April. Turkeys are gobbling. Crappie are spawning. Wildflowers are blooming. And an astonishing number of people are apparently prowling the woods and parks, fields and prairies, trails and roadways in what is, essentially, a worldwide pursuit of hide-and-seek with a technology bent.
It’s called geocaching. It’s not really a game, and it’s not exactly an activity, but it’s probably more than a hobby to many of the estimated 10 million participants, or geocachers, scattered around the globe, including thousands in Kentucky.
Becoming a geocacher is easy. Go to geocaching.com and sign up. It’s free. You’ll need a GPS-capable smartphone (you also will need to download an app; it’s also free) or a handheld GPS—that’s Global Positioning System—unit. The smartphone app will guide you to within about 20 feet of a targeted cache location, a GPS unit somewhat closer.
“What it boils it down to is geocaching is a high-tech scavenger hunt,” explained Robert Myers, park naturalist and recreation supervisor at Lake Cumberland State Resort Park near Jamestown, where a couple hundred geocachers will converge later this month for the park’s 11th annual geocache weekend April 22-24.
Myers said the event is scheduled to coincide with Earth Day, April 22.
Lake Cumberland State Resort Park is a regular geocaching destination, in that there are about 15 caches hidden in the park at any time. A few temporary caches will be added for the upcoming geocache weekend.
Myers, who helped organize and will direct the Lake Cumberland geocaching weekend, said he and his wife, Kathy, have been geocaching for more than a decade.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Myers, a tall, physically fit man with the bearing of a park ranger and the on-the-trail enthusiasm of a Boy Scout. “But generally, what the fun of geocaching is, is that you are out in nature, and it will bring you to beautiful locations. Some [geocaches] are put near waterfalls. Some near rock formations. Some are on the trail. Some are in [handicapped] accessible locations, too. We have handicapped accessible caches at this park.
“A lot of people, probably most people, use their smartphones because they have them,” Myers said. “I personally like to use the handheld GPS unit. But you can use your phone. Once you get to within 20 feet or so, you can just use the clues they give you to find the container you’re looking for.”
The physical cache—that’s the container you’re seeking—can be larger than a trash can or smaller than a coffee cup. What’s inside will vary widely, too. A cache can contain toys, pens, coins, pictures, jewelry—nearly anything that will fit inside the cache, is not illegal or illicit, and is nonperishable is permitted. The cache also will contain a logbook. Successful geocachers should sign the log, and then record their find on geocaching.com.
Myers said geocachers also can take something from the cache provided they replace it with something of equal value.
Myers and I were on the Lake Bluff Trail, a 4-mile loop that roughly circles the park’s Lure Lodge and climbs to a bluff line that affords a stunning view of Lake Cumberland.
We descended a cascade of steps and joined the narrow but well-marked path. This section of the trail flanks a creek, crosses a footbridge, then turns toward the bluff and the lake overlook. We approached an outcropping—a narrow limestone ledge jutting from the hillside.
Myers looked at his GPS. As the resident park naturalist, he knows the location of all the caches stashed on park grounds but played along for my benefit. A lightly used side path led to the outcropping.
“The clue is ‘between a rock and a hard place,’ ” he said.
The outcropping concealed a metal ammo box, which was about the size of a laptop and 4 inches thick. Inside, we found the logbook and an assortment of gadgets and trinkets, including some coins and a couple of small plastic toys.
When we reached the bluff section of the trail, we took another side path to another rock outcropping that overlooked the lake. Just off the trail, a small wooden birdhouse was attached to a cedar tree.
Myers walked over to inspect the box, which was remarkably clean to have housed birds all winter.
“That seems an odd place for a birdhouse,” I noted.
“It’s not birdhouse,” he said excitedly. “It’s another geocache.”
Want to play? Go to geocaching.com and sign up.
For more information about the Lake Cumberland geocache weekend, visit parks.ky.gov/calendar/details/lake-cumberland-state-resort-parks-11th-annual-geocache-event/20466/, contact Myers via email at RobertA.Myers@ky.gov, or call the park at (270) 343-3111.
The geocaching.com signup is free, but the Lake Cumberland geocache event is $30 per couple, $20 per individual and $10 for children ages 12 and younger.
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