Geocaching adventure comes to Huntington this weekend
HUNTINGTON -- The marquee on the historic Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center reads, "Welcome Geocachers."
Don't worry, that's not another new band you don't know about -- that's just a sign letting people know this weekend is chock full of geocaching adventure.
People can try the high-tech treasure hunt called geocaching on Friday and Saturday, March 14-15, as Huntington hosts the first Cabell County Geotrail with cachers coming in from around the country.
There's a Friday night kickoff party at the Pullman Plaza Hotel, and then participants start the 15-site hunt at 11 a.m. Saturday at Heritage Station, home to the trail sponsor, the Cabell-Huntington Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The events are free and open to the public although participants do need the Geocaching.com Smart Phone app or a GPS to go on this scavenger hunt. People will go to 15 caches hidden at sites all over the county by following GPS coordinates to the sites.
People who get all 15 caches will receive a special commemorative Geocoin that will feature the Marshall Memorial fountain on one side and the Heritage Station train on the other side.
Everyone who participates will get a free chance to win more than 70 door prizes donated by local businesses.
Jake Sharp, sales manager for the Cabell-Huntington Convention and Visitors Bureau, said organizers are excited about the weekend, which could draw several hundred people if the weather is good.
"We've got people coming from Delaware to Illinois and from New York to North Carolina and all points in between," Sharp said. "I know we have 120 confirmed logged visits and the rule of thumb they say is to double that with families, so 300 to 500 is safe to say."
Included in that number is some of the world's best geocachers, including folks from Cincinnati who have logged 60,000 finds and New Yorkers who have gone over the 48,000 mark.
For "muggles" or folks who don't cache, Geocaching was started in Portland, Ore., and Seattle, Wash., in 2000. Called the game "where you are the search engine," Geocaching was first attempted solely on GPS units, but it exploded as that technology became available in smartphones.
Geocaching has grown to include nearly 2,331,210 caches (or small hidden boxes filled with various little treasures for the taking) and more than six million geocachers worldwide.
In the Tri-State, within a 50-mile radius of Huntington, there are more than 9,000 geocaches hiding out in parks, cemeteries and important spots such as the Marshall plane crash site. Expert cachers such as Steve and Debbie Adkins, who've found more than 2,030 caches in 11 states, helped design the trail of caches, which will still be around even after the weekend is up. Also working on the design was Bobby Wintz.
"The trail itself is going to be phenomenal -- we have so many unique hides," Adkins said. "None are too hidden but some are a little gadgety, and you have to use your head a little bit to find them. Every container is a different container, and we take you to some good spots in the county."
Adkins said the beauty of caching is that it leads participants to unique historical, geological or quirky local interest sites most often. It is during those visits and afterward that he's found he's picked up a continuing education about places in these United States.
One of his favorite sites was Sheldon Church in Beaufort County, S.C. The church was burned in the Revolutionary War, re-built and then fell under the flame of Gen. Sherman during the Civil War.
"It was one of the most unusual places we've been," Adkins said. "History is right under your nose, and this does such a good job of teaching history not just to kids, but it is educational for adults and older people, too. I have learned so much from doing it, and there are so many memories that you make with your family and friends that are priceless."
Boost to tourism
From the CVB's standpoint, geocaching is an inexpensive, creative and physically active way to draw in more tourists and to get local residents to treat the Tri-State like tourists, taking them on a trail of rediscovery of local stories and special places.
"We identify it as attracting new visitors who wouldn't normally come here," Sharp said. "Secondly, we see it as exciting locals and giving them something new and different to do. It gives local people a chance to explore their home, because they are doing it in a way that they would not do otherwise. We get people all of the time who don't know anything about Blenko Glass or Heritage Farm or who haven't been to Camden Park."
For the curious who want to come out and get started, Adkins and his fellow cachers have put together not only a slide show for Friday and Saturday, but also will be teaching a Geocaching 101 class to walk people through the steps of how to find a cache.
Adkins and Sharp said they are thankful for the support of businesses such as Triple Crown Beverage, which made tons of signs, local restaurants such as Savannah's and volunteers ranging from area Girl Scouts to the Jewel City Rollergirls.
Adkins said local businesses have gotten into the fun, too, and have put out their own caches, including Papa John's that has a cache containing free coupons for pizza. Adkins and Sharp said they hope to reach the "Mega Event" mark or have 500 cachers sign in, but even if they don't they are excited to unveil the trail.
"The great thing is that you can do the trail anytime, and we will have coins even after the weekend," Sharp said of the coin for people who find all 15 caches. "They will be available for pickup at the front desk so people can do it any time."
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