More than 40 of Georgia’s state parks will soon join one of the largest treasure hunts on the planet. With the May 8 launch of the Georgia State Parks Geo-Challenge, the park system is inviting GPS-toting explorers to travel trails in search of hidden caches. Geocaching is thought to be one of the most popular games in the world, with more than 1 million caches registered on www.Geocaching.com.
The premise is fairly simple; adventure seekers use a GPS unit to find hidden treasures, then share their experiences online. Caches usually contain trinkets that geocachers can keep, replacing them with something else. Some trackable items, called travel bugs, make their way across the country and create a story as they go. With the new Georgia State Parks Geo-Challenge, players download a PassPort from www.GeorgiaStateParks.org, find hidden stamps in each cache to spell out the PassPort’s message, and collect custom geocoins.
“Geocaching can be enjoyed by all ages and is a creative way to explore your own state, and even the world,” said Georgia State Parks Director Becky Kelley. “The game is a fun excuse to get outdoors, and it introduces a whole new group of visitors to our state parks.”
Forty-two state parks have hidden caches with “first to find” prizes of a free night of camping. Three parks also have more elusive “bonus caches.” Players go to www.Geocaching.com to find the GPS coordinates for each hidden box. After their journey, players can talk about the parks and what they found.
Park officials see geocaching as the perfect blend of technology, trees and trails. The Geo-Challenge is crafted for younger players as a way to encourage them to get more exercise outdoors. Caches are hidden in public-access areas, so treasure hunters will not venture off trails or into remote locations.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources worked closely with the Georgia Geocachers Association (GGA) to create the new statewide program. Geo-Challenge’s official kickoff coincides with GGA’s May 8 meeting at Fort Yargo State Park in Winder.
“Anyone interested in geocaching is invited to the kickoff event,” said Kelley. “Experienced geocachers will help newcomers learn about GPS units and the more social aspects of the game. We’ll have extra caches hidden just for this event, plus animal programs and refreshments.”