The joy of the hunt

. May 30, 2013.

“A great activity to get kids outdoors instead of cooped up inside — and it uses electronics.” That’s how 16-year-old Nicholas Hotaling of Chelsea describes geocaching, the pastime that transformed him from a self-described “quiet indoor kid” into an intrepid explorer. We talked with Hotaling for Ann Arbor Family’s June teen spotlight to learn more about his adventures.

So what exactly is geocaching?

You start with a set of coordinate points. You get the latitude and longitude points for a geocache online, then you use your GPS to find it. There are a lot of types of geocaching, and in the most common one, you’re looking for some kind of container; that’s the cache. It could be really small, or ridiculously large. You open the cache, and inside that is a logbook, and you add your name to the list of all the people who have found the cache before. Then you put it back for the next person to find.

What’s the weirdest cache you’ve ever found?

Once the person hid the logbook inside a plastic spider. That actually kind of freaked me out, because I used to be kind of bug phobic. I still am not that crazy about bugs, but I really like getting outside, and, you know, bugs pretty much go with that.

When did you start?

When I was in 8th grade, my mom really wanted to give it a try. But any age is cool. My little brother started when he was 4, and sometimes you see people out with babies in backpacks; it’s a great family activity. All you need is some kind of GPS, then you can go online at or get an app to get your set of coordinates.

Is it better to geocache alone or with a group?

I’m on a team called the Bambi Storm Troopers, and you sign the team name in the logbook when you work with them. It’s fun both ways. Sometimes with a team people don’t look quite as hard and it can actually take longer, and sometimes, like on a puzzle cache, where you have to solve a bunch of clues to get to the cache, it’s nice to be alone to figure it out. But then again, it’s great to have people along.

What’s the farthest geocache you’ve ever done?

I did an earth cache in Egypt, which is where you’re not looking for a container but you’re finding out information about a place. This one was in the Valley of the Kings. And there’s one geocache, now orbiting earth, hidden in the space station! There’s only one person who’s ever seen that one. That would be the ultimate geocache. 

Learn all about geocaching at