Organizers hope geocache event brings family fun, no strange finds
June 11, 2011
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – What could happen this year at the annual geocaching event? After a quirky couple of years, GeoTahoeSouth is back and organizers say it should be better than ever.
“Tahoe is different,” said John Chen, who’s contracted by the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority to put on the hunt. “You have so much potential. There’s all these different vantage points.”
The GPS-driven treasure hunt is now in its sixth year. The last two years have been good for the event, Chen said, but a couple strange things happened.
In 2009, a geocacher looking for a cache came across a kilogram of cocaine hidden by a drug smuggler. She turned it over to police, who replaced the package, waited for the suspect to retrieve it and then arrested him.
In 2010, a package duct-taped to pipe at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe prompted a call to the Tahoe Douglas County Bomb Squad. Law enforcement shut down Highway 50 for about 25 minutes while the squad x-rayed the package. Of course, it turned out to be a geocache.
Organizers don’t tape caches to buildings anymore, Chen said.
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Since the first geocache was placed some 11 years ago, the game has grown vastly. More than 1.4 million caches are hidden around the world.
Geocaching.com, the official online hub of the game, quotes more than 5 million people hunt for the secret stashes.
In his 10 years geocaching, Geocaching
.com co-founder Brian Roth has seen or heard about countless strange encounters.
“Geocachers have certainly stumbled upon sites that people use for illegal activities,” he said. “At least on one occasion, people have stumbled upon human remains.”
On Geocaching.com’s online forum a thread titled “You Found What Near The Cache?” includes a list of bizarre, dangerous and creepy things members have found while hunting. Dead animals, sleeping homeless people, guns, crack pipes, marijuana growing operations, computers, graves, love notes, money, amulets, rattle snakes, stolen safes, bee hives, explosives and underwear are just a few of the items listed in the nearly 500 posts.
Odd finds are just part of the game, Roth said. With so many playing, people are bound to find strange things, just like any group of outdoor enthusiasts does, he added.
“It’s surprisingly few and far between,” Roth said. “It probably happens more than we hear about, but (Geocaching.com) is the global center for geocaching. (Stories of weird finds) do make their way back to us.”
Roth hopes the whacky and, sometimes, scary finds do not take away from the game’s wholesome nature, he said.
“We want the game to be seen in a positive light,” he said. “It’s families and children out there treasure hunting.”
And Tahoe just happens to offer some of the best geocaching around, said Chen, who’s already been out scoping new spots to hide caches for this weekend’s event.
“We’re putting them in all new locations, so people will find 50 beautiful new places,” he said. “Some of them are drive-by. Some of them you’ll have to hike to.”
Chen is even considering a kayak-to cache and a cryptex cache with hidden clues in other spots. In the GeoTahoeSouth, caches will be hidden from Zephyr Cove to Highway 89.
“You’ll have to work for it,” Chen said.