A treasure hunt in the park

  • By Amy Daybert Enterprise editor
  • Thursday, April 24, 2008 1:33pm

With his walking stick or bike and his GPS device, Shoreline resident Kevin Hill is ready to do a little bit of treasure hunting throughout the city.

But the treasure he finds doesn’t come in gem covered chests filled with gold. And he doesn’t take everything he finds. Instead, Hill is looking for little plastic containers to take an item and leave another. He follows the simple protocols of an adventure game called geocaching.

“The usual place they’re real fond of is a stump or a log or if you see a pile or a ditch, that’s always a possibility,” Hill said in Hamlin Park on April 18. “Another tip is when you see objects that have been placed in such a way to hide something.”

Geocaching is a game of hunting, finding and hiding items throughout the world. Participants use a GPS, an electronic device that can determine approximate locations, to enter the location coordinates of the caches listed on the Internet. When a cache is found, the participant leaves their name and the date they found the cache in a mini logbook at the site and may take or place an item into the cache.

Hamlin Park is where Hill, 65, found his first cache several months ago. Now he’s found at least 35 caches and that number is rising.

“Some folks get thousands of caches,” Hill said. “If you go on the Internet site and give it your home coordinates, you will see all the caches close to your area.”

In Hamlin Park on April 18, Hill visited a site known as the Hamlin Hobbit Hole. Although a combination of rain, snow and tall trees caused his unit’s compass to be slightly off, the cache was a familiar one for him and he pulled a container from its hiding place.

Inside the container he found a mini logbook, pen, several small toys, a playing card and a small token that looked like a sock puppet.

“This is a copy of a coin,” he said. “I read about this one. The actual coin is made out of something expensive and they didn’t want to risk it going out in the world and not making it back.”

Hill took the coin but left another coin in its place before he looked around for muggles — a term borrowed from Harry Potter books and used to describe non-geocachers — and put the container back in its place.

Coins are just one reward that can be found in caches, Hill said. Items known as Travel Bugs are trackable tags that can be attached to an item. A code on the tag allows the Travel Bug to be tracked by its original owner at www.geocaching.com as it is carried from cache to cache.

The activity is a spreading phenomenon, Hill said, and one that ties in nicely with his work as a mariner.

In the 1980s, Hill used the early GPS devices as a guide while working at sea. Now, the device also helps him look for caches with his son and his 2-year-old grandson.

Hill is one of several people Shoreline Parks and Recreation director Dick Deal has met who enjoys geocaching throughout Shoreline parks.

“I’m well aware of (geocaching),” Deal said. “There are literally hundreds in our park system and our community. It’s kind of a cool thing.”

The caches are often placed in areas people want to share with others. While out geocaching, Hill has visited little areas in the city he said may not have otherwise seen.

“I’ve been on long walks finding geocaches and they have led me to all of these little places that I didn’t know existed,” he said.

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