And while the prize is usually small, the hunt is actually the big pay-off, say players.
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As a way to encourage more people to get out and explore more of Maryland's municipalities, the Maryland Municipal League will open the Discovering Maryland MML Geotrail Saturday, Jan. 5, in Hancock Performing Arts Center at Town Hall. The kick-off will be from 10 a.m. to noon and will be held in conjunction with the opening of two other geotrails in Greenbelt, Md., and Perryville, Md.
There will be light refreshments, how-to demonstrations, kids' activities and door prizes.
According to www.geocaching.com, geocaching is when players, using a GPS device or a smartphone, try to locate hidden containers through the use of coordinates. After the prize or "cache" is located, players log online to share their experiences.
According to the site, there are more than 1 million active geocaches and more than 5 million geocachers worldwide. The site's recent activity lists more than 4 million new logs submitted from geocachers in the last 30 days.
Paula Chase-Hyman, manager of member relations for the MML, said Discovering Maryland is the second geotrail the organization has developed. The first trail was conceived when the City of Greenbelt had already launched its own geotrail and was having some success with it, she said.
Using Greenbelt's success as a launching pad, the MML started its first statewide trail in 2009, taking geocachers from Western Maryland to the Eastern Shore.
"It was conceived as a way to not only bring awareness to what are municipalities and towns in the state but also to draw visitors there. It was a tourism/economic development initiative," she said.
That first trail was launched in February 2009 with 85 municipalities participating, Chase-Hyman said.
The MML just archived the caches in July 2012, which meant geocachers who logged onto the www.geocaching.com site can no longer see the caches, she explained.
"Between 2009 and 2012 we had about 30,000 hits, what we consider finds, when a cache was found throughout the state," Chase-Hyman said.
Dwight Wingert of Hagerstown started geocaching in 2003, and was involved in the first statewide trail.
"It takes you to places in your community, places just around the corner sometimes, and shows you things that you don't know are there," he said.
Geocaching is played 100 percent outdoors, forcing players to get out and walk around their communities. And though it's January, Wingert said cold weather won't keep geocachers at bay, noting that weather — unless it's deep snow or a blizzard — doesn't affect the avid geocachers' game.
Wingert said he geocaches "typically two times a week." And Wingert, who is a grandfather, said geocaching is a great game to do with the family.
To play, Wingert said people must first log onto the site. A novice can put in a zip code and it will give directions to caches specifically in the area. A GPS or smartphone will help geocachers follow the longitude and latitude directions. Wingert said that in the last few feet of finding the cache is when the real hunting begins — the cache can be in a hollow log or up in a tree, and the size can vary from "as small as your pinkie finger" to as large as a 3-quart container.
Inside, Wingert said, is what is called "swag," usually something small in cost. The rule is geocachers can swap out swag of equal or greater value. Then the person writes in the log book and returns the cache to its original spot. Once he or she gets home they log online and talk about their experience.
"It's a high-tech scavenger hunt," he said.