Sep 082004
 
Authors: Kathryn Dailey

Geocaching, a game for adventurous Global Positioning System users, is sending hundreds of Fort Collins residents on a treasure hunt.

Geocaching in the United States began on May 3, 2001, when someone hid a container of items outside of Portland, Ore.

By May 6, 2001, the cache was visited twice and the logbook had been logged in once.

A gentleman by the name of Mike Teague first found the container and built a Web site to document the containers and their locations.

In July of 2000, Jeremy Irish approached Teague. Irish had found Teague’s Web site and saw potential in the game. Together they developed a new site and used the name geocaching as a way to make the game easier and more accessible to GPS users.

As the game grows, individuals or organizations set up caches all over the world. Some caches are logbooks where visitors can read what others have shared, others are boxes hidden in the terrain with items inside.

“It’s like an adult treasure hunt,” said Jay Scarlett, an employee at REI, 4025 S. College Ave.

Geocaches are in over 200 countries, with more than 800 caches in the Fort Collins area.

Users share the locations of these caches on the Internet at www.geocaching.com and other Internet sites. GPS users can use the coordinates given on these Web sites to find the caches.

Lucas Yaege, a sophomore computer science major, found out about geocaching when his father bought a GPS unit. Yaege went online to find things he could do with the unit and found a site for geocaching.

“In the first cache I found a little piece of iron pyrite,” Yaege said. “In the second cache I found a little compass, a cheap one like the ones you find in crackerjack boxes.”

Each cache has a collection of items, said Christoph Zurcher, an action sports sales associate at REI.

“(Caches) can contain anything from books to CDs to batteries,” Zurcher said, adding that GPS units work off of satellite signals and if the signal is strong the GPS unit can take cache hunters close to the actual cache.

“(GPS units) will get you within about 30 feet depending on the strength of the signal,” he said.

Using coordinates from the Web site, called waypoints, GPS units direct users to the cache. Basic GPS units sell for about $100, Zurcher said.

Most caches start at a trailhead to make finding the cache easier.

Since the GPS unit does not always bring the seeker to the exact location, there are clues on the Web site that can be decoded to help pinpoint the cache’s exact location.

When someone finds the cache, they often bring items to replace something they want to take from it.

“When you find the cache, log your find on the piece of paper or notebook,” Scarlett said. “Take something and leave something if you want and then re-hide it.”

More information on geocaching:

www.geocaching.com

www.navicache.com

www.brillig.com/geocaching/

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