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Cashing in on geocaching

Hobby uses GPS system

July 21, 2011
By Michael Tidemann - Staff Writer , Estherville Daily News

A little over 200 years ago, Lewis and Clark cached an iron boat frame at the foot of the Great Falls of the Missouri on their trek to the Pacific. Upon the Corps of Discovery's return, they couldn't find it.

Too bad they didn't try geocaching.

The popularity of geocaching, a sport in which people 'cache' objects and post GPS coordinates so others may find them, is growing daily. It's a great way for people to get outdoors, experience nature and search for hidden 'treasures' in the oddest and most curious places.

Jim Otto of Spirit Lake, who has been geocaching for just about a year, talked about geocaching at the Estherville Public Library Tuesday. He was joined by his daughter and fellow geocacher Julie McAdam of Adel.

"Using the government's billion-dollar satellites to find Tupperware in the woods" was Otto's tongue-in-cheek definition of geocaching. Otto said geocaching started in 2000 when the government released to the public the GPS technology that would later be used in geocaching. Otto showed a promotional video fromm Groundspeak, a company that sells geocaching equipment and sponsors the website, then talked about the thrill of geocaching.

The serious geocacher needs a handheld GPS which starts at about $80, Otto said. He said geocaching is an outdoor activity in which people place logs fellow geocachers can sign, documenting the fact they located the geocache. Cachers might use ammo boxes, birdhouses, 'bison tubes' or hollowed twigs to hide their logs. Caches often have 'treasures' and caching etiquette requires that one replace the treasure that one takes with something of equal or greater value.

McAdam talked about travel bugs which are tradeable items that geocachers move from place to place. Many have a person's country of origin, which can be a thilling way for geocachers to transport the travel bugs to other caches in faraway countries.

Otto said geocachers can bring empty garbage bags to pick up trash while geocaching.

While it's fun, Otto admitted geocaching isn't always easy. Clouds, rain, humidity and large buildings in urban areas can affect GPS reception.

After Otto and McAdam's presentation, everyone participated in a geocaching activity.

Sort of caching in on the fun, you might say.



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