MILL CREEK — They’re not pirates, but they like to pretend they are.
When Rich Schleifer’s daughter was 7, she asked to go on a treasure hunt. While Schleifer didn’t have a map where X marks the spot for Hinako, he did have GPS on his phone and coordinates to hidden geocaches.
So a hunting they did go.
“I see it as both a treasure hunt and a chance to spend time with my dad,” said Hinako Schleifer, now 13.
Geocaching is a hobby that involves hunting for and finding a hidden object by means of GPS coordinates posted on a website. The game of hiding and seeking “geocaches” or “caches” has been around since the turn of the century. It is played all over the world.
It was first played on May 3, 2000, in Beavercreek, Oregon. The hidden treasure? Software, videos, books, money, a slingshot and a can of beans.
Five years later, the father and daughter from Bothell are still geocaching together. Most recently, they found time to hunt for treasure in Mill Creek. What they found were Mill Creek’s first city-sponsored geocaches hidden in correspondence with Geocoinfest, a worldwide geocaching event to be held Sept. 30 at the Pickering Barn in Issaquah.
Mill Creek has hidden five hidden geocaches around the city. While the caches are part of Snohomish County’s tourism efforts to attract geocachers who are attending the 2018 Geocoinfest, they also were hidden to get residents out and about in their own city, Mill Creek spokesman Gordon Brink said.
“One person said, ‘I’ve lived here 35 years and never knew about this trail,’ ” Brink said, adding that Mill Creek is home to hidden delights. “Things like that are pretty cool to hear about.”
As of Thursday, the caches in Mill Creek have been found a combined 120 times. Most of them are well hidden, but a few are in plain sight.
Rich and Hinako like to try to be the first to find a geocache. When they see a new one pop up on the geocache website, it’s off to the races.
The Schleifers will be on the hunt for a geocoin, a trackable medallion, at Geocoinfest next weekend. If they find one, they plan to select a location they’d like geocachers to take it to and watch its progress online as it travels from point A to point B online.
There are 2,230 geocaches posted online for Snohomish County. Each is rated for difficulty based on a five-star scale.
Geocaches are often hidden in trees, along trails or on walls, and are sometimes painted to stay camouflaged. The containers can be anything from film canisters to ammunition boxes, and either have logbooks or swag inside, such as key chains or stickers.
There are many different ways to play. Some geocaches involve puzzle pieces or clues that lead from one cache to another, while others are virtual, meaning you only need to find the location and take a picture to prove you were there.
Mill Creek’s geocaches are good for beginners, and range between one and two stars, Brink said. They were placed at key locations that highlight the city’s history, art and natural beauty, he said.
Rich and Hinako weren’t the first to find them — about nine geocachers had already signed the logbook. Since taking up the hobby in 2013, they’ve discovered 1,982 caches, including six first finds.
“I actually thought they were kind of cool because they were little birdhouses,” Schleifer said of the Mill Creek hunt. “I hadn’t seen that kind of container before.”
Sometimes Rich, who works for a real estate company in Kirkland, will go geocaching alone, because Hinako will be in school, but he never forgets that she was the reason they started playing in the first place.
Even after five years of geocaching, the pair don’t consider themselves experts.
“You’re not going to be a master of it — ever,” Rich Schleifer said. “You could be a thousand-some caches into it and find something totally new that you’ve never seen before. There’s a whole level of excitement and adventure to it.”
Rich and Hinako post videos of their hunts on YouTube: Their channel is called Komikino and The Kid. They also attend geocaching gatherings, including a trip this summer to visit the oldest geocache in Washington, near Mount Margaret in the south Cascades.
“I just like the fact that we’re doing something together,” Rich Schleifer said. “We’re outside, and we’re seeing new places. It’s (our) bonding time.”
Rich Schleifer offered some tips for first-time geocachers:
Objects can’t be buried or on private property.
They also won’t be within 528 feet of another geocache.
Don’t be afraid to ask another geocacher for advice.
If it’s your first time, bring a friend with some experience.
If you’re stumped by a cache, come back to the coordinates later.
Evan Thompson: 360-544-2999, firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @evanthompson_1.
How to geocache
There are 2,230 recorded geocaches in Snohomish County, including five city-sponsored ones in Mill Creek. To search for the Mill Creek caches, create or login to an account at www.geocaching.com and search for the username “City of Mill Creek.” Enter the given coordinates into a GPS device, and use them to find the hidden geocaches. When you find one, sign the logbook inside the container and return the geocache to its original location.