Geocaching community on the hunt in Minnesota on Leap Day, a tradition to make up for lost time

6 selfies at geocache locations
Truitt Johnson began geocaching during the pandemic, and since has found more than 12,000. He took the day off work to geocache on Leap Day.
Courtesy Truitt Johnson

Geocaching is described as the “world’s largest treasure hunt” and hundreds of Minnesotans are on the hunt today for caches in a tradition that uses leap day to make up for lost time.

One Minnesota man took the day off work, to go looking for 75 caches today. Truitt Johnson is an avid geocacher, and the former vice president of the Minnesota Geocaching Society. He joined MPR News Host Cathy Wurzer to talk about the special day.

Six people pose for a selfie at a geocache
Leap Day is one of the biggest day of the year for the geocaching community. On Thursday, one group of Minnesotans had a goal of finding 75 geocaches.
Courtesy Truitt Johnson

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Audio transcript

CATHY WURZER: It's 12:33. Now, we know that today, February 29, is leap day. But what you might not know is it's a big day of celebration for the geocaching community. Geocaching is described as the "world's largest treasure hunt," and hundreds of Minnesotans are on the hunt today for caches in a tradition that uses leap day to make up for lost time.

Joining us is an avid geocacher, Truitt Johnson. He is also the former vice president of the Minnesota Geocaching Society. He's on the line. Truitt, happy leap day to you.

TRUITT JOHNSON: Happy leap day to you too. Thanks for having me.

CATHY WURZER: Thank you. Thanks. Are you taking the day off? I don't want to tell your boss anything you don't want to divulge here. But are you playing hooky to go geocaching?

TRUITT JOHNSON: I did take the day off today. And I have a relatively new job, not much PTO time. But I figured I'm willing to take the day off to spend it on geocaching for a leap day. That's how important it is for me.

CATHY WURZER: Wow. Where are you now?

TRUITT JOHNSON: I'm actually sitting in a parking lot in Crosby Farm Park. I'm with five other geocachers. They're actually out geocaching right now so that way, I can have the peace of mind and not them jibber-jabbering while I'm on the phone here with you as well. But, yeah, we've been in the Twin Cities area all day, caching everywhere from Coon Rapids to Stillwater. And we're planning to end up in the Lakeville area.

CATHY WURZER: I mentioned that geocaching is like the world's largest treasure hunt, yep.


CATHY WURZER: And can you explain that concept-- I mean, we get the concept of a treasure hunt. But how does it work when it comes to geocaching?

TRUITT JOHNSON: Well, there's a joke that we use billion-dollar satellites to find Tupperware in the woods. But it's a lot more than that. There's over 3 million geocaches all around the world. There's a good chance that there's a geocache hidden less than a mile away from you in many areas that you live, and you wouldn't even know it.

And it's really easy to actually get going with it as well. Basically, you can either go to the website or download the app off of the App Store, create an account and a cacher name, click on a nearby icon, look at the difficulty rating to see if it might be an easy cache, and just follow the compass, get yourself close, and just look for something that's out of the ordinary. And once you find it, sign the little paper log that's in there, mark it as a find on the app, and you have found your first official geocache.

CATHY WURZER: Are they worth anything?

TRUITT JOHNSON: [LAUGHS] The experience. But a lot of times, there are bigger caches out there that might have some little trinkets in there that you might be able to trade with other people and things. Sometimes, when brand new caches do get put out, people have been known to add a cash incentive to get that first-to find person a little prize for being that first person to find that cache.

CATHY WURZER: OK. Got it. I got it.

TRUITT JOHNSON: But really, there is no actual cash. It's C-A-C-H-E, not C-A-S-H, so.

CATHY WURZER: So it could be anything that you might find. But as you say, it's the hunt. That's the thing.




CATHY WURZER: How many geocaches are there in Minnesota? There must be a bunch.

TRUITT JOHNSON: I believe that there's almost 10,000 in Minnesota alone. And like I said, there's over 3 million in the world.


TRUITT JOHNSON: And there's a ton in the Twin Cities area. OK, maybe not a ton, but you get my drift.

CATHY WURZER: Enough. Yes, I do.


CATHY WURZER: So how many have you found today on this leap day?

TRUITT JOHNSON: Well, our goal is to hit about 75 caches today. We're getting a little slow start on things. We have been going since 7:00 AM. And I think we're at about 20 to 25 at this point. But the day is still somewhat young, so.

CATHY WURZER: And the weather's not too bad.

TRUITT JOHNSON: The weather is not too bad for-- I mean, last leap day, it was snow everywhere. I actually slipped on the ice and broke my phone. So I'm kind of making up for it this year with such beautiful weather.

CATHY WURZER: Well, isn't that also the reason you're doing it today, kind of making up, in a sense, for lost time. Because it is leap day, is that why it's such a big day for geocaching?

TRUITT JOHNSON: It is. It is. The fact that it only does come around once every four years. And basically, geocaching has put together a virtual souvenir. So if you were to find just four geocaches today, or attend four events, or whatever it might be-- there's events going on throughout the state of Minnesota, I believe, almost a dozen of them throughout the state. And, yeah, you're really making up for lost time because it only does come up once every four years.

CATHY WURZER: I love the fact that you are out there today trying to find these geocaches. And obviously, it's the hunt that's exciting. Can you give me an idea, though, as to just what spurs you on? What is it about the hunt that's intriguing to you?

TRUITT JOHNSON: It's a little bit of-- for me, there's a lot of little things that go into it. There's the camaraderie, the fact that I'm with other people. I love to cache with friends and do that. But there are people that do like to cache alone as well, and more power to them.

There's the statistics side of things, as well, that really drives me, the fact that I can see, OK, well, I found X amount of caches on this day. And there are resources out there to really track that and really drag in the geeky people like me.

I personally was never an outdoors person. I always thought, well, what's the purpose of a hike? You're just walking around. But the fact that I can actually go somewhere and have that experience of, wow, I've found something here, I'm able to mark this as a find is just exciting for me.

CATHY WURZER: And you've accomplished something when you find it. I can see why that would be very satisfying.


CATHY WURZER: Yeah, I can see that.


CATHY WURZER: When did you start doing this? It's not been around all that long, has it?

TRUITT JOHNSON: It's been around since May of 2000. It actually came out the day after the government made the change to selective availability of GPS technology, basically upgrading the accuracy of GPS technology for the common people at that point.

Somebody in Oregon actually hid the first cache. It was known as a stash then and published on the internet, as it was at that time, saying that, hey, here's the coordinates for this bucket that I put out here. Come and find it. I have a videotape and some other things in there that you could come and grab and trade and things like that. So it's been around since May of 2000.

Me, personally, I really only started in 2017, and really in earnest in 2019. For the first couple of years, it was mostly just on vacations and things. But I really gravitated toward it five years ago, actually. This upcoming weekend is when I really went hog wild for the geocaching.

CATHY WURZER: [LAUGHS] Well, Truitt, I wish you happy caching today on this big day for geocachers. I hope you enjoy yourself. And thank you for telling me more about this.

TRUITT JOHNSON: Thank you, and you have yourself a great leap day.

CATHY WURZER: I shall. You, too. Truitt Johnson, avid geocacher, Minnesota, spending his leap day on the hunt for caches, along with thousands of other people across the world.

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