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Geocaching: a high-tech treasure hunt

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Geocaching! Sometimes referred to as a high-tech treasure hunt, where the whole world is your gameboard. Millions of caches — or, to keep with the metaphor, hidden treasures — are located in plain sight around the world, with thousands in Marion County alone. It’s easy enough to get into — all you need is a GPS receiver - which most smartphones have these days anyway - a login to geocaching.com and some time. Overcoming the addiction is a lot harder.

Veterans and newcomers alike gathered at the southside's Resurrection Lutheran Church last week for an Introduction to Geocaching event, with a variety of special caches hidden for the occasion.

What I love about geocaching is that it applies Super Mario logic to the real world. It’s the cheat codes of reality. Wander around, jump on the right platforms, walk in a circle in just the right place, and poof, you have a box of swag. Or maybe a sliver of a plastic container just barely large enough to fit a tiny list of names. Then again, you’re not doing this for the toys — spend ten bucks at a party store and you can get more knickknacks than you might find in a year of caching — but for bragging rights and fun. For that matter, when you take something from a cache you’re supposed to leave something of equal value, which is why most geocacher’s travel kits have anything from plastic toy soldiers to little trinkets they made themselves.

Imagine trying to do this with 2001 technology and a GPS receiver and a bunch of numbers. The advent of iPhones with satellite tracking and Google Maps integration has made geocaching a lot easier, but in the end, it comes down to your eyes.

“The margin of error in a GPS receiver is still several feet or more,” says Mitch Philips, who assembled the event. “Once you get close, you have to rely on your eyes.”

I joined geocaching veterans Jennifer Hagerman (7,500 finds to her credit) and Adam Vibbert (6,090) as they led a team of families and newcomers around the site searching for caches.

“I love going somewhere new,” Vibbert says. “A lot of times you’ll come across a place only the locals know about. There’s always something new and interesting.”

Check out the photos above for the team’s adventures, and look for more in-depth geocaching coverage in an upcoming issue of NUVO.

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