Here's a hobby that uses a billion-dollar military satellite system to find Tupperware in the woods.
Geocaching is a kind of high-tech treasure hunt. It's an outdoor activity that combines hiking and exploring, using a hand-held Global Positioning System (GPS) device to locate either virtual or actual treasure caches.
Smartphones are GPS-enabled now, so they can work, and apps for Androids, Blackberries, iPhones and Ipods also can lead searchers to the cleverly-hidden caches.
OK, so what's a cache? Geocaches come in may forms, from water bottles to ammo cans, as long as they are sealed, water-proof containers. Sometimes a cache contains nothing more than a tiny log book that geocachers sign to verify they found it. Often a cache-hider leaves little trinkets (key chains, coins or mini toys). Geocachers then remove the loot and replace it with other fun stuff for the next cacher to find.
“I love it because it gets me out into the woods—especially winter snowshoeing," said former Fridley resident Bill Karbo (known as "Top Gear" in the geocaching world), who has participated in the sport for four years. "You meet lots of people. I have a lot more friends now.”
Top Gear's favorite geocaching experience? He and two friends followed an eight-mile trail in Wisconsin and found 45 caches—on their unicycles.
Don* and Denise Rowan live in Minneapolis but have family in Fridley, where they have hidden eight caches. “Geocaching is a good way to get out the house and get some exercise and fresh air. You'll see places that you haven't seen before," said Don Rowan. "We've met some really fun and interesting people. We didn't realize how many parks are in the area. There must be 200 or 300. There are a lot of caches in Fridley that are really good.”
There are about 100 geocaches hidden within the city of Fridley, usually on public property such as in parks or along trails. There is very likely one near you.
So how does one discover where the geocaches are hidden? Go to www.geocaching.com. Click on “Hide and Seek a Cache.” Under “Seek a Cache,” enter Fridley zip code 55432 in the search box and restrict the search to a five-mile radius. You will be rewarded with a list of 509 hidden caches.
Searching for 509 geocaches will take you to places in your own neighborhood you never knew existed.
Here's a link to a quick YouTube video on geocaching.
*Editor's note: We corrected Don's first name in this article (we mistakenly had him as Bill).