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July 29, 2014
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Geocaching: the hunt for cache

The two essential tools of geocaching, a smartphone and a GPS locator, can lead to a cache of hidden treasures.

By Billy Templeton III

Two hundred yards up the hill from my home in Bethany, PA, hidden in the heart of the borough park, is a small canister that few people have found or even noticed during the six years of its existence. It would be easy to overlook, considering one has to solve a puzzle of coordinates in order to obtain the exact location of this treasure—or “cache.” Concealed inside the canister are a small rubber dinosaur, a signature log and a congratulatory letter with the mysterious signature “The Fox and the Hound.”

Since the consumer launch of the Global Positioning System (GPS) in the year 2000, “geocaching” has grown into a mainstream, global treasure-hunting game. With the aid of a handheld GPS device or a smartphone, participants seek out hidden items called geocaches using exact coordinates from the website www.geocaching.com.

Geocaching began 13 years ago when Dave Ulmer, a computer consultant, hid the first cache in Oregon in order to test and challenge the accuracy of the brand- new GPS technology. On May 3, 2000, Ulmer posted the coordinates of his cache online along with a single rule: “Take some stuff, leave some stuff.” The first to find his treasure had their pick of CD-ROMs, a cassette recorder, a “George of the Jungle” VHS tape, four $1 bills, a Ross Perot book, a slingshot handle and a can of beans. Obviously, the appeal of geocaching goes beyond the tokens left within these canisters, and speaks to the fun of the search and the reward of finding hidden treasure. Word of Ulmer’s cache quickly spread online, and soon people from all over the world were posting coordinates to geocaches.

Eric Fox and Chris Mackey, two of the northeast region’s most notorious geocachers, make up the duo The Fox and the Hound. Together they have both found and stashed thousands of geocaches. Many geocachers create online profiles to log their finds and achievements and to share stories about their adventures.

“The first library my son ever attended was in Bethany,” said Chris Mackey. “It was such an important moment and special place that I wanted to mark the occasion by leaving a micro-cache.” Geocachers from all over the country have solved Chris’s puzzle, found the cache and signed the logbook. One day, he’ll return to the park with his son and read over the names and places and reminisce about their first trip to the library.