Junior Kendall Dunn holds down her pressed, white cheer uniform to keep it from flying up in the wind. She walks with determination across the parking lot. The words 18 feet…seven feet…two feet illuminate her white iPhone screen letting her know she’s getting closer. She has to be standing right on it.
Dunn doesn’t know exactly what it is she’s looking for, but her experience of four years with this GPS scavenger hunt have helped her become familiar with potential hiding places for geocaches.
A geocache is a capsule that contains small toys or trinkets that geocachers can take and replace when they find the cache. The cache also includes a logbook which geocachers sign with the date and their chosen codename. According to the official geocaching website, Dunn is one of six million people that participate in the global GPS stash hunt for 2,263,245 geocaches on any given day.
Dime-sized capsules hidden amongst playground equipment. Old coffee cans containing small pencils and beads nestled in bushes. Used Altoid mint containers with nothing inside but a logbook and a magnet concealed behind her favorite frozen yogurt store.
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Crunching the leaves beneath her, she drops to the push-up position to peer underneath a metal electrical transformer box. A grin stretches across Dunn’s face as she pulls out a black key holder that has been magnetized to the bottom of the transformer. Inside is a rusty Coke bottle cap, a smiley face eraser and a marble enveloped by spider webs.
Stained by rain, names of other adventurers who have found this hidden cache are scribbled in ink on a lengthy list. Codenames like North Coast, NomCat, Sells Crew and Burns Family. Dunn pays more attention to the dates. She likes seeing when this cache was most recently visited. With excitement she announces that the last group that found this particular cache was here just three days before. She signs her name, dates it and places the cache back where she found it.
What could be considered boxes of junk to some is treasure to Dunn. She seldom takes or replaces the things she finds, but still gets a rewarding thrill from discovering their hidden locations.
To her, it’s more about the hunt to find these items than the discovered knickknacks themselves.
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Dunn first heard about geocaching in seventh grade when on a hike with her family at Big Cedar Lodge in Ridgedale, Mo. Walking along a trail, they saw another family searching for something in the leaves. When the Dunn family asked them what they were doing, the other family explained that they searched for geocaches all over the world during their vacations.
After returning home to Kansas City, Dunn and her father decided to experiment with geocaching nearby. They began their search on the six-mile Trolley Track Trail that connects the Country Plaza, Brookside and Waldo. After finding her first one, Dunn became hooked to the rewarding feeling she got upon discovering a geocache.
“It’s cool because these things exist around you all over, but you have no idea,” Dunn said. “They’re just existing with you.”
Anyone with a smartphone can download the free Geocaching Intro app and create an account. From there, users choose a geocache to find and navigate to it. Caches are categorized by size and level of difficulty based on the time it will take to find the cache and what kind of terrain level the geocache is at. Descriptions are written by the users that have hidden the caches, and often will include a hint to help people in the geocaching community find the caches with greater ease.
“It’s one of those things that’s fun because it’s a spontaneous adventure,” Dunn said. “One thing leads to the next. When you go geocaching it opens up the window to all kinds of fun you wouldn’t know about otherwise.”
Her friends don’t find her interest in geocaching strange. It’s just another one of Dunn’s interesting hobbies. In fact, many of Dunn’s peers ask her to take them along on her adventures. Before Dunn was old enough to drive, she and her friend junior Catherine Sabates would rollerblade in their neighborhoods to search for geocaches.
“[Kendall] is truly her own person which is something I admire about her,” Sabates said. “Kendall’s hobbies aren’t the only things that are interesting about her. She’s really adventurous.”
Occasionally when Sabates is babysitting, she takes the kids she’s taking care of “treasure hunting” using the geocaching skills Dunn has taught her.
“It’s a really good way to get them active and the whole scheme of geocaching is super easy to grasp that even a four or five year old can grasp it,” Sabates said.
Junior Gracie Guignon says Dunn also influenced her to start geocaching.
“I remember in 8th grade we were at her house on a Saturday night,” Guignon said. “[Kendall] brought up the [geocaching] app and we ended up running all over Mission Hills the whole night just geocaching.”
Since introduced to geocaching in middle school, Guignon has taken other friends to try out this outdoor treasure hunt. She believes Dunn is the reason her friend group initially became intrigued by geocaching.
Dunn admits that she laughs to herself when she passes by a location she has found a geocache before. She’ll never reveal the locations where she has found geocaches to people who might tamper with it.
The geocaching community has chosen the phrase “muggle” to describe people who are unaware of geocaching, based on “muggle” or non-magical person in the Harry Potter series. Dunn says that the secretive nature of geocaches should be kept from these “muggles.”
“[Revealing the location of a geocache to “muggles”] ruins the integrity of geocaching,” Dunn said. “If everyone knows where it is than someone will mess with it.”
Even the geocaching community on the application, which Dunn says she isn’t necessarily active in, agrees to keep the location of the cache secret from one another. Users will comment on the forum of the app regarding whether or not they found the capsule or with helpful tips that may have not been stated in the original description of the cache.
In the geocaching world, Dunn is recognized as “Kads456.” She’ll sometimes comment: “Fun find. Kind of hidden!” or “Fun times!” in the forum in response to finding a cache.
Dunn still gets a thrill from finding geocaches nearby, but hopes to search for some while traveling to Seagrove with friends, or while visiting the University of Denver campus in February.
The next step in Dunn’s adventure would include her starting her own series of geocaches, placing them in local parks or outdoor malls. She would love to have her friends and family search for the ones she hides, although she jokingly says that her skill might surpass theirs.
“Anybody can do it if you have the app, but it takes skill,” Dunn said. “It’s like brushing your teeth. Anyone can do it but it takes a certain skill to do it right.”