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The coordinates to exploration

Campers consult each other on which direction to go next

Backpack, check. Hiking boots, check. Canteen, check. GPS unit, check. These are the items necessary to take part in the outdoor activity that has become the future of treasure hunting: geocaching.

It's also an activity Woodbury youth experienced last week as part of a city camp.

"It's a great way to get kids outside," said Reed Smidt, a recreation specialist who led a geocaching camp for the city's Park and Recreational department.

After looking at caches online and trying the activity himself, Smidt thought it would be a great idea to take the activity to children.

The camp introduces 9- to 14-year-olds to geocaching by teaching them the basic guidelines and allowing them to go outside and find geocaches located in Woodbury on their own with the aid of an instructor. The camp is now in its third year.

When the campers are outside geocaching, they are required to bring backpacks, water, a light lunch and other essentials for traveling in the woodland areas where many caches in Woodbury are located.

Chris Fleck is an instructor for the camp who said he enjoys the blend of technology and nature that defines geocaching.

"It's like going from Walkman to iPod," Fleck said, referring to the innovation of hand-held music players. "Before the GPS we used a compass to (navigate)."

Outside the camp, Fleck is a geocacher himself. He's been doing the activity now for three years.

Geocaching is an outdoor treasure hunt where an individual or group locates a "geocache" -- a container that carries various items, or "treasures," within it. The container size and appearance varies widely, and can range from a large, clear plastic container to a fake rock with secret compartments.

The contents of a geocache are a logbook and various items left by the cache owner or prior visitors.

The finder of the treasure uses the logbook to record the date he or she found the item.

The word "Geocaching" comes from "geo" meaning Earth and "cache," the French word for a hiding place where temporary items are stored.

Caches can be located by following the coordinates of its location using a GPS unit, and can be hidden anywhere from the top of a tree to a hole in a log.

Worldwide wonder

Geocaching is not only a growing trend in Woodbury, but also around the world.

According to the official geocaching website, the activity started in the year 2000, when GPS enthusiasts used the technology to locate hidden navigational targets. Later, a GPS users' group was formed online that gathered people together to participate in the activity. Soon, more rules developed for the activity and geocaching became what it is today.

A geocache was recently brought to the International Space Station expanding the hobby of geocaching to the solar system.

The coordinates of a geocache's location can be found on the website where viewers can also register for free membership. Another Geocaching camp in Woodbury is occurring Aug. 23 to Aug. 25. For more information on how to get involved call Reed Smidt at 651-714-3588.