Some participants strained their necks upward, scanning trees and light posts. Others took to their hands and knees, combing through brush and overturning rocks.
Finally, 15-year-old Brian Shieh found it — a tiny magnetic cylinder painted black and affixed to the underside of a large pipe near the Deukmejian Wilderness Park water pump. A companion unfurled the tiny paper scroll hidden inside and logged his name and the date in accordance with the rules of geocaching, an international scavenger hunt that marries satellite technology and old fashion landmarks.
“It makes you use your mind,” Brian said. “I like these kinds of strategic games. It is harder than I thought.”
The Glendale High School student was one of about 40 people, including a dozen Boy Scouts, drawn to Deukmejian Wilderness Park on Saturday morning for a crash course in geocaching. Sponsored by the city of Glendale Community Services and Parks Department and hosted by Jeff Weinstein, a city resource specialist, and his wife Yvonne, an experienced geocacher, it included a lesson in the history of the game as well as some enthusiastic hunting.
“We have seen a number of people in the park geocaching — there are a few [caches] that are hidden in the park and around the neighborhood — and thought it was time we hold our own class,” Jeff Weinstein said.
Participants research caches — containers that can be anything from a film canister to large Tupperware containers – on websites such as www.geocaching.com. They are provided with coordinates that consist of longitude and latitude and the occasional clue, and then are left to track to object down, typically using GPS technology.
The caches typically are well hidden, leaving participants to search under rocks and trash cans, in bushes and pipes or the backs of benches and street signs.
“Even with the hints, it is not easy,” said Glendale resident Joyce Rehfuss as she joined the hunt Saturday.
Experienced players are invited to plant their own caches, which are then added to an online database. Since launching in 2000, there are now more than 1 million caches worldwide.
“It is just a great outdoor adventure for families,” Jeff Weinstein said. “It gets people exposed to new areas, whether it is an urban setting and you learn something about the history of an area, or you visit a place you have never seen.”
Yvonne Weinstein started geocaching with her son in 2003 and once found a cache in Colorado while on a trip. Nowadays she plays as her schedule allows.
“I go through times when I cache every day for a week or two, and then I won’t cache again for a month.”
At Deukmejian Wilderness Park on Saturday, one of the practice caches was a magnetic hide-a-key box stuck to a gate at the entrance of a fire road. Another was an effectively disguised sprinkler head.
“Some of these are harder than you would expect,” said Crescenta Valley High School student Rhys Teff, 15.
The game can drive even the most level-headed adults to extremes, the Weinstein said.
“When you are trying to find a difficult cache and you can’t find it, it gets frustrating,” Yvonne Weinstein said. “I have gone to the same cache site five times now, and I still haven’t found it.”