High-tech "treasure hunt" contest offered at 29 locations this year
PRATT -- Kansans throughout the state are excited about a new outdoor activity called geocaching, and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) is making participation easier. As the sport has gained in popularity, KDWP has offered more opportunity in state parks and other agency property.

This year, KDWP is sponsoring the first statewide geocaching contest at 29 official participating locations that each have two geocaches. First-place prizes (50 winners) will be a choice between a two-night stay in a state park camping cabin or one annual camping permit for 2009. Second-place prizes (100 winners) will be a choice between a one-night stay in a camping cabin or a 14-day camping permit for 2009. For information on participating, go to the KDWP website, www.kdwp.state.ks.us, click "State Parks" in the top menu bar, then "Geocaching Contest" in the upper right-hand menu.

Geocaching is a "treasure hunt" that uses satellite and computer technology to find hidden, registered sites. A typical cache is a container with trinkets for trading and a log book. Visitors sign the logbook and may note their visits online to help keep records for each site current.

To join the chase, go online to geocaching.com, a website of all registered geocaches by zip code. Exact coordinates of each "treasure chest" may be found here. Using a handheld global position system (GPS) receiver, participants may then locate each cache. Website information provides details for each cache, including difficulty of terrain and how hard it is to find.

This high-tech game combines exercise and imagination with exploration of KDWP lands. GPS coordinates are used to drive to a general location. Then it’s a matter of hiking to reach the final hiding place. Some caches are easily found, while others are camouflaged. Most receivers allow the hunter to get within 20 feet or closer. Water or other hiding places can make the hunt even more intriguing. It takes a keen eye to spot containers that might be as small as a film canister.

Geocaching etiquette allows trading one "treasure" from the container for another left in its place (nonfood items only). Anticipating what might be discovered at each cache is part of the fun. Some caches might contain “travelbugs” or “geocoins.” These commercial items are stamped with numbers that are logged online. Finders carry them to other geocaches, and their travels can be followed on the internet. Some travelbugs make it around the world.

For a video clip on geocaching Kansas, click "KDWP TV" on the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks' website, then click the "Geocaching" box.