Looking for adventure in NJ? Try the never-ending ‘geocaching’ scavenger hunt
Your neighborhood and town may be packed right now with hundreds of hidden treasures. Just don't expect to find any gold.
They were placed there on purpose by folks who are active in the hobby of geocaching. These navigating adventurers place a container somewhere, maybe with a little knickknack and logbook inside, then put the coordinates on the Web so other geocachers can start hunting.
And it's that quest to find a cache that has sparked the interest of countless New Jersey residents of all ages. Facebook groups point to several hundred geocache aficionados within the Garden State.
"It brings you to some awesome sites that you've never seen before," said Paul Schlagenhaft, a 41-year-old resident of Forked River who's been searching for caches with his family for the past five years. "As of today, we've found 1,744."
The family is so passionate about the real-life treasure hunt that most vacations are based on the number of caches they can reach on the way. He, his wife and four daughters have logged entries in Maine, the Bahamas and on the way to Florida.
While routine users like to brag when they become the first to find (or FTF in geocache speak) a newly-hidden item, geocaching requires the finder to sign the log and leave the container behind for future hunters. Every now and then, a user may leave behind a little gift for the next one, but users are urged to only take something if they have something else to offer.
"When I first got into it, it became an addiction of sorts," said Pennsville resident William Davidson, 30. "Right now, I might go out on my day off and find five to 10 geocaches, make a day out of it."
To date, he's successfully located about 5,600 caches, touching every county in New Jersey and other areas of the country. Not all caches are easy to spot or reach.
"I've never kayaked before geocaching; I had never climbed a tree before geocaching; I never went rock climbing before geocaching," he said.
One search brought Davidson deep into Wharton State Forest, to the ruins of a long-gone town called Friendship. He was eventually led to a matchstick container placed in a tree.
A search for "New Jersey" on Geocaching.com lists more than 14,000 caches. Many have been in place since the middle of last decade and saw activity as recently as last week.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.