May 31, 2010
SEATTLE - Geocaching is a popular pastime here in the Northwest - but one that is now being targetted by a small group of environmentalists. Geocaching is fast becoming "geo-smashing," with vandals destroying caches in the name of protecting forests.
Geocachers use GPS systems to search for hidden treasures left behind by fellow game players. Hiking trails are among the most popular spots.
"It's so peaceful. It's just beautiful out here," says David Vaughn as he hunts for treasure on Cougar Mountain near Issaquah.
But it's what happens off that beaten path that has some taking matters into their own hands.
People calling themselves "Forest Defenders" have been searching out the caches themselves and destroying them - tossing them in the trash and posting pictures on the internet. They say cachers are harming habitats and destroying fragile vegetation by traipsing off the trails. They even claim caches have been planted on a sacred Indian burial site on Whidbey Island.
Geocachers admit there are some who head off the trails to places they shouldn't be, but they also say they're working to educate those folks about responsible geocaching. Geocachers say they regularly clean up trails and parks. They held an Earth Day event earlier this year in Carnation.
"It wasn't just plastic bottles and cigarette butts," says Jacquie. "We ended up pulling out a lawnmower. Parts of bikes."
But even as geocachers continue their quests -- critics are hot on the trail. One blogger posting "this will not be tolerated" and "not on my watch."