Geocaching Pacolet and Beyond

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Geocaching Pacolet and Beyond

Posted on Tuesday, September 16, 2014

By Whitney Rauenhorst
Produced in cooperation with the HubCity Writers Project.

Pacolet. Population: 2,235 people. Area: Three square miles. The town’s slogan embodies a feeling that surrounds Pacolet: “Close to everything but far from ordinary.”

The perfect place for a high-tech treasure hunting game.

That’s right, geocaching.

As a military brat, new resident of Spartanburg and recent graduate of Clemson University, I love visiting new places. And within the trees, wide-open spaces and historical landmarks of Pacolet, there’s something special hidden there.

Like every story, there’s always a beginning, and mine starts with meeting Kerry and Larry Easler, two Spartanburg residents and members of the Upstate South Carolina Geocachers Association (USCGA). I met them at the Westside Library to learn everything there was to know about geocaching, a term I was unfamiliar with at the time. I discovered that I was going on a treasure hunt in search of hidden containers, called geocaches, using a GPS.

The outdoor activity began in May 2000 after a man in Oregon wanted to test the accuracy of a GPS device by hiding a navigational target in the woods. He called the outdoor activity the “Great American GPS Stash Hunt.” The idea was to hide a container in the woods and note the coordinates with a GPS unit, and the only rule for the finder was to “take some stuff, leave some stuff.”

He placed a black bucket in the woods with a logbook, pencil and various prized items, sharing the location with an online community. Within three days, two different readers read about his stash on the Internet, used their own GPS devices, found the container and shared their experiences online. From there, the term geocaching was born, and today, millions of people around the world participate in this treasure hunting activity.

Later, I met Kerry and Larry in Pacolet, a small town about 15 minutes east of Spartanburg, to earn a “geocoin” that they helped the town create with fellow USCGA member, Albert Ng. If I’m being completely honest, I thought the journey and experience in Pacolet was going to be dry—I would find the treasures hidden around the town and that would be it; however, I found something more.

In Pacolet I discovered a woodsy area filled with historic buildings. It reminded me of a small, quaint town you saw in movies, and I immediately felt at home.

I walked up to Pacolet’s Town Hall, and when I stepped through the wooden doors, about 20 people were gathered inside to join us on the expedition to learn about some of the town’s best-kept secrets. I learned that there are several types of geocaches for people with various ranges of interests and skills, and that Spartanburg County is now the home to three geocaching trails: Spartanburg County Heritage Geotrail, Hub City and Pacolet.

  • Spartanburg Heritage Trail takes participants on a broad historical tour of Spartanburg County. It can be completed in one, long day. To receive the trail’s geocoin, the cacher is required to find 12 out of the 16 caches located on the trail’s passport, a list of the trail’s GPS coordinates, and draw the accompanying pictures located at each cache.
  • The Hub City Trail takes cachers on a downtown adventure, highlighting fun facts about the city that others may not know about. Cachers must find 20 out of the 25 caches hidden around the city and write down the code word located at each cache. It takes about half a day to complete.
  • The Pacolet trail takes about half a day. Players find a picture inside each container and must draw 12 pictures of the 16 caches to receive the geocoin at the end of the quest. Pacolet’s coin is something special: a gold, rectangular coin emblazed with the Pacolet name on one side and the village’s symbol, a horse, on the other. According to Kerry, cachers from seven states have traveled to Pacolet to complete the trail and earn the coin.
  • I visited about five caches on the Pacolet Trail to get a taste of what geocaching is all about. We visited historical landmarks, local sites and greenery, and the trail had it all. Caches were located high and low, in fields, disguised containers and more. According to Larry, geocaching is a tool that shows people “the unique and often overlooked historical areas of our town,” and I agree. Geocaching is an interactive history lesson that doesn’t involve sitting in front a teacher or lecturer, which I’m all about because I hated history class in college. Sorry, Dad.

    Kerry also thinks the trail brings something special to the community. “I think the benefits of geocaching are two-fold,” Kerry said. “One, it gives people in Spartanburg a way to get active and do something pretty much for free, and I think that’s important. But the other side is that it brings in money [to the community.]” And who doesn’t like to get off of the couch and support the community?

    If you’re a tourist or even a local in the area, geocaching is a great contribution to the Spartanburg area, it’s a fun activity for the family or someone who likes to explore, like I do. I’ve been in Spartanburg for about a month now, and I have to say, this has been quite the welcome. Kerry and Larry, thank you for showing me your town and all it has to offer.

    To start your own geocaching adventure, email Kerry Easler at or contact the Spartanburg County Parks Department at 864-595-5356.

    Whitney Rauenhorst, Produced in cooperation with the HubCity Writers Project.

    Whitney Rauenhorst is a recent graduate from Clemson University. In her spare time she loves to read, travel, and cheer on the Tigers!

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