Geo­caching comes to New­ton County

Out­door, GPS-based in­ter­ac­tive scav­enger hunt hid­den along Yel­low River

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - KAYLA ROBINS krobins@cov­

The Por­terdale Yak Club sold out last week­end, and a world­wide trend­ing hobby – that is not kayak­ing – may be part of an ex­pla­na­tion.

A group of geo­caches were hid­den along the New­ton County stretch of the Yel­low River in a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the Yel­low River Wa­ter Trail and the East Side Gang, some 150 mem­bers mostly from east of At­lanta who want to bring vis­i­tors to the county through this out­door recre­ational op­por­tu­nity.

“It’s sup­posed to take peo­ple to an in­ter­est­ing lo­ca­tion,” said Ge­orge Cribbs, a mem­ber of the East Side Gang and one of the pi­o­neers in the Yel­low River caches. “When we found out about the river trail, it’s a per­fect set­ting. It’s a beau­ti­ful set­ting, it’s na­ture, it helps both of us out, draw­ing at­ten­tion to (the Yel­low River Wa­ter Trail) and giv­ing us more places to cache.”

Cribbs, an Ox­ford res­i­dent, has been geo­caching since 2012 and has helped hide 92 him­self. Fifty-three of those are spaced out along the Yel­low River Wa­ter Trail (YRWT).

This in­ter­ac­tive form of an out­door scav­enger hunt, where par­tic­i­pants use any GPS-en­abled de­vice to fol­low a set of co­or­di­nates, search for a con­tainer of vary­ing sizes, sign a log book at each cache and, where pos­si­ble, take an item from the con­tainer and re­place it with another cache, has be­come a global ac­tiv­ity, with “Track­able” caches of­ten trav­el­ing to dif­fer­ent coun­tries.

One such Track­able item orig­i­nated in New­ton County and is cur­rently trav­el­ing Europe, Cribbs said.

“A lot of peo­ple re­ally get into it. It takes you to neat places. It’s fun. It gets you out­side. It gets you mov­ing,” Cribbs said.

The caches hid­den on the YRWT can be hang­ing, on the banks or in a par­tially sub­merged log. The con­tain­ers are all camo-col­ored, 2.5-inch “bi­son” tubes. Cribbs said with the traf­fic the river has been see­ing, it was bet­ter they “re­ally blend in.”

Ter­rain plays a fac­tor in geo­caching, too, Cribbs said, as this group of trea­sures is only ac­ces­si­ble by wa­ter, giv­ing it a level five, the tough­est ter­rain rat­ing. Rat­ings reach as low as one, which are ADA-ac­ces­si­ble.

Geo­caching is not just fun for the peo­ple par­tic­i­pat­ing in the scav­enger hunt.

“The goal, as al­ways, is for peo­ple to fall in love with the river and give an added di­men­sion to get peo­ple on the river,” said Tonya Bechtler, YRWT chair.

Bechtler said she has not yet gone geo­caching, but she has down­loaded it to her phone and plans to go hunt­ing soon. While she is a kayaker new to geo­caching, she said, Cribbs and his friends may be geo­cachers new to kayak­ing, bring­ing the com­mu­nity closer by com­bin­ing hob­bies.

“Por­terdale doesn’t have a high tax base or too many busi­nesses,” Bechtler said, “so bring­ing in as much tourism as pos­si­ble can only help.”

She said that goal has been re­al­ized in the past two months as the Yak Club has been sell­ing out on week­ends.

The YRWT wants to get good ac­cess in Rock­dale County, she said, and “the suc­cess of all of these com­po­nents will make it more ap­peal­ing.”

“The ul­ti­mate goal is to get peo­ple out­side,” Bechtler said. “Geo­caching gives ad­ven­ture and fun ac­tiv­i­ties the whole fam­ily can do to­gether and a rea­son to get there.”

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