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Carolina Adventures: Geocaching

December 3, 2009

Recently, a friend of mine from back in New Jersey brought the hobby of Geocaching to my attention. Call me late to this party, “I’ve never heard of Geocaching before.” She proceeded to tell me that it has something to do with a high tech way of finding hidden treasure. High tech? Hidden treasure? Curiosity piqued, looking to be sold on a treasure hunt, and with Google close by, I took a look into the phenomenon of Geocaching. What is it, is this something that might be worth my while–and can you do it in the Carolinas?

Geocaching is a 21st century treasure hunt. What started in Oregon back in 2000 has grown in popularity, with more than 750,000 participants worldwide. With Geocaching, the trusty map is replaced with a Global Positioning System (GPS) and anything with a connection to the internet. The premise is simple: The initial geocacher places the cache in a waterproof container along with a log book. The location is then posted online with latitude, longitude, and clues to its whereabouts. Using a GPS, other geocachers are then invited to search for the hidden treasure. Once the bounty is found, the log book is signed, the treasure is kept and replaced, or left for other geocachers to discover.

There are various types of geocaches.  Some are simple variations, some are a little more off the beaten path The most common appears to be traditional–a basic hunt. Things get more complex the further up the geocache scale you go. The multi-cache is a hunt that contains multiple discovers or more than one point in between your first clue and the cache. The virtual cache can be simply a location and the geocacher may be asked to give the answer to a question. The location itself should be interesting enough to warrant the search.

Another is the mystery/puzzle-cache. The obstacles in finding this particular cache range from having to solve a puzzle, being provided a false set of coordinates, to whatever ingenious tricks the person hiding the items can come up with. The moving cache is where the finder proceeds to hide the cache in a different location, in essence starting an entirely new hunt.

If I’m going to do this geocaching, I don’t want to come up on something disgusting or worse: illegal. Bomb squads have been called in to investigate caches in the past, most recently last May at the University of California in Santa Cruz. The rules of what to leave are simple as well: no food, nothing illegal, no alcohol as you might lead an underage person to your stash. Keep it family friendly and everybody’s happy.

Okay, geocachers. You now have my attention. My next question is an easy one, “After you spent hours or days with your clues and following your GPS, what did you find?”

Another quick search and the treasures found were varied, but no less interesting. One geocacher found a pair of $50 dollar bills in his container. Another found three Starbucks gift cards in descending value for the first, second, and third place finders ($20, $10, and $5). Some have found movie passes, DVD’s, videogames, and CD’s. One claimed to have found a Victorian Gentleman’s bracelet, another claimed to have found a $100 gift certificate to the Gap. Seaworld had gotten into the act and one cacher found a pair of passes. Along with valuable caches are those of far lesser value. Some have found used batteries and broken GPS units. One unfortunate geocacher found an Anne Murray tape (I can only hope that particular search was quick and painless). Not exactly ethical geocaching practices, Anne Murray tape included, but finding lesser valued caches seem to be a bit more the exception rather than the norm. However, geocaching is more about the thrill of the chase than what’s inside the cannister.

Taking everything into consideration, I’m in. I’ve shaken off the notion of spending all that time and effort only to find a cheap cache, or worse, another Anne Murray tape. I’m ready. I have my GPS on my iPhone, a sense of adventure, and the thrill of the hunt. I’m set to go. Final question, are there any geocachers right here in the Carolinas?

A search of the popular site http://www.geocaching.com revealed numerous caches within a hundred miles of my area. Asheville, North Carolina has gotten into geocaching, promoting it on their website http://www.exploreasheville.com/geocaching/top-geocaches-in-asheville/index.aspx . Both North and South Carolinians have created their own geocaching sites, http://ncgeocachers.org/ and http://www.scgeocaching.com/ respectively. There are no shortage of geocachers in the Carolinas.

Sold! This does sound like a lot of fun. At some point I’ll give this a try and report back with any goodies that I happen to find. I’m up for finding a buried treasure. Unless it’s an Anne Murray tape. I’d rather keep that a buried secret.

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