Joy Magazine

Cheapo caching

Lisa Purcell and Heiland Hoff, with his dog Maus, check a cache hidden in the back of an old car near the Bear Creek Greenway in Medford. Mail Tribune / Julia MooreJulia Moore

Tromping down the Bear Creek Greenway one recent afternoon, Talent residents Heiland Hoff and Lisa Purcell were oblivious to frigid temperatures as they forged past trash heaps and blackberry bushes.

With a 150-pound Great Dane named Maus (pronounced "mouse") leading the charge, they were eagerly replenishing clues from their newly invented pastime of "cheapo-caching."

The Ubiquitous Usufructors are hoping a Facebook page will offer a place for fans to check in and share their tales of treasure hunting.

They've outlined a handful of adventures with clues and instructions clear enough to bypass high-tech gadgets. Clues such as "walk 100 paces" or "watch for a ruby-red slipper" replace map coordinates and satellite images.

They're also hoping participants will create their own adventures to share.

The first cheapo-caching adventure centers behind the Medford Railroad Park while a second has been set up at the Stearns Cemetery in Talent.

For information, see

Based loosely on geocaching, a globally popular treasure-hunting game that utilizes Global Positioning System technology, this is a low-tech version for tightwads who don't want to buy a GPS unit.

It all started on a Saturday when Hoff and Purcell planned to spend a day trying to find local geocaches and quickly ran into a snag.

Hoff is no stranger to snake handling, camping under the stars and even hunting bears, so Purcell assumed he would have a GPS unit. A local architect, Hoff figured Purcell would have one. In a twist of fate that would spawn a new take on geocaching, both were wrong.

"He has every other piece of outdoor-adventure equipment known to man," exclaims Purcell. "Seriously. He could start his own REI (store). I don't know how it is that he, of all people, did not have a GPS."

Still gung-ho about a day of exploring, the pair hid a series of small, plastic, clue-bearing containers and trinkets between the Greenway and Railroad Park near Table Rock Road.

As excited "as two 9-year-olds," says Purcell, they posted the first clue about their cache on Craigslist and signed it "Boris and Doris, the Ubiquitous Usufructors," a name spawned by the quirky clues and the notion of gently trespassing on open land.

Faster than the pair could chant "Ubiquitous Usufructors" 10 times fast, a Medford family had met their challenge and fired off an email. Clues to be found ranged from "100 paces from a bench" to "look for a ruby-red slipper."

"We posted it at like 8 in the morning, and by 11 o'clock, three hours later, we had an email from a family who had already done it," marvels Purcell.

Tamara Rather and Jack Gratta of Medford stumbled onto the Craigslist ad and embarked on the adventure with daughters Mya, 7, and Brooklyn, 4.

"It was early on a Sunday morning, and we were looking for something to do as a family," says Rather.

"I had never heard of geocaching, but it looked really interesting, and their idea was easy to follow — even without GPS. It was like going back to being a kid and going on a treasure hunt. We all had a blast."

Hoff and Purcell say their new sport is designed to provide a fun time for adventurous souls looking for an interesting way to squander away an afternoon.

"Some of our clues are in places where the typical person isn't going to be willing to go, especially if they're the types who aren't comfortable as soon as the path goes off the asphalt," says Hoff.

"There is a subtle element of trespass. Not everything will necessarily be hidden in a public place. In Scandinavian countries, they forbid no-trespassing signs. You can't forbid people from walking across your land. I always have loved that attitude."

"You have to be a little adventurous," agrees Purcell, "hence the term usufructor."

Rather says she is excited to try any other adventures "Doris and Boris" come up with.

"The end result was we were in a junkyard looking for a little, plastic, bubble thing, like something out of a candy machine," she says. "We opened the clue, and it said that we were now officially part of the club of cheapo-cachers."

"It's hilarious how excited we were that we found it," she adds. "Our kids can't wait to do more."

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