CARLSBAD, N.M.—You may think you're too old to play hide and seek, but a new high-tech version of the game is perfect for players of any age: adults, young people and families.
It's geocaching, an outdoor high-tech treasure-hunting game. Those who engage in it use a GPS or other navigational technique to hide and seek containers called caches.
A typical cache is a waterproof container that holds a log book and trinket-type treasures. To date, there are 135 caches within a 25-mile radius of Carlsbad and more than 854,000 in the world.
Local geocachers Charlie Riggs, a.k.a. Chief Charlie, and his wife Priscilla, a.k.a. Happy Feat, have placed about 35 caches in and around Carlsbad. Their caches bear such names as Senior Peeps, Yada Yada Yada, No More Mister Nice Guy, Pronghorn Watching, Shady Pines and Rain Drop.
"A lot of times the name is the clue to its location," Priscilla Riggs said.
The two have been geocaching for three and a half years. Priscilla Riggs' introduction to it came while visiting her brother in Connecticut a few years ago. She enjoyed it so much she came home and asked Charlie if he thought he might like to do it. They purchased GPS units and never looked back.
"We've found almost 4,400 caches in 31 states," said Charlie Riggs.
"The most we've done in one day is 73 along the same route," Priscilla Riggs said, adding it can be addicting.
The world record number of geocache finds is 32,000 by a team from San Francisco. The top New Mexico ranking geocachers, Zuni Kid and Enabler, have found more than 7,000 caches.
"It's a family outing. Kids and adults both like it," said Priscilla Riggs.
Some people use stamps or address stickers to leave their personal information on the log.
"If you take something, then leave something," Priscilla Riggs said. If it's a family outing, kids love to take a trinket from the cache and leave another.
The activity was originally referred to as GPS stash hunt or "gpsstashing." After a group discussion, it was agreed the word "stash" suggested a negative connotation. The name was changed to geocaching.
The Geocacher's Creed provides ethical search guidelines. The generally accepted rules are not to endanger others, to minimize the impact on nature and the environment, to respect private property and to avoid any kind of public alarm. Government agencies and others responsible for public land use often establish their own guidelines for geocaching.
Certain types of cache placements can be problematic. Caches might be hidden in places where the act of searching can make a seeker look suspicious, such as near schools, children's playgrounds or banks.
It is beneficial to everyone if the cache is marked on the outside with "Geocache Do Not Remove," Priscilla Riggs said.
Geocaches vary in size, difficulty and location. Containers may be as small as the tip of the little finger called nanos. Micro caches are often such things as toothbrush holders, key holders or waterproof match holders. Regular-size caches are plastic Tupperware or Rubbermaid containers and metal ammo boxes.
A nano can also be a multiple stage cache. The first cache giving GPS coordinates to the next stage and that one giving coordinates to the next, she explained.
"There's no solid set of rules, but they have to be at least 500 feet apart," Charlie said.
A virtual cache, considered a waymark, is one that exists in the form of a location. There is no physical container to locate at given coordinates. The reward for these caches is the location itself and sharing information about the visit that must be made to get coordinates before posted.
A travel bug, similar to a dog tag with an ID number, is a unique tracking tag attached to an interesting item. Travel bugs are given goals for others to try and complete. Each bug has its own special page on geocaching.com where its progress can be tracked as it passes on from person to person or cache to cache.
One found in an area cache north of town had a tag inscription that read: "I go from place to place picking up stories along the way. Take me anywhere. I come from Millennium Falcon to explore Earth."
A geocacher notes the coordinates of the cache and posts it and other details of the location on a geocaching Web site. Other geocachers use this information to find the cache. The finders record the details of their hunt in the log book and on the Web site from which they obtained the cache information.
"Cache Across America" is a series of caches that will take the seeker on a caching tour of the entire country. One cache is hidden in each of the 50 states. These caches each contain a numeric clue that will lead to the final cache located in our nation's capital upon completion of the series.
Priscilla Riggs said if a geocache has been vandalized or stolen, it is said to have been muggled. A muggled cache can be logged as needing maintenance, which sends an e-mail to the owner so it can be repaired, replaced or archived.
Geocaching offers a chance for a unique adventure and excitement, interaction and time spent in the great outdoors.
"It's something to do together. We've gone to so many places we would have never visited, and we've met a lot of people," Priscilla Riggs said.
Information from: Carlsbad Current-Argus, http://www.currentargus.com/