The sport of geocaching continues to grow as it maneuvers through its second decade.
According to Ken Notaro, geocaching began when someone with a hand-held GPS hid something and posted it on a message board. After someone found the object, the sport took off from there.
When selective availability was discontinued by the government in May 2000, civilians using GPS-enabled devices could pinpoint locations up to 10 times more accurately.
Selective availability was the intentional degradation of GPS signals available to the public.
Anyone with a GPS device at that time received an instant upgrade. Geocaching developed and later flourished.
In essence, geocaching is a sophisticated outdoor treasure-hunting game.
Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.
There are a variety of reasons people get involved with geocaching, but the chance for outdoor exploration typically is high on the list.
“The thrill of looking for something and being outdoors and going to places you never knew about” is an explanation Notaro gave for people’s interest in the sport.
Geocaches are everywhere. Each local community has a park with some.
The website www.geocaching.com is a valuable resource for beginners and also contains data pertinent to veterans of the sport.
One of the topics the site addresses is the more than dozen different types of caches.
Geocaching.com also has a feature that allows users to type in a ZIP code and all the records listed for that area will appear with a description.
According to Bruce Baker, caches can range in size from as large as a building to something as smaller as a fingernail.
Baker should know. He currently is ranked No. 7 in the world according to www.cacherstats.com with more than 42,000 finds.
He has located as many as 300 caches in a single day. Baker also is on record for hiding more than 400.
Members of geocaching.com find caches and sign the log at the cache and then enter it online. The site keeps track of an individual’s finds.
Baker admitted he originally thought the concept of geocaching was dumb. He changed his stance.
“It kind of sucks you in,” said Baker. “I go all over the country doing it.”
Notaro, Baker and Victor Bennett were three of the people present July 20 at the Peoria Area Cachers’ Fish Fry in July event in Peoria Heights.
The PAC, which is led by president Notaro, started in 2010 with four Peoria-area geocachers and has grown to include more than 30 members. A chief mission of the group is to promote the sport.
PAC’s website is peoriaareacachers.com.
Page 2 of 2 - Baker started in 2004. He said he was obsessed with chasing numbers, but has slowed a bit in that pursuit.
With a difficulty scale in place, a variety of people can have success finding caches.
“People travel and do this the whole time,” said Baker. “It’s a great family thing — a high tech treasure hunt.”
Bennett has grandchildren with whom he goes on adventures. His “CachingGrandpa” business card lists five countries (including Israel) and 11 states in which he has cached since beginning in 2006.
He pointed out young kids often like the caches where items are swapped.
Bennett began geocaching in Michigan. He once found a cache that was placed Dec. 8, 2001.
“I always liked hiking and walking,” said Bennett, who added his grandchildren will stroll for miles with him.