You’re hiking through a forest, checking every nook, every cranny, every possible spot where the treasure you seek could potentially be hidden. You glance down at your phone, seeing how close you are, and feel your heart race with excitement.
You spot it. Your hawk-like eyes have trained for the camouflaged hiding places of your prizes. You slide the container from its place, exchange an item, and sign the logbook with your name before replacing it for the next person to find. You log your findings in the app on your phone, then prepare yourself for the next location, ensuring that your presence is not traceable.
That is the most basic rule: leave no trace.
Geocaching is an outdoor activity where players essentially participate in a treasure hunt, aided by either their smartphone or GPS. The X on faded parchment is replaced with a dot on your device, and the “buried treasure” is a cache of interesting items left by previous users. The items can be taken and replaced by something of equal or greater value. A logbook accompanies these items, often signed by various other players.
Geocaches can be tracked with a smartphone or Global Positioning Receiver (GPS) with a geocaching feature. Geocaching starter kits can be purchased, as well as individual GPS devices. Many of these devices come equipped with the means to receive live updates from Geocaching Live, consisting of logs, hints and clues, and a cache description.
The Geocaching app by Groundspeak Inc. allows cachers to place their own and rate them in difficulty, how easy the terrain is to navigate, and the size of the cache itself. It also includes a place for a description of the cache, an activity log of other users who have discovered it, attributes of the cache, a photo gallery, waypoints for navigation, and a log for trackable items.
The Geocaching app describes trackables as “…physical game pieces that move from geocache to geocache.” They can include t-shirts, tags, geocoins, and other items. Unlike standard geocache items, these items have a separate area to log their location.
Geocaching includes a short list of rules and etiquette, all based on common sense. Be safe, respect private property, be kind to the environment, and leave no trace of your travels so that the path is not given away to the next cacher.
During Memorial Weekend in May 2023, Owensboro, Kentucky will play host to the nineteenth annual GeoWoodstock, the world’s largest geocaching festival.
GeoWoodstock was founded in 2003 by a cacher named Joe Armstrong. He had a dream to host an event that would bring the best geocachers from all over the country to one place. He eventually chose Louisville, Kentucky as the location for this event, and was shocked at the turnout.
Though Armstrong originally expected the event to be national, people from all over the world traveled to be part of the first GeoWoodstock. The success of the event brought in a plethora of exciting achievements. GeoWoodstock was the first event to be awarded the title of Mega-Event in 2006, obtained the first “event geocoin”, and was the first event in the United States to be titled a Giga-Event, an event garnering attendance expectations of over 5,000 people, in 2018.
GeoWoodstock has been previously hosted by cities in Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, Texas, North Carolina, California, Washington, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Maryland, Colorado, and Ohio.
GeoWoodstock in Owensboro is estimated to attract over 8,000 attendees and bring in just over a million dollars to the area. Hotels are expected to fill fast, not only in Owensboro but in Evansville and Bowling Green as well.
Alexis Berggren, President and CEO of Visit Evansville, mentioned, “They’ve been scouting locations in fields, farms, and forests between here and Owensboro.” She also noted that the event is speculated to fill 1,500 hotel nights.
Owensboro was among many locations to submit their proposal for hosting the event. Brad Simmons from the GeoWoodstock committee said, “The primary factors in their selection were the strong geocaching community in the area, the city’s longtime commitment to geocaching as a tourism draw, and their previous history of hosting successful large geocaching events such as MOGA, the Midwest Open Geocaching Adventure.”
The event will also include other activities for people to enjoy. In an online article for Message Inquirer, Mark Calitri, President and CEO of the Owensboro Convention and Visitors Bureau, states they have already planned activities like hay rides at Reid’s Orchard, visits to Marengo Cave and Mammoth Cave, a drive-in movie night, and visits to the USS LST-325. Other businesses involved with the event are the Evansville Zoo, and Friday After 5 in Owensboro.
Calitri stated in the same article that he is working with Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari, which would add many more attractions and activities to the event.
“I look forward to a wonderful event showcasing the area,” Simmons commented, “especially the Bourbon, BBQ, and Bluegrass they are known for.”
Registration is not open yet, but anyone interested should keep an eagle eye out for the information and bundles of merchandise on the event website.
No matter your intent to attend this event or simply geocache in your spare time, always remember the most basic rule: leave no trace.