"We found it!" Richelle and Nicole Karaszewski shouted with triumph. They glanced around and, convinced the coast was clear, pulled the metal box from under the bush and opened the lid.
The box, known as a geocache (gee-oh-cash), was filled with trinkets and treasures. The girls looked through the goodies and decided to trade a ball for a bead necklace. Their mother signed the logbook and helped them replace the box in its hiding spot under the bush.
The Karaszewski's are geocachers. They play a high tech hide-and-seek treasure game with more than 33,000 others worldwide with the help of a Global Positioning System device. There are more than a quarter of a million active geocaches in 222 countries.
Not surprising, Christian caching enthusiasts are finding their own ways to leave a mark.
The adventure begins when someone fills a weatherproof container with trinkets and a logbook. They hide the container, obtain the coordinates of the hiding spot using their GPS, and post the information on the geocaching Web site. Others obtain the information about the cache via the Web site, enter the coordinates in their GPS and the scavenger hunt is on.
Sound easy? Finding a cache can be quite challenging even though the GPS leads you to within several feet of the hidden container. Caches can be as large as a five-gallon bucket or as small as a hide-a-key and are often ingeniously camouflaged or hidden to blend with their urban environment. Fortunately, the information page for most caches includes a hint—just in case the container is difficult to locate.
Geocaches are rated for their difficulty to reach and to find. The easiest caches must be wheelchair accessible and are usually in plain sight. The most difficult caches may require strenuous hikes, special equipment or solving a brain-bending puzzle.
Katy Meadows, who attends Calvary Chapel Redlands in California and goes by the trail name mamaloo, has found almost 2,000 caches. She sees a definite tie between her faith and the hobby she discovered in January 2005.
"I find that I have to rely on God in geocaching as well as in life," Meadows said. "And, when I cache alone, I get to have conversations with God. It's a nice way to spend my time."
Ken and Linda Williams enjoy the challenge and thrill of finding a cache. The Palm Desert, Calif. seniors, who are known as the stonyagers, picked up caching fever from their daughter.
"Caching has taken us to spectacular locations that renew our faith by reminding us of our Creator and what a truly miraculous world we live in," Linda said. "This is truly a family sport. We wish geocaching had been around years ago when we were raising our three children."
Dave Bohorquez hosts a yearly geocaching event at Cornerstone church in Wildomar, Calif.
"I wanted to introduce people in the church to this fun hobby," he said.
Events like his attract hobbyist from all over Southern California. People come to put faces to trailnames and discuss their geocaching adventures. Bohorquez, who adopted the trailname cornerstone4 to represent his church and his family of four, also created "Caching for Christ," an Internet forum for Christian geocachers.
Geocaching costs nothing beyond a GPS device, which can be purchased for as little as $100. The geocaching Web site contains a wealth of information on selecting the right unit and how to find your first cache.
"I like finding toys," 5-year-old Richelle Karaszewski said, holding up her bracelet.
"I like seeing new places," Nicole, whose favorite cache is "BINGO," a clever multi-stage cache in Escondido, Calif..
Eleven-year-old Rickey Thomas' favorite cache is "Indian Head," a challenging level four cache.
"Climbing the mountain was an adventure," she said.
The hobby offers something for everyone: children love visiting new parks and finding treasure chests full of toys, grandparents appreciate a hobby they can enjoy with their grandchildren, some love competing for the most finds, and everyone can have fun discovering interesting new places in their community.
For more information on geocaching visit geocaching.com.