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Geocachers to converge on McDuffie County for weekend scavenger hunt

Hunters of all ages will converge at the Depot thisweekend, but they probably won't be wearing camouflage, and they're not looking for turkeys. Thomson's first geocaching event will begin Friday, April 18, at the Depot.

Geocaching (pronounced "geo-cashing") is a high-tech hobby in which folks go on a scavenger hunt using global positioning system coordinates. In geocaching, individuals and organizations have set up caches all over the world and share the locations on the internet. GPS users then use the location coordinates to find the cache.

Rhonda Hollimon was thrilled last summer when she read in The McDuffie Mirror that McDuffie Tourism Director Elizabeth Vance was considering such an event. Ms. Hollimon, who lives in Augusta, is a member of the CSRA Geocachers club.

"I'm actually from Dearing, and Thomson is my hometown," she said. "So I was thrilled that Thomson is getting on board with my favorite hobby."

Ms. Hollimon offered to organize the event and worked with the McDuffie Tourism Board to set up 20 new permanent caches in the county, along with several temporary caches for the day of the event.

Caches can range from nano-sized to large, and can contain everything from custom-made coins to small toys. The only rule is if something is taken, something must be left in its place. Some caches contain only a paper log for people to sign. The tourism board had special McDuffie County coins made for the Thomson Treasure Hunt with the date and a picture of the Depot on the front.

Ms. Hollimon said the Thomson geocaching event is open to the public, no matter their level of experience or if they've ever even heard of geocaching before.

"It's just a fun-filled day with lots of information, and we welcome anyone, even if they're just curious," Ms. Hollimon said. "A lot of my family members will be there. My aunt and uncle (Joyce and Butch Jones) always fear that my body will be found out on a trail somewhere because they don't know enough about it. So, I'm hoping that by getting them to come, that they will understand a little better."

The event kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday at the Depot with a dinner catered by Neal's Barbecue. Dinner is $7.50 for adults and free for children ages seven and younger. They will meet at the Rock House Saturday morning for a "Cache In Trash Out" event from 7:30 until 9:30 a.m. Ms. Hollimon said CITO is how geocachers give back to the area that supports them.

"We'll pick an area that's in need of garbage pick up, and we'll get out there and do out community service and bag garbage for a few hours," she said. "Sometimes we do maintenance of trails or that kind of thing."

A "full day of events" will take place at the Depot beginning around 10 a.m. until late evening. Ms. Hollimon said there will be many informational sessions, including a live snake presentation by Dr. Whit Gibbons from the Savannah River Ecology Lab and a speaker who will be talking about the DeLorme Challenge, which is a nation-wide geocaching series. Ms. Hollimon said a couple from Wisconsin is flying into Atlanta to work on the South Carolina DeLorme Challenge, and have told her they would stop in Thomson to hear the speaker and attend the Thomson event.

"Typically, geocaching is whatever you want it to be," Ms. Hollimon said. "There are geocachers out there who are very, very young who love it, and then we have a lot of retired folks who love it... because a lot of these caches are hidden in spots that you may never, ever see. They are off the beaten path in a beautiful area, so it's a way to see places that you wouldn't normally ever see."

Web posted on Thursday, April 17, 2008

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