Georgia state parks have entered into a treasure hunt of grand proportions with geocaching programs that are part of a "Get Out, Get Dirty, Get Fit" campaign.
Mistletoe State Park will hold its first Geocaching 101 event at 1 p.m. Saturday.
According to Marilyn Grau, a volunteer with Senior Corps, a part of the Senior Citzens Council of Greater Augusta, geocaching is an outdoor adventure game similar to a treasure hunt, but played with a GPS device.
"The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, take a trinket from the cache, leave something of greater or equal value in return for the next person and then share your experiences online," said Grau.
Cacher Chip Thomas, who has found more than 1,275 caches and placed more than 80, will conduct the Mistletoe State Park program.
"I will talk about the history of geocaching and how I got into the hobby; then I will show the different containers that you may encounter while out hunting," said Thomas.
"I will also talk about the different items you may find in a geocache, including Travel Bug, Geocoins and Pathtags."
Thomas said his presentation will take a few hours, and then it's out to the park to scour the grounds for a geocache. Veteran cachers will be on hand to assist newcomers on their first hunt.
While there is no fee for the event, Thomas said, donations will be accepted.
He advises anyone interested in participating to sign up for a free basic membership at geocaching.com. On this Web site, individuals can type in their ZIP code to find out how many caches are hidden in their community. Currently, there are four geocaches at Mistletoe State Park, and Thomas said he hopes to add a few more before November.
"The geocaches will be there indefinitely," said Thomas, adding that each park has a steward who is responsible for the cache should it need filling, fixing or removing. "As people find it, the steward will go out and fix it or fill it or move it if a track has been made to the cache."
Thomas said the state park caches are kid-friendly, although some caches are not.
"There are over 1.7 million caches all over the world," he said. "There is one at the bottom of Clarks Hill and another at the top of Mount Everest."
Thomas' interest in geocaching was sparked in 2008. He said he enjoys it because it gives him the opportunity to make new friends.
"The more caches you find, the more friends you make," he said. "The more friends you make is what makes geocaching really enjoyable."
For information about the history of geocaching or how to become a cacher, visit geocaching.com. For information about the Mistletoe State Park program, which will run for the remainder of the year, call (706) 541-0321 or e-mail Grau at MGrau@seniorcitizenscouncil.org.
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