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Geocaching takes kids off the couch in search of adventure

Published: Saturday, June 29, 2013 9:00 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 9:57 p.m. CDT
Caption
(Matthew Piechalak – mpiechalak@shawmedia.com)
DuPage County Forest Preserve District Senior Ranger Ray Soszynski gives a lesson on Geocaching at Churchill Woods in Glen Ellyn on Wednesday, June 19, 2013. Geocaching has been described as a high-tech treasure hunt, where participants use GPS units to navigate caches.

GLEN ELLYN – This summer, Luann Kohlmeyer of Lisle made a to-do list for her three sons. At the top of the list: staying away from video games and heading outside instead.

Even with the warm weather, resisting the draw of adventure promised by technology proved difficult.

But what if adventure and technology could be taken into the great outdoors? Geocaching does just that.

“This is something that’s been on the list that I always wanted to do,” Kohlmeyer said. “I’ve always thought the kids would like it.”

Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunt that involves using GPS technology to find hidden geocaches around the world or in some cases, within the forests of DuPage County.

Kohlmeyer and her sons recently participated in a geocaching program for families at Churchill Woods in Glen Ellyn that allowed them to learn about the activity and try it for themselves.

Geocaches are hidden containers that may hold trinkets or coins, but at the very least, contain a log book where geocachers record that they found the cache.

There are about 125 geocaches hidden in DuPage County forests. Before placing a cache within the forest preserves, hiders must obtain a permit from the DuPage County Forest Preserve District. Once the location is approved, hiders are free to place their geocache and register its coordinates at geocaching.com for others to find using a GPS or smartphone.

The Forest Preserve District has seen geocachers come from England, Germany and Canada to find caches in DuPage forests, said Dave Andrusyk, DuPage County Forest Preserve naturalist.

“In DuPage County, we embraced it because we see it as a great opportunity for people to come out to our forest preserves, especially with the push to get kids outside,” Andrusyk said.

DuPage County Forest Preserve senior ranger Ray Soszynski leads the geocaching program for families at Churchill Woods throughout the spring, summer and fall and says between 20 and 30 participants typically attend.

There are two geocaches hidden in Churchill Woods, but for the program, Soszynski hides specific caches for participants to find. During the program the Kohlmeyers attended, each geocache contained one piece of a puzzle that participants put together after finishing their treasure hunt.

“This is bringing them outdoors using some piece of technology, but it’s actually getting them out into the preserve,” Soszynski said.

The district also offers a special anniversary passport program in honor of its 100th anniversary in 2015.

During each year of the four-year program, geocachers who want to participate must find five out of eight caches hidden within forests that were bought during certain years of the Forest Preserve District’s history, Andrusyk said. By the end of the program in 2015, geocachers will have visited forests throughout the district.

Each anniversary geocache contains stickers that participants place on their passport in order to earn a special coin.

For the Kohlmeyer family, the passport program provides another opportunity for adventure, one that Kohlmeyer says they plan to seize.

Even if the trinkets the boys found in Churchill Woods were puzzle pieces and not jewels or gold, Dennis, 7, and Lucas, 5, said their favorite part of geocaching was searching for treasure.

“It’s the thrill of seeing what’s in the box,” Kohlmeyer said.

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