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Treasure hunt: Local scouts gather to learn the art of geocaching


Lon Huntsman finds a treasure stash in the area near Buckhorn Reservoir in the San Rafael Swell.

Local scouts from the Buckhorn District along with young women from the county tried their luck at geocaching near the Buckhorn Reservoir. Scout leader Eldon Holmes led the efforts to put this event together. He along with some older scouts hid the caches for the scouts to find. Most of the stashs included Halloween candy in decorative bags. They also dashed for cash in a contest to find hidden money. Scouts received the coordinates from Holmes and they punched them into their GPS machines and they were on their way. Caches were hidden in the rock cliffs near the Buckhorn Reservoir. After the treasure hunting the group had dinner and seemed to enjoy the fall weather in the Swell. Their next activity will be a turkey shoot on Nov. 3.

Wikipedia explains the art of geocaching: Geocaching is an outdoor treasure-hunting game in which the participants use a global positioning system (GPS) receiver or other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers (called "geocaches" or "caches") anywhere in the world. A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook and "treasure," usually toys or trinkets of little value. Today, well over 440,000 geocaches are registered on various websites devoted to the sport. Geocaches are currently placed in 222 countries around the world and on all seven continents, including Antarctica.

Similar to the 150-year-old letterboxing, which uses references to landmarks and clues embedded in stories, geocaching was made possible by the removal of selective availability from GPS on May 1, 2000. The first documented placement of a GPS-located cache place on May 3, 2000, by Dave Ulmer of Beavercreek, Ore. The location was posted on the Usenet newsgroup sci.geo.satellite-nav [1]. By May 6, 2000, it had been found twice and logged once (by Mike Teague of Vancouver, Wash.).

The activity was originally referred to as GPS stash hunt or GPS stashing. This was changed after a discussion in the GPS stash discussion group at eGroups (now Yahoo!). On May 30, 2000, Matt Stum suggested that "stash" could have negative connotations, and suggested instead "geocaching."

Local scouts, rear, TJ Hill, right, Tyler Pulli and Leedan Johnson check their coordinates.

For the traditional geocache, a geocacher will place a waterproof container, containing a log book (with pen or pencil) and trinkets or some sort of treasures, then note the cache's coordinates. These coordinates, along with other details of the location, are posted on a website. Other geocachers obtain the coordinates from the Internet and seek out the cache using their GPS handheld receivers. The finding geocachers record their exploits in the logbook and online. Geocachers are free to take objects from the cache in exchange for leaving something of similar or higher value, so there is treasure for the next person to find.

Typical cache treasures are not high in monetary value but may hold intrinsic value to the finder. Aside from the logbook, common cache contents are unusual coins or currency, small toys, ornamental buttons, CDs, or books. Also common are objects that are moved from cache to cache, such as Travel Bugs or Geocoins, whose travels may be logged and followed online. Occasionally, higher value items are included in geocaches, normally reserved for the "first finder", or in locations which are harder to reach.

Geocaches can range in size from "microcaches," too small to hold anything more than a tiny paper log, to those placed in five-gallon buckets or even larger containers.

If a geocache has been vandalized or stolen, it is said to have been "muggled" or "plundered." The former term plays off the fact that those not familiar with geocaching are called "geo-muggles" or just muggles, a term borrowed from the Harry Potter series of books.

Local scout leaders examine the GPS handset.

If a cacher discovers that a cache has been muggled, it can be logged as needing maintenance, which sends an e-mail to the cache owner so it can be repaired, replaced, or archived (deactivated).

There are many types of caches. Some are easy enough to be called "drive-bys," "park 'n' grabs", or "cache and dash." Others are very difficult, including staged multi-caches; there are even examples of caches underwater, up a tree, after long offroad drives, on high mountain peaks, on the Antarctic continent, and above the Arctic Circle. Different geocaching websites choose to list different variations as per their own policies (e.g., does not list new Webcam, virtual, locationless, or moving geocaches).

Variations of geocaches include:

* Traditional: This is the basic cache type. It is a container with a log book (at minimum) found at its listed set of coordinates and usually trade items.

* Night Cache: These traditional caches can only be found at night and involve following a series of reflectors with a flashlight to the final cache location.

* Event Cache: This is a cache located at a gathering attended by geocachers. Caches placed at events are often temporarily placed for the event date only. This term is also used to describe the gathering itself.

Scouts and young women break into groups to head for the hills in search of treasure.

* Cache-In Trash-Out (CITO) Events: This is a variation on event caching. Geocachers gather to clean up the trash in the area to improve the environment as a coordinated activity.

* Letterbox hybrid: A letterbox hybrid cache is a combination of a geocache and a letterbox in the same container. A letterbox has a rubber stamp and a logbook instead of tradable items. Letterboxers carry their own stamp with them, to stamp the letterbox's log book and inversely stamp their personal log book with the letterbox stamp. The hybrid cache contains the important materials for this and may or may not include trade items. Whether the letterbox hybrid contains trade items is up to the owner.

* Locationless/reverse: This variation is similar to a scavenger hunt. A description is given for something to find, such as a one-room schoolhouse, and the finder locates an example of this object. The finder records the location using their GPS handheld receiver and often takes a picture at the location showing the named object and his or her GPS receiver. Typically others are not allowed to log that same location as a find.

* Moving/traveling: Similar to a traditional geocache, this variation is found at a listed set of coordinates. The finder uses the log book, trades trinkets, and then hides the cache in a different location. By updating this new location on the listing, the finder essentially becomes the hider, and the next finder continues the cycle.

* Multi-cache: This cache consists of multiple caches. These caches are one or more intermediate points containing the coordinates for the next or final cache, that contains the log book and trade items.

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