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SUNDAY, MARCH 18, 2007
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Use a Global Positioning System to participate in the hunt.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Use a Global Positioning System to participate in the hunt.

Here’s what you need to know to start treasure hunting with technology

By Patrice Stewart
pstewart@decaturdaily.com · 340-2446

Where do I get the equipment?

In Decatur, Adventure GPS Products sells a variety of units suitable for geocaching, as well as more sophisticated ones for your car to help find your way around a city. Other units are used by industries and groups such as fire and rescue departments.

Rick Lewis, owner of Adventure GPS, said units for geocaching range from $95 to almost $400 and will help you get within 10 feet or less of the object you are hunting.

“I’ve seen a big increase in the number of people looking at them for geocaching,” he said.

Vehicle GPS units are $250 to $1,000 at Adventure GPS, located in the Decatur Business Incubator building at 1629 Fourth Ave. S.E., 351-2240. GPS devices also are sold through many office supply and department stores.

Where do you sign up?

Grab your computer and go to the Web site www.geocaching
.com to learn more. That is the official worldwide GPS cache hunt site. You can put in a ZIP code, and it will tell you how many caches are hidden within the radius you set and give the locations. You can get a user name and join for free with a basic membership, or you can pay $3 per month or $30 per year for an advanced mapping premium membership with downloadable coordinates.

What’s hidden in a cache?

Anything you like or want to part with. Some people hide children’s toys, such as plastic party-type favors, figures or animals, balls or Matchbox cars. For adults, it could be small items that are useful while camping, fishing lures, trip souvenirs, trading buttons, flag emblems, magnets, pen and notepad, markers and crayons, or even earrings and small accessories, trinkets and household items.

How big is a cache?

There are several sizes, and items can be hidden in almost anything that’s waterproof. The microcache is a small tube that usually contains only a paper log for you to sign with your user name and the date that you found it. Sometimes you find a multicache, where the first cache contains a paper with coordinates to find a second cache, which may be larger. Some people use film canisters or pill bottles, while others use ammunition boxes to hold more items. Part of the fun is you never know what type of object you are looking for. There’s also a virtual cache, where there’s no item at the coordinates but perhaps a question such as “Look down; what do you see?” and you go back to the Web site to log in your answer.

What are Travel Bugs?

Some people hide items with Travel Bug dog tags, and they want people to move these things from state to state and log the adventures of the item as it travels. Many collectible Geo coins are moving around. Other examples include a hot-pink teddy bear Beanie Baby from Illinois that wants to go to Washington State and a Dream Catcher that is hitting the road from West Virginia. Pink and blue turtle key chains named Aloha Honey and Dude Crush are racing their owner’s friend’s Travel Bugs to see which can make it to Hawaii first. From California, there’s a wooden cross with the inscription “Fix your eyes on Jesus,” and its owners intend to carry out the Great Commission of spreading the gospel.

Caches in our ZIP code

If you fill in the main ZIP code for Decatur, 35601, you will find that 3,315 caches are hidden within 100 miles of Decatur. Within 10 miles of Decatur, 124 caches are listed, with names such as Red Raider Country, Black Bear Country, Music Maker, Concrete Creek, Princess Lena’s Castle, Dead-drop Alpha, Big Mike’s and Go Fly a Kite.

Worldwide, there are currently 370,184 hidden caches, and 36,807 people are participating with accounts through www.geocaching.com.

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