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Present Day Ponce de Leon’s Hunger for the Hunt

May 31, 2008
By CARRA HIGGINS, Staff Writer






Gone are the days of old weathered maps where “X” marks the spot to a secret buried treasure. In today’s high-tech world, electronic gadgets take the adventurous to rural areas, beaches and cities to find small trinkets as a reward for accomplishments in a game called Geocaching.


The Allegheny Highlands Trail directors are officially bringing the world-popular game to Randolph and Tucker counties by hiding small treasures, known as “caches” along the trail. The caches are waterproof containers that typically have a logbook, pencil and small objects inside.


On June 7, the trail foundation will host its first-ever “Event Cache” along the 22-mile trail, from the trailhead at Highland Park to Hendricks. Cachers will meet at 9 a.m. at the Railroad Depot in Elkins the day of the cache. The “Event Cache” is part of the National Trails Day Celebration, also scheduled for June 7.


The Allegheny Highlands Trail will have 19 different caches hidden along the path. This puzzle-cache hunt is recommended for bicyclists/geocachers because almost all the cache sites are more than a mile from a trail entry point but located near the trail itself.


“We have created a one-of-a-kind event cache layout, unique to West Virginia, and the hunt is expected to attract geocachers from throughout the state and neighboring states,” President of the Highlands Trail Foundation Gordon Blackley said.


However, to find the caches, participants need a Global Positioning Satellite receiver (GPSr). The GPSr, which costs between $100 and $1,000, calculates latitude, longitude and altitude by computing distance from satellites, which were placed in outerspace by the U.S. Department of Defense. Other than the GPSr, organizers recommend taking a calculator and compass.


The GPSr is nearly worthless to find a cache without specific numbers to calculate its position. Figuring out the coordinate numbers will be half the fun on the Allegheny Highlands Trail, according to Blackley. Answers to trivia questions, which he refers to as “Things you would have learned in school had you been paying attention” will enable geocachers to know what numbers to punch in to their GPSr.  Geocachers will receive a booklet of clues to the locations of the caches the morning of the hunt.


As a special reward,  the first person who finds each cache will find an Olympic-style metal with an engraved message that says “I was the first to find the Allegheny Highlands Trail Cache No. ... on their Geocache Trail opening treasure hunt, June 7, 2008.”


 The person who collects the most metals will receive a special prize, and everyone with a metal will be rewarded with geocaching prizes during a no-host party at Pizza Hut in Elkins. 


Geocachers may begin their search for the caches at Highland Park, Gilman, Kerens, Montrose, Porterwood, Parsons or Bretz, moving north to northwest, not the other way around.


However, there’s more to geocaching than finding the hidden bundles, Blackley explained. The game provides an opportunity for players to explore places they may have never known existed, he said, and to share those spectacular and special destinations with others.


“Geocaching offers both physical and mental exercise in the great outdoors — and what better outdoors is there than our own Allegheny Highlands Trail,” Blackley said.


Although the Allegheny Highlands Trail caches are unique, several have already been hidden in Randolph County, according to www.geocaching.com, an online community for geocachers. There are also at least four caches within the Elkins city limits listed on the Web site.


Local geocacher Shane Harper said he has hidden 10 caches, but only five still exist. Five of the caches were “muggled,” or taken by non-geocachers.


Geocaching became popular around the year 2000 when the government began to allow more wide-spread use of satellites by civilians who got the idea to hide caches. Hidden caches are nothing new though. For centuries, pirates, hunters and others have used caches to temporarily store and hide items.


In 2003, Harper said he purchased a GPSr for hunting purposes but wanted to use the unit when the seasons were closed. When searching the Internet for ways to use the GPSr, he found geocaching.com and began searching for the hidden caches.


“It’s addicting. Once you find your first cache, you’re hooked,” Harper said.


Most caches have small items, like matchbox cars, which his son enjoys, but in one cache Harper said he found a bar of silver.


Geocaching is an outdoor adventure, according to Harper. Solving puzzles, being outside and seeing places and things he may not have ever experienced are what Harper enjoys most. While searching for a cache at Cooper’s Rock, near Morgantown, Harper saw an iron furnace, which he did not know existed before becoming a geocacher, he said.


Harper said he’s looking forward to the Allegheny Highland Trail geocache event, but said it will take him more than one day to find all the caches because “it’s a monster.”


The morning of June 7, clues to the caches will be posted online at www.highlandstrail.org. The entire trail puzzle and directions to the eight trail stops will be posted on geocaching.com.


For more information about the Allegheny Highlands Trail and its geocaching event, visit www.highlandstrail.org.





























. When searching the Internet for ways to use the GPSr he found geocaching.com and began searching for the hidden caches.


 


“It’s addicting, once you find your first cache you’re hooked,” Harper said.


Most caches have small items, like matchbox cars, which his son enjoys; but in one cache Harper found a bar of silver, he said.


Geocaching is an outdoor adventure, according to Harper. Solving puzzles, being outside and seeing places and things he may not have ever experienced are what Harper enjoys most. While searching for a cache at Cooper’s Rock, near Morgantown, Harper saw an iron furnace, which he did not know existed before becoming a geocacher, he said.


Harper said he’s looking forward to the Allegheny Highland Trail geocache hunt, but said it will take him more than one day to find all the caches because “it’s a monster.”


The morning of June 7 clues to the caches will be posted online at www.highlandstrail.org and the entire trail puzzle and directions to the eight trail stops  will be posted on geocaching.com.


For more information about the Allegheny Highlands Trail and its geocaching event visit www.highlandstrail.org.

Article Photos

WHERE IS IT? — , lower left, along the trail. Below,

 
 

 

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