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State parks, Scouts make geocaching popular in Alabama

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The geocaching community is growing in Alabama as the state parks and other entities get involved in the family-friendly activity.  The Boy Scouts of America even offer a geocaching merit badge.

Alabama’s state parks have set up geocaching sites at all 22 parks. In celebration of their 75th anniversary, a cache has been hidden in eight parks. Searchers must visit each and combine the clues from their finds to determine where the final geocache is located. A special 75th anniversary commemorative coin will be awarded to the first 75 contestants to complete the challenge. Currently, more than 50 anniversary coins have been distributed.

Roger Reetz, a schoolteacher at Gulf Shores Middle School and part-time ranger at Gulf State Park, learned about geocaching while leading his son’s Cub Scout troop.

“I was the only one to truly get addicted to the game in my family, but I’ve stuck with it ever since, adding about 150 caches to Gulf State Park and finding over 1,200, says Reetz. “Through this effort, Gulf State Park has become a very popular geocaching destination and we have caches to go along with whatever your level of adventure is.”

According to Reetz, the park has close to 10 kayak/canoe-based caches in Gulf State Park, one of which requires searchers to go to the middle of Lake Shelby and swim to locate the geocache. Reetz says he and another geocacher are “discussing working with our local dive charters to add SCUBA-based caches on many of our local dive sites. We hope to start getting those online in early summer.”

O’dell Banks, a park manager at Chewacla State Park, says the most difficult to find geocache is located at Chewacla. Banks says you will see all age groups taking part in the outdoors activity.

Ed Manley of Irondale, who publishes “The Online Geocacher” and runs a web forum dedicated to geocaching in Alabama (dixiecachers.com), has been finding geocaches since 2003. Manley has located more than 2,675 caches in 28 states, and even credits the activity with saving his life in the book, The Joy of Geocaching, after dealing with multiple surgeries and severe chronic pain.

“After a decade in the Navy I had been a successful businessman for 28 years, raised a fine family and accomplished many things,” Manley says. He called his first cache find, which required hiking uphill, “one of my greatest accomplishments. There were many days when I didn’t think I could ever walk up that hill. Finding that cache proved that I could take my life back.”

 

Getting started

◦   Set up a free account on www.geocaching.com

◦   Choose a cache to find and enter the latitude and longitude coordinates into your GPS receiver

◦   Find the cache

◦   Sign the logbook

Then, report your find online.

For more information on geocaching at Alabama State Parks, visit alapark.com/geocaching. For a list of geocaching trails in the state, visit the Trail Link website at www.traillink.com/stateactivity/al-geocaching-trails.aspx.