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Geocaching makes ‘I Spy’ high-tech

Students go on a library treasure hunt using GPS devices

POSTED: June 27, 2008 5:01 a.m.
Scott Rogers/The Times

Hall County Library Director Gail Hogan, left, demonstrates how to read a global positioning device as John Fiorentino, 14, right, Catherine Fiorentino, 11, and Joseph Fiorentino, 12, look on during Monday afternoon's geocaching class at the Spout Springs library.

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The kids weren’t searching for books, but for buried treasure Monday at the Spout Springs library.

A dozen kids participated in "I Spy," a free geocaching class held for students at the library.

A high-tech outdoor treasure hunt, geocaching engages people around the world using handheld GPS devices and their wits to discover hidden treasures, or geocaches, often located off the beaten path.

Participants learned the basics of the activity before going out to try it themselves. Gail Hogan, a library assistant with the Hall County Library’s Youth Services, taught the class.

"The hope is that the kids will become more interested in their surroundings," said Hogan, for whom geocaching is a hobby.

Three separate geocaches, or small containers, were hidden in different locations around the library campus. To find them, participants had to follow the longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates they plugged into the handheld GPS device.

But the GPS did not lead them right to it, which is where the real hide-and-seek began.

John Fiorentino, 14, said he and siblings Catherine, 11, and Joseph, 12, wanted to "have a good time and learn how to use the GPS."

Typically, Hogan said, a good GPS device will navigate to within five to 20 feet of the geocache.

Then, it’s up to the individual to find its exact location, whether it’s in a duck pond or behind a bush. For "I Spy" participants, a bit of searching led them to their geocache’s hiding spot at the base of a tree.

After finding the geocache, participants put it back in its hidden spot for the next intrepid geocaching individual to discover.

Those who find the geocache make a note of their discovery by "logging" the find online as well as in a small note pad typically enclosed within the geocache.

Hogan said potential geocachers should register an account on an official geocaching Web site, such as www.geocaching.com, to gain access to a map of nearby geocaches.

With more than 5,000 geocaches sprinkled around Georgia and some 370 in Gainesville alone, geocaches can turn up just about anywhere.

Now that geocaches have led Hogan to different places, she plans to lead geocachers back to Georgia. After the class, Hogan hopes to place a permanent geocache on Spout Springs Library property.

And when a recent geocache contained a request to be taken to "exotic places," Hogan said she took it from Texas to Jaemor Farms in Alto. Since then, she said, other geocachers have followed in her footsteps.

By now, "it’s been all over Georgia," Hogan said.



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