A high-tech walk in the woods
First Cache Ba$H found rewarding

By GAY GRIESBACH - GM Today Staff 

August 18, 2008


Getting their bearings are Brake for Geocaching team members, from left, Nancy Severn of Plymouth, Maseray Severn of South Dakota, Sarah Severn of Plymouth, Zach Madel of Sheboygan and Deb Madel of Oshkosh Saturday at Lac Lawrann Conservancy in West Bend during the Cache Ba$h.

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WEST BEND - Hundreds of people combed the countryside and city of West Bend Saturday, looking for a needle in a haystack.

Armed with GPS units, they traveled in teams for the West Bend Area Chamber of Commerceís first Cache Ba$h.

"Itís fun. You use a million dollars worth of equipment to find Tupperware in the woods," is how Dallas Britt of Oshkosh described geocaching.

Geocaching is the use of a GPS to locate and find treasures or trinkets left by others. In the case of the Chamberís launch of 50 new caches, the dividend was $1,000 in cash prizes.

With 450 caches within a 7-mile radius of the city, the Chamberís official program states that the West Bend area is the geocaching capital of the Midwest.

Members of Mattieís Menage, a West Bend family team led by Bev and Rob Mattie, were first in line.

"Iíve been here since 5:30. My husband wouldnít even stop for coffee," said Bev Mattie.

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After signing in and downloading his coordinates, Russell Wysalek of Milwaukee sits at a picnic table with a large map of the area, transferring cache coordinates onto the map that ranged from Barton to Jackson, Newburg to the town of Polk.

"Iím looking for the easiest route," said Wysalek, a retired teacher.

He started geocaching about three years ago.

"After I retired, I wanted to find something to do to get me outdoors. I googled orienteering, but it seemed like too much racing around. In that search, a geocaching site came up. It took me a couple of weeks to get up the nerve to invest the $75, but as it turned out, it was well worth the investment.

The first trail the former MPS math teacher followed was the Milky Way - a series of 16 caches where each find holds clues to finding the final cache.

It was then he realized that geocaching put together two of his favorite hobbies - hiking and working out crosswords.

"It was a clever puzzle," he said of the Milky Way. "When I put it all together, it was an epiphany."

The team "I Brake for Geocaches" worked out their plan of attack early Saturday.

Aly, Zach and Deb Madel, Nancy Maserey and Sarah Severn.

The team, formed especially for the West Bend event, consisted of Deb Madel of Oshkosh, son and daughter Aly and Zach, Debís sister Nancy Severn of Sheboygan, daughter Sarah and daughter-in-law Maserey Severn of Minot, North Dakota.

In addition to three GPS units, extra batteries and matching T-shirts, the team had all the basics: good shoes, chapstick, bug spray and a pen.

"Thereís nothing worse than getting up in a tree and not having a pen. You need it to sign the logs," said Randy Halvorson of Jackson.

Laurell Halvorson, who was on the chamberís geocaching committee, helped team "I Brake for Geocaches" with a few GPS pointers.

Maseray Severn looked a little dazed at being awake at the crack of dawn. Maseray said she comes on caching adventures when visiting her mother-in-law.

"I enjoy seeing where the people that are logged are from," said Maseray.

Sarah Severn, 14, of Plymouth enjoys finding secret stores in unexpected places, but said there can be a down side.

"The worst is when you get to a cache and then realize you didnít mark where you car is," said Sarah.

Sisters Nancy and Deb load up their cars and head north arriving at Town Hall Road near Mid-Cities Motorsports.

GPS in hand, Nancy checks her coordinates as another teamís cacher walks out of the brush.

"Number one, here we go," said Nancy as the team threads their way through a wall of pine trees.

After discovering the first cache, the team is energized and moves on to Schmidt Road, near the LacLawrann and the Eisenbahn Trail.

There are three caches just steps away, and the group chooses the direction of LacLawrann to discover 0816, using the hint, "Seen any birds today?"

Deb checks her GPS unit.

"Donít you think it should say, Ďyou are here,í she says, staring hard at the screen, but after a few caches are discovered, she seems to be getting the hang of it. "I could be a pro by the end of the day," said Deb.

Nancy said geocaching is a great family activity.

"Kids like the technology," she said.

Aly pauses to photography a lily-covered pond as the others call her to their latest find.

She enjoys the photo ops and hiking best.

"Itís nice to get out of the house," said Aly. "Geocaching takes you to places you wouldnít go otherwise."


This story appeared in The Daily News on August 18, 2008.