|NAPERVILLE, Ill. |
They took "the road less traveled."
That was the main clue offered to Wil Zambole and David Willmore as they trekked through the woods, searching for treasure in suburban Chicago's Blackwell Forest Preserve.
Or maybe that should be "teched" through the woods.
The pair use hand-held global-positioning system devices when they spend weekends "geocaching."
That's a new word for a new world of high-tech scavenger hunts, where GPS coordinates replace maps and cryptic clues and secret stash sites are listed on the Internet.
In Potato Creek State Park, for example. Somewhere in the mud near Wakarusa. Over at Chain O' Lakes. Up at Warren Woods Aviary, down at Purdue University in Lafayette.
Geocaching fever seems to be sweeping across the Michiana region, as it is across much of the nation.
Maybe it's the adventure. Maybe it's the thrill of the chase. Maybe it's just the chance to play with a fun toy.
|"It got started outside Portland," said Jeremy Irish, a Seattle-area man who now maintains the game's main database at geocaching.com. |
From that first Portland site, geocaching has spread to include 3,500 caches hidden in 55 nations, he said.
On the Web site, people can register a cache they've hidden, usually in an inexpensive waterproof container. Some are located in urban settings, but most are designed to attract people to the great outdoors.
"The rules are pretty simple," Irish said. When you find the cache, you take something from it and you leave something of your own.
You sign the logbook to let the owner know who's visited, when they came, what they exchanged, and where they're from.
Owners create intriguing names for their caches, post the "waypoint" coordinates for their site, offer a few clues and assign it a degree-of-difficulty rating.
That can be important information. Some caches require special skills or equipment, like rock-climbing expertise or scuba diving gear. Some involve arduous hikes over difficult terrain.
Even mundane warnings about taking along insect repellent or extra water help. And as more families get involved in geocaching, it's good to know what's a suitable search for children or older, retired couples.
The Internet site also serves as a way for people to post what they've found and comment on the experience -- the beautiful view, the history behind the item they've left, the sticker bushes they encountered.
But many notes are in the log. And they aren't always from geocachers.
Take this entry from a mystified mushroom hunter, for example.
May 7. Potato Creek State Park.
"I didn't know what this case was," begins the log entry. "Took home, brought it back. Saw it was a pretty neat and fun thing to do. Kept the mug, put in a book of poems and a veterans' flag sticker."
Local enthusiasm on the rise