LAKE LINDEN - For today's youth, there is an unlimited amount of entertainment options. Computers, video games, television and movies often times replace outdoor activities such as hiking and camping.
When President Bill Clinton signed an executive order that made the Global Positioning System available to the public, an opportunity was born to mix technology with the outdoors into an activity called geocaching, which now, nine years later, is a very popular activity.
Geocaching doesn't have a defined set of rules, but has user-defined guidelines and several different ways to participate.
Jack Dugdale of Hubbell uncovers a hidden cache in Lake Linden on Wednesday afternoon. Dugdale has been geocaching since 2004, discovering over 300 caches across 30 different states. For more photos visit cu.mininggazette.com. (DMG photo by Michael H. Babcock)
For instance, the most basic and popular style of geocaching involves going to geocaching.com, searching for a 'cache' (pronounced cash), putting the coordinates into a GPS device and then following the directions to the cache.
The GPS will bring a person to within 5-20 feet of the cache, which will typically be hidden. Often times there will be a clue or code that will help find the cache, which may be located under a bench or hanging from a tree.
Once the cache (typically a small water-proof container) is found, a slew of items are placed inside of it, including photographs, trinkets, business cards and, at very least, a piece of paper to sign for all those who have found it.
Another popular version is the Travel Bug. These are items placed in hopes that someone else will pick them up and bring them somewhere else. Often, these bugs will travel across the country and sometimes around the world.
Jack Dugdale of Hubbell has a bug out that has traveled over 10,000 miles, crossing 20 states. The bug hasn't been touched since 2007, but Dugdale said its travels were impressive, reaching from Florida to Washington state before finally resting near Bear Point Cache, Wisc.
Dugdale said he got into geocaching in 2004, and he has had a blast since then.
"I had a GPS and my daughter told me about geocaching," he said. "I looked it up on the Internet and it looked pretty interesting so I tried it, and I liked it."
Now he's been doing it for more than five years and has been to more than 300 different cache sites and planted 11 of his own caches.
"What's interesting about it is that it takes you to places you wouldn't go otherwise," Dugdale said. "Places you probably go by day-after-day on your way to work that you would never have stopped at."
He also said that picking up the activity isn't hard to do and it's good for all experience levels, from children to elders, because of the range of caches.
"Some caches are very easy so it's not difficult," he said. "But it takes some time to learn the GPS.
"Finding the first one is probably the hardest."
A search of geocaching.com indicates more than 1,000 caches within 100 miles of Houghton and more than 839,000 throughout the world, so whether it's a vacation or a weekend activity geocaching has plenty to offer.
"It's free and it's a great thing for the family," Dugdale said.
Michael H. Babcock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.