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Although the most ardent naturalists might find it unpalatable, electronic technology is playing an increasingly important role in outdoor recreation. One of the most recent manifestations of this development is geocaching, an activity resembling a treasure hunt conducted by handheld GPS unit. Geocachers stash watertight containers of prizes, or “caches,” at hidden locations, note the coordinates of the cache, and post them to an official website. Others log on, download the coordinates to their GPS units, and seek the hidden treasure. Those lucky enough to find the hidden cache often take something from the container and leave another item in return. Usually, the prize is a small, personal item of little monetary value, but some caches contain geocoins or stamps to serve as proof of your find. Of course, the goal is to find the cache, but the best hiding spots will lead to scenic vistas, seldom-visited sites, and unlikely destinations, making even failed attempts worthwhile.
Geocaching is a relatively new hobby, made possible on May 2, 2000, when the White House announced that high-quality GPS signals, once reserved for military operations and protected for reasons of national security, would henceforth be made available to civilians, drastically increasing the accuracy of handheld GPS units. The next day, a computer consultant named Dave Ulmer, had already placed a bucket in the woods, listed the coordinates online, and started the sport of geocaching, then referred to as the “Great American GPS Stash Hunt.”
As GPS devices have become less expensive and widely accepted, geocaching has grown in popularity. There are currently 13,471 active caches within 100 miles of the D&L offices in Easton, maintained and sought out by devoted enthusiasts. Businesses and organizations have adapted the sport to fit their needs. PP&L uses geocaching as a means of introducing its conservation efforts and business history to the public. In 2007, the Oil Region Alliance launched the Allegheny Geo Trail in western Pennsylvania. The Trail consists of 10-20 caches hidden in 10 counties, and geocachers can earn unique geocoins for finding them. In the process, they experience the natural beauty of the region and visit local businesses.
There is a lifetime of activities to keep you busy across the D&L Corridor, but, if you are looking for a new twist on hiking, biking, or walking, grab your GPS unit and give geocaching a try.