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Geocaching catches on with GPS users

Mike Schwab doesn't go anywhere without his Garmin GPS device.

I originally bought the GPS for my motorcycle, but now I use it in my car or even when I'm walking around a city, says Schwab.

But the Hudson native doesn't only use his electronic device to get from point A to point B. He's among hundreds of local adventurers and hobbyists who use GPS, or Global Positioning System, devices to find hidden stashes and treasures called geocaches.

Geocaching is essentially an electronic treasure hunt. Using an online network, geocachers like Schwab can find the coordinates of hidden caches all over the world. Then, hunters use an electronic GPS device, a navigational tool that determines one's geographical location, to get within proximity of the caches. These devices can cost $100 to $1,000.

Some caches are hidden in plain sight and easily visible, while others can be hidden and the size of pillbox.

Though the prizes found in most caches are trinkets like McDonald's toys, maps, books or costume jewelry with little monetary value, the thrill, says Schwab, is in the hunt.

"It's a big deal to be the first to find a cache," says Schwab. "I recently was the first to find a survival-themed cache in the Catskill Peaks. Sometimes the first one to find a cache will win a bigger prize or will be congratulated in the online message boards."

Caches often have certain themes. Schwab said some caches always contain Legos. Others are nature themed or contain survival materials for campers.

Schwab, who has taken his hobby overseas, finding caches across Europe, said he once found $100 in a cache and has left such prizes as an iPod Shuffle in caches he maintains.

Theresa McCumber is a member of the Capital Region Geocachers organization. She remembers jumping out of bed at 10:30 p.m. one evening when her husband, Harold, saw that a new local cache had been established near their home in Troy.

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