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Geocachers find hidden treasures scattered about in Montgomery County

By St. John Barned-Smith | The Gazette,

Maryland’s geocaching trail could have you wiggling through a cave or paddling through the Potomac.

At least that’s what Susan Kelley, director of the Maryland Geocaching Society, found herself doing while exploring Maryland’s statewide geocaching trail earlier this year.

As the Maryland Municipal League debuted its second statewide treasure hunt on Saturday — called Discovering Maryland MML Geotrail — Poolesville, Gaithersburg, Rockville and Washington Grove have created new caches for the new trail.

According to Geocaching.com, the hobby is “a worldwide game of hiding and seeking treasure. A geocacher can place a geocache in the world, pinpoint its location using GPS technology and then share the geocache’s existence and location online.”

Maryland made news in 2009 when it became the first state in the nation to create a statewide geocache trail. It stretched through 82 towns and cities, a model emulated in several other states.

The Discovering Maryland geotrail will include 49 towns and cities. The league will reward the first 200 people who find and record at least 20 geocaches with a commemorative trackable geocoin. To be eligible, participants must record the location, date and code of the find in the Official MML Geotrail Passport and post a picture at each cache. Completed passports must then be mailed to the MML offices.

The city of Gaithersburg — which also participated in the 2009 trail, called the Maryland Geotrail — is contributing its own geocache and prize to the list this year. The first person to find the cache will receive two one-day passes to Fitness Zone in the activity center at Bohrer Park, according to the city. Other prizes such as water park passes might be added to the Bohrer Park cache.

Eleven more caches within Gaithersburg are maintained by private citizens who had them approved by the city and added to the trail.

“It’s a fun hobby. [Geocaching] is a good way to get outside, get outdoors,” Kelley said. “It’s taken me to places I would never have found otherwise.”

Kelley said the 82 caches in the first geotrail were visited in excess of 30,000 times, by several thousand geocachers. Some geocachers visited more than one cache, she said.

Would-be geocachers who missed the official launch can access a list of the trail’s coordinates after registering at www.geocaching.com.

“Having places like Maryland setting up geotours, they’re basically inviting the global community to come visit Maryland and have this interactive outdoor adventure where they can learn something about the history, be educated, learn more about what Maryland has to offer,” said Bryan Roth, a founder of the site.

Connie Yingling, public relations coordinator for the Maryland Office of Tourism, said the trail gets people out to a number of Maryland’s tourism destinations.

“There’s a definite tourism and economic impact,” she said.

Poolesville joined the first geocache trail in 2009, said Cathy Bupp, a town official who helped set up the town’s cache.

The MML “sent us an invitation and we joined up,” she said.

They placed decks of cards, Poolesville pens and other trinkets in the cache. Visitors to the cache replaced them with other objects, she said.

Bupp said she hid the new cache near one of the town’s local historic sites.

About 200 people had visited that first cache so far, she said, and the town has just added the second one.

After visiting the first cache, one geocacher was pleased to have explored the town, according to comments on a Web site run by the town: “Poolesville looked a lot different from the last time we were here. It seems to have a lot of new development. The new Town Hall is beautiful.”

Gazette staff writer Sylvia Carignan contributed to this report.

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