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Geocaching, LA's Favorite Hobby You've Never Heard Of

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Did you know that 18,000 boxes of buried treasure were hidden within a 50 mile radius of Los Angeles? 100,000 in the state of California? Now that you're in on the secret, will you drop everything, jump in the car and join the hunt?

Geocaching, the GPS-enabled outdoor treasure hunt, is a growing phenomenon; almost 1.6 million hidden caches exist worldwide. Though the "treasure" often just turns out to be bottle caps or poker chips, it's the hunt that draws in thousands of geocachers in the LA area. Once found, they can log their finds on geocaching.com and compare discoveries.

Who’s hiding the treasure? Players themselves can hide a cache in a location that’s meaningful to them and then post the coordinates or, if they choose, a set of elaborate clues online. Hiders are mischievous and sometimes despicably creative, crafting fake panels in street signs or painting a cache green and stashing it in the brush of a dense section of woods. One such example is the well-known LA cache Dragonfly Scroll, which requires downloading a series of “parchments” online and decoding several puzzles to access.

Other caches, dubbed “park and grabs,” are more straightforward. All you have to do is walk, drive or hike to the cache, which is often a small box filled with a trinket and a log sheet. Then just replace the knickknack with your own, sign the log sheet and make your way to the next one.

Geocaching started in 2000, when the accuracy of GPS improved and a group of nerdy GPS enthusiasts began to test the new tool by hiding a navigational target in the woods. They labelled the idea the “Great American GPS Stash Hunt,” and started an internet GPS users’ group. The prefix geo-, for Earth, and the root "cache," which means hiding spot, were meshed by player Matt Stum, according to geocaching.com. Thus, the game was born.

Joey Lieberman, 17, is a diehard LA geocacher. What he likes best about the hobby is its ability to bring people together on an adventure.

“Finding caches that interconnect people from all over LA is what really makes it exciting,” said Lieberman to The Huffington Post.

“Also I love being able to share the adventure with my friends," added Lieberman, who hopes to find his hundredth cache by the end of this year. "The treasure’s nice, but the hunt is the best part.”

Want to get started? Go to geocaching.com and sign up. It’s free and easy. Find your first set of coordinates, grab some friends and start adverturing! Treasure awaits...

Before you head out, here are 12 terms you have to know in order to make your first geocaching adventure a success.

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