Outdoor enthusiasts find GPS tracking game addicting

Just in a couple of weeks I'd seen things that I didn't even know were here

Outdoor enthusiasts find GPS tracking game addicting

Her son spent so much time in the woods hunting, fishing and hiking — all by himself. So, for Christmas last year, she bought him a Global Positioning System device. As Adams surfed the Internet for information on his new gadget, he came across a link for something called geocaching. Before long, he was hooked. "It's pretty addicting," said Adams, a 37-year-old Idaho native. "Just in a couple of weeks I'd seen things that I didn't even know were here."

Thousands of people are now geocaching. Players hide caches all over the world and share the location of the cache online at geocaching. Using GPS units, other players try to find the caches using given coordinates and by decrypting hints. Once a player finds a cache, which is a stash of assorted items and trinkets, they take an item, leave another item and write about it in the cache logbook. The cache is left for others to discover. Players keep an online record of how many caches they have hidden and found. Each player has a user name. Adams is known as "niskibum."

Since Adams began playing, he has logged 92 finds and hidden numerous caches throughout North Idaho for others to discover. Some of his favorite finds have been in the Priest Lake area, which he says is beautiful. He also likes searching for caches that bring him to mountain peaks and waterfalls he never even knew existed. Adams is trying to get others in the area interested in geocaching. For some reason, he said, the game hasn't caught on in the Inland Northwest. During a recent trip to California, Adams decided to look for some caches and had more than 900 to choose from. "They're hot and heavy down there," Adams said.

Adams has been trying to hide a cache each week to get more players. The first Cache Bash gathering, held in June in Post Falls, drew about 10 people. For an Aug. 25 gathering, Adams is putting a little more effort into planning. He's hiding some caches and has asked everyone to bring their GPS units and help introduce newcomers to the sport. Jon Stanley, a 36-year-old from Sammamish, Wash., planted Idaho's first cache on June 17, 2000, near Priest Lake. Stanley, also known as "Moun10bike," received his first GPS unit as a Christmas present in 1995. He was reading an online GPS newsgroup when the very first cache was planted and, a couple of days later, was first discovered.

He decided to plant a cache at Priest Lake, his favorite place. His parents and in-laws both have cabins at the lake and Stanley spends a lot of time there. The cache wasn't discovered until Memorial Day weekend the following year. Spokane's Mike Gardner, or "Edgydrifter," was the first person to find Stanley's Priest Lake cache. He got started geocaching in March 2001. His brother had read some articles, and the two decided to buy GPS units and give it a try. One of Gardner's favorite finds was a cache Stanley hid on top of Mount Roothaan near Priest Lake. "It's quite a little hike," Gardner said. "It was real scenic when I got to the top." Stanley describes the view from the mountaintop as spectacular.

"You can see all the way into Montana, into Canada, into Washington," Stanley said. Since coordinates for cache locations are given, some people assume finding caches is easy. The challenge comes in getting to the actual cache site, not just near it. According to www.geocaching.com, caches have been hidden in places accessible only to rock climbers or scuba divers. A GPS unit generally gets geocachers to within six to 20 feet of a cache. Sometimes caches are inadvertently discovered or end up missing. Gardner recalled the time when a cache he had hidden near the Centennial Trail was discovered and moved into the open. Somebody believed the metal can was suspicious and alerted police. The bomb squad was called in and, after discovering Gardner's logbook inside, they contacted him.

While geocaching has drawn some criticism nationally and the National Park Service has banned the game, locally there haven't been many problems. Though several caches are hidden throughout the city, and on Tubbs Hill, employees at the Coeur d'Alene Parks Department hadn't even heard of geocaching. Dave Fair, Post Falls Parks and Recreation director, said he first learned about geocaching when Adams called seeking permission to hide caches in city parks. "People tell me it's fun," said Fair, who has yet to try it for himself. He said he doesn't view geocaching as being any more intrusive than other park activities.

Fair said he was looking at the geocaching Web site and discovered that one of the cache listings had incorrect information about one of the parks. He contacted Adams, who had the error corrected. "There's been some responsibility displayed," Fair said. Adams said he always likes to ask permission before placing a cache. Geocachers are a friendly bunch, Adams said.

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