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Hidden gems around the world

Photo by: Pablo Mejia | Staff Photographer
Geocache located in San Marcos, Texas Feb. 5

X marks the spot—the cache spot, that is.

Geocaching is a treasure hunt where GPS coordinates mark the location of a “cache” of trinkets.

By using a GPS device or a convenient app, a person can sign up for a free account and locate caches near them or search for them by county, country, zip code or many other combinations.

A cache can be any kind of container as long as it is impervious to the elements. When one is placed, the creator places some kind of trinket inside, captures the coordinates and writes a description for the cache.

Next, the coordinates are activated online after a geocache expert approves them. Then a participant can hunt it down, take the trinket if they want it, replace it with a trinket of their own and sign the log.

The hiding places can be anywhere, but to place a cache somewhere like a restaurant, the creator must ask for permission first. This restriction can result in some very complex and clever hiding places.

“There was one time where there was a tree stump that the bottom was hollowed out of and the cache was hidden inside with the log Velcroed at the top,” said Carrie Adams, an avid geocacher.

When things get too tough and a geocacher cannot find the chosen container, there are both photos and hints to help out, said Adams.

Geocaching appeals to a variety of people. It can be a great way to get outside, get moving and have fun.

“The most interesting part of it to me is the adventure and exploring,” said Andrew Bales, a geocaching beginner.

Since its beginning in 2000 in Beavercreek, Oregon, geocaching has spread across the world. Today there are over two million geocaches around the world and 15 million participants.

“They’re just little trinkets, but it’s cool to see what other people left and it was a great experience to share with my kids,” said Drew Bales, a onetime geocacher.

In the San Marcos zip code there are 127 results, in Hays County there are 163, and in the state of Texas there are over 15,000.

There are plenty of caches available when using a free account, but there are other types of caches that are only accessible with an upgrade to a premium account. The choices are either a three-month upgrade for $9.99 or a year long upgrade for $29.99. A bonus is these are not reoccurring charges. If someone wants to extend their premium account, they would have to repurchase at the end of the time frame.

The types of caches range in size from micro to regular. There are also normal caches where the coordinates are just listed. Puzzle caches exist where a riddle has to be solved before the true coordinates will be revealed.

Geocaching does not have to be strictly a recreational past time; instead, it can also be used for education in classrooms. Trackables are certain trinkets that come with a registered ID number. Once it is activated, when someone finds the cache and takes the Trackable they will log online where it is later left. Therefore its journey can be tracked.

“I want to do a Trackable with my class, so they can watch it travel and plot its progress.” Adams said.