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X marks the spot

Geocaching offers high-tech treasure hunting

Jimmy Kelly has been geocaching since 2003. Kelly uses a handheld GPS unit to do his treasure hunting. (Staff Photo: Heather Middleton)

Jimmy Kelly has been geocaching since 2003. Kelly uses a handheld GPS unit to do his treasure hunting. (Staff Photo: Heather Middleton)

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Jimmy Kelly shows what a typical log looks like. Geocachers sign their names and date of the find when they discover a cache. (Staff Photo: Heather Middleton)

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Geocachers often include small trinkets and toys for children who are hunting treasure. (Staff Photo: Heather Middleton)

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Jimmy Kelly uses a handheld GPS unit for geocaching. Most cell phones have a built in GPS unit in them or caching apps can be downloaded. (Staff Photo: Heather Middleton)

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Jimmy Kelly has been geocaching since 2003. He has logged more than 1,500 finds. (Staff Photo: Heather Middleton)

When Jimmy Kelly unwrapped a Christmas present in 2003 from his wife, he wasn’t really sure why she’d bought it for him.

“It was a small hand-held GPS unit,” Kelly said. “She said something about geocaching, but I’d never heard of it.”

More than a month passed before Kelly started playing around with the unit and learning about the activity.

Kelly discovered geocaching is high-tech treasure hunting using GPS coordinates.

The goal is, using coordinates given by a cache hider, to find a hidden stash, Kelly said. Hiders use items such as ammo cans, plastic containers and small pill bottles. Others get more imaginative, using items such as false logs or rocks to hide their cache in.

Geocachers usually find small trinkets, notes and a log book in the caches, Kelly added. Each finder is asked to sign the logbook with their geonic, the nickname they use on the geocaching.com website, and the date of their find.

Finders will then log their find on the geocaching site.

Kelly said he has logged more than 1,500 finds. Besides the thrill of the hunt, he said “you meet some great people.”

Kelly and fellow geocachers attend ‘mega events’ around the world every year. These events give cachers an opportunity to geocache in groups, meet fellow cachers and attend workshops related to caching, according to geocaching.com.

“I was in Bellbuckle, Tennessee and met a guy all the way from Sweden,” Kelly said. He said the events often draw more than 5,000 geocachers.

Geocaching will often take hunters to places they normally would never visit, said Steve Brown, a fellow geocacher.

“My wife and I have hiked to waterfalls and places where old homes used to stand,” Brown said. “This give us a chance to drive the back roads of Georgia and visit really neat places.”

Kelly and his wife were on their way to Pensacola, Fla., to visit their daughter and grandchildren when they veered off the path to find a cache.

“We pulled into this really tiny town we didn’t even know existed,” Kelly said. “People saw us walking around with the unit and thought we were crazy.”

Kelly explained people who don’t know about geocaching are referred to as muggles.

The term is used in the Harry Potter book series to describe a person who does not have any magical ability and was not born into the magical world.

“We have the magic,” said Brown. “We have the knowledge that there’s hidden treasure right under their noses.”

Brown said he got into caching when he was looking for something to take his family outdoors.

“You never know what you’re going to find when you’re out hunting,” he said.

For example, Brown and his family got to see the Big Red Oak Creek covered bridge in Imlack.

The bridge is the longest covered bridge in the state.

“I know about that bridge and have been to it because of caching,” he said.

As for equipment, Kelly said most people have exactly what they need to start geocaching on their cellphone.

“They’re not as precise as the handheld units, but they’ll usually get people within three meters of the cache,” he said.

Kelly also recommends cachers always go with a buddy, carry a cellphone (if using a handheld unit) and have bug spray — especially if they’re hunting in a more rural area.

For rules, kinds of caches and cache coordinates, visit www.geocaching.com.