Patricia and Henry Grover, owners of the Augusta/Gardiner, Maine KOA, were looking for a fun, new and most-of-all free outdoor activity that would appeal to their campers. And maybe it would even bring some non-KOAers to their doorstep.
The answer, says Pat, was geocaching.
“We started placing a few caches at the beginning of our season in May,” she said. “We went online and registered the locations with Geocaching.com, and people from all over started to show up.”
Geocaching involves “hiding” an item somewhere outside. Items can be small or large, and hard or easy to find. You then register the GPS coordinate location of your “cache” so that others can search for and, hopefully, find it. “It” usually consists of a small item or token along with a log book for those who find it. “Geocachers” can also go online to websites like Geocaching.com and log their find.
If you think it sounds too simple to catch on, consider that there currently 2 million geocaches hidden around the world, and millions more geocachers in hot pursuit of them.
Geocaching really took off in the last few years, when smartphone owners were able to download geocaching apps that, in effect, turned their phones into GPS search devices.
“We put caches near the front of our campground and we saw people come to the park who had never been here before,” Pat Grover said. “It was a great way to introduce new people to our campground, and it didn’t cost us or them anything.”
Pat’s favorite summer KOA “cache” was secreted in a small gnome that she kept amongst the shelves in her KOA store. She entered the coordinates into the website, and listed the clue “You’ll find it warm and dry among other colorful things, but it’s gnomebody special.”
When adults or children found the cache inside the gnome, they were directed to the store counter to receive their token “prize.”
“It’s all self guided, so there really isn’t anything for you to do once you set it up,” she said. “I plan to do a lot more next year. People really love it, and it’s something that anyone — even the little kids — can do.”
All you need to get started is either a handheld GPS device like a Magellan or Garmin, or better yet just use your smartphone with an app like the one available at Geocaching.com or at the Apple App Store.
A Few KOAs Offering Geocaching: