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Geocaching: Fun hidden in plain sight

What hot new activity is fun, free, family-friendly, and taking adventurers to beautiful new spots every day? Geocaching!

If you enjoy solving puzzles, hiking and travel, geocaching – a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices – could be your new passion. A growing number of people across the nation are venturing out on geocaching missions, visiting places they otherwise might not see.

At its simplest level, geocaching requires these 8 steps:

1.  Register for a free Basic Membership at
2.  Visit the “Hide & Seek a Cache” page.
3.  Enter your postal code and click “search.”
4.  Choose any geocache from the list and click on its name.
5.  Plug in the coordinates of the geocache into your GPS device.
6.  Use your GPS device to assist you in finding the hidden geocache.
7.  Sign the logbook and return the geocache to its original location.
8.  Share your geocaching stories and photos online.

Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and try to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location. Once they find it, they sign the logbook inside the container (if there is one) and carefully replace it in the same spot.

“You need to be stealthy because the idea is to not let anyone see you searching for or finding the cache because you don’t want to spoil it for other players,” explains veteran geocacher Kim Pocernich of Ashland. “Plus, you wouldn’t want a ‘muggle’ (non-geocacher) to see what you are doing because they might remove or discard the geocache thinking it is trash.”

There are more than 20 geocaches hidden in Ashland and several in Washburn, according to Kim. Her geocaching team, I Girls, has created a challenging “puzzle cache” using the Ashland Mural Walk for its clues.

“Our Mural Walk cache takes people to six of our favorite Ashland murals to get the correct coordinates leading them to the final location,” Kim says, adding that this particular cache is also known as a “multi” because there are multiple clues to follow.

Players must answer a numerical question about something depicted in each of the six featured murals in order to obtain the GPS coordinates. Hidden in March 2012, the Ashland Mural Walk cache has proven a great success and has been found by more than 50 players, many of whom have marked it as one of their favorites.

A typical geocache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook or logsheet (with a pen or pencil). The geocacher enters the date on which they found it and signs it with their established code name. After signing the log, the cache must be placed back exactly where the person found it, even if they think they see a better spot for it.

There are over a dozen different cache types, varying in size from an ammo box to a “micro” size such as a 35mm film canister. Larger containers such as plastic storage containers (Tupperware or similar) or ammunition boxes can also contain items for trading, usually toys or trinkets of little financial value, although sometimes they are sentimental.

These items turn the adventure into a true treasure hunt. You never know what the cache owner or visitors to the cache may have left for you to enjoy. But one very important rule is: If you take something from the cache, leave something of equal or greater value in return.

Frequently, “Trackables” are left inside the cache. A Trackable is a sort of physical geocaching “game piece.” They are often found in geocaches or seen at geocaching gatherings.

Each Trackable is etched with a unique code that can be used to log its movements on as it travels in the real world. Some of these items have traveled hundreds of thousands of miles thanks to geocachers who move them from cache to cache!

Examples of Trackables include Geocoins and Travel Bugs. A Travel Bug is a trackable tag attached to an item that geocachers call a “hitchhiker.” Each Travel Bug has a goal set by its owner. Goals are typically travel-related, such as to visit every country in Europe or travel from coast to coast.

Geocoins are customizable coins created by individuals or groups of geocachers as a kind of signature item or calling card. They function exactly like Travel Bug Trackables and should be moved to another cache, unless otherwise specified by their owners.

The Bayfield Regional Conservancy has created a geocaching series to highlight trails and properties we helped protect. We’ve placed eight caches on the following trails or preserves: Brownstone Trail, Big Ravine Trail, Frog Bay Tribal National Park, Cornucopia Beach, North Pike’s Creek Community Forest and Lincoln Community Forest.

For more details on geocaching check out our  Geocache Page.