Geocaching: Cache if you can

W.Va. workshop shows how to find 'treasures'

W.Va. workshop shows how to find 'treasures'

July 10, 2009|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Pick any block in Hagerstown and there's bound to be a cache of "treasure" within a few steps.

That's what geocache enthusiast Tim Eggleston, 58, of Hedgesville, W.Va., said.

"There's about 250 caches in the City of Hagerstown and about 600 in Washington County," Eggleston said on a recent trip to City Park to geocache with wife, Marsha, 51, and granddaughter Kora Ostrowski, 10.

Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunt. With the aid of a Global Positioning System (GPS) device, people can find a cache. Tim said caches are usually weatherproof containers that contain little "treasures," typically worth just a few bucks.

"I like to say (geocaching) is a walk with a purpose," Eggleston said.

He has only been involved since December, logging more than 300 finds. But Eggleston has known people who've logged as many as 5,000 caches.


It's the thrill of the hunt that Eggleston wants to share with others. So he's hosting a geocaching seminar on Saturday, July 18, at Independent Bible Church. The daylong event includes Geocaching 101 -- on the basics of geocaching -- plus information on geocaching software, tricks to find a cache and how to place a geocache. There are also lectures for more advanced geocachers.

The lectures are run by fellow geocachers who are known by their handles -- Manitto, LPYankeefan and Snurt.

During Tim's trip to City Park he and his family were on the hunt for geocaches placed at the park by Snurt.

"This guy is an artist," Tim said.

"He's a legend," Marsha said with a laugh.

Snurt, it seems, has earned a reputation for hard-to-find caches. One of his caches, called Reflections, didn't take the family long to find. But the second one, called Stuck in Washingtons' County, took Tim and Marsha 45 minutes to locate.

At one of the locations, the cache was no bigger than a 1/4-inch tube. The treasure?

"Boasting rights," Marsha said.

Before you start

Tim said geocaching requires some investment to begin. A geocacher must have access to the Internet, where cache locations are listed. And, of course, geocachers need a GPS device.

Marsha said some GPS devices actually come with a geocaching application programmed. And, she said, GPSs aren't as expensive as they used to be. Many can be bought for around $100.

GPSs were introduced to the public in 2000 and geocaching soon followed. The Egglestons didn't start until Christmas 2008. Tim said their GPS was "a Christmas present to ourselves."

That day, the Egglestons logged into the geocaching Web site and picked out their IDs. Tim's handle is WVTim, Marsha is WVGrammy and Kora is KachinKora.

"Where ever we go, it's an excuse to geocache," Tim said. He said on road trips he'll try to coordinate bathroom breaks with chances to find a cache.

Because worldwide there are about 840,000 caches and about 4 million geocachers, the Egglestons said they can geocache nearly anywhere. Recently on a trip to Europe, they spent time geocaching in Switzerland, France and Croatia.

Maryland has a large geocaching community, Tim said. Favorite caching grounds include the Maryland Municipal League GeoTrail. With his group, the Mountain State Geocaching Group, Tim hopes to encourage more families in West Virginia and the surrounding areas to get out and geocache.

Rules of the game

Tim said geocaching is a family activity. Anyone at any age can do it as long as he or she has a GPS. Geocaching is about respect - for the person who left the cache and for the area where it was hidden.

The area where the cache is hidden shouldn't disturb the area around it. Caches can't be buried.

Cache-hiders usually use clear, weather-proof boxes so people can see the items inside, called SWAG - short for "something we all got." Some geocachers hide SWAG in old ammo boxes. Some disguise the cache as something else. The Egglestons are constantly looking for new ways to contain their cache.

"You look at closed containers in a whole new way," Marsha said.

All caches carry a logbook in which geocachers sign their ID.

During the hunt, geocachers must be on the lookout for muggles, a nickname borrowed from the popular Harry Potter books and movies. In the magical world of Harry Potter books, muggles are non-wizards. In the geocaching world, muggles are non-geocachers. When geocachers are looking for a cache, they try to avoid being noticed by muggles who might disturb the cache later.

For those who find it, it's an honor system. Once you find the cache, you sign your geocaching name. But most importantly, if you take SWAG, leave some behind.

Tim shows a box filled with some of the SWAG he has collected during his cache adventures: a mini Sylvester the Cat stuffed doll, a windup bunny, a figurine of one of the mice from Disney's "Cinderella."

"I always carry a bag of SWAG with me to leave behind," he said, showing a Ziploc bag filled with goodies.

He also carries a backpack filled with geocaching equipment such as a flashlight, tools, and a mirror for those hard-to-find caches.

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