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gotta Cache ’em all

The scavenger hunt phenomenon takes off in Athens BY GINA EDWARDS

PHOTOS BY KEVIN BRIGS

I

n the olden days of Crayola coloring and glue eating, such treasure hunts evoked frenzied excitement, often during a birthday party or extended recess. They also enriched holiday memories—especially of the sibling brawls that ensued over the last chocolate-filled Easter egg tucked under the porch. Fortunately for those of us still clinging to childhood, a hidden “treasure” can still come from traipsing around outside—and not just from discovering that nearlyskunked Corona buried in the fridge. Geocaching, a GPS-enabled outdoor hobby, offers the thrill of solving puzzles, trekking distances and finding treasure that we once enjoyed

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backdrop » Spring 2011

Ranging in size and value, geocaches are often stored in a small vessel or container to protect the treasure from the elements.

as children—and we can do it right here in Athens. The official site, www.geocaching.com, explains the intricacies of this somewhat secretive hobby. Geocachers hide caches—from miniscule film canisters to large Tupperware containers—in various locations. Each contains a logbook and tiny treasures, from bouncy balls to disposable cameras. They list their coordinates along with hints about how to find the caches online. Seekers load this information into their GPS and set out on the hunt. Once they find the cache, they can take one treasure and leave another. After the discovery, they return to the website to log it. Around the globe, about 1.4 million geocaches exist,

with about 5 million active geocachers seeking them. Though Athens already boasts an impressive crop of caches, some geocachers want an increase in geocaching traffic in the area. Lenie Holbrook, an associate professor of management systems, channeled his passion for geocaching into developing “geotrails,” or a series of caches placed at various points of interest in the Athens area. With the help of his creativity classes, he worked with the Athens County Convention and Visitors Bureau to make them a reality. “Athens is just a perfect place for caching,” Holbrook says, rattling off Strouds Run, Sells Park and the HockHocking Adena Bikeway as just a

Production of Hershey’s Kisses stopped during World War II.


Authentic

Italian Cuisine Many geocachers use a smart phone for maps or directions.

few of the many scenic places with caches in the area. Due to launch in early June, the two geotrails will include one completely wheelchair-accessible route. Holbrook hopes that they will draw more visitors to the area. Additionally, Athens caches will also serve as part of a giant geotrail in the making, called “Travel the World without Leaving Ohio,” which will include Ohio cities named after famous international destinations, including Athens, Lima and Paris. Geocaching decorum dictates that a fellow geocacher should not reveal the location, description or contents of a geocache to a seeker who hasn’t found it yet. But Holbrook let slip a few of the well-traveled campus spots with caches, including nearby

Upon finding a treasure, the discoverer must write in the log book, indicating time and date.

Chubb Hall, Bentley Annex and the bottom of Baker University Center, although these hidden treasures might not stay there long. “The university’s not very friendly to caching,” he says. “Some caches on campus have been confiscated, which is understandable as a measure of public safety.” College students interested in picking up the hobby need not wait for the trails to launch; in the 25-mile radius surrounding Athens, 487 active caches exist. And most smart phones now have GPS capabilities accurate enough for geocaching, precluding the need for the purchase of any equipment. Even though the childhood days of lunch boxes and cubby holes are long gone, we can still cling to treasure hunts, adventures and unrestrained enthusiasm. And, yes. “There’s an app for that.”

It takes 400 cocoa beans to create one pound of chocolate.

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Gotta Cache 'Em All