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Geocaching is a pirate's dream

Mike Thompson doesn't wear an eye patch, pillage gold-laden ships on the Caribbean Sea or snarl "argh" when he talks. But he goes to great lengths burying treasure and plundering stashes left behind by other modern-day pirates. In fact, since the infamous English pirate Francis Drake ruled the seas 420 years ago, X doesn't mark the spot anymore and treasure isn't always in the shape of golden coinage. Instead, Thompson uses fifteen global positioning numbers to mark his buried cache and says he treasures the hunting part more than anything he has unburied. "It's not about the find," he said while on a geocaching hunt at Camp Floyd in Fairfield. "It's about getting out here, hiking to different places and exploring different areas." Mark Trotter, manager of the 40-acre state park, set up the hunt and advertised it on geocaching.com. "I thought it would be fun, and I wanted to market it to a younger generation," Trotter said.It worked. Between four and five dozen geocachers from Utah and Salt Lake counties traveled with their kids to scavenge for prizes -- a booklet of Utah post cards.
"It's really a great family activity," said Jennifer Ludwig, 32, of Magna. "The kids would rather go places and see things than sit home. They learn from activities like this." Jamie Ludwig, 9, is now a rookie at treasure hunting and accompanies the family on most of their geocaching excursions and scored bracelets, pens and pencils in her last find. After the course took the GPS hunters through various historical areas of the park, it led them back to the old commissary -- now museum -- for their prize and lunch. But many families were in the mood for more treasure. And since geocaching sites are so common now, there was no shortage of places to Saturday -- even in Utah County's parched northern desert. In fact, the growing subculture has hid so many in the past couple of years it's likely you'll pass thousands of these hidden caches today on your way to school or work. More than 5,000 are buried in American Fork, and Springville is home to about 4,800. Some of them are right under your nose, or even in a moose nostril: just look up the left nostril of the bronze moose statue on Springville's Main Street. The family-friendly geocaching sport has been used by other state parks as a way to attract and entertain visitors. While there are thousands of geocaches in parks all over the state, park staff have hidden about 43 official park stashes with souvenirs. Getting in the game is quite easy. After the initial cost for a GPS unit, about $200, the rest is free "except for the gas," Thompson said. "That's where it gets you these days. "He knows about spending gas on the excursions, too. He said he had just returned from a trip to Nevada borders on the dusty Pony Express trail discovering new caches along the way. "My fiancee is just as addicted as I am," he said. "And so is my (9-year-old) daughter, so it's a perfect activity for us while we're out and about."

E-mail: jhancock@desnews.com
Copyright C 2008 Deseret News Publishing Co.
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