Tuesday, September 03, 2013

TOP STORY >> Geocaching is latest hot hobby

Leader staff writer

For people who like to find a needle in a haystack, geocaching may be just the ticket.

Geocaching is a treasure-hunting game in which participants use global positioning system devices. Geocachers use a specific set of GPS coordinates posted on websites to try to find hidden containers at certain locations.

The containers, called geocaches or caches, are hidden by players all over the world. The caches can be camouflage-painted coffee cans, ammo boxes, match holders or small bottles. Some are hidden in the natural landscape of the area, where they don’t stand out or look out of the ordinary.

Lt. Butch Chapman with the South Bend Volunteer Fire Department explained, “What you can use for a geocache is only limited by your imagination.”

He is hosting a geocaching meet and greet from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12 at Emily’s Diner, 1021 W. Main St. in Jacksonville.

Chapman said the event is an opportunity for those interested in geocaching to get a start by talking with geocachers, sharing tales and comparing notes.

He explained that geocachers really don’t see each other when they search for caches, but some go out as a group.

The caches they look for can contain a simple log book to write on, trinkets, coins or toys.

Some caches may have trackables — coins, pins or other small objects with tracking numbers on them. Players take a trackable from the cache they find and place it in another geocache location.

Geocachers can go online and type in the number to follow where the trackable has been hidden.

Chapman hid a trackable to honor his wife’s memory. She passed away from cancer in 2009.

The lieutenant began looking for and hiding geocaches in 2010, when he was at a state fire convention in Hot Springs. Chapman had a GPS unit in his car and discovered a geocaching site.

“It’s a pastime activity for me when I’m not fighting fires, at church activities or working,” he said.

“It is better than sitting at home on the computer playing games. It is exercise. You get to see things — landmarks and natural features — you wouldn’t normally go out to see,” Chapman continued.

He said he enjoys finding caches for that reason. Chapman discovered a waterfall in Mountain Springs while he was geocaching. He has also found geocaches in the middle of a lake and on a walking bridge above the interstate.

Some caches, Chapman added, are “hidden in plain sight.”

When he goes on the hunt for caches, Chapman carries a backpack with a mirror, tweezers and small tools.

He said geocaching is a family activity for all ages. Some families even take geocaching vacations to state parks and campgrounds, where a lot of geocaches are hidden.

Chapman also enjoys hiding geocaches and has placed 120 geocaches in the area.

He noted, “When you put one on private property, the rule is to have permission of the property owner. Generally, at businesses, the employees and owners have a good time watching people finding the geocaches.”

The rules of geocaching also require that caches be hidden a 10th of a mile apart.

Chapman said geocaching is an inexpensive activity. A basic free account to find and record geocaches can be found at geocaching.com.

He also says all a person needs to have is a GPS device. Free GPS applications are available on most smart phones.

For more information, call Chapman at 501-912-7695.