Tahoe treasure hunt · The art of geocaching

It’s a beautiful summer day in North Lake Tahoe and my longtime Northern Nevada residents and friends Susan Hahn and Dominic DelaFuente arrive in Incline Village at 10 a.m. to spend the afternoon geocaching. Hahn and DelaFuente started geocaching in 2000 when DelaFuente accidentally stumbled upon a cache at work. He started looking into the worldwide treasure-finding game and got into geocaching on his own.

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Matt Palmer | Squaw Valley

May 2, 2000, was a monumental moment for anyone who worked with GPS technology. In an instant, the United States government removed the “selective availability” of GPS tracking, allowing anyone with a GPS tracking device the ability to pinpoint specific locations. On May 3, computer consultant Dave Ulmer hid a container in the woods and announced online the Great American GPS Stash Hunt. Sixteen years later, along with Google Maps and car navigation systems, over 2.8 million geocaches are hidden in more than 180 countries with 3 million geocachers searching for them globally.

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“At the end of the day and 14 caches later,
I was tired, sunburned and hooked on geocaching.”

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Finding caches as far as South Dakota, Hahn and DelaFuente have personally found more than 1,730 caches so far and hid 120 of their own.

“My favorite part about geocaching is hiding the caches. We have a lot of them out there, but it’s finding the right place for them,” Hahn says.

Less than half a mile away from our starting point in Incline Village, we look for our first cache at a gas station. It’s in a high traffic spot with a lot of muggles, or a person who is not into the game. Our GPS tells us that we are within 3 feet, but it is a micro-cache, hard to spot. After a few minutes of overturning some rocks and walking around in circles while trying to be inconspicuous, we find something that’s a little out of place. It’s the cache. We sign our names in the tiny rolled up log and include a fresh sheet, then we carefully put it back.

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Dom DelaFuente holds up a found cache. | Kayla Anderson

We are caching our way through the North Shore over to Squaw Valley, where they offer a Geocaching Passport for those hiking and trekking the upper mountain. However, we don’t get far as a cache popped up on our radar at Preston Field. We follow our GPS into some trees and bushes. Unlike Pokémon Go, you have to really pay attention to your surroundings. You’re looking for a tangible treasure that someone lovingly left there for you to find. We think we spot some muggles and quickly sign the log and get out of there.

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Dom replaces a log with a clean sheet that he brought from his special geocaching box. | Kayla Anderson

We drive through Kings Beach, not bothering to stop because it seems that all caches showing up are too close to the road in construction and high muggle areas. We head to the Gatekeeper’s Museum and Fanny Bridge in Tahoe City. Although there are a few muggles around (and a guy asked if we were playing Pokémon Go), DelaFuente sneakily found a cache, signed the log and put it back in less than 5 minutes.

“I think Pokémon Go has actually helped geocachers because people just dismiss it,” Hahn says. We do seem to get less stares from onlookers when staring at a bush with a GPS device.

After a Bloody Mary break at the Bridgetender, we head up to Squaw Valley and get on the tram to the upper mountain. Coming off the tram, we forge ahead on the trail toward Gold Coast and Shirley chairlifts. The ammo cans are easy to find and full of random treasures and junk. We take what we want and replace them with stuff that’s of equal or greater value. When we realized that it was getting late, we hunt for the last cache in the series. The Squaw Valley multi-cache ends with a micro-cache that’s no bigger than an acorn and after about 20 minutes we finally spot it and pry it out. This was Hahn and DelaFuente’s favorite cache of the day due to the challenge involved.

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Rocks with rounded holes make an ideal spot to stash a cache. | Kayla Anderson

At around 6 p.m. we head back to Incline Village, but only after we stop and find three more caches (one which I took a plastic turtle cookie cutter out of it and replaced it with a wooden coin). At the end of the day and 14 caches later, I was tired, sunburned and hooked on geocaching. It’s a great way to spend time with friends, get outdoors and find hidden treasure around Tahoe.

 

 

Susan Hahn & Dominic DelaFuente’s favorite finds

Favorite geocaching experience | “It was our 1,000 find where the latitude and longitude gridlines meet. It was an old coffee can hidden in a flat area, desolate as far as the eye could see. It was beautiful weather, just one of those unforgettable moments.”

Favorite self-hidden cache | Doc Oc’s Magic Elec-trick Box- Fellow ‘cachers call this one creative, clever, wicked, delightful and an all-time favorite. It’s a two-stage mystery cache involving batteries, wires and other “elec-trick” features.

Favorite cache in Verdi | “We found this PVC rigger and tubing with the logbook inside. You had to fill the piping with water to push the cache through.”

 

 

 

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Kayla Anderson
Kayla Anderson is a freelance writer, marketer and action sports enthusiast who has spent the last 10 years in North Lake Tahoe snowboarding, hiking and wake surfing. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Chico State University and loves being out on the lake as often as she can.