UNION DALE PA – For anyone wanting to try something totally fun and different, the Rail-Trail Council (R-TC) of NEPA is initiating its own version of an exciting and rapidly growing activity: Geocaching.

“Geocaching is a relatively simple recreational activity,” said Carissa Dewey, R-TC Program Director. “It’s really like an old-fashioned treasure hunt, but you’re using a GPS receiver, smart phone, or other navigational device or techniques to literally play hide and seek outdoors.”

In essence, someone hides a container in the woods and notes its coordinates with a GPS unit. And likened to a treasure hunt, the searcher seeks out and locates the container by using only their GPS receiver. They would then log their find, take an item from among the nominal prize items inside the container, and leave an item in return.

“Geocaching is a real-time world adventure,” said Dewey. “It’s an activity that literally brings the technical world directly into Nature, creating a great balance between the two. And considering how technology is continually enticing more users and evolving to include more features and activities, geocaching has become a huge culture worldwide since getting its start in the Spring of 2000. There’s an ever-growing community of people who take this activity very seriously.”

On Saturday July 22nd, the R-TC invites area residents and fun-seekers of all ages to experience geocaching for themselves right here in NEPA. “Here at the R-T Council, we’re thrilled to have received a matching grant from ‘Get Outdoors PA’ to purchase 11 GPS units so that outdoor enthusiasts can geocache on our trails. We’re also currently working on a geocaching history tour of the trail, and the GPS units are free to borrow from our Union Dale office. But first, we’re holding a GPS workshop. It’s our Let’s get Geocaching event so folks can learn first-hand how to use these GPS devices and then go out and enjoy everything that the trail areas have to offer.

Dewey noted that most of the local-area trail receives no cell service, “which makes it hard to geocache. Lots of people still don’t have smart phones or GPS units, so this new program offers a way to introduce this fun outdoor activity to everyone. It’s also a great way to create a wonderful Nature-oriented family event for parents, grandparents, and children of all ages. It brings you to places you may not necessarily go and explore. Then again … geocaching might not always be about Nature! Surprisingly, you could be searching for the answer to a riddle or pieces to a puzzle. The whole thing is that geocaching is an exciting and fun reactional activity.

“We’re anxious to introduce geocaching to newcomers and welcome those already familiar with the activity to join us too,” she continued. “Looking forward, we’ll have additional workshops, and we’re also looking at offering this to groups. We invite anyone who’s even curious to join us to discover geocaching and enjoy our trail areas along the way.”

Dewey also noted that the Rail-Trail Council of NEPA has initiated several trail improvement projects this summer. When completed, these projects will not only enhance the D&H Trail and attract more trail users – cyclists, hikers, walkers and runners, snowmobilers, Nature lovers and history buffs – but it will make the total mileage of continuous improved trail approximately 20 miles from Carbondale to Ararat. These projects all require matching funds. And as such, the R-TC continually seeks donations of any size to help it reach their goal of $450,000.

Located at 948 N. Main Street and free to the public, the R-TC will hold its Let’s get Geocaching workshop from 1:00pm to 3:00pm. Attendees are asked to RSVP their participation via email at trails@nep.net or call 570-679-9300; additional information can also be found at www.nepa-rail-trails.org. Since part of this event will be held outdoors, participants should dress appropriately with comfortable shoes, bring snacks and water, and wear bug spray and/or sun protection. Those who already have a knowledge of geocaching and have a smart phone with GPS capability, or any GPS unit, are asked to bring it too. (If the weather forecast calls for rain, please contact the R-TC office beforehand.)