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Posted In: Features

Treasure hunting in your own backyard

February 4, 2013 9:31am

The international geocaching logo.

Remember when you were a kid and you’d spend an entire summer afternoon staging a treasure hunt with your neighborhood buddies? Well, now those days can be more than memories. The (socially acceptable) adult version of treasure hunting is called geocaching. You can geocache on your own, with your kids, or as a way to keep everyone happy at your next family reunion.

Geocaching is a kind of outdoor treasure hunting and can be done right here in Richmond. The basic idea is to seek and also hide your own treasures in the nooks and crannies of public spaces and then share the coordinates online (as well as any experiences or tips you might have). The “caches” vary in shape and size and can be more or less difficult to find. Your find might be a buried film canister or a giant rock with a secret compartment. But every cache has a log book, which you would mark and re-hide once you’ve found it.

All you need is a handheld GPS unit or an smartphone and a sense of adventure.

Brent Hoard is an active member of Central Virginia Geocaching, an online community that’s helping to grow interest in the sport all over the region, especially in Chesterfield and Henrico county parks. At Pocahontas State Park, visitors can research and seek historical “caches,” placed by park staff, to learn about a particular point of interest or historical event.  Both counties and the Virginia State Parks highlight geocaching as featured attractions on their websites.

“I tend to encourage new geocachers to try the sport for the first time in local or state parks,” Hoard said. “It supports parks systems and shows park management how much geocaching is valued. ”

Old ammo boxes are often used to hide caches.

Hoard not only shares his geocaching skills with newcomers to the sport in person and online, but has many off-the-wall (in a literal sense) experiences to share from cross-country geocaching treks. Many of the Richmond-area caches are Civil War themed, while a trip to Madison County might include a crossing over a long-forgotten covered bridge. Traveling to one cache spot in Henrico County includes walking past a rare triple-crossing railroad.

One of Hoard’s most memorable adventures occurred on a trip to Raleigh.

“I was part of a team that included climbing up a 200-foot smoke stack, followed by repelling down a 150’ rock face…the day ended with crossing a decommissioned bridge.”

It is possible to travel anywhere in the world and check out local treasures in communities nearby and in distant continents. A great website with locations all over the world, including locally, is There is a wide range of caches on the site, from simple, easy-to-find ones up to “5-star” challenging hunts for the zealous treasure hunter.

What is the easiest way to satisfy your curiosity about this free, under-the-radar fun? Attend one of the local geocaching group meetings. Hoard is consistently impressed with the healthy attendance at his group’s meetings on the first or third Saturday of each month.

“I’d recommend finding an accomplished geocacher to accompany you on your first trip.  These meetings are great way to make some connections.”

Hoard’s enthusiasm in sharing his passion for finding treasures, and discovering new spots and landmarks right in your own community is infectious.

“I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard someone say – I didn’t know this was here! – in response to finding a geocache.”

About Emily Ward