There’s a new recipe for fun in Cook Forest. All you need are three ingredients: a love for hiking, the curiosity of a treasure hunter, and the ability to use a digital compass known as a Global Positioning System (GPS) device.
Combine these ingredients inside Cook Forest for about an hour, and you’ve got the latest outdoor adventure sport known as “geocaching.”
Getting into caching
Geocaching—pronounced “geo cashing,” as in cashing a check—is a modern form of treasure hunting with a snappy, interactive-generation motto: “The sport where you are the search engine.”
If you thought childhood treasure hunts were fun, you’ll probably enjoy geocaching too. It goes far beyond searching your backyard. Geocaching treasures, called “caches,” are hidden in parks, towns, forests, mountain ranges - all sorts of places. Over the last five years, thousands of individuals and organizations have set up hidden caches of various items all over the world, sharing clues about their whereabouts online at: www.geocaching.com.
When you find a cache (usually in a plastic Tupperware case or ammo can), it will usually contain a pen or a soft lead pencil a logbook and a logbook for entries. It will probably also hold a congratulatory note—“Hey, thanks for finding me!”—and some goodies (usually worth under $10), such as a disposable camera for taking pictures to put back in the cache, inexpensive toys (play-doh, silly putty, action figures, etc), CDs, gift certificates, etc. But $100 dollar bills and more valuables have been found! Food, illegal, or offensive items should not be in a cache.
Wired in to the great outdoors
Although geocaching is an outdoor adventure, it actually begins on the Internet. That’s where you can enter the zipcode for the area in which you wish to hunt. Go to the official Geocaching web site and you can bring up the caches in the Cook Forest region. For example, to find geocache coordinates in and around Cook Forest, type in the zipcode: 16217. Here are two caches in Cook Forest you can go to right now:
If you go to find these caches in Cook Forest, you’re in for a special treat. According to Cook Forest’s Environmental Education Specialist, Dale J. Luthringer, “You will be traveling through old growth forests to find these caches. For example, you will be hiking the entrance to Fire Tower Road and the Deer Meadow Trail, which are in, or adjacent to, old growth forest areas. There are nearly 1500 acres of various types of old growth forest at Cook Forest. So a number of trees you'll pass could be over 200 years old!”
He also points out that geocachers have a good reputation for being conscientous in terms of litter and site compaction. “The main points to consider for Cook Forest is just a reminder to 'tred lightly.'”