GEOCACHING: TREASURES WAITING TO BE FOUND
The growth of a popular new worldwide hobby
Improvements in GPS technology, especially for mobile phones, has given rise to a new and much more active form of gaming. Individuals can partake in both a very local and simulta-neously worldwide treasure hunt. The objective is to discover ‘caches’ of trinkets and small objects deposited in a very wide variety of places. A wonderfully entertaining and sporty pas-time for many. Will you try it this summer?
WICHITA, Kan. — Selena Rotz is a treasure hunter, and on a recent afternoon she made a good find in the tiny town of Peck.
2. “This puts me at 333,” said Rotz, who has been into a game called geocaching a little more than a year.
3. Kansas has more than 12,000 geocaching treasures waiting to be discovered. Sedgwick County alone has 1,700, and there are more than 3 million worldwide. 4. Geocaching’s treasures, called caches, have all been hidden by other geocachers. The global positioning coordinates to the caches, plus more directions and fun clues, are posted online.
5. Hopeful geocachers can enter a location, and a map will show nearby caches. Once a person picks a particular cache to hunt for, they follow arrows, directions and clues to find it. All caches contain a logbook for finders to sign, and some have trinkets or other small treasures. 6. “There’s so much to like about geocaching,” said Rotz, of Belle Plaine. “Anybody can do it, and there’s not any place you go where you can’t geocache.”
7. According to geocaching.com, the official site for the game, 191 of the world’s 193 countries have caches, including more than 40 on Antarctica and one on the international space station. That’s a lot of growth, in what’s really a very short history.
CATCH THEM ALL!
8. Bryan Roth, president and co-founder of Groundspeak, the company that runs the online site and most things geocaching, said the game got its start with improvements in civilian global positioning systems in about 2000. It wasn’t long before people were hiding caches — a box or similar package, often containing a trinket — and posting the GPS coordinates online, with some hints, and challenging friends to find them.
9. Roth and his partners launched the website in mid-2000 as a place to list, or find, the coordinates. “We’ve always loved the idea of using technology to get people off their couches and outdoors,” Roth said. “It’s an easy way for people to have fun, together, outside.”
10. Early growth was steady as participants used hand-held GPS units. Roth said interest exploded when free applications became available for cellphones in about 2010.
11. “That meant people could play the game with a device that was already in their pocket nearly all of the time,” Roth said. “It took us 10 years to get to 1 million caches listed. Three years later we reached 2 million, and in April we reached 3 million caches.”
12. He said last year it’s estimated that 7 million people geocached in some part of the world. Most apps for cellphones are free, as is access to many cache coordinates. Roth’s group charges a $30 annual premium membership, which gives people access to coordinates for all cache locations.
13. “I spend more for that to go out to dinner, and not even a good dinner,” said Ryan Semmel, an avid geocacher from Manhattan. “At least geocaching helps me get into better shape. That’s not much money for all it provides. This is about as inexpensive of a hobby as you can find.”
14. Caches may be as small as tiny metal pill tubes, holding just enough paper for finders to log their geocaching handle and date.
15. Others are larger, like gallon plastic bags wrapped in camouflage tape or metal ammo boxes. Traditional caches contain trinkets, known as swag, an acronym for “stuff we all get.” Most geocachers carry their own swag and swap for something they find in a cache. Many spend a few minutes looking over the log sheet, to see when, and by whom, the cache previously has been found.
16. Rotz said some caches are easy to see while others take some looking, even once in the immediate area. She’s found them stashed up in trees, tucked behind rocks, and pulled from deep within pipes with a thin piece of wire.
17. One of Rotz’s favorite caches was a special handmade box that took several minutes to figure how to open.
18. Sometimes the cache isn’t found, either because it’s too well hidden or it was stolen. Rotz once climbed to near the summit of Pike’s Peak, looking for a cache she never found.
19. “It was a lot of work … climbing to where it was supposed to be,” she said. “We didn’t find it, but just sitting up there and looking at the view was amazing. One of the things I like best are the places (geocaching) takes me. There are all kinds of great places I would never have seen otherwise.”