Nature lovers all over the Wyoming Valley are getting into "geocaching!" If you think you've had fun along the Falls Trail at Ricketts Glen, the Back Mountain Trail, the new levee system, or at Frances Slocum Park, you haven't seen anything yet. Geocaching is a way to discover and re-discover truly wonderful new places that are very close by.
Geocaching is pretty simple, and a whole lot of fun. Basically, someone puts a log book and a few interesting trinkets into a water-tight container, takes it to some very nice outdoor spot, accessible to the public but usually requiring a pretty good hike, and hides it – under a rock, in the crook of a tree, etc. When the person hides it, he takes a reading of the location with a GPS receiver (Geographic Positioning System) and records the latitude and longitude to an accuracy of maybe 10 feet.
Then he goes home and logs on to www.geocaching.com and makes an entry. For example, “I hid a geocache at this latitude and longitude. Go find it.” Usually, he will leave a description of what’s in the cache, some enticing details about the location, and a clue or two. Each cache listing is rated from one to five stars for difficulty to find and difficulty of terrain. Don’t start out with anything higher than a 3/3 unless you want to risk disappointment.
Then it's your turn. Log on to the site and request to see all the geocaches near your zip code. Pick one from the list, put the coordinates into your GPS, find the geocache, and enter your name or more precisely, your geocaching.com nickname. Enjoy the scenery and spend a pleasant day surrounded by nature, stillness, and beauty. Afterward, go home and record your find on the website. While some people have hundreds of finds, others have thousands!
There are various types of caches. The “micro-cache” is usually just the log book. Take a pencil when you hunt for this. The “multi-stage cache” involves a series of steps, each with a clue to the next one, until you reach the final cache that contains the log book and goodies. By the way, the goodies add interest, so you should take something small but interesting to exchange for something you find in the cache that appeals to you.
Geocaching is also a great way to make friends. Sometimes you meet them on the trail. There’s a certain pride in being the “first to find” a new cache, and if it shows up on a Friday night, you can bet there will be some folks looking early on Saturday morning. There is a local crowd of geocachers that gets together once in a while to picnic and hunt for caches placed just for the gathering. There are professors, firefighters, long-time hikers, kids, and even dogs. They brag a lot, show off pictures, and talk about caches that are especially interesting.
The cost is free to register on geocaching.com unless you want the Premium Membership, which is pretty cheap and gets you a few extras like better maps, and a GPS receiver can cost less than $100, unless you want one that can store maps or has an electronic compass and a color display. You can find them at Dick’s, the electronic Big Boxes, or online. People tend to upgrade to new technology on a regular basis, so it’s easy to get a bargain on a mid-range GPS with map storage, which is useful.
If you want to get on board with this new craze, go to www.geocaching.com and enter your zip code. There are more than 100 caches within 15 miles of Kingston, and that doesn’t even include the marvelous handful in Ricketts Glen – which are NOT on that Falls Trail you’ve hiked so many times!
Take a look at some of them and read the comments left by finders. Try the “Forty Fort Playground,” a difficult find for some or “Shupp’s Cemetery” in Larksville, an easy find in a fascinating place, or “Up the Back Mountain Trail.” For a wonderful walk, try “Whispering Pines” in Frances Slocum Park and walk a bit beyond the cache for a beautiful view of the valley. You’ll be hooked – guaranteed!
So get yourself a GPS, pick a unique name, and get registered on geocaching.com. See you on the trails!