Geocaching in New England

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Geocaching: A High Tech Treasure Hunt
By Michelle Chapdelaine
The author's classmates after their recent geocaching adventure

The days of pirate maps leading to buried treasure chests on remote island
beaches may be over, but that did not stop me from going on a treasure hunt
one Saturday morning in November.  I didn’t need a sword or a parrot on my
shoulder, but I, along with seven of my classmates, did carry a couple of
GPS devices and pocketfuls of plastic monkeys, sharks, and a deck
of cards.

We were going
Geocaching, a relatively new kind of treasure hunt that uses
handheld Global Positioning System devices to locate caches hidden all over
the world.  The caches may be as simple as a logbook with the names of those
who have located the cache.  Many consist of the logbook as well as a sturdy,
weatherproof container with prizes or photos inside.  According to, the official Geocaching website, there are 215,900 caches
currently hidden in over 200 countries.  Caches can be hidden in rural or urban
areas, each location posing its own challenges.

Geocaching started in 2000, after the Clinton administration removed GPS
signal degradation.  This meant that civilian GPS devices could now be
accurate within 6-20 feet of a given coordinate.  That same week, someone hid
a cache with a logbook in Oregon, and within three days the cache had been
found twice.  Mike Teague, who located this cache, started a website to keep
track of the growing number of caches.  His website was taken over by Jeremy
Irish who named the game Geocaching, and since then the popularity of the
game has continued to increase.  

Today, the website has a search engine used to find cache coordinates by zip
code, state, or country; a tutorial on how to hide and search for caches; and
forums so that the thousands of people who go Geocaching can chat about the

All that is needed to start Geocaching is a GPS unit, which can cost anywhere
from $100-$1000.  On the official Geocaching website are coordinates, in
latitude and longitude, of the over 200,000 caches hidden throughout the
world.  Once the coordinates are entered into the GPS unit, you know how far
away you are from the cache.  The hard part is actually finding it, and for some
people, keeping non-Geocachers from figuring out that you are on a treasure

The cache that my classmates and I found was in Mine Falls Park in Nashua,
New Hampshire, hidden underneath a pile of branches.  The plastic container
held a logbook with the date that the cache was first hidden, and pages of
people who had located the cache before us, some of whom were visiting New
Hampshire from as far away as Michigan or Long Island.  The container also
held many small toys, for the treasure hunters to take.  The honor-system rule
in Geocaching is that if you take an item from a cache, you leave an item, which
is why we came prepared with the monkeys and playing cards.

While the prizes were nothing spectacular, the idea of finding a secret spot in
the woods that so many others had visited before us was what intrigued us the

“I don’t think the point of it is the toys…I think it’s more about finding your
way to the box and getting excited about just finding it,” explained senior
Kristen Leonard.  Greg Leslie, who had tried Geocaching on his own before
going with this group from school, also took a Travel Bug from the cache.  A
Travel Bug is an item in a cache that is tagged with a specific mission, in our
case the M&M key chain wanted to make it to Canada.  

“When I go to Vermont for Christmas I’m going to put him in a cache up there
so that he’s closer to Canada,” said Leslie.

Geocaching is not limited to locations in the wilderness.  A search on for caches around my hometown of Lunenburg, MA turns up
a result of the coordinates for “Walton’s Mountain Cache”, which clever
readers might figure out are coordinates for somewhere on Wal-Mart
mountain.  So grab your GPS, or find a friend who owns one, and find the
“buried treasure” right here in Lunenburg.  You might be surprised to find
how many other people have already done the same.

About the author

Michelle Chapdelaine is an aspiring communications or journalism
professional who was inspired to try Geocaching after learning about it from
her astronomy teacher.  She writes regularly for the Lunenberg Ledger, where
this article originally appeared (it also appeared in Natural New England).  
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