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Geocaching a great way to enjoy nature

Posted: June 14, 2014 - 5:49pm

Arkansas adventure seekers looking for a new way to enjoy the nature around them might want to try geocaching. With hundreds of geocaches just waiting to be found in the Natural State, this family friendly game could become a new favorite hobby.

Morgan O’Neal of Fort Smith (formerly of Conway), vice president of the Arkansas Geocachers Association, explained in simple terms what geocaching is.

“It’s an outdoor treasure hunting game using a GPS device to find the treasure,” he said. “Players use GPS coordinates to find containers hidden at the location. It could be anything from something smaller than a thimble to as large as, well, there are a few geocaches out there that are actually houses. The average size of a cache, though, is the size of a 35 millimeter film canister.”

What is in the container? It depends on the cache. It could be as simple as a log book or sheet for everyone who finds it to sign their names on. Or it could be a treasure trove of toys for children, batteries for GPS devices and more. The only rule is, “if you take something, leave something.”

O’Neal said one of the reasons he enjoys geocaching is because “It gets you out in the open. It forces you to go places you’ve never seen before. That’s a big motivator for why people hide caches. People will find a cool place and hide a cache there for someone who is maybe a homebody. Geocaching drives people out into the wilderness to see things.”

He said while caches can be hidden in urban surroundings, some of his favorites have been found on treks into the woods.

“When I was getting close to my 1,000th cache, we went to find the oldest one in Tennessee at one of the older parks in Memphis. We went with some friends. I wanted to have a special memory for the milestone. There were boardwalks all the way along this path into the woods. It lets people with wheelchairs or walkers get into the outdoors who would struggle otherwise. What impressed me was not the cache, it was that someone had built these boardwalks into this nature preserve.

“The other one I really liked was at a park in Russellville. It was a multicache, which means it has a couple of different steps. The second phase took me out into the woods. There was an old cemetery out there. It looked like it was from the Civil War era. There are trails out there that wander around.

“I took some friends out there after I found it. What they were impressed with was that it’s in the middle of a park and the coordinates lead you into the middle of nowhere. It’s peaceful, and you can hear the birds. We would have had no idea it was there if there hadn’t been a geocache there.”

Plenty of geocaches are waiting to be found in Faulkner County and Central Arkansas. To learn more about the Arkansas Geocachers Association, go to arkgeocaching.org. To get started with geocaching, go to geocaching.com or read about it at arkansasstateparks.com.

(Staff writer Rachel Parker Dickerson can be reached by email at rachel.dickerson@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)

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