BOISE With names like Idtimberwolf, Seamonsters in the Mist or Idaho Taters, a group of modern-day treasure hunters is building a sport growing in popularity in the Treasure Valley. They call themselves geocachers.
"In the last year, it has really taken off," said Rob Lytle of Meridian, Idaho, aka Idtimberwolf. He's one of the founding members of the Treasure Valley Geocachers Anonymous, a loose association of local "cachers."
With hand-held GPS units, sturdy walking shoes and a veiled desire for remaining anonymous, they quietly promote their sport mostly by word of mouth.
"It started out with three or four of us who would go out and find some caches and then going to have a beer," Lytle said. "After a while we thought it would be fun to invite some others."
That was in 2004. The cachers now gather monthly at local pizza restaurants, hamburger joints or other family friendly locales to share their caching tales and to put faces to the bizarre names that turn up on tiny log books hidden in trees and under rocks all across the Treasure Valley.
Another cacher, Jason Siebenthall, aka Seven Valleys, found a calling with his caching hobby while out wandering the sage brush near Initial Point south of Kuna.
The mini-mountain of lava has several geocaches hidden among its lowlands. Unfortunately they are becoming harder to find among the debris finding its way into the area, thanks to litterbugs too cheap to haul their trash to a landfill.
"I was out in the area and couldn't believe how much junk is out there: tires, old appliances," he said. So he called the BLM and organized a "Cache In, Trash Out" event something for which cachers are beginning to become known.
"It's just part of caching," Siebenthall said. "You're out there enjoying nature and you want to make it better."
And you never know what you'll find. Sometimes it's a McDonald's toy, sometimes it's a rare coin. And sometimes it's a wife.
Lytle said when he heard about a group of cachers headed to Portland to visit the original geocache, he signed on.
"That was the trip I met my wife," he said. "That was kick."
Now the two enjoy their hobby together with their 5-month-old daughter.
Literally hundreds of treasure chests many containing rare coins from around the world are hidden throughout the Boise area, but unless you know how to find them, you wouldn't even know they are there.
Some of these caches are disguised as everyday objects on urban street corners, others are buried under rocks or logs along the Greenbelt or in city parks. And all contain a prize for those who enjoy the sport of geocaching.
Geocaching has been around for only eight years, but the number of hidden boxes grows daily. Nearly 100 geocaches have been hidden along the Greenbelt between Lucky Peak Dam and Eagle Island State Park.
Geocachers use hand-held receivers that read information broadcast to Earth from orbiting satellites. It's the same technology used in newer cars with mapping systems. A person using a GPS receiver can find his or her location anyplace on the globe. Better systems are accurate to a few square feet.
They find clues from fellow geocachers and from several Web sites that post latitude and longitude coordinates to thousands of hidden locations on every continent of the planet.
Each cache usually in the form of a Tupperware bowl, military ammo box or coffee can is hidden by fellow geocachers. The contents change daily as people visit the sites and trade items.
The game is a sport for the technology age, but embraced by anyone who loves the journey as much as the prize.
Stealth is key, and a loose set of rules governs the game. The treasure, as valuable as it may be, is never kept, but is shared and passed along from cache to cache for others to find.
For instance, when a geocache hunter finds a cache he or she opens the box, signs and dates a log book then trades one treasure for another. Some cache chests are very small and contain only a log sheet with no treasure. These micro-caches usually the size of a 35 mm film canister or smaller are more difficult to find and are considered more prized.
Other caches are disguised as common things such as large rocks, tree stumps or electrical boxes. There's even one cache in the Foothills disguised as a cow patty.After a hunter finds a cache he or she records his or her find at geocaching.com where cache owners can then watch to see who has discovered their treasures.
Some facts, key moments and history about the growing sport of geocaching.
• Creation: The sport, only eight years old, began in 2000 when a Portland man placed a bucket by the side of a road and posted its latitude and longitude coordinates on the Internet. Incidentally, the bucket was destroyed by a road crew lawn mower. It has since been replaced with a plaque designating the birthplace of geocaching. You can find the first cache at Waypoint GCGV0P.
• In Idaho: There are 21 remaining Idaho caches placed during the sport's first year. A good place to find information about them is at Waypoint GC1A9J1.
• Growing numbers: At last count, there were nearly 6,000 geocaches hidden in Idaho at least 1,000 of those are within 15 minutes of downtown Boise; 1,000 more are within an hour of the city center.
• The Rainbow Bridge incident: Once in a while geocachers get a little too creative. This was the case of Scot Tintsman of Meridian who found himself answering some tough questions about a container he placed under Rainbow Bridge on Idaho 55 north of Smiths Ferry in 2006. A state bridge-inspection crew found the container and alerted officials, who proceeded to close the highway for seven hours.
Source: The Idaho Statesman