Geocaching event launches summer activities
From its start as a geek subculture to its celebrated and growing status as the ultimate scavenger hunt, geocachers have welcomed the popularity of the sport and the mounting challenges that come along with it.
With the use of global positioning system devices, techno-savvy players are carving out their own kind of virtual treasure hunts and inviting people to play along. The popularity of the gizmo game will be showcased at Lake Tahoe’s south shore June 17 and 18, a kickoff for summertime activities.
The Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority has purchased 200 of the devices for the event, known as the World’s Best Free Geocaching Prize Event In History. More than $10,000 in prizes will be inside some 50 caches in a treasure hunt for the most advanced player to the novice.
A hand-held GPS device uses satellites to help guide users through coordinates of longitude and latitude to get to their destinations.
“Geocaching is the craze of the moment and we figured, ‘What better place to do it than right here at Lake Tahoe?'” said Patrick Kaler, executive director of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority.
The geocache hunt is part the LTVA’s kickoff for the summer tourism season, which will also feature the Great Lake Tahoe Sternwheeler Race, boat parade, 5k and 10k runs, concerts and art walks.
Stateline-based Weidinger Public Relations and Kaler developed the idea for the event, which involves planting the caches along a 15-mile area stretching from Emerald Bay to Zephyr Cove.
The cache boxes will contain certificates for the first finder. All other remaining hunters will be asked to put a raffle ticket inside the cache box. The boxes will be collected at the end of the contest and prizes will be awarded to raffle winners.
Treasures include tickets to Harveys Outdoor Concert Series, concerts at other casino venues, the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship, several dinners and overnight stays, and artwork. Prizes have been donated by merchants throughout the South Shore.
There are dozens of geocache sites located throughout the Lake Tahoe Basin, attests Lon Rusk, president of Lakeside Inn and Casino and an avid geocacher.
Whether it’s spending the weekends hiking around the Lake Tahoe Basin with his wife and two sons, or traversing the country in an RV on vacations, geocaching has become a family affair for the Rusks.
“It’s a natural thing for boys to hunt and that’s how I became interested,” Rusk said. “It’s a great excuse to go hiking or have an excursion while you’re on vacation.”
Rusk has his own cache site, which he’s posted on http://www.geocaching.com. Inside the cache, he’s left things like decks of Lakeside playing cards and key chains and other small trinkets. The idea of a geocache is to not only to take something once you’ve made the find, but to leave something inside the cache in return, he said.
“From April to November, I’ve had three to four hits a week,” he said. “It’s amazing how this sport has grown so quickly.”
GPS was pioneered by the U.S. Department of Defense in the 1960s and utilizes 24 satellites orbiting the earth. Civilian access was allowed in May 2000 when President Clinton signed a bill enabling civilian GPS receivers to be accurate up to 30 feet.
To celebrate the legislation, a geology professor in Oregon hid one of the first caches, and published its GPS coordinates – longitude and latitude – on an Internet newsgroup. Within a week, five people had used their GPS receivers to find the cache and raved about how much fun it was to look for. Geocaching is now a worldwide phenomena. The official Global GPS Cache Hunt site is http://www.geocaching.com. It gets 25 million page views a month and people in 221 countries are now enjoying this new sport.