Cache Advance

Hidden Treasures Abound Throughout the Region

By James Rada Jr. | Photography by Turner Photography Studio | Posted on 11.10.15 – Diversions, Lifestyles

You can find nearly 10,000 hidden treasures within 25 miles of the City of Frederick. These small treasures aren’t gold or silver, but small containers or “geocaches,” sometimes unusually shaped. Within them, hunters can find a piece of paper they will sign and date to prove they found the hidden treasure.

Some caches may also contain small trinkets—a penny, a small plastic figurine, a wooden bead with a carved design. If you leave a trinket, you can take a trinket. The caches may also contain additional clues to lead you to another cache.

The caches are hidden away in churches, historical sites, under rocks, behind signs and many other places. They’re all waiting to be found by adventuring geocachers with clever minds and accurate GPS devices. Geocaches have been placed all over the world, even Antarctica, and can be hidden in a fake bird’s nests, plastic flies stuck to a wall and inside of a brick.

“You can find places in your own community that you didn’t even know were there,” says Vikky Caulkins, a Frederick resident who likes to hunt for caches on weekends with her boyfriend, Brian DeForce. One time, he almost threw a cache away because he thought it was a log, but they realized in time that the end of the log twisted off revealing the hidden cache inside.

Dave Anspach of Frederick says he found a cache near Cunningham Falls where he had to lower himself into a crevice to find it. Bill Saks of Baltimore says that the most challenging cache so far for him to find was in the middle of the parking lot at the Maryland State Fair. “There were no rocks, no trees, nothing to hide a cache under. So I called a friend and he said, ‘Look down. Do you see a sewer grate?’ The cache was tied to a string and hiding about a foot below the sewer grate,” Saks says.

His son first told him about geocaching back in 2001, but it wasn’t until Saks bought a GPS device to keep from getting lost while hiking in Hawaii that he decided to try geocaching. He quickly became hooked.

Because of the outdoor location of geocaches, summer, spring and fall are the most popular times for geocaching.

One of the things that attracts people to geocaching is that it’s something they can do with the entire family and they can do it outdoors. They also can discover new places. Anspach likes to check and see what geocaches are hidden around wherever his family decides to vacation. “We don’t do an entire geocaching vacation, but we’ll look for one or two,” Anspach says. “It helps us explore new areas.”

Caches might be hidden in places with scenic views, a site of historic significance, a particular plant, a natural feature or some other location of interest.

Maryland parks and forests are great places to hunt geocaches. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has placed many of them around the state, but permission and approval is required if an individual wants to place a cache on state land. Maryland even has a geocaching trail called the Maryland Big Tree Program that places caches near championship trees or unique trees. One reason that the Maryland DNR and other state parks are not averse to having geocaches located in them is that geocachers tend to care for the environment.

Because of the outdoor location of geocaches, summer, spring and fall are the most popular times for geocaching. “If it’s snowing out, you won’t want to have to be digging under the snow to find a geocache,” Caulkins says.

Caches can be found to suit any interest, experience level with geocaching and fitness level. Caulkins likes to look for a type called “cache and dash.” These caches are relatively easy to find and near where you will park to start your hunt. Not only are these types of caches ideal for people without a lot of time to spend geocaching, they are also good for older people or people who aren’t in top physical shape.

Anspach likes to find and hide puzzle caches. These caches use codes and clues that need to be solved to find the cache. Another type of cache is a multi-stage cache where finding the first cache yields a clue or coordinates to a second cache and so on and so on until you reach the ultimate prize. The former can be taxing mentally, while the later may take hours of hiking and searching to complete. Once you become active in geocaching, you’ll find meet-and-greets where geocachers gather to share ideas and cache hunting stories as well as sometimes hunt for caches as a group.

If you want to find out more about geocaches and geocaching events going on throughout Maryland, you can join the Maryland Geocaching Society. There’s no membership fee required, and you will find plenty of information on where to hunt for Maryland geocaches and where to meet other geocachers.

It’s not expensive to start geocaching, either. Many people use GPS devices and you can purchase a good one for well under $100. However, you can also download free geocaching apps that will turn your smart phone into a GPS device and show you the closest geocaches. GPS devices can have trouble working on cloudy days while phone apps will only function where you can get a cell phone signal so many geocachers will have both on hand when they go hunting.

To see the region’s hidden treasures, visit Geocaching.com, type in your zip code for the nearest caches and let the hunt begin.