Union County Boy Scout Troop No. 129 learned an unusual lesson in technology — outside.
This March, the scouts participated in a high-tech treasure hunt, otherwise known as geocaching.
Geocaching is described as a treasure hunting game where participants use global positioning system (GPS) coordinates to hide and seek containers with other participants. The sport has become so popular, the Boy Scouts of America established a geocaching merit badge in 2010.
At the end of the rainbow
Geocaching hobbyist and Troop Leader Joe Anson of Creston took his scouts to Rainbow Park to not only locate “treasure,” but to teach the scouts about geocaching.
With his scouts gathered around him, Anson opened up a geocaching application on his smartphone, which indicated a cache - or waterproof container — was hidden within the park.
As Anson showed the map on his phone to the scouts, he explained to them some important elements and details of the hunt.
“You can use the compass or the map,” said Anson. “This shows you the distance and terrain.”
Within minutes, the scouts located the cache. The scouts opened it to find a logbook and trinkets.
“Here is where you record that you have located it,” said Anson.
In addition to signing the log book, Anson asked one of his scouts to take a trinket and leave a new trinket. A poker chip was placed in the cache and placed back in the same spot. Anson said, placing the cache in the same spot in which it was found is an important step to ensure the coordinates orginially assigned will still lead other geocachers to the same spot.
‘Part of what we teach them is to leave no trace,” said Anson. “When we do activities outside, they are to leave it the way they found it.”
Other lessons boyscouts learn while obtaining a geocaching merit badge are:
Using waypoints or markers to navigate, defining terrains, using maps and GPS, using coordinates, working as partners and outdoor safety. Geocaching is also an activity that keeps participants active.
Geocaching in Creston
According to www.geocaching.com, there are more than 2,356,887 caches - or containers - hidden throughout the world. There are at least five caches hidden in Creston. One of the first, called “Mandy’s Surprise,” was hidden in 2007.
Anson said geocaching is becoming more popular in the area, as more caches are appearing in southwest Iowa.
The caches are hidden in well, but not every buried or places extremely difficult to access.
“We hid one this week and someone already found it,” said Anson.
After their first find in Rainbow Park, the scouts headed to Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church to locate a cache Anson has been looking for, but was unable to find. Within minutes, the scouts had located it.
“It wasn’t that hard to find,” said Adam Petitt.
Petitt suggested looking up.
Each cache, or container, is logged on www.geocaching.com. When a cache is hidden, it’s location has to be approved by a website moderator before its coordinates becomes available to the public.
Only registered users of the site, which the applications downloaded to their phone or using a GPS device are able to locate each cache. Once a cache is found, the finder is asked to fill out the log within the cache and log the find on the website. An option to upload a photo of the find is available, too.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Pettit.
“They loved it,” said Anson. “We’re getting ready to hide another.”
To learn more about geocaching and instructions to download the geocaching application on your phone, visit www.geocaching.com.