The increasingly popular hobby of geocaching hasn't come without problems.
In the pastime's seven-year life, followers have faced flak from people who don't understand the hobby or who have encountered inconsiderate cachers.
As a result, serious enthusiasts take pains to polish their image.
Problems have included noncachers -- known as "muggles" in the caching community, after the term used in the "Harry Potter" book series for nonwizards -- mistaking cachers for terrorists or perverts.
One cacher tried placing an innocent cache under an Idaho bridge in 2005, alerting the local bomb squad.
Many cachers make a point of picking up trash while on caching journeys.Progress. Link
Some groups even adopt public parks, where they host regular trash cleanup days, say serious cachers.
"One guy I know has been known to put caches in a real messy area, just so people will take trash out when they cache there," said Maiden geocaching enthusiast Anne "Mrs. Parrothead" Willis, who helped start a Hickory-based caching group that conducts park cleanups and adopted Hickory and Catawba County government parks for that purpose. Both park systems allow caching on their properties.
Despite some negative publicity, a growing list of communities and states across the country are embracing the hobby, Busch said, even using it as a tourism marketing tool.
An annual GeoWoodstock event, held in Raleigh over Memorial Day weekend, drew 2,000 cachers.
And Rock Hill's parks system, which allows caching on its properties, recently taught a geocaching class to educate people on the joys of the sport and the system's caching rules.
"We want geocaching in our parks, but we just want it done by the guidelines," said outdoor program manager Tom Bell. "We're out for the advancement of it."