Geocaching catches on with GPS users

"Being the first to find it is a big deal so we decided to go find it that night," said McCumber. "The cache was hidden in a ball field in Waterford, and we found it that night."

Local caches are generally found in public places like parks, baseball fields, roadsides and ski areas. For the more extreme hobbyists, caches can be found at mountaintops or even underwater.

Each cache contains a logbook, which serves as the basic networking tool among geocachers. The logbook contains information from the cache's founder and notes from each person who finds the cache. Each visitor of a cache is required to leave a note in the logbook. Visitors are also asked to leave something behind.

"You make an even trade," said McCumber. "If you find a trinket you leave something of equal value behind for the next person who finds the cache."

While Schwab and McCumber are serious hobbyists, they both agree that hunting for caches is fun for all ages.

"It's a great family activity," said McCumber. "It teaches kids how to use maps and how GPS technology works."

Schwab frequently takes his two sons, Garrit, 6, and Ethan, 4, on geocaching expeditions. On Saturday, Feb. 23, the Schwabs hunted for hidden treasure at Maple Ski Ridge as part of Schenectady County's Winter Carnival.

Garrit used a Garmin Legend device to find an army surplus container hidden inside a tire just beyond the ski ridge's parking lot.

Participants at the Winter Carnival found winning tickets inside each cache that they could trade for hats, stickers, bracelets and other prizes.

The Schwabs are also members of the New York Capital Region Geocachers, which currently has more than 150 members.

The group meets monthly at a local diner to discuss the hobby over hot coffee and breakfast.

"We're a pretty informal group locally," said McCumber, "but this is a worldwide hobby with thousands of enthusiasts who correspond in the logbooks and online at the cache Web pages."

For information on geocaching visit www.geocaching.com and type in your zip code to locate caches near you. To find out how you can join the New York Capital Region Geocachers, visit www.geocachingny.org. ""

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