Since the year 2000 when the government made accessible the use of Global Positioning System (GPS) signals to the civilian and commercial sector, geocaching (pronounced geo-cashing) has become a popular sport, hobby, game or however those who play want to define it.
But according to the official Geocaching site, it’s a “high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online. Geocaching is enjoyed by people from all age groups, with a strong sense of community and support for the environment.”
There are multiple facets to the game and geocacher Jim Bailey, East Palatka and his girlfriend and fellow cacher Rita Fullerton, San Mateo, are at the forefront of the latest twist of the game with a new type of cache, a GEOCAC benchmark.
The National Geodetic Survey (NGS) with the cooperation of Geocaching.com is setting one GEOCAC Benchmark in all 50 states for inclusion in the NGS Database. When Jim and Rita found that the State of Florida had not placed a marker, they went through the proper channels, completed the necessary paperwork and contacted all the appropriate agencies to have the Florida benchmark set.
The next step was where would it be placed? “We come to St. Augustine quite often and determined that the Oldest City in the United States would be an appropriate site for the marker to be placed in Florida,” Jim stated.
After first contacting St. Johns County, the City of St. Augustine was contacted with the request to place the marker on city property. With the assistance of Sharon Langford, Visitor’s Information Center and Historic Downtown Parking Facility Manager, the Benchmark was placed February 18.
There are 85 caches within a five mile radius of zip code 32084 and 93 within a five mile radius of zip code 32085. The Web site shows where they can be located along with a general map of the area where the cache is hidden from view.
Some of the comments from geocachers about St. Augustine which was found on the Web site are: ‘Geocaching is the best way to find all the hide places in town. We love it, even on our holiday.’ ‘St. Augustine is so nice. We will be back soon!’ ‘If it weren’t for Geocaching we probably would miss many parts of towns.’ ‘Drove down to St. Augustine from Jax Beach and thanks to all the people and government agencies that put this together.’ ‘A lot of great architecture here along St. George St. Took lots of pictures along the way and had to stop at this virtual as well.’ ‘Lovely day to go caching in my most favorite city. And this is one of my favorite areas.’ ‘Visited while making an overnight stop in St. Augustine. Wish we could have stayed longer and checked out more of this beautiful, historical city.’
By going on the Web site Geocaching.com, anyone can register and locate the sites where the caches can be found. The difficulty of locating the caches range from one star for easy to five stars for difficult and there are many icons to represent different facets of the game.
Since many people are not aware of this ‘treasure hunt’ a geocacher will cautiously pick up the cache, sign the log as a ‘finder’, perhaps check the contents, place their own trinket or marker in the container, and discretely placed back for the next geocacher. If a cache is ‘raided’ by someone not familiar with the game, the person is called a ‘muggle’ and the cache is considered ‘muggled.’ That’s one reason why cachers are cautious about finding a cache and secretive about placing it back. The entire geocaching community is expected to work on the ‘honor system.’
Any person can place a cache for others to find and there are many twists and turns to the hunt. For instance, there may be geo coins in the cache, swag items and travel bugs which move from cache to cache, city to city and even around the world.
These inquisitive and game playing groups who search the world over believe in the credo, “cache in, trash out” so they’re collectively helping the environment as they play this fun treasure hunt game.
By the way, cachers usually don’t use their real names but use caching names. In Jim and Rita’s case, they’re known as legna and sOulbAit and thanks to them, St. Augustine has another first and only…the State of Florida GEOCAC benchmark.