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Posted: July 29, 2014 10:00 p.m.

Geocaching comes to Newton County

Outdoor, GPS-based interactive scavenger hunt hidden along Yellow River

The Porterdale Yak Club sold out last weekend, and a worldwide trending hobby – that is not kayaking – may be part of an explanation.

A group of geocaches were hidden along the Newton County stretch of the Yellow River in a collaboration between the Yellow River Water Trail and the East Side Gang, some 150 members mostly from east of Atlanta who want to bring visitors to the county through this outdoor recreational opportunity.

“It’s supposed to take people to an interesting location,” said George Cribbs, a member of the East Side Gang and one of the pioneers in the Yellow River caches. “When we found out about the river trail, it’s a perfect setting. It’s a beautiful setting, it’s nature, it helps both of us out, drawing attention to (the Yellow River Water Trail) and giving us more places to cache.”

Cribbs, an Oxford resident, has been geocaching since 2012 and has helped hide 92 himself. Fifty-three of those are spaced out along the Yellow River Water Trail (YRWT).

This interactive form of an outdoor scavenger hunt, where participants use any GPS-enabled device to follow a set of coordinates, search for a container of varying sizes, sign a log book at each cache and, where possible, take an item from the container and replace it with another cache, has become a global activity, with “Trackable” caches often traveling to different countries.

One such Trackable item originated in Newton County and is currently traveling Europe, Cribbs said.

“A lot of people really get into it. It takes you to neat places. It’s fun. It gets you outside. It gets you moving,” Cribbs said.

The caches hidden on the YRWT can be hanging, on the banks or in a partially submerged log. The containers are all camo-colored, 2.5-inch “bison” tubes. Cribbs said with the traffic the river has been seeing, it was better they “really blend in.”

Terrain plays a factor in geocaching, too, Cribbs said, as this group of treasures is only accessible by water, giving it a level five, the toughest terrain rating. Ratings reach as low as one, which are ADA-accessible.

Geocaching is not just fun for the people participating in the scavenger hunt.

“The goal, as always, is for people to fall in love with the river and give an added dimension to get people on the river,” said Tonya Bechtler, YRWT chair.

Bechtler said she has not yet gone geocaching, but she has downloaded it to her phone and plans to go hunting soon. While she is a kayaker new to geocaching, she said, Cribbs and his friends may be geocachers new to kayaking, bringing the community closer by combining hobbies.

“Porterdale doesn’t have a high tax base or too many businesses,” Bechtler said, “so bringing in as much tourism as possible can only help.”

She said that goal has been realized in the past two months as the Yak Club has been selling out on weekends.
The YRWT wants to get good access in Rockdale County, she said, and “the success of all of these components will make it more appealing.”

“The ultimate goal is to get people outside,” Bechtler said. “Geocaching gives adventure and fun activities the whole family can do together and a reason to get there.”

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