By Dominique De Vito | info@mainstreetmag.com

geo“You’re not gonna find the cache!” That’s not something you want to say to a police officer as you’re heading out of the woods at dusk, but it’s what made sense to Kathy Gwozdz at the time. She’s a passionate geocacher, and she was just walking out of the woods after finding a “cache” that she was naturally excited about. She was sure that the person coming out of the car was there for the same reason. After all, what other reason might there be to be there at that time?

“The man coming toward me gave me a strange look when I said that,” Kathy says, smiling when she thinks of it. “When he told me he was a cop I understood why. It took some explaining to convince him that I was talking about a hidden object that’s part of geocaching,” she continues. “We laughed about it in the end.” Classic example of the adventures of a geocaching addict – you meet all kinds of people in all kinds of places, and the more you do it, the more you want to do it.

Geocaching 101

What is geocaching? Very simply, it’s the process of searching for a “cache” that’s been hidden based on very specific coordinates on a map. Caches come in all shapes and sizes, and are hidden in places as obvious as under a special rock or in a birdfeeder, or as odd as in the middle of a lake or up a tree!

It’s easy and fun to geocache, and you can do it anywhere at (almost) any time. Simply register at www.geocaching.com to set yourself up with a geo name and password, and you’ll have access to the wide world of caching. Kathy and Gary’s team geo name is gworol. Do a search of the area where you live and all the caches will come up. Click on any of them, and you’ll get the exact coordinates on a map. Enter them into your GPS or just follow them with your smartphone app. Lest you think there may not be caches nearby, the fact is there are now over two million caches worldwide – with more being added every day!

Meet Kathy and Gary

Kathy Gwozdz and Gary Rollins have been actively caching since 2008. They’ve been married since 1996. Knowing that Gary enjoys the outdoors and technology, and looking for something worthy to give him as a birthday present, when Kathy stumbled across an article in a magazine about geocaching, she knew it was perfect for him. She bought The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Geocaching, the most reasonably priced GPS she could find, wrapped them up with a bow, and the rest, as they say, is history. Gary loved it. He started going on searches, meeting new people, and getting hooked. It wasn’t long before Kathy was joining him, and she, too, became addicted.

“It’s so much fun,” Kathy says when asked about their continued passion for caching. “People plan their vacations together to cache,” she explains, “because anyone can do it – young people, older people, people with disabilities – there are all different challenge levels. Finding the caches,” she continues, “especially new ones that you know have been hidden by fellow cachers who love a challenge, gives you bragging rights. It’s great fun to get together after a day of caching and compare notes.”

Geocaching events

Meeting new people and bringing people together to share their love of caching is a big part of what keeps Gary and Kathy caching. Cachers are, in fact, a real community, and they get together regularly at events hosted by local cachers across the country (and around the world). In the same fun yet competitive spirit with which they go caching and attend these kinds of events, the two of them thought it would be a blast to strive for a “mega event” in the Berkshires, where they live. So a few years ago, with the help of about 20 geocaching friends, they started planning the first event to be held in July 2012. In order to qualify as a Mega Event in the geocaching world, attendance must be 500 or more. They hit it out of the park that first year, bringing 665 cachers to their Berkshire Geobash at Bousquet Mountain in Pittsfield, MA. Attendance continues to swell at the Berkshire Geobash, where they’ve had close to 1,200 cachers. If bragging rights matter, let it be known that the Berkshire Geobash is the first and ONLY continuous Mega Event in New England. “We have people come from Germany, France, Canada, England, even New Zealand!” Kathy says with deserved pride.

Because geocaching by its definition is a past time that should be accessible to all, it’s important that the events planned are affordable to everyone. Those who attend must pay for their food and lodging, as they would on any getaway, but all the planned activities are free. This year, the Berkshire Geobash had 22 events planned over the course of 10 days, from July 8 – July 18, 2016.

By the way, Kathy and Gary aren’t retirees who took up caching to give them something to do with extra free time. They both have full-time jobs and busy lives; but truly, for them, caching is a passion. Together they’ve logged over 6,000 finds. Kathy found the virtual cache in Paris that’s near Princess Diana’s death site. Gary loves to be the first to find a cache stashed away by a notorious hider. He once dove into an eight-foot-deep swimming hole in freezing cold water to retrieve a cache that’s hidden in a catheter to keep it dry. “That was fun,” he says. And he himself is gaining notoriety for the cunning of his caches. He calls himself the “Doer of Evil Deeds.”

Caches can require going underground, or climbing a tree, or hanging over a parking lot. There are all kinds of caching challenges, and Kathy and Gary have taken on many. Kathy made 122 days in a row of finds; Gary did 114. You can do geocaching by theme – rail trails, museums, small towns, wineries, etc. The great thing is, anyone can join at any time, anyone can do it, you can do it alone or with a friend, as a family, in a group. And it is a true search for hidden treasure. When you find a cache, you make a note of your find on the cache’s log, and then you can take a treasure from the box (and you must put something in if you take something out). And it is, indeed, “treasure”: Kathy found a faux-diamond ring once, and Gary loves finding common objects only available from other countries. There are geocoins and travel bugs with goals to move to specific places or that relate to causes like spreading awareness of diabetes, breast cancer, or support of the military, for example.

Your turn

When I told Kathy and Gary I was writing this article on geocaching, Kathy beamed with the idea that someone new might learn about it in the same way that she did, and it might lead them to days, months, and yes, years(!) of caching adventures, where they would meet wonderful people, explore amazing places, learn things about themselves and their environments, have great stories to tell, spend more time outdoors, and maybe even find themselves attending or organizing a geobash. And if you make an amazing find and can’t wait to tell someone about it, be careful not to blurt out, “You’re not gonna find the cache!” Because it may get you arrested. But you’ll have a great story to tell, and that’s part of the fun, so cache in and cache on!

To learn more about Kathy and Gary’s Mega Geochaching Event, visit their website at www.berkshiregeobash.com. By the way, August 20th is International Geocaching Day, so if you want to be part of a global treasure hunt, now’s the month to get started!