MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Why in the world would you need a GPS device and have to know how to play a song on a xylophone at the same time?
To go geocaching, of course, according to Laura Gassler, executive director of the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location. There are over 2,330,214 active geocaches and over six million geocachers worldwide,” Gassler said. “Berkeley County has about 200 caches and there isn’t a day that we don’t have visitors in the area out finding our sites.”
Gassler said in the summer of 2013, the county’s first geotrail, The Villages of Berkeley County, launched.
It was fairly simple and designed to take visitors to all the corners of the county showing them the beauty of the area and offering some history lessons of towns and villages that “used to be there or are still there,” Gassler said.
“This trail, with 14 sites, brought not only visitors from as far away as North Carolina, Delaware, Ohio and probably other states we are not aware of, but there were a lot of local folks that enjoyed it. They said that they had no idea that there were spots in the county that were so beautiful. Others said that they had lived here for years and had no idea that different sites or businesses were here in the county. Given those reactions, I would say the trail has been very successful. One cacher comment said they, ‘spent more time in the unique store than finding the cache.’ That is the reaction we wanted for our county’s businesses,” Gassler said.
On March 15, the CVB launched its second geo-trail. There were more than 200 people at the kick-off from as far away as Florida and Indiana.
“This trail is entirely different and is described as ‘easy to find, hard to open’ by Tim Eggleston, the ‘mad-genius’ behind the 13 caches on this trail. Following its name, Gadgets of Berkeley County, each cache has to be manipulated somehow to be opened to get to the log book that must be signed. Instead of the usual plastic containers, many of these have other forms that you have to figure out how to open. Sometimes it requires ‘gadgets’ to open them; wires, batteries, keys, balloons, etc. All tools, if needed, are supplied as part of the cache.” Gassler said, adding “If you don’t like puzzles, this may not be a trail for you, but, if you love being challenged, you’ll love this trail!”
Gassler said Eggleston, better known by his geocaching name, WVTim, is very well known for these types of caches, often having people come from abroad to do his caches. He was named International Geoacher of the Month in April 2013.
“It all started when I went to a geocaching seminar put on by Tim in February 2013. I had heard about geocaching and thought it might be an idea for an unusual type of tourism, but wasn’t sure what it was all about. After seeing the enthusiasm of the cachers and the distances they were willing to travel, it seemed like a no-brainer for the CVB to try and sponsor a trail,” said Gassler.
Shortly after that seminar, Gassler teamed with Eggleston and Danny Rinaldi, another local cacher to design a trail. “It was fun to design and great to work with Tim and Danny. I chose the general areas, or Villages, and the guys set the caches with the coordinates. We designed a collector’s coin for anyone finishing the trail. We plan to leave each trail active for two years.”
It was a win for everyone-the geocachers have two great new trails to explore and the county is having overnight stays directly attributable to the trails. “These are visits we wouldn’t have had otherwise. It is great to bring this amount of exposure to your community,” said Gassler, who is already planning the third trail to launch in June 2015.