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updated: 2/3/2012 12:58 PM

You never know what you'll find through geocaching

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A couple months ago, Chuck Corrigan, a fellow member of Rotary Club of Naperville/Downtown, mentioned that he and his son, Kevin, had been geocaching.

While other folks in our small group were unaware of the new millennium sport -- and I'm personally inexperienced -- I mentioned my friend Shirley's family had been geocaching for years. My education about geocaching came about the same time I learned about Global Positioning System devices.

Shirley Pace and I first met 18 years ago. When I worked in the public relations department at Naper Settlement, she volunteered as editor of the Naperville Heritage Society newsletter. For years, we enjoyed regular lunches at Your Neighbors.

Then, about four years ago, she moved to St. Charles to be closer to her son, Jim, and his wife, Carie (Lampert), who live in Geneva ("both graduates of Naperville North High School," Shirley reminded me the other day).

During one of our lunches, Shirley enlightened me about geocaching, a treasure-tracking adventure that's the rage for many folks with GPS devices. When she refreshed my memory last week, she asked if I'd visited the official Global GPS Hunt Site,

"While I'm not the outdoor type, Jim and Carie encouraged me to join them on occasional geocaching expeditions," she said.

Shirley said the greatest thing about geocaching is that it can lead to destinations you likely never would have gone.

She mentioned a time they started out in LaSalle, Ill., and ended up at the I&M Canal.

"We hiked the towpath where mules once pulled barges down the canal," she said. "The pristine flora and fauna were breathtaking, and with the exception of nasty Japanese beetles thwarting our progress, we soon found our cache."

Another adventure took them to Col. George Fabyan's estate in Geneva and to the former site of the State Industrial School for Delinquent Girls.

"The building has been long-gone, but tiny headstones in the nearby cemetery spoke volumes, some showing a life span of less than a year. We assumed these were the children of unwed mothers who were housed in the building a century ago," she said.

Meanwhile, Chuck presented a program about geocaching at Rotary. Kevin participated by hiding camouflaged caches throughout the Main Street Promenade outside Hugo's Frog Bar, where our club meets.

Afterward, I learned Kevin even had written an essay about geocaching.

"Eight months ago, my family and I were shown a very interesting new hobby. It was geocaching. Geocaching is an activity in which little containers, or Geocaches, are hidden all over the world. Their GPS coordinates are posted online so people can use a GPS device and look for those containers," Kevin's essay begins.

"The containers are all sizes. Many have a little prize inside. When you reach the relative location of where the geocache is at, you need to start looking. The Geocaches could be things like pill bottles with camouflage duct tape on them for better hiding in forests, or tiny magnetic capsules that are stuck to a metal post."

Many of Kevin's thoughts reflected the positives that Shirley had mentioned, as he described the creativity individuals of all ages use to hide their caches and the time it takes to become an accomplished "geocacher."

"My dad and I both enjoy geocaching on the weekends. We like to go out to a nearby forest or park and hike around until we find some caches. We use an app on my dad's iPhone to locate the cache coordinates," he wrote.

Kevin noted their find count currently is 97. By now they've likely found 100.

"We like geocaching because it is a fun adventure that gets us out of the house. It is a great feeling when we find the cache."

And, as I'm wrapping up this story, I appreciate that Chuck mentioned geocaching. This exercise gave me a great reason to track down fond memories of a good friend.

• Stephanie Penick writes about Naperville. Email her at

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