Everybody likes a good scavenger hunt, don’t they?
While organized, official hunts can be hard to come by, there’s a worldwide, ongoing scavenger hunt always taking place in the form of Geocaching, and it’s a hobby that’s alive and well right here in Concord.
Geocaching is the practice of using a GPS, a cell phone app or a map to follow coordinates to a specific geographic location where someone has hidden a cache. A cache could be anything, but typically it’s a container of some sort with some little trinkets and a log book for finders to sign inside.
We met Kim Runion, a former Penacook resident who works in Concord (and who was the subject of a story by the Monitor’s David Brooks last year), and discovered that she’s one of the leading Geocaching authorities in the state – she’s found more than 24,000 caches since she started in 2005.
“It’s really fun – the people I’ve met are awesome,” Runion said. “You can’t beat getting out to the woods of New Hampshire.”
It all runs through a website, geocaching.com, where users can log on to find caches in their area. I created an account and a quick entry of Concord returned hundreds of blips all over the map, from rural spots out in the middle of the woods to urban ones right off the highway. You’ve probably walked right past dozens of caches in the last week and never even knew it.
Runion, of course, knows them all. She’s also hidden quite a few herself – more than 680 in all, and that number is always going up.
While it’s fun to find the actual caches – often a plastic box filled with small items or sometimes the cache is just a pill bottle with a log inside – Runion said the bulk of the enjoyment comes from the hunt, or in her case, hunts.
“Mostly, quite honestly, it’s about the journey and the people you’re journeying with,” she said.
We journeyed together to Sewalls Falls last week, where there were a few caches listed. I had tried unsuccessfully the day before to find one over there with no GPS, but Runion, the pro, brought a pair of them for our hunt, letting me use her older one.
Any GPS will only get you to within a few feet of the cache, so there’s always a little old-fashioned searching to do. After less than 10 minutes of walking, the GPS beeped to alert me that I was close to the first of two caches we were after. It was a good 20 feet off the main trail, which is why I didn’t find it on my own. After reading the clue left by the person who hid it, I found the cache – a clear plastic box with snapping locks on all four sides.
Inside was nothing spectacular – again, it’s not so much about what’s inside that counts, but how you found it – but we still don’t want to give it away for those who might want to find it.
The only thing each cache is supposed to have is a log for finders to sign. Since I had created an account and username online, I signed the log like a true Geocacher, using my handle JCBConcordNH. I took nothing and left nothing, though those aren’t requirements.
If you’re interested in exploring the depths of the city, you should really consider getting into Geocaching – there’s a whole world of hidden goodies out there waiting to be discovered.