Gotta ‘cache’ ’em all
A Villager, Julie Wheeler spends much of her time geocaching, a fun-filled treasure hunt that blends outdoor adventure with new technology. But she’s not seeking gold or silver; instead, she’s searching for hidden containers — caches — that contain a logbook and small items. Finders take those items and replace them with items of their own.
Instead of using a compass, geocachers use a handheld GPS receiver.
Julie fondly remembers her first time geocaching — or, as she calls it, her geoversary — on Oct. 6, 2012.
“Being outdoors and the thrill of locating a hidden device got me instantly hooked,” she recalls. “It turned out to be a special day.”
Julie, the president of The Villages Geocaching Club, has enjoyed many special days since then. She has found 1,570 hidden caches and counting. It’s a hunting season that never ends.
“I do it year-round,” she says. “It’s a lot of fun, and I’ve gone to areas in The Villages that I did not know existed. Also, I love matching my wits against the person who hid the cache.”
She records each find on Geocaching.com and signs the logbook inside the container to prove she was there. Julie also searches the website for coordinates of caches she hasn’t yet found. And while the hunt is exciting, Julie also has hidden her fair share of containers with items such as ponchos, in case of rain, and wipes, for dirty hands.
Geocaching made its debut in 2000 and has exploded in popularity. There are more than 5 million registered geocachers and 2 million caches to find. Local folks have taken fondly to the activity, as evidenced by the 145 members of The Villages Geocaching Club. Club members hold meetings at Laurel Manor Recreation Center on the first Thursday of each month at 10a.m. You do not have to be a geocaching pro to attend.
“Those who would like to know about geocaching are paired with some of our experienced geocachers, who share their knowledge,” Julie says. “And anyone interested in participating in geocaching will learn how to use Geocaching.com and get started.”
As president, Julie hopes to arrange more geocaching outings.
“We gathered in early August and went geocaching around The Villages,” she says. “It was a blast. I want to plan several outings a year so we can do different types of geocaches in different areas.”