October 20, 2005
BUTLER COUNTY TOURISM COUNCIL
USES GEOCACHING TO LURE VISITORS
All around the world, people with global positioning system (GPS) devices are playing a game unknown to the rest of the world, Geocaching. Butler County Tourism Council (BCTC) is using this new-found game to lure travelers off their paths to visit sites in Butler County. Eleven geocaches have been placed in Butler County within the past two weeks, adding to many such treasures already in place.
Using a recently completed driving tour guide of Butler County, available at http://www.visitButlerCountyOhio.org, the BCTC worked with a local geocacher, Sharon Stone, to place “treasures” at many of the driving tour sites. And, with the caches hidden only a few days, there have already been many GPS-armed hunters on the trail, logging their finds on the http://www.geocaching.com website.
Everybody loves a treasure hunt. Instead of hand-drawn maps with “ten paces from the big tree” clues, the modern version involves using cell-phone-size GPS devices leading hunters via latitude and longitude coordinates. For an investment of as little as $80, entire families are fully equipped for adventure.
Finding the spot using electronic gadgetry is not quite as easy as it might appear. The devices lead hunters to within 30 feet or so, but the treasure is always hidden so a bit of a search is involved. The fun of the game is the searching and experiencing new locations and learning about new places.
Several caches are located in and around Butler County, nearly 1,000 within a 50 mile circle. Non-geocachers will walk right by the hiding spots. Should a non-player stumble upon a cache. The “Muggler” who opens the cache will see a card explaining the purpose and a request to just replace the cache in its hidden spot.
To play, log onto www.geocaching.com and type in a zip code for the area in which you’d like to hunt. Several options appear and by clicking on the entries, coordinates appear with a few clues. While you can play just by printing out the coordinates and information without use of the electronic gadgets, most do use the devices.
The caches placed by BCTC are waterproof ammunition boxes and other smaller containers. Inside each one is a log book for those who visit the cache to sign, and a small stash of inexpensive items. Take something, leave something is the rule. Treasures may be small trinkets for the kids or a smashed penny with the geocaching logo –trademark of local geocacher Sharon Stone. There may also be an item with a tag, a Travel Bug, that may be taken and left at another geocache and logged onto the website as a way to track its travels.
So why have you never heard of geocaching? It’s not exactly a game handed down from your ancestors. Way back there in the year 2000, then President Clinton signed a law that removed restrictions on the use of the satellite tracking systems – GPS. His order opened the door for everyone to use the GPS system. Only two days later, May 3, 2000, the first container of goodies was hidden outside Portland, Oregon to celebrate the occasion of public access to the service. By May 6th the cache had been visited twice and the game was on. Mike Teague, the first to find the container, built a web page to document the containers and their locations. By June 2005, there were 172,887 known active caches in 215 countries. There are even 15 caches in Antartica.
For more information about geocaching, contact local geocacher Sharon Stone at RStone6@cinci.rr.com. By day she is a hard-working member of the Clark, Schaefer, Hackett accounting firm team –after hours and weekends she becomes a dedicated geocacher who has visited 280 caches in several states and Canada since she began the hunt in October 2004.
Photos included – Sharon Stone, prepares a geocache box and then is seen hiding one of the caches in Butler County—near the Port Union Bike Trail.