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Geocaching becomes popular adventure

April 6, 2009

With terms even Harry Potter would love, geocaching is becoming one of the hottest high-tech games in the world, and it has made its way right into Marshall County.

Geocaching is a treasure hunt for which anyone armed with a Global Positioning System unit can participate.

The idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, that are placed somewhere outdoors. Longitude and latitude coordinates pinpoint the location. Other adventure seekers then hone in on the item, or benchmark, to discover the prize.

Article Photos

Somewhere in Marshalltown is a box, owned by the Convention & Visitors Bureau, filled with swag and other geocache prizes.

Caches can be hidden in anything from an old ammunition box to a discarded coffee can - anything waterproof - and contain various items such as pencils, small toys or trading coins with names. They can be found anywhere along bike trails or public places such as GrimesFarm and city hall.

Once the item is found, the hunter signs a log book and returns the container to its original location.

Afterward, participants may go to on Web sites like or and share their experiences. Anyone can enter a postal code or address and explore the caches in their area and beyond.

Fact Box

Geocaching tips:

Figure out where you are going before you get there.

Wear sturdy, comfortable shoes and clothes for hiking. Be aware of poison ivy, oak or sumac - ticks, too.

Before heading out, make a way point to your car or starting location.

Route choice is an important part of the hunt. Stay on trails as long as you can.

Some caches may be hard to find. When less than 20 feet from the item, your GPS can't help when you are that close.

Carry a bottle of water if walking or biking long distances.

Leave something in the box stating your town or location to say you were there.

Always get permission from a property owner to search for an item or cache box.

Geocaching terms:

Caching: Geocaching

Cacher: Geocacher

Muggle: Non-geocacher

Ground Zero: Immediate area where the geocache is hidden

Sig Item: Signature item

Log: Log sheet or log book

BM: Benchmark

Coin: Usually refers to a geocache coin

Multi: A multi cache - a cache with smaller items, or stages, that provide information to find the final treasure

Swag: Items for trading

- Tammy R. Lawson

There are currently 761,834 active geocaches world wide and hundreds of them are literally popping up across the state. People of all ages are becoming part of this phenomenon due to a sense of environmental and community support.

Marshalltown's Convention & Visitor's Bureau and the Marshall County Conservation Board are local organizations that participate in the cache-finding missions. In fact, the Girl Scouts have recently added a geocaching badge to their list of merits. Individuals can also set up cache boxes onto their property or another location with permission.

"There are quite a few people around town that do it," said CVB Director Shannon Espenscheid. "It's something neat that anyone can do, and it's a great draw to Marshalltown as far as visitors."

No longer a muggle or non-geocacher, Amy Mills, assistant with the Marshall Economic Development Impact Committee, has become quite savvy, locating nearly 140 caches on travels to places such as Indiana, Illinois and Minnesota.

"When we visit the Twin Cities, we'll stop along the way just to find caches," she said. "It's the excitement of having the coordinates in your GPS system and finding things. We became fascinated with it and my grandkids just love it."

Hand held GPS units may be purchased at various electronic stores or online with an average price of $100.


Contact Tammy R. Lawson at 641-753-6611 or



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