It's the high-tech version of pirate's treasure without the danger of walking the plank.
Geocaching has caught on in 46 countries and all 50 states including Alaska, which has 16 caches.
Maps in invisible ink and the ability to solve cyphers are usually not necessary. All you need to play this game is a hand-held Global Positioning System or GPS device, since clues are given in exact latitudes and longitudes.
The nearest caches to Juneau were hidden Sept. 30 by Gary Short of Sitka. One is for kids and one for adults.
"The kids' one is on a beautiful, maintained trail that goes to Mosquito Cove," north of town, Short said. "My goal was to get parents to go out and do something with their kids. A lot of people have hand-held GPSs, and a 4-year-old could walk to this site. I put little toys and trinkets in it."
Geocaching was founded early in 2000 by people in Portland, Ore., who began secreting CDs, action figures, rubber snakes and other odds and ends in such locations as under water or suspended from a cliff face. They posted the coordinates on the Internet at the Web site, www.geocaching.com, as a challenge to their fellow GPS/Internet buddies.
The rules are simple. Once you find the cache, you take the prize but leave something in its place and note your victory in a log book.
Short understands the gleam that comes into the juvenile eye when a child visualizes treasure. He's a
retired teacher, who spent four years corralling kindergartners and 24 years teaching fourth grade.
"I would have died for something like this when I was young. I think if the kids knew about it, they would drive their parents nuts about it," Short said. But, when he checked the sites about three months ago, both were intact. "I even went on 'Problem Corner' (a call-in radio program) to talk about it."
Short hid his adult cache near Blue Lake, east of Sitka.
"It's more difficult to get to (than the kids' cache), a rougher trail," he said. For his adult treasure, he bought glittery costume jewelry at Sitka's White Elephant Shop, a secondhand store. "I hope this will catch on, and more people will hide things."
Although Short uses his given name when signing on, many who play the game take cachenames. Blue Water Drifter, Captain Cook, Bwolv and The Fiddleheads are among the cachenames used by Alaska participants.
The latest Bwolv cache was hidden near the south fork of Eagle River, north of Anchorage, on June 24. Bwolv gives it three stars out of a possible five, indicating it's hard to reach.
Blue Water Drifter wants you to go to N59 degrees 57.303 W151 degrees 44.037 on the Kenai Peninsula and look for a Rubbermaid container with a green top. The container is intended for kids and includes five Alaskan Gold Moose Nuggets. If you're in the neighborhood and find the cache, take just one.
Ann Chandonnet can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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