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Geocaching regains
popularity during COVID
Victoria Kemper
vkemper@democratnewsonline.com
The year of 2020 has been a challenge but one
thing it has given us is a new appreciation for
our outdoor areas. Families are spending more
time together exploring local parks and utilizing
conservation areas.
Geocaching, which according to Geocaching.
com has been around since 2000, has regained
some popularity recently as families search for fun
activities to do outside.
Local Geocaching Enthusiast Michael Sletten,
of Fredericktown, said geocaching is kind of like
a large scavenger hunt in which you utilize GPS,
global positioning system, to find hidden items
otherwise known as a “cache” in the geocaching
world.
“There are caches hidden worldwide,” Sletten
said. “Some joke and say we use multi-million
dollar satellites to find hidden Tupperware in the
woods.”
Sletten said the goal of geocaching, other than
locating a cache, can be different everyone.
“There are different types of caches you can
find,” Sletten said. “For example, you can make
your goal to find a cache in each state or each
county in Missouri or make it a goal to find x
number of caches in a day, week, month, etc.”
Sletten said a cache can be any size. He said
some may hold just a log of names who found it
and others may hold treasures.
“Some caches are fairly small about the size of
a gumdrop,” Sletten said. “Then there are some
caches that are the size of a shed, which I have
yet to find, but I have seen them on YouTube,
and those have a log and can have a container
inside that hold swag that you can trade with other
geocachers.”
Sletten said the rule is “take a treasure, leave a
treasurer of equal or greater value.” He said swag
is usually a small item like a key chain or toy.
The geocaching community is family friendly,
meaning any adult items such as alcohol, tobacco
or anything perishable cannot be placed inside a
cache.
“This is definitely something you can do as a
family,” Sletten said. “There are some caches that
not all members of the family would be able to
get to because of the difficulty level and danger
involved. There are also some locations you have
to climb up to and the terrain is unstable.”

Sletten said he has taken his kids a few times and
his youngest enjoys finding the bigger containers
because they have toys.
“But remember, if you take a treasure, leave a
treasure,” Sletten said. “Not all geocachers have
honored that ruled of thumb. I have found several
caches that have been emptied out and that’s
always a disappointment.”
Caches are ranked by difficulty in the Geocaching
App. The app is a great place to start your
adventure as it will show you how many are in your
area and give hints to help you locate the cache.
Sletten said the first step is deciding which area you
want to go to.
“You look at a satellite map of the area and the
map shows you the type and location of the cache,”
Sletten said. “Then you have to choose what type
of cache you want to find. Like, a mystery cache,
a multi-cache, a traditional cache, etc. You can
choose the size of the traditional cache, like a
regular, small, micro or nano.”
Sletten said once you make your selection you
navigate to that cache.
“Upon arrival at ‘ground zero’, geocacher term for
at the final coordinates, you read the description
and detail of the cache,” Sletten said. “Then
search for the cache and upon finding it
you sign the enclosed log and also on the
app.”
Sletten said if the cache is large enough
for swag you can trade treasures.
“There is also something called ‘travel
bugs’ or ‘trackables’ which have a
tracking number on them,” Sletten said.
“If you find one of those you log it on the
app that you found it and place it into
your inventory in the app. Once you do

that, you move it along to another cache and log
it into the cache on the app. So that other cachers
can see that there is a travel bug in that cache
and also so that the travel bug owner can view
where their trackable has been and how far it has
traveled.”
Sletten said he has had a few favorites but the
one that sticks out most is the Popeye Character
Trail multi-cache in Chester, Illinois.
“You are given the final GPS location, but it is
missing some of the digits in the coordinates,”
Sletten said. “You have to solve the missing
digits and are given clues as you visit the Popeye
character statues. It was fun to visit the various
statues as you visited the town.”
So far, Sletten has placed five caches or “hides.”
He said he likes to create “field puzzles” and give
the geocacher some history about the area.
One of Sletten’s hides, located in Madison County,
is titled Cahoon’s Generous Gift. In the description
of the cache Sletten gives a history of Benjamin
Cahoon.
“Welcome to Memorial Park,” Sletten’s description
reads. “This land was donated to the citizens of
Fredericktown on Thanksgiving Day in the year
1919 by Hon. Benjamin B. Cahoon.”
Sletten goes on to explain Cahoon’s life and family
up until his passing in 1923 at the age of 77.
“I enjoy where some of the caches take you that I
never knew existed,” Sletten said. “Some take you
to historic sites that are pretty cool, like the Fort
Belle Fontaine in St. Louis County and if you know
me, I like historical places.”
Sletten said there are a few caches in Madison
County and the surrounding counties to locate but
there tends to be more in the higher populated
counties.

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