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Geocache players become explorers, game creators

Friday, April 13, 2012

(Photo)
There are many geocaches hidden in Putnam County. Near the Buzz Bomb at the courthouse square there is one hidden inside a small tin box (inset).
On the Greencastle Courthouse square, near the large Buzz Bomb monument, hidden within the base of a lamppost, there sits a small tin box. The box is labeled, and inside contains a series of numbers -- a code.

For whoever finds this code, a new world of mystery, excitement and intrigue can be unlocked. Just don't take the box with you.

Pioneering with GPS

"It's sort of like a puzzle and scavenger hunt combined," said Greencastle native Michael Grimes, a geocacher and video game designer. "It is really interesting to get out and see things that you weren't really aware of in Putnam County."

A geocache is a treasure hidden around towns, the countryside and all around the world -- under bridges, in cemeteries, beside statues and occasionally even inside buildings. These treasures contain a code, and the code can be logged online.

To assist the players in finding and keeping track of their geocaches, an internet community, http://www.geocaching.com, lists the general location and nearby Global Positioning System coordinates.

Geocachers bring a GPS enabled cell phone or other GPS device with them in the pursuit. They then lift, dig, probe, peer, reach, scratch and otherwise scour the area until the geocache is found.

It gives participants a guiltless way to experience the thrill of the hunt. It can be quite exhilarating, Grimes said, when you decide to search for something, examine the area for possible clues, discover a likely location for the geocache, reach in and finally find it.

"As soon as you start going more and more, you start to think, 'This would be a really good place to hide it,'" Grimes said. "The first one that I found was at Carmel Cemetery (in Marion Township). I found that one in 2005, and after that I just started driving around and exploring Putnam County."

Cache in your chips

There are a few different types of geocaches. The most common is simply a cache and code. Players log the code to add it to their online profile, a sort of database for the geocache community to keep track of who has found what and where. These geocaches are left where you find them.

In another type, a special coin or dog tag is hidden with the geocache. These coins are taken with the player, then collected or rehidden at a different location. The code on these coins is logged and the path the coin travels reads like a Frommer's guidebook. They can travel all around the world, as far reaching as Hawaii or Scandanavia.

In a third type, the geocache is a puzzle. Players go to an area and find a series of clues, each leading to the next cache. These caches build on each other until the final picture or code is unlocked. Because this is more complex than a find-and-log cache, it is more rewarding. It has also been less popular.

Grimes (mykegeegee is his geocaching handle) believes he can change that. He has designed a tutorial program, a computer game, that will guide anyone interested on how to work their way through a puzzle based cache.

Grimes, who attended Fillmore Elementary and South Putnam High School, has worked passionately on video games for several years but is not a programmer. He is looking for funding to help pay a programmer to finish his project. The art design, character mapping and all other aspects of the game are already complete.

Through kickstarter.com, a website designed to help independent creators fund their projects, Grimes is able to take pledges. Backers donate money, and if the $3,500 threshold is not reached by Saturday, April 14, they will not be billed.

By the 'cachers, for the 'cachers

Each geocache is hidden by a player. Each coordinate is discovered and input by a player. The community spans the globe and includes, the website boasts, millions of users.

It is a safe, family friendly way for people of all ages to get outside, explore their communities and get exercise. Where pioneers once reconnoitered for strange species and anomalies, geocachers now search for clues to man-made hidden treasures.

Grimes, 35, designed a cache that runs from Fillmore to Greencastle and follows the plot of the boardgame "Clue." Each hidden location along the path contains character cards. When the player reaches the final location he or she will know if it was Col. Mustard with the candlestick in the billiard room.

Without the aid of a singing telegram, geocachers use a GPS devise and prowl through public squares, parks and streets. This can be an odd sight for "muggles," a term taken from Harry Potter that geocachers use to describe people unfamiliar with the game.

"The geocaching community tries to be discrete in pursuits because it's kind of goofy looking," Grimes said. Though he normally goes alone, he will occasionally geocache with friends. He has even gone with his mother.

It is tough to be too discrete all the time. Pawing at a streetlamp in the main square makes it especially difficult to remain inconspicuous, though the reward of finding the cache will outweigh the embarrassment.

To locate a geocache nearby, log on to the website and type in the local zip code. A list will come up revealing all the logged items -- there are hundreds in the Putnam County area.

The website also lists the caches each users has found and hidden -- a basic membership is free -- which can lead to relationships building as users try to stump one another.

A geocaching app is available to download on all smartphones to aid in your pursuit.

To make a contribution, Grimes can be contacted at mlgrimes8@gmail.com.

Geocaching terminology

Geocaching is growing in popularity. To help you keep up with the new geocaching language, here is a list of common words. (Taken from geocaching.com)

Bushwhacking -- Paving a path through underbrush in pursuit of a geocache in the woods. It is often best to wear jeans and a long sleeve shirt.

BYOP -- Bring your own pen/pencil. Often used by cache owners to communicate to other geocachers will need to bring their own writing utensil to sign the cache logbook

FTF -- First to find. Written by geocachers in physical cache logbooks or online when logging cache finds to denote being the first to find a new geocache.

GPSr -- Slang for GPS receiver.

Hitchhiker -- An item that is placed in a cache and has instructions to travel to other caches.

Muggle -- A non-geocacher. Based on "Muggle" from the Harry Potter series, which is a non-magical person. Usually this term is used after a non geocacher looks puzzled after befriending a geocacher searching for a cache, or when a non-geocacher accidentally finds a cache.


Comments
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Geocaching is a really fun, family-friendly hobby that has taken us on some really memorable adventures. However, there are a few errors in this article that I would like to address, so folks trying it out will not be confused.

1. Unless it involves a mystery puzzle, which would be outlined on the Geocache description page at Geocaching.com, you will not need to find a code INSIDE the Geocache. The cache has a code (begins with "GC") to identify the cache on the website, but it will likely not be in/on the container.

2. Digging is mentioned. It is against the rules of Groundspeak, owners of Geocaching.com, to bury a cache container. It can be hidden under a rock or log, but cannot be buried underground.

Also, there is a great animated video on the front page of Geocaching.com that gives a quick run-down of the hobby and how it works. I would suggest than anyone interested, take a look.

See you on the trail!

Alicia (lakedawgs)

-- Posted by lakedawgs on Fri, Apr 13, 2012, at 3:26 PM

agreed.

There were a few errors within this article that was definitely a mistake by the author. A little more research would of helped in helping to write this article. Yet, I guess at least my name was correct.

mykegeegee

-- Posted by mykegeegee on Fri, Apr 13, 2012, at 11:05 PM

Also, new players should be aware of WHY it pays to be subtle when finding (and even more so when HIDING) a geocache. A little embarrassment never hurt anyone, but spending half an hour explaining your new-found "game" to the local law enforcement officer when he comes rolling up with lights and sirens going is more than a little embarrassing. As a member of an Army "bomb squad" unit, I can say first-hand that since 9/11 people have become very suspicious of strangers who seem to be hiding "packages" under public monuments or near bridges or schools. And the people who see you doing it won't ask you what you're doing, they'll call the cops. And sometimes, in the right circumstances, the end result will be that the bomb squad blows up your geocache because they have no idea what's inside but they know that someone hid something in a public place and was trying not to be seen doing it.

In other words - be careful, be discreet, and be safe. But also have fun. (And if you decide to head out toward Big Four Arches, wear long pants - you have to trek through some bushes to get to my cache out there!)

-- Posted by Elemental Jay on Sat, Apr 14, 2012, at 10:17 AM

It also would have been nice if they asked the actual cache owner if it was ok to display his cache on the front page of the local newspaper. The CO wasn't very pleased to see it advertised like that.

-- Posted by Lucky Chavez on Sun, Aug 26, 2012, at 4:04 PM


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