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Cache Me If You Can

Geocaching, a high-tech game of hide and seek, isn’t just for geeks or GPS junkies.


Illustration: Mike Austin

Slickhawaii, Migoi, Copper Indian and I are walking distractedly through downtown Honolulu, eyes fixed on our GPS units and iPhones. To the uninitiated, we probably look like lost tourists, but our group (real names: Rich Fewell, a motion graphics artist at KITV; and former Honolulu residents Tim and Cyrilee Billings, respectively) is geocaching, a high-tech treasure hunt in which players, or geocachers, hide caches (treasure) for others to find using GPS coordinates and, in some cases, a series of clues. With the exception of the hunt, everything from searching for caches to logging your finds is done online, mostly at geocaching.com, the main site for geocaching worldwide.

Caches can be hidden just about anywhere—on the bottom of a sculpture in a city plaza or beneath rocks along a hiking trail—and can be as small as film canisters or as large as ammunitions cases. Caches can contain any number of things (toys, chewing gum, knick-knacks) but almost always have a logbook. The rules of the game are simple: Once you find the cache, add your name and the date to the logbook. If you take anything from the cache, replace it with something else. Lastly, log your find online, along with any relevant notes or pictures that could aid fellow geocachers.

Like any sporting group, geocachers are highly competitive. “It’s a real bragging point to be the first to find [a cache],” says Billings, who, as the first person to place a cache in Hawaii, has his own bragging rights. “I looked at the Hawaii page, and there were no caches,” says Billings. “It got to the point where I decided to be the first.” Billings placed his cache—a large bucket tied to a tree about a mile into the Aiea Loop Trail—just a few months after geocaching.com launched in 2000. Then he waited. It took seven months for someone to find it, but since then, the hobby has been catching on—there are nearly 1,000 geocaches in the state, which is a drop in the global bucket (there are approximately 968,000 active caches worldwide), but it’s a big leap forward. “I had no idea at that point that [the cache] would do what it did,” says Billings.

While geocaching may have initially been the realm of GPS enthusiasts, families looking for a kid-friendly and relatively affordable (GPS units start at $99; the iPhone geocaching app is $10) activity are increasingly playing the game. Case in point: the Lee family. Known online as the GeoGerms, Roland, a microbiologist, his wife, Sheree (who ’caches under the screen name 808ladybug) and Roland’s kids, Kasey, age 12, and Conner, age 7, started ’caching in 2006, an offshoot of the family’s love of hiking.

The GeoGerms maintain 22 caches, and are among the state’s most prolific geocachers, with found caches. One of their favorites is “Kaniakapupu,” a cache located near the ruins of King Kamehameha III’s summer palace, a historic site off of Nuuanu Pali Drive that, prior to hiding the cache, Roland never knew existed. “If it wasn’t for geocaching, we wouldn’t find these little hidden gems.”

 

 

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,February

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