Geocaching in Madison County, North Carolina

A scavenger hunt using the new technology, geocaching is a worldwide game of hiding and seeking treasure that began around 2000 when GPS technology became popular. What better place to search than the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina? Anyone can be a geocacher by choosing a spot to place a geocache medallion. After pinning down its location with the use of GPS technology, the person will then post the geocache’s existence and location online—one such site is http://geocaching.com. Anyone with a GPS unit can then try to locate it.
The word geocaching comes from a combination of “geo” for geography, and “caching” which is the process of hiding a cache. In computer terms a cache is information usually stored in memory to make retrieval faster, but in camping it is a place to conceal provisions. To locate a cache (generally within a 10 yard diameter of the GPS location), you have to use the hints (sometimes cryptic ones) that have been posted. When you find a cache, there will be a logbook or logsheet (in smaller caches). These contain information from the owner of the cache, notes from visitors and can contain other interesting information. There will some sort of marker or medallion which is what is collected by those seeking the cache. The seekers then take that medallion and leave a personal token. These tokens will be in a plastic bag, plastic box, glass jar or some such container. There are also rules for the game: if you take something from the cache, you should leave something of equal or greater value; be sure to write about your find in the cache logbook—the level of content is dependant on the cache; and then log your experience at www.geocaching.com.
The game has been popular since 2000 and gained ground quickly in Madison County. Because of the rural nature of the county, many are in natural settings (including along the Appalachian Trail). However, there are a few at Mars Hill College in places where students walk by every day, unaware of the “treasure” at hand. It provides an opportunity to explore areas that you wouldn’t have encountered and is a great way to meet new people. If you leave personal information, you may make a connection when contact and conversation ensues.
Letterboxing (since early 1800s ) preceded this game and involves less technology and is more clue oriented, more “artistic.” In this version, everyone makes his own stamp in ink and stamps the logbook and signs and dates it. For those who want more of a challenge, check out http://letterboxing.org.