treasure Hiking.

Documents

Here are the common documents used in the Treasure Hiking Program.

Templates

The following templates are available for your use in creating and running a Treasure Hiking program.

Links

The following are links to documents contained on other websites that you may be useful.

FAQ

This sections answers some of the more common questions about Treasure Hiking.

Is it a BSA Program?

No.  It is was not created by nor is it endorsed by the B0y Scouts of America.

 Treasure Hiking was created by an adult scouting volunteer. 

Who created it?

Treasure Hiking was created by Michael Kabot who owns SOAR - a website hosting service for scouting organizations.  The idea came out of a need to keep boys in his Pack active in scouting over the summer of 2006 to ensure retention in the Fall. 

Michael's son Ben had been geocaching with a friend and loved it.  Based on this, Michael took his Den out for the first Treasure Hike and incorporated a number of scouting ideals such as Leave No Trace.  It was a huge success.  After reviewing other requirements that could be met through Treasure Hiking, a program was born.

His Pack offered 2 Treasure Hike opportunities that summer from May through September.  Each hike added more ideas to the program.  Michael then documented the program for his District and held training events for the Packs.  This lead to the creation of a website to share the program with all Packs.

Is it free to use?

Yes - if you are a scouting organization you are free to use any part of this website, its content, the Treasure Hiking name and logo as long as there is no commercial gain.

Michael Kabot's scouing based business SOAR retains copyright and trademark rights to the program to continue to develop it for the scouting community.  His company sponsors the program through content creation, website hosting, and forum moderation.

Any commercial use of the program (this website and its contents) or the Treasure Hiking name or logo requires licensing from SOAR.

Can I bring it to my District/Council?

Please do !

 Please also share your own experiences with Treasure Hiking with them as well.