Searching for buried treasure

In woods, prairies and private properties, hidden treasure is waiting for those who have the skill to find it.

Geocaching is an adventure game where participants use a global positioning system, GPS, unit to find items hidden by volunteers. Those volunteers will share the GPS coordinates for the hidden cache, and geocachers are tasked to track them down and find them.

John Laird, naturalist with Hamilton County Conservation, said individuals set up caches and often share them over the internet. A cache might be something like an old military ammunition box, or something as small as a pill bottle. Within, an individual might have trinkets for the finder to take. Caches also often contain sign-in books and some ask the finders to leave something when they go so the cache can sustain itself.

Laird, along with Chad Chapman who has hosted previous presentations on geocaching, will host an introduction to geocaching program this Saturday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Conservation Office, located within Briggs Woods Park. The program will cover the basics of geocaching, and introduce participants to a GPS device.

While Laird has not gone geocaching and will be learning much from Chapman’s presentation, he said combining the technical aptitude the sport requires and the outdoor setting was why he wanted to learn more about geocaching.

“What I really like about it is that it gets techie people outdoors,” Laird said.

Several parks in Hamilton County have permanent caches that are maintained by volunteers. Laird said Little Wall Lake, Briggs Woods Park and Bell’s Mill Park all have caches for people to discover. On the day of the introduction program, Chapman will be setting up several other caches for people to find.

The GPS coordinates of a cache are fairly precise. The location can be pinpointed more accurately with better and more expensive GPS devices, but Laird said much of the fun of geocaching is looking around yourself for the cache.

Geocaching is a fairly new sport. Civilian use of GPS devices was not largely available until it was opened up to the public in 2000. It has found uses in many sports, including hunting, fishing and is useful for people heading into unknown areas. Geocaching took off about six years ago when was created and became a hub for people both looking to hide their own caches and those seeking them. While these modern treasure hunters are unlikely to find items of extreme value, Laird said the fun lies in the hunt.

Registration prior to the program is not required, but the Conservation Office does have a limited number of GPS devices available. To reserve a device or for more information, contact John Laird at the Hamilton County Conservation Office at 832-9570. There is no charge for this program, but a donation box is available.