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Make geocaching part of your wellness activities — search for hidden treasure while getting outside

By Maridith Yahl
NKyTribune health reporter

Geocaching is an adventure, like going on a treasure hunt. It is an outdoor activity that includes searching for a ‘cache’ using GPS coordinates, making it an ideal venture during this time of social distancing. Being outside with family and/or friends, walking, getting in a little physical exercise, and exploring new places is all part of the fun.

In Pendleton County, the Community Wellness Coalition has begun to promote geocaching as a way for families to spend time together, get outside, exercise, and promote tourism.

“Anyone can play! And the thing that I like most about it is, that it is social-distancing friendly, encourages physical activity, and it’s kid-friendly,” says Stephanie Schlueter, Three Rivers District Health Department, Pendleton County Health Strategist.

Geocaching is not new; it has been around for 20 years. On May 3, 2000, in Beaverton, Oregon, the first geocache was hidden, according to Geocaching.com. Jeremy Irish launched the website, a site which lists geocaches, in September 2000. According to the website, when it began, there were 75 known geocaches worldwide. Today, there are more than 3 million geocaches in over 190 countries.

Geocaching touts itself as the world’s largest treasure hunting game. “Inspiring and enabling adventure, exploration, and community through a unique combination of outdoor recreation and location-based technology,” says the Geocaching website. Pendleton County Community Wellness Coalition has certainly embraced that thought and is using it to promote just that in their community.

Stephanie Schlueter

The Geocaching.com website is a great place to get started and learn about it.

“But there’s an app that you must download to participate in searching for or locating a ‘geocache’,” says Schlueter. The Geocaching app can be downloaded for free to an iPhone or Android. “You search for a geocache using GPS coordinates that the ‘owner’ of the cache sets up,” she says.

Searching for and hiding a cache are both easy. To find a cache, select one from the map on the app and follow the directions to the cache’s location. Once on-site, it is time to explore and find the cache (treasure). Clues and hints are given in the app. Sometimes those who have previously found the cache have posted comments or pictures to help others on the hunt.

“Once you find a cache, you will see that it is a box with a log sheet, instructions, and (sometimes) a small token or prize inside,” says Schlueter. Activity is also logged on the app. The box or container can be almost anything, depending on the owner or person who hid it. Some are marked with the official Geocaching logo; some are not marked at all.

Michele Hamilton, a member of the Community Wellness Coalition, has hidden many caches in Pendleton County, bringing this activity to light there.

Michele Hamilton

“I wanted to help give people some great options to have fun, have a goal, and get outside,” Hamilton says. Hamilton, serves in other roles within the county, bringing creative ideas to the community she cares for. “I’m in on whatever we can do for positive community in the county.”

Cache locations can be anywhere a person wants to hide a treasure. In Pendleton County, Kincaid Lake State Park and Falmouth both have a multitude of caches. Hamilton has hidden many of the caches in the county. One of her favorite spots is in the South Fork River Trail. She has also hidden them at the American Legion Hall in Falmouth and at the Welcome to Falmouth sign on Highway 27.

“The geocache website suggests you put them in places you want people to visit,” she says.

Since Geocaching is worldwide, there are many across the region and are sure to be in your neighborhood. When searching, caches can be found in odd places. They have been found in a grocery store parking lot, a cemetery, and an old tree stump at the end of a dead-end road.

While a car is needed to get from cache to cache, searching, and exploring the location is the exciting part.

“Sadly, some have been stolen even though they are clearly marked to ‘Please do not remove’,” Hamilton says.

But, hiking through parks or towns, enjoying the great outdoors, and the thrill of the hunt brings those participating together whether the cache is found or not.

Geocaching can be a new, exciting, and fun activity to learn and enjoy. It is simple and family-friendly, even the family dog will enjoy. The best part is it is free. So, get outside and enjoy.

Maridith Yahl is the NKyTribune’s health reporter

Thanks to Report for America, with support from the Ground Truth Project, St. ELizabeth Healthcare, Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and the Douglas G. Martin Foundation. You, too, can support this reporting and other NKyTribune reporting with a tax-deductible donation today. Help us continue to provide accurate, up-to-date local news and information you can depend on.

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