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The Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina are the location for this year's Ultimate AsheCache Adventure Program. The May to June geocaching contest offers more than $2,500 in prizes.

Geocaching is a modern version of orienteering (treasure-hunting). Geocachers use GPS (Global Positioning System) units to find small waterproof containers called geocaches or caches.

When geocaching began in 2000, there were only a few GPS users. Today, more than 750,000 people around the world use these hi-tech devices to explore the outdoors. Ideal for groups and families with older children, geocaching adventures can be as short as a couple hours or as long as a few days.

Geocache prizes

A cache contains a logbook and "treasure," usually toys or trinkets of little value. When geocachers arrive at a cache, they sign the log, take a prize from the cache and leave one behind. They return the cache to where it was hidden and start looking for the next one.

Ultimate AsheCache Adventure Program prizes include a $50 NC Stage Company gift card for a theatre performance and a $320 Grove Park Inn Resort gift card for a couples massage.

Every Tuesday, the cache prizes are replenished with treasures from Asheville area companies. Clues help geocachers solve puzzles to find five caches with arts, food, shopping, romance and outdoor themes.

Asheville geocaches

The God Kissed the Sky and Called it Asheville geocache brings geocachers to cache locations in Asheville's shops, cafes, galleries, street art and scenic spots outside the North Carolina city.

On the Geological Potpourri in Downtown Asheville route, rock and gem loving geocachers find fossilized bryozoans, styloytic limestone and the Colburn Earth Science Museum.

There are 6,500 caches within 161 kilometres (100 miles) of downtown Asheville's zip code 28801 area. Geocachers can start their high-tech treasure hunt with the GPS coordinates 35°34'48" N, 82°33'21" W.

Jackson County geocaches

West of Asheville, near Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Riverlodge Bed & Breakfast and Tuckaseigee Valley Cabins offer overnight guests GPS coordinates to ten caches on their properties.

Although GPS units tell geocachers where to go, they don't specify obstacles like gorges and rivers. Topographic maps help geocachers find the best route through Western North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains to find their prizes.