More than 1,800 caches hidden around Las Vegas Valley
Longtime Clark County Parks employees Ralph Johnson and Russ Cassedy came up with the perfect way to educate the public about the county's history: Gather a bunch of trinkets, put them into 10 canisters and hide them in the desert.
You're probably wondering: How will this teach anyone a history lesson? Well, you have to find those stashes to answer that question. And believe it or not, there are countless people from around the world who are thrilled at the chance to do just that. In fact, more than 118 people have found them since the items were hidden March 15.
First, you need a hand-held GPS device and Internet access. It also helps to have a desire to hunt down worthless stuff hidden in places you might not otherwise think to look. Once you're equipped with all that, you're ready to embark on a search for those stashes, or, as it's commonly known, go geocaching.
County officials sought ideas to get people out to historical sites and to learn more about valley history, Cassedy said. He and co-worker Johnson suggested combining their hobby of geocaching with some historical information, hiding their treasures -- called caches -- in 10 spots across the valley.
Geocaching is a sport, hobby or obsession -- depending on whom you talk to -- in which people utilize GPS devices to find caches hidden by other hobbyists. People hide caches and then post their coordinates on Web sites such as geocaching.com. Anyone with a GPS can go hunting for them.
The caches themselves are watertight containers, such as ammunition boxes, filled with Happy Meal toys, little dolls, toy cars or other tchotchkes. Some, such as the Clark County caches, also contain historical information. The purpose is to take a trinket from the cache and leave something behind. Geocachers are invited to post their impressions of the cache and the hunt for it on the Web site where they obtained the coordinates.
More than 780,000 caches are hidden in the world; more than 1,800 are in the Las Vegas Valley, noted Lynn Storton, a reviewer for the Web site nevadageocaching.com.
People go geocaching for all kinds of reasons. Johnson does it occasionally, while Cassedy makes every vacation an opportunity to hunt for treasure.
"My mom gave me this GPS, I had it sitting around and didn't know what to do with it. It has gotten me to go to places I would never have gone before," said Cassedy, who has found 265 caches and hidden 25 of his own.
There are few rules to geocaching, noted Storton, who started his obsession five years ago. One is that, if you take something from the cache, you must leave something behind. A notebook or log is provided so that visitors can sign in, too. Those who hide caches can do just about anything, so long as it's legal and family-friendly. That means no R-rated materials or hiding caches next to railroad tracks, Storton said.
Some parks allow geocaching; eight can be found at Sunset Park. However, national parks aren't keen on the hobby, Storton said, while Bureau of Land Management officials think it's a good use of public lands. Dozens of caches are hidden in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, but none will be found at Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
The types of caches people hide are as diverse as the people themselves. There are urban caches that are found in cities. People create puzzle caches, where the hunter has to decipher clues in order to find it; microcaches, which are nothing more than tiny sign-in logs hidden in impossible places; and historical caches, among others.
One geocacher created a puzzle based on three points on the moon and how they coincided to three geographic places on the Earth on a specific date, Storton said. Some use binary languages, Elvish, just about anything imaginable, he added.
Geocaching started in 2000 in the Pacific Northwest and has been increasing in popularity, Storton said. At first, it was an egghead's pastime, but now that GPS devices are more affordable, people from all walks of life are taking it up.
Most hobbyists say the thrill of the hunt keeps them involved; others cite the social aspects as a major draw.
"I probably have more friends in foreign countries than I ever had in the same town because of geocaching," Storton said. "When I started geocaching, it took me to ghost towns, other countries, other places, around other people. It just expanded my whole world."
Storton has found more than 5,100 caches to date. He goes out at least one day a week and routinely makes vacation plans based on geocaching.
Contact reporter Sonya Padgett at