by Rebekah Cartwright, photography by Phil Grout
A local businessman walks around town, looking for the perfect place to put a tiny, magnetic container with an equally tiny scroll of paper inside. He places it near a historic building, a popular tourist destination, and sets the coordinates on an app with a simple clue.
For days, many people walk past it, not even knowing it’s there. They are not immersed in the thrill of the hunt.
But the seekers come to find: a group of high school students looking for something to do on a boring summer day; a family driving through town on their way to Gettysburg for a family vacation – they stop. They hover over GPS coordinates displayed on their phone. And they find.
Within days, the tiny scroll of paper is filled with names of people of all ages, from both near and far.
Welcome to the world of geocaching. Geocaches consist of hidden containers, ranging in size from extra small to extra large, that contain a log book and sometimes trinkets from people who have found the cache. The geocaches are usually strategically planted near local attractions in order to help both locals and visitors alike to appreciate their surroundings.
People track geocaches through the geocaching app or website.
With over 2 million hidden worldwide, geocaching is a global phenomenon. In recent years, Hanover has caught the geocaching bug, with the addition of the Hanover Geocaching Trail, making Hanover a popular geocaching destination.
The conception of the geocaching trail in Hanover occurred when Kevin Gulden and his father, Barry Gulden, caught the geocaching craze in California, when they were visiting family.
“I started geocaching in 2007 as a way for my 12-year old son and me to combine computers and the outdoors. My wife and I liked to go hiking but the kids didn’t enjoy it as much. Hiking to a geocache gave us a reason to hike…hiking with a purpose,” Kevin explained.
The geocaching trail became the brainchild of Kevin, a chairman of the Hanover Chamber of Commerce, when the Main Street Hanover initiative was looking to bring more visitors to the Hanover area.
Avid geocachers, or those just looking to pass some time outdoors, can pick up a geocaching booklet at the Hanover Chamber of Commerce. When they complete the Hanover Geocaching Trail, they can turn in their booklet at the chamber for a commemorative coin.
“We created the geotrail to add awareness to Main Street Hanover. We had 8 people place the caches around the area and then my dad and I checked all of the caches and completed all of the computer work,” says Kevin Gulden.
Since then, the trail has grown, with the number of geocaches in the Hanover area increasing. Barry Gulden has planted many of them, and he has planting them down to a science.
“We have planning meetings to pick out where to put caches. We come up with ideas as to what kind. One of the rules is that you can’t put caches within a tenth of a mile of each other, so we are working on finding new locations for them,” he explained.
Barry notes that the success of the Spring Grove Geocaching Trail was among the inspirations for the Hanover trail.
“It brought so many people in to town, so it is good for businesses and restaurants. We’ve had people stop by Hanover to find a cache, and then put in their log that they’ve stopped in at the Famous Hot Weiner downtown. There are some caches down near there, so they’ll find a geocache and then stop in,” he explained.
And Barry is still planting more geocaches. While the number of geocaches in Hanover has increased, so has the number of people that have been involved with the trail.
According to Justine Trucksess, the manager of the Main Street Hanover initiative, the geocaching trail has brought upwards of 300 people to the Hanover area. People from all of the country, especially the East Coast, have stopped by to enjoy finding.
“Geocaching is an international phenomenon. You can geocache all over the world. It brings a niche tourist market to the area. You can use your ingenuity to find hidden treasures, which adds an element of excitement,” explains Trucksess.
For local high school student and avid geocacher, Kyle Krout, getting creative is the best part of geocaching.
“I like the creativity behind it. There have been some interesting locations and ideas that I have come across even in Hanover. I also love how people respect the property of not only the geocache, but the area around it,” he explains.
Krout started with his uncle when he was younger, but started again this summer when he and his friends were bored and looking for something to do. His favorite cache is located near the old Eichelberger High School building—but don’t expect him to give any hints as to where it is.
“I had several favorites outside of the Hanover area, but my favorite was at Eichelberger. I won’t give away the exact details of it, but it was an extremely unique container,” he describes.
Not only is geocaching a great way to experience local history, but it also is a great way to get outside and get active.
Just ask Linda Moffitt, of Felton, Pa., who travels to the Hanover area with her husband, John, just to get outdoors and try to find geocaches.
“We like doing this for exercise, love of the outdoors, and finding all kinds of fun places that we never knew existed, like caves, waterfalls, parks, and rail trails,” she explains.
David Wiles of Hanover would have to agree. He and his wife, Jen, have been geocaching since 2008, and they have found that geocaching has led them to places that they wouldn’t have found otherwise.
“When we take vacations, I search the area for geocache that might draw us to soe sort of local attraction that we would otherwise miss. During a trip to the Poconos last year, we were able to find many waterfalls that did not show up on the map but had geocache nearby,” he explained.
Not only is finding geocaches a popular pastime, but so is planting them. In 2008, Wiles and his wife planted their first geocache.
“We placed our first geocache in April 2008 in the flower bed in front of our house, and that cache is still in place. It is always fun to meet the various cachers that come by in search of it,” he said.
From bringing visitors to the area, to getting local residents out and about, to boosting local businesses, geocaching has helped people of all ages to discover the charm of the Hanover area, find hidden treasures, and meet new people.
“It has been eye opening for a lot of people. Geocaching has meant a lot to this community,” explains Trucksess.
While their treasure is made of plastic and paper, and not silver or gold, its value may just be more in the lives of local residents and visitors alike.