The growth of a pop­u­lar new world­wide hobby

Vocable (All English) - - Société - MICHAEL PEARCE

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, 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.


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.”

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