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30 Have Solved ‘Amazing Geocache Challenge,’ La Mesa Organizers Say

High-tech treasure hunt runs through Oct. 7, with locations hand-picked by veteran geocacher.

Since its start in June, about 30 people have solved the La Mesa Centennial Amazing Geocache Challenge, organizers say.

But it hasn’t been easy for some.

Polly Kanavel, who designed this high-tech treasure hunt for La Mesa, says the “City of La Mesa Higher Education” cache has been surprisingly hard for people to find “because some experienced cachers are outthinking themselves.” 

“I talked to a guy who has over 1,000 finds who tried and couldn’t find it, but then I know a 5-year-old has found it,” she said.

Using a series of coordinates provided by the city, treasure hunters of all ages and interests are given clues to search for hidden containers—or geocaches—throughout La Mesa.

At each of the various locations, “geocachers” will be prompted to answer a question or log the contents of the geocache for points.

“The Geocache Challenge is designed to be both fun and informative,” said the city’s Michele Greenberg-McClung. “It’s intended to get people out and about as a family, and they also get to learn something new.”

An international activity, this local adventure was designed by Kanavel—a veteran geocacher known as an “official volunteer” on the Expanding the Parks Committee.

Kanavel handpicked each location—from one described as “Before the Talkies” to the city’s Fire Station 11 and Library.

Kanavel said her personal favorite—and second most popular judging by comments left on Geocaching.com—is Mount Nebo.

“There are like seven or eight houses there and they are the nicest people,” she said of the residents. “Because we have the backing of the city and neighbors, we were able to get into that location.”    

While most of the geocaches are just generic boxes painted by local high school students, Kanavel said a couple have some special meaning.

She placed an egg at Mount Nebo because the area is home to the first Easter Sunrise service in La Mesa. In another spot, she stashed items in an old ammo can as a throwback to the older days of geocaching when that was common practice.

The Geocache Challenge also offers the opportunity to more deeply explore the city’s background by way of the Historic Downtown Guided Walking Tour, the result of the city’s partnership with the La Mesa Historical Society.

Greenberg-McClung said the tour isn’t mandatory to complete the Geocache Challenge, though the information provided corresponds with each of the cache sites.

Kanavel says the entire tour takes about an hour.

About 30 geocachers have already finished the challenge, though at least 50 people have logged the Mount Nebo contents on Geocaching.com―an online community of geocachers.

Greenberg-McClung said the feedback on the site has been very positive.

One comment read: “Having lived here for such a long time, I really enjoyed finding places that I hadn’t noticed before—right in my own back yard!”

Another East County geocacher echoed those thoughts and said they were “[l]ooking forward to the rest of the challenge!”

According to Geocaching.com, the outdoor sport first began in May 2000―the day after the government allowed the removal of selective availability from GPS.

To test how accurate the system now was, computer consultant Dave Ulmer filled a black bucket with videos, books, software, and a slingshot, as well as a pencil and log book and hid the cache in the woods near Beavercreek, OR. From there, the trend spread.

The Geocache Challenge runs until Oct. 7. To learn more about the sport or the city’s history, the city of La Mesa is hosting a class at 3 p.m. Aug. 25 at the La Mesa Community Library.

Until then, coordinates can be plotted using a traditional GPS or a wide range of smart phone applications. Happy hunting!

Eric Yates July 30, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Awesome story, Annie. Sounds like fun for the adventurous-at-heart.
Elaine C. August 03, 2012 at 01:51 PM
Another "who knew?" for me. Thanks for this story on geocaching - a modern version of the scavenger hunt.

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