'X' marks the spot: Real-world treasure hunt catches on in Duluth

  This video shows what geocaching is and how you can become a part of it with step by step instructions. To subscribe to the 'GoGeocaching' YouTube channel, click here.

Geocaching is a real-world treasure hunt experience using GPS devices to locate a cache (container) that is hidden at a designated location.

In 2000, 24 satellites around the globe received an instant upgrade through the process of selective availability. This made GPS more accurate and accessible to the general public, and thus geocaching started to develop and grow.

How do people go about locating a cache?

First, they must go online to pinpoint caches that are located nearest them. Once they have one picked out, they enter the coordinates into their GPS device or smartphone. When geocachers get to the site near the cache, they follow the directions given to them by their GPS.

As geocachers get close to the coordinates, they must look for things where they think the cache might be located. Caches are usually placed near a rock, tree stump or under a pile of sticks.

A cache is a container that can vary from the size of a shoebox to the size of the tip of a pinky finger. Caches can be placed in country and urban settings. Many are placed along trails in Duluth and also in city parks.

Caches usually contain a logbook where people can write their name, the date they found it and other information. Other things that can be found in a cache are trade items, which can range from batteries, to kid’s toys, to flashlights.

After a cache is found, geocachers go back online to record which cache they found and any notes they have. Each geocacher has a profile where he or she can record each of their caches and how many caches they have.

Caches are ranked by difficulty, so geocachers know the extent of the search before they go out and find one.

“They rank two things: They rank difficulty to find one through five, where five is pretty hard, and then they also rank terrain. One is wheelchair accessible, and five means you’re climbing a tree or going up a rock face,” said George Host, senior research associate at UMD’s Natural Resources Research Institute and an avid geocacher.

Earlier this month, there was a geocaching event on Ely’s Peak to retrieve a cache called “Cliffhanger.” It was ranked a five-five, which is the most difficult cache ranking. The cache was located 40 feet down an 80 foot cliff, which meant geocachers had to rappel down the peak if they wanted to retrieve it.

The man who put the cache there, an experienced rock climber, was present during the event and assisted people who wanted to rappel down the peak.

To make geocaching even more interesting, there are different types of caches in which people can participate. Besides traditional caches, there are puzzle caches, where geocachers have to solve some sort of puzzle, which then reveals the coordinates of the cache.

“I’ve done a couple based on Stephen King novels,” Host said. “You read the story, and the trick to the puzzle is they are names of Stephen King’s books embedded in [the story]”.

Users would search out the titles of the books within the story, and the year the book was published pertained to coordinates of the cache.

Host has personally placed 70 caches, mostly around the Duluth area. He has also located many caches all around the world.

“I’ve found caches in New Zealand; I had a trip to Uganda, and I found three there -- Canada and Amsterdam,” Host said.

Today, there are 2,518,276 active geocaches and more than 6 million geocachers worldwide, according to geocaching.com.

To learn more about geocaching or to get involved, go to geocaching.com.

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