Sunday, May 7, 2006 (page A6)

'Geocachers' mix technology,
treasure hunting

Hobby using satellite-based equipment growing in popularity
By Isaac Baker, Times Staff Writer
A sort of large-scale treasure hunt that blends new technology with outdoor adventuring is becoming increasingly popular in Carroll County, according to county park officials.

Jeff Degitz, Carroll's director of recreation and parks, said the county is welcoming the growing sport.

"Geocachers," as hobbyists call themselves, use global satellite-based navigational equipment to locate caches that have been hidden and mapped. The caches, though ranging in size, generally contain a logbook where enthusiasts mark their progress. Each cache is monitored through a large Web-based network of hobbyists who post online messages when they locate a cache. Hobbyists can search for caches and their coordinates by ZIP code on, the sport's primary Web site.

Most of the caches, said Bob Zinn (Zinnware), a Pennsylvania enthusiast who works in Westminster, are hidden in parks or other public places. They can be hidden in a wide range of spots, such as under bridges or bushes or in deep grass, he said.

Zinn, 44, said there are more than 140 caches within an approximately 16-mile radius centered in Westminster.

"It's a growing trend," said Zinn, who said he's located more than 1,300 caches since he started searching in 2002. "It seems like every month there's like one or two new cachers [in the area] that are brand new to the sport."

While there's no known number of how many people in Carroll County take part in these high-tech hunts, Degitz said participation in the sport is definitely on the rise in the county.

Hobbyists are active in about six or seven of Carroll's parks, according to Degitz.

Degitz says the county's experience with geocachers has been nothing but positive.

"It does seem to be a very responsible group that we're looking at," he said. "This is a kind of marriage between technology and the great outdoors. We view this as a positive thing."

Geocachers provide a good example, he said, of people getting outdoors and taking advantage of the park facilities that Carroll County has to offer.

How it works
Geocaching is a hobby that involves using Global Positioning System technology to locate hidden treasure: caches filled with everything from books to trinkets to small amounts of money. These caches, generally small airtight cases or boxes of some sort, are hidden by other GPS enthusiasts, and they post their latitude and longitude coordinates online. A ZIP code search will turn up the hidden treasures in a given area and hobbyists track them down using their GPS devices. The devices can accurately pinpoint the location of the caches to within about 5 to 50 feet. Hobbyists track their findings by using logbooks and Web logs.

For more on the hobby, visit

Brad Rogers, Carroll's bureau chief of parks, said he knew of no instances where geocachers have destroyed county property or committed other illegal actions during their treks.

On the contrary, Rogers said, the enthusiasts seem to take special care to ensure the park facilities are maintained and all park laws are obeyed. Hobbyists have made courtesy calls to the park offices just to let officials know what they're doing, he said.

According to, some hobbyists even take part in a park cleanup program they've dubbed "Cache In, Trash Out Day."

"It's just one way we can contribute to the maintenance of our outdoor spaces and to say 'thanks' to the land managers that help to make our parks a great place for geocaching," a statement on the Web site reads.

The parks department is eager to team up with local geocachers and perhaps coordinate some events, Rogers said.

Rogers and Zinn met on Thursday to discuss the possibility of Zinn teaching a county-sponsored course on the hobby.

"It seems to be a very positive type of thing," Rogers said. "It's also something that we need to embrace, because it's already happening."

Reach staff writer Isaac Baker at 410-857-7865 or