Look. They’re here. They’re there. They are everywhere, and you may walk by several of them during the day and not even be aware of it. I’m talking about geocaches and the sport of geocaching, a kind of outdoors mini treasure hunt.
The activity grew to be popular a number of years ago when handheld Global Positioning System units became reliable and affordable. Someone hides a package, usually in something water-resistant such as a plastic container or old ammo box. The person then posts its location (latitude and longitude) on the internet so that others can search for it.
When the sport first started, most caches contained small trinkets that finders were permitted to take as a souvenir, provided another item was left in its place. Things have evolved and there are now a variety of caches, some, such as a spice bottle or an old 35 mm film container, just large enough for a log where you can sign in. Others have clues directing you to other caches nearby. A newer type of cache is a letterbox that contains a stamp unique to it that finders can put in their journals.
Join in the conversation at roanokeareageocachers.org and you’ll learn about area geocache events and meet local geocachers who are willing to help you get started.
There are a number of geocache websites, but the most popular is geocaching.com, which provides basics of the sport and gives some etiquette suggestions, such as always replacing the cache exactly where you found it and not letting a non-goecacher (or muggle, a term borrowed from the Harry Potter books) see you finding the cache. A search for Roanoke on the website reveals that there are more than 350 caches within the valley!
Tiny Garst Mill Park has at least three of them, there’s at least one on the campus of Hollins University, one in Highland Park in Old Southwest, and another along the Tinker Creek Greenway in Vinton. After your next visit to enjoy the view from the Roanoke Star on Mill Mountain, take the time to look for a cache. One is within sight of the star and another is hidden inside a tree trunk along one of the trails.
Want to go for a rugged mountain hike? There’s a cache close to Dragon’s Tooth on the Appalachian Trail in Catawba. Or walk the A.T. along the undulating ridge-line of Brush Mountain to search for the cache hidden near the monument for World War II’s most decorated hero, Audie Murphy.
Need an easier form of exercise? You can find a cache within a few minutes’ walk from Hardy Road along the Wolf Creek Greenway.
Don’t even want to put out that much effort? In that case, swap trinkets in the cache located within a step or two of Wasena Avenue. Maybe the easiest one is the cache – an automobile “hidden key” container – next to the Valley View Mall parking lot.
As I said, they are everywhere.