I’ve never really gotten interested in “geocaching”, the recreational sport of tracking down of hidden containers or cache by geographic location. But I’ve just found out about a related variant that meshes nicely with my interest in geology: EarthCache. As with a geocache, you go to a location based on geographical coordinates, but the reward is not tracking down a box or trinket, but seeing an area with interesting or unique geological features. Earthcaches are located around the world, with roughly half of them are in the United States. There’s a searchable index that lets you locate Earthcaches by country, state, and type (fossil site, erosional feature, igneous feature, etc.). Quick tip: for sites in America, choose “USA” for the country rather than “United States”’; the latter only has a few sites listed. Once you locate a site of interest, clicking on the link will take you to the information page for the site at Geocaching.com:
The information page generally includes a description of what makes the site interesting geologically, often with diagrams, photos and references. For full site coordinate data, you’ll need to register at the site and agree to a standard disclaimer, i.e. they’re not responsible for anything bad that might happen. Once registered, the coordinates will show up at the top, along with the option to download a LOC waypoint file. GPX file downloads require a paid membership, but LOC files can be opened using the free program EasyGPS and then either directly uploaded to your GPS or saved as a GPX file.
If you want to keep track of the sites you’ve visited, and get official recording of your visit at the Geocaching site, the info page will list off some required information, like photos, a general description, and several questions to answer about the geology. You can also leave comments about your visit, or read those of others before you go. And if you have a site that you think would make a good EarthCache, you can submit it. This is a great resource for both geology nuts and educators.