Searching for stashes in countryside caches


An unseasonably chilly breeze greeted four eager treasure hunters on the banks of the Montour Preserve’s Lake Chillisquaque one Saturday morning a few weeks ago.

But this was no ordinary treasure hunt.

There were no plundering pirates — no obscure, bothersome booby traps. In their place were a not-so-gracious gander of Canada geese and one overly curious baby groundhog.

But the adventurers were undaunted as they weaved their way along well-manicured nature trails, guided not by a treasure map adorned with a big red “X” but instead a series of satellites floating unseen above the blue, sunny sky that seemed to stretch for miles unscathed by even a single wisp of white cloudy vapor.

A few days later, I was expected to introduce more than 50 rambunctious children at a western Pennsylvania kids camp to the fairly new yet widely popular outdoor activity known as geocaching.

Only there was a small problem — I had never even seen one of the hand-held GPS units that were essential to crunching the coordinates necessary to locate an actual geocache stash.

Hence the impromptu trip to Washingtonville in an effort to sponge as much knowledge off geocaching guru George Dalias, of rural Buckhorn.

With us were my two daughters, ages 9 and 8. Dalias turned on two GPS units, went over some basics and then upped the ante by allowing the two young girls to handle the devices that were going to lead us into the vast expanses of the Montour Preserve.

I’ll admit it — I had my doubts. I’ve always been more of a map-and-compass type of explorer dating back to my days of orienteering with the Boy Scouts. It takes quite a leap to digest the advances in navigation — that our expedition was depending on satellites in space and batteries that — for me at least — always seem to run out of power when you need them the most.

But off we went, the two girls in the lead with Dalias and I bringing up the rear — watching our young navigators multitask by both focusing on the GPS units while also still finding opportunities to jump in every mud puddle we encountered along the way.

Geocaching involves finding pre-placed treasures, called caches, using GPS (global positioning system) units. Coordinates — based in latitude and longitude — are programmed into the units and you follow their lead to your destination.

Yet the activity is much more. Many geocaches are puzzle-based. Some coordinates require decoding. Treasure hunters must find clues along the way and sometimes the booty is well-hidden and requires some off-the-trail bushwacking action.

The geocache containers at the end of the search can vary greatly, but usually include some sort of log where people can sign in. Some have trinkets that adventurers can take along for souvenirs — although geocaching etiquette suggests that those who take trinkets should leave some of their own behind.

It is also a common practice to keep the locations of geocaches as anonymous as possible — allowing the next pack of GPS-wielding adventurers the same privilege of finding the kitty without assistance.

Surprisingly, our fearsome foursome found its destination with very little assistance necessary from Dalias — a little muddier then when we first started out, but otherwise unscathed.

Our region is home to numerous geocaches and the GPS units are fairly inexpensive. The sport of geocaching provides another way to get people outdoors and enjoying our local natural resources — and, despite my trepidation toward technology — I would highly recommend the activity to others.

For more information, including the location of our region’s geocaches, go to

~ by zaktansky on July 5, 2014.

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