When someone mentions the word 'geocaching,' many eyebrows perk upward in question from those who are unfamiliar with the term. But to those who do know it, enthusiasm easily shows in their reactions. Geocaching is an outdoor hobby of searching for hidden containers, or caches, using GPS coordinates retrieved through www.geocaching.com.
Cabela's and the Our Town Foundation in Hamburg recently co-sponsored a geocaching workshop at the Hamburg Community Park to illustrate how-to efforts behind the excitement-stirring activity.
Geocaching began to take on popularity in the early 2000s and is only expanding across the U.S. and the world, as those who try it out love spreading the fun through not only searching for caches but planting their own, listing the coordinates online for others to hunt.
Most caches are incredibly tiny and house a small piece of rolled up paper on which those who find it write their initials and the date so that the person who hid the cache knows who visited; the visitors then track online that they've found the cache.
But the caches are never easy to find in plain sight. They're usually very well hidden, sometimes blending in with their surroundings, disguised so that only those who are geocaching will find them and realize what they are.
Hints are noted online to help find and identify the modern treasures, too.
Jarred Brunner, who works in the hunting and optics department of Cabela's, explained that handheld GPS devices are best for geocaching, as ones built for cars are not waterproof, and in the dense woods, antenna strength might not be suitable to keep in tune with satellites.
'Handheld GPS units are usually waterproof,' Brunner said.
Some phones are equipped to download geocaching applications, too, although sometimes service is not the best, and the software is not as accurate as an actual GPS, Brunner said.
'Some people try it on their phones and come in to buy a GPS because of liking it so much,' Brunner added.
Units can range from $100 to $700.
Cabela's has three caches located outside of the store.
There are an estimated 60 to 80 caches within a 10-mile radius of the park.
Eighteen-year-old Jordan Knight, of Perry Township, a geocaching aficionado, hid a magnetic nano cache near the walking bridge to the Schuylkill River Trail at the park two years ago and has had 120 people find it since then.
The cache is about the size of the tip of a pinky finger.
Knight estimated that 70 percent of caches are the micro variety, while 30 percent are larger ones-containers that can hold trinkets and whatever a person considers worth hiding away.
The rule is to leave something in the cache, if you take something out of it. It could be a small dinosaur toy, a book of puzzles, a fridge magnet or anything else fun that fits into the cache.
For the larger caches, those who find them for the first time often receive the prize of something substantial in cost. Knight discovered a Wawa gift card and ski resort tickets for Bear Creek in Macungie, through his winning excursions.
'There are more than a million of them in the world,' Knight said about caches. He has found 900 in the past few years, with GPS units usually taking him within 10 feet of each one.
On the main website, difficulty of finding the caches is ranked on a one-to-five scale, with terrain difficulty marked also.
For the more challenging ones, they could need boat access to an island on the side of a cliff, Knight noted as an example. But most are easily accessible for the creative-thinking mind.
There is a cache at the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store in Hamburg and one at the Leesport Post Office, just to name a few other sites.
Not buried but always well hidden, most caches aren't on private property but instead on state game lands or in public parks, Knight explained.
After buying the actual GPS unit, geocaching is a free adventurous pastime taking people to new places to learn more about their surroundings, and it's something that can pique the interest of family members of all ages.