Hidden Treasure of Southeast Ohio

Belmont County
Jessica Tyroler

Treasure hunters of the tech-savvy  variety traverse Barkcamp State Park in Belmont county. They happily hike-and-go-seek all day, sometimes with children, sometimes in groups and sometimes with beloved pets. They are geocachers.

Geocaching, at its finest, is a hybrid mix of hiking and treasure seeking. The end goal is to find hidden containers, called geocaches, somewhere in the outdoors. The sizes of the geocaches can range from a micro geocache, smaller than the tip of your pinky finger to the knuckle, to an ape cache, which is as big as a desk.

Any individual with a GPS, an IPhone or a Droid can go, however its popularity has grown as a family event. One simply has to select a geographical area to cache, apply for a free membership on the website and get the coordinates of the site. Over one million caches exist worldwide; Barkcamp has 14 active caches. After driving close to the location, as directed by the GPS, cachers often have to hike through forests, up cliffs or even row out into a body of water to search for a cache.

Mike Stewart, the park manager of Barkcamp, says that geocachers come to the park from all over the country.

“Our park is more nature oriented than other state parks because we bring people back to nature and keep everything as green as possible,” says Mike. “Out of 1,100 acres of park, 900 acres are forest, so that allows for some great hiding areas for caches.”

Bob Grieve, 71, may be retired, but he is also often ranked first in the Midwest with thousands of found geocaches.

“[Barkcamp] is one of the most marvelous campsites there is,” says Bob. “You have excellent parking, excellent trails and horse trails. I know Barkcamp pretty much like the back of our hand, and there is enough out there that can keep you busy all day long.

Cathy Tottka, 48, has discovered 2,050 caches since 2006, and created five of the caches at Barkcamp herself. She says that geocaching has taught her a lot about how to use her GPS and computer, as well as the history of different areas.

“It’s a great hobby to have on the side,” says Cathy.

Eric Soltin, 37, mostly goes geocaching with his two young daughters.

“I’ve cached a lot of state parks in Ohio, at least 20, and comparatively Barkcamp is like a hidden treasure,” says Eric. “There are so many hidden trails; it’s not that big, but it’s not that small.”

Cathy says that kids really enjoy finding caches.

“It’s not usually something of value, it could be from the Dollar Store, but it means a lot to them.”

Eric has some advice for first timers: “Don’t get discouraged if you don’t find one. Once you get 20 to 30 [caches], it’s easier.”

Bob additionally advises to take a knapsack with water, extra rations, batteries, a first aid kit, a map of the area, a cell phone, and to keep something in mind. “Geocaching is perfect for people of all ages. If you don't stay young by being active, you grow old.”

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