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The Blue & Gray Press | October 20, 2017

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Treasure hunt goes high tech

By Landon James

Treasures are hidden throughout Fredericksburg, but only a few people know how to find them.

Treasure-hunters are looking under benches, climbing up rock cliffs and wandering the town with handheld global positioning systems (GPS).

Geocaching is a seek-and-find game where people hide containers of all sizes and post the coordinates online. UMW has a few of the treasure boxes hidden on campus.

People with global positioning trackers then upload the coordinates to their devices and search for these containers.

The containers, which can be anything from an Altoid mint tin to a military-issued ammo box, are called “caches,” or places to hide treasure. The people who participate are called Geocachers. The containers hold log papers that people sign and date every time they find the cache.

Geocaching is happening all over the world; there is even a cache on the International Space Station.

Usually there is also a small “treasure” inside the containers that Geocachers can take and replace with anything they have. Often it’s nothing more than a McDonald’s Happy Meal toy.
Geocaching began in May of 2002 after President Bill Clinton made GPS technology available for civilian use.

The Official Global GPS Cache Hunt Site names Dave Ulmer as the first Geocacher. A GPS fanatic, Ulmer decided to test the accuracy of the GPS satellites by hiding a bucket on his property near Beavercreek, Oregon, and posting its latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates to an online GPS forum.

He called it the “Great American GPS Stash Hunt.” Within a month people from all over Oregon had found Ulmer’s bucket and started hiding their own stashes.
58-year old UMW Paint Shop Manager, Harold Williams, has made searching for these treasures his hobby, and has become a bit of a local celebrity in the process.

Williams didn’t start Geocaching until February 2007.

Williams was an active basketball player, but after three knee surgeries, he was forced to look for alternative, less strenuous hobbies.

“When I had to quit playing basketball, I didn’t know what to do with myself,” he said. “Then somebody introduced me to Geocaching and it was a way to get out, get exercise and meet people.”

He was hooked instantly.

Williams bought a Garmin E Trex GPS and began looking in crevices and nooks all over Fredericksburg trying to find as many caches as he could. By the next year Williams had found over 300 caches.

Eventually, he became involved with the local Fredericksburg Geocachers Group.

Williams does not just turn any container into a cache. He constructs his own out of various materials so they blend into their natural surroundings.
The majority of Williams’s containers are “In Plain Sight” caches that can be seen by the naked eye.

In plain sight does not mean they are any easier to find. In fact, Williams’s caches could resemble anything from a magnolia flower to a piece of bark with a small plastic container to hold the log paper.

Williams has now found 1,071 caches and hidden 66, 52 of which are still active and being found in the Fredericksburg area.
He said 12 to 15 caches are currently hidden on the UMW campus.

Sophomore Brian Wood, a fellow geocacher, found a couple of Williams’s caches on and around campus.

“They were really clever in the ways they blended into their surroundings,” Wood said.

Arthur Fay, president of the Fredericksburg Geocachers Group, feels that Williams’s caches really add something to the local community.

“I think his caches are very unique and make you smile and laugh whenever you find them,” said Fay.

For Williams, Geocaching is a way to connect with family, friends and strangers in a creative way.

“If you’re not having fun, you’re not Geocaching,” said Williams