- Associated Press - Saturday, February 8, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Geocaching, a high-tech game of hide-and-seek, is growing in popularity faster than kudzu on a hot summer day.

Shawn Harris of Poplarville said he began geocaching in 2009. At that time, Harris said there were between 500,000 and 600,000 geocaches worldwide.

“Now, it’s over 2 million caches,” Harris said. “So, it’s about quadrupled.”

The number of geocachers is growing, too.

Harris said in 2009 there were between 3 million and 4 million playing the game. At last count, there were more than 6 million.

So, what are these millions of people actually doing? They are looking for hidden treasures, but not the kind that will make their checking account balances look like Donald Trump’s.

Caches are typically small, water-tight containers that include a trinket or some other prize as well as a log for the finder to sign and date. The cache finder can take the prize but is expected to leave something of equal value for the next person who locates it. Other caches can be clues to a puzzle, coordinates to another cache, or merely a location with a geographic feature that the hunter answers a series of questions by what they observe.

Patricia McCarthy of Starkville said they can be hidden right under your nose. McCarthy said lamp posts in public access parking lots are one of the more common spots, but caches near bridges or buried next to stop signs are also popular hiding places.

The cache locations are listed on www.geocaching.com in the form of GPS coordinates. To find them, “You can low-tech or high-tech, and the best use a combination,” McCarthy said. High-tech, for example, is a GPS device while low-tech may be an online satellite view such as Google Maps.

“You can use landmarks from the satellite views and triangulate,” McCarthy said.

This low-tech approach puts the thrill in the hunt for McCarthy, but others are looking for convenience. And they don’t have to look far.

Smartphones are more common than wrist watches these days, and the technology to participate in geocaching is at almost everyone’s fingertips. Harris thinks that is one of the reasons for the rising popularity of geocaching.

“I think you could attribute the growth to that,” Harris said. “It’s more accessible.”

That is especially true with the younger crowd.

Wesley Roberts, 20, of Brandon said he began geocaching in high school and strictly uses his cellular phone and a geocaching app that he downloaded. Those tools recently led him to a cache hidden inside a lamp post in Flowood.

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