Every spring when the weather starts getting nice, Earl Patterson and his two young children, start searching Mesquite for hidden treasure. “The kids love doing this and it is really a fun thing to do,” said Patterson.
His eight year old daughter slowly walked across a field with a Garmin GPS (Global Positioning System) in her hand, watching the indicator count down to the hidden location she was trying to find.
The Patterson's were playing the latest phenomenon that has taken the world by storm. Nationally and internationally, hundreds of thousands of people go Geocaching. Geocaching is a high tech treasure hunting game where one person hides small items in a container then publishes the geographic coordinates of the location on the geocaching web page. Other people download the coordinates and try to find the “treasure” using hand held GPS devices.
The treasure usually consists of small items that the finder can take one of and leave something in its place for the next finder. A small notebook is usually included to record the finder's comments. Finders can go online to share their experience with the Internet community.
“Geocaching has caught on like wildfire,” said Abe Peterson, a local searcher. “Because GPS units are so cheap, geocaching is available practically everywhere you go. Some people even plan vacations around it and do it in other countries around the world,” he added.
Caches are not difficult to find and are not buried or on private property. Usually a cache is concealed in a bush or covered by rocks or other material.
One of the items hidden in a cache could be a “travel bug” which is a specifically designed trackable medallion that the finder can take with him and deposit in another cache far away. The travel journey of the bug is then recorded on the website so everyone can see how far the bug has traveled.
In addition, there are specially designed Geocoins, such as a breast cancer awareness coin, a coin for each European country, commemorative coins, veterans coins, U.S. City coins, and hundreds more, hidden in the geocaches.
To begin a search, find the coordinates you are interested in on the geocache website. Caches are hidden all over the world from Africa to Iraq with thousands in Nevada. Within a ten mile radius of Mesquite, there are literally hundreds of hidden caches. Searchers jot down the coordinates, enter them in their GPS and go find the hidden treasure. For example, if you entered N 36.47.781, W 114.05.718, it would take you right to the front door of the Mesquite Veterans Center.
Caches are classified from easy to difficult, depending on how far you may have to walk to find it, whether the terrain is uphill, strenuous, or rough to cross. Some caches are very small, called micro-caches, while others may be the size of a lunchbox.
“The fun is in the finding of it,” said Patterson. “The items are just trinkets or mementos. But taking something and leaving another thing for someone else to find is what is entertaining.”
Geocachers along the 98 mile Extraterrestrial Highway north of Mesquite (Nevada State Highway 375) boast of over 1,000 hidden caches with a whimsical story to go along with the Area 51 location in nearby Rachel, Nevada. It is rumored that aliens have been visiting Area 51 for years because they are actually intergalactic geocachers and they love to search in Nevada. Anything's possible.
For those interested in beginning their own treasure hunting around Mesquite, go to www.geocaching.com.