You could find one at a rest stop. Or behind a street sign. Maybe even underwater.
A geocache may be hidden practically anywhere, which is why the search for them is dubbed the “world’s largest treasure hunt.”
The first geocache ever was a black bucket hidden in Beaver Creek, Ore., by computer consultant and global positioning system enthusiast David Ulmer in 2000.
At the time, Ulmer wanted to test a Clinton administration-mandated update to public satellites that removed “selective availability” that decreased their accuracy for national security reasons.
So he decided to hide the bucket in the woods with a logbook, pencil and some goodies, then posted its coordinates in an online forum for GPS enthusiasts, hoping to launch his so-called “Great American GPS Stash Hunt.”
Within three days, an online reader used his GPS to find Ulmer’s container and posted about his experience online. The internet did its thing and the concept grew like wildfire, eventually becoming known as “geocaching,” a combination of the words “geo,” which means Earth, and “cache,” which typically refers to a hiding spot.
About five years after that, Bowling Green resident Danny Bays came across geocaching while perusing the web for something to do with a GPS device he purchased.
“I didn’t know anything about geocaching. And I just looked on the internet for like something to do with (the GPS), and (learned) there was one (geocache) in Bowling Green at the time,” Bays said.
After finding it, Bays – better known to geocachers as “Danbg” – was hooked.
“I usually (geocache) with a gentleman from Morgantown and (one time) he took me down to Nashville. We went like half a mile back in a storm drain with bats,” Bays said. “And he had a little, cheap Harbor Freight flashlight, and that’s the only thing we had down in that tunnel. It was pretty neat.”
Bays, who works as a manufacturer, said he doesn’t really search for geocaches anymore, but he loves to hide them.
“I’ve got like 300 and something hidden myself now. And I go on hiding sprees where I hide like 10 in a row or something like that,” Bays said.
He uses the free smartphone app Geocaching to log the coordinates, which must then be reviewed and approved by the website. Once published, anyone in the world can try to locate it.
“But just because you know where it is, does not (always) mean you can find it,” Bays said with a smile.
As of mid-July, Bays said he has hidden 371 geocaches that have been found more than 20,000 times in Bowling Green, several of which are at Lost River Cave, where he volunteers.
“At Lost River Cave, I come over every day and check them,” Bays said. “I introduce (geocaching to) a lot of people here because I’ll see them on the trail and they’ve got little kids and I’ll say, ‘Do you want to find the treasure?’ And the next thing you know they’re fighting over the GPS trying to find the next one.”
He also teaches Geocaching 101 class at the 70-acre park where beginners can learn how to search for and hide geocaches, along with the guidelines, tips and proper etiquette.
From the size of a pencil eraser to an entire train freight car, there are 20 types of geocaches listed on geocaching.com, and each comes with its own set of rules.
For example, a traditional geocache is found at the published coordinates. Whereas a “multi-cache” includes two or more locations and can have both physical and virtual stages requiring a person to complete tasks, like a puzzle, to reveal clues leading to the “final location” of the geocache.
“It’s like a back-door pass to a city,” Bays said. “The prize is not finding geocache, it’s in the hunt itself.”
Bays also leads groups on Cache In Trash Out expeditions as part of an environmental initiative to clean up geocache-friendly areas by picking up trash, planting trees, restoring habitats, creating trails and removing graffiti.
– To find out when the next CITO event and geocaching class will be held, call Lost River Cave at 270-393-0077.