True Las Crucens know that our valley is packed with hidden bits of history, nature, and off-the-beaten path gems that only locals know about. Find some you may be missing out on by geocaching. Here’s what you need to know about this modern day treasure hunt.
Article and Photography by Victor Gibbs
Geo: Of or relating to the earth + Cache: A collection of items in a hidden place.
BYOP: Bring your own pen/pencil.
CITO: Cash In Trash Out, an environmental initiative supported by the geocaching community to keep our outdoor spaces trash free.
Event Cache: A gathering of geocachers. The event’s location is sent via coordinates.
Muggled: When a cache has been inadvertently removed from a hiding spot by a non-geocacher it has been “muggled.” Nano: These ultra small caches can be the size of a jacket button or even smaller making them super difficult to spot.
High Tech Hobby
A global positioning system, or GPS, device uses satellite technology to determine your location anywhere on the planet within six to 30 feet using latitude and longitude coordinates. A handheld unit generally costs $100 to $200 dollars. Some are specifically designed for geocaching with features like driving directions, voice navigation, and cache storage. Geocaching.com also has its own app, so you can play on your GPS-enabled smart phone.
True Treasure Hunt
Inside a cache, you will find a log book, and possibly little treasures, making this an optimal activity for families. Boxes may be as large as a breadbox, or as small as a thimble. Signature items, such as charms or cards, are often left for other geocachers to find. Some items, called Trackables, are not to be kept, but moved to other caches. These are sold through the geocaching website. Once you find the container, sign the log, and don’t forget to return to geocaching.com to detail your amazing adventure for others to read.
In the Las Cruces area, you’ll find many geocaching adventures set up by locals. Most of the walking paths in and around town have strings of caches along them. These are designed to promote geocaching and exercising at the same time. One such series, placed by The Marauders, extends north along the river from La Llorona Park and meanders along the Rio Grande.
Bird Lover’s Bonus
Geocaches may lead you to historical sites, local artwork, or hidden parks. They often have themes—think board games or literature. A series of caches related to different types of birds is located at the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park. Each find in this series details some important information about birds found at the park.
Trekin’ Back in Time
Earthcaches have no actual container, but instead lead to notable geological features for an educational experience. There is one is located in the Dinosaur Trackways Park, west of Las Cruces off Shalam Colony Trail. Getting to this cache requires journeying up a beautiful limestone canyon in the Robledo Mountains to see actual dinosaur foot tracks. To claim credit for the cache, you have to provide details from an informational sign located at the site.
Exclusive Las Cruces Magazine Geocache
If you’d like to try this adventure out for yourself, hop on geocaching.com, create a free account, and pick out a name for your team. Type in 32° 21.942’N 106° 36.731’W into the search bar or your Google map app, and head out. Find the hidden box, sign the log, trade some swag, then log back on to geocaching.com to share your adventure.
Puzzle fiends will love the caches denoted by a question mark; they can only be completed via some sort of mental challenge, like a puzzle that reveals coordinates or instructions. A series of puzzle boxes, placed by geocacher Updraft58, is located on Puzzle Ridge near Soledad Canyon. Each box can only be opened using a secret trick. Another series in the area, placed by geo-cacher Mr. Waldo, will challenge your code breaking skills.
For the more adventurous, caches are located along mountain trails and in remote regions of the county. The Labors of Hercules requires hiking 12 rocky mountain crags to obtain a special prize at the end. Destinations include Organ Needle, Florida Peak, Cookes Peak, and Bishop’s Cap. The most extreme geocaching adventures require special experience and equipment, such as climbing ropes. All of the spires in the Organ Mountains contain geocaches, most of which require this type of gear. Climbing to these high peaks usually entails bushwhacking through dense, spiky vegetation, so know what you are doing before you attempt these types of geocaches.
The Geochacher’s Creed
When placing or seeking geocaches I will:
- Not endager myself or others
- Observe all laws and rules of the area
- Respect property rights and seek permission where appropriate
- Avoid causing disruptions or public alarm
- Minimize my and others’ impact on the environment
- Be considerate of others
- Protect the integrity of the game pieces
When caching always bring sturdy shoes, extra water, a first aid kit, and emergency food.
Cold, heat, and thorny bushes are prevalent in our deserts. Go out prepared!
Running into a rattlesnake is a possibility nearly year round. If you keep away from them, they generally won’t bother you.
Turn on your GPS’s breadcrumb feature and mark your vehicle with a waypoint to find your way back to the car.