If You Hide It, They Will Come
Treasure hunting goes 21st-century in the gadget-filled game known as geocaching
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A variety of items can be hidden inside a cache
There are micro- and nano-caches, which — as their names suggest — are very tiny and very difficult for beginners to locate. Multi-caches require players to find their way to two or more locations, with the final one holding the physical cache. Another variety is the mystery cache, in which you must solve a puzzle in order to learn the waypoints; only then can you even begin to look for the actual cache. I also discovered that you can search for caches all over the world by punching in a zip code or town name into geocaching.com. The Web site also contains a glossary of caching terms and acronyms, including FTF: First To Find, and CITO: Cache In, Trash Out (geocachers have long been dedicated to cleaning up parks and other cache-friendly locations).
Armed with my new gear — and feeling rather geocaching-savvy thanks to my hours on the Web — I convinced my friend Kim to join me on a search; before I knew it, he was hooked, too. Since then, we have found dozens of caches together, and hidden a few of our own.
Not all geocaching outings are successful. I once searched the center of Woodstock on six separate occasions looking for a cache, only to find out later that it had been missing, perhaps all along. I got even by hiding a micro-cache called “Bee’s Knees and Book Worms” outside the Woodstock Library. Gleefully I watched player after player post a DNF (Did Not Find) on the cache’s Web page. It was more than three weeks before a resourceful cacher finally spotted it on his third attempt.
For me, the excitement of the game is in the hunt. But Kim and I have discovered areas we never would have seen had we not been caching: beautiful waterfalls and swimming holes known only to longtime residents or fellow geocachers. And it’s always intriguing to see what treats other cachers have left behind. “Trackable” items, called geocoins or travel bugs, are my favorites. The objective is to remove the item you’ve found (or grabbed, in geo-speak), log its serial number onto the Web page, “drop” it into another geocache, and track its subsequent movements on-line.
Photograph courtesy of Andras VighThe Road Runner cache (above) is hidden close to a waterfall near Hurley
Combining 21st-century technology with the timeless natural beauty of the Hudson Valley, geocaching is an activity that keeps me heading out the door every chance I get. So if you happen to see a woman gingerly reaching her hand into a fallen tree, or walking along the roadside gazing at the little electronic device in her hand, don’t assume she’s lost. It might just be me — caching in!
Treasure hunting, Valley style
Just as film buffs expect reviewers to avoid spoiling a movie’s ending, respected geocachers are supposed to keep mum on a cache’s exact location. Here — while carefully dodging any telltale details — Tarshis reveals some of her favorite Valley caches.
Supose Elsi: Cachers need some sort of boat — or an impressive ability to swim long distances — in order to reach this cache, hidden on an island on the Hudson between the Rhinecliff and Mid-Hudson bridges. Besides the waypoints, the only other clue to the cache’s location is in its name — but its creator will go no further than that.
Will You Marry Me?: This romantic treasure is a “virtual” cache — a landmark that exists outside geocaching, rather than an object placed specifically for game purposes. Cachers must scour Greene County’s North-South Lake Campground for a rock with a marriage proposal carved into it, and E-mail the name of the betrothed to the person who posted the cache.
Enchanted Ferncliff: Located in Rhinebeck’s Ferncliff Forest, this multi-cache has three stages, each with its own fairy-tale feel. Cachers need to find one cache in order to determine the waypoints of the next, but the chase is well worth the effort: the last cache features a beautifully hand-crafted wooden box moored inside a tree stump.
Effigy of the Forgotten: It would be hard to miss the location of this cache — it’s hidden in a caboose on the grounds of a Kingston tourist center, as its creator readily divulges in the cache’s description. Even armed with such specific information, however, cachers are finding it incredibly difficult to dig up this key-sized prize; one frustrated searcher has gone so far as to characterize the cache as “evil.”
On May 2, 2000, the accuracy of GPS technology was improved tenfold when 24 satellites around the world strengthened their signals. The very next day, in Beavercreek, Oregon, Dave Ulmer hid what was to become the first geocache. Ulmer called his new game the “Great American GPS Stash Hunt” and posted to an Internet newsgroup the waypoints of a black bucket filled with tapes, books, and other items. Within three days, two people had found his stash and posted their hunt experiences on the site. Within a month, the list of “stashes” grew; on May 30, Matt Stum coined the name “geocaching.” Currently, there are over 650,000 active caches in more than 100 countries around the world.
G-P-S Marks the Spot
Want to jump into geocaching yourself? Electronics stores and Web sites like www.offroute.com sell basic handheld GPS devices (such as the Garmin eTrex, left) for $100 to $150. Tarshis says serious geocachers might consider splurging for a more expensive unit like her $500 Magellan Triton 2000, pictured on page 30.