Treasure hunting with just a few tools and a phone

In the forest near Bellheim, the Bellheimer Wald, Jürgen Mühlmann has installed about 50 hiding places for Geocaching. For him, the modern paper-chase activity is more than just a fancy hobby. He wants to lure people into the outdoors—and honour the promise he gave his late friend.

Withered leaves rustle and twigs snap under your shoes. “Rudi 3” must be somewhere around, here. And it is indeed: Some four or five metres away from the forest path, three metal stripes around a tree reveal the stash: a narrow, brown pipe with a number of holes is tied to the tree by the stripes. So, take out the logbook, sign it, and—on to the next cache? It’s not that easy. Jürgen points to the lower end of the pipe and smirks: The roll with the logbook rests at the bottom and has to be manoeuvred through the holes to the top of the pipe with the help of two metal pins, bit by bit. Geocaching can sometimes be a matter of conscientious application.

A moustache that always reveals a smile beneath it: Geocacher Jürgen Mühlmann.

With a bulging bag over his shoulder, Jürgen wears a large hat with colourful pins and a moustache that always reveals a smile beneath it. This is his realm: the Bellheim forest close to the municipality of the same name in the Southern Palatinate district of Germersheim. “I want to attract people to the forest and make them experience nature.” Jürgen hid some 48 Caches—this is the name of the little boxes, tins or storage devices that Geocaching is all about. Jürgen sets off as Stumpfi 2109 and enjoys passing his passion on to others. His nickname refers to his date of birth and to the Stumpfstraße road in Karlsruhe, which he used to live in.

Ready for the hunt! The coordinates for the caches in a specific area can be downloaded to a GPS device or a smartphone. Ready for the hunt!

Geocaching originates from the US and is now played everywhere around the world. Everybody can join the game at any time and season, and for free. Geocaching is usually described as modern paper-chasing, which is barely appropriate in terms of technical finesse, attention to detail and the large community of players. A tour usually begins at home on the computer. The coordinates for the caches in a specific area can be downloaded to a GPS device or a smartphone. Ready for the hunt! And if you want your hunt to be successful, you’d better read through the Caches descriptions carefully, because you never know what you should take along to be able to open them. Tools, for example, or a power bank for electric current. You may need both in the Bellheim forest.

Jürgen is particularly proud of the Cache named “0190 Ruf an!” (0190 Give it a ring). This stash at the Forstamt Pfälzer Rheinauen (Palatinate Rhine-meadow forestry office) looks like a roofed letterbox—but only at first glance. Inside, there is an old-fashioned telephone apparatus. Once you connect a power bank to it, it rings and Jürgen’s voice answers it: “Wer schaut denn hier herein? Ist das vielleicht ein kleines Cacherlein? Willkommen im Bellheimer Wald,” which roughly translates to “Who is looking here inside? A Geocacher on a little hunt or fight? Welcome to the Bellheim forest”

“I was seized by this game. I had to go outside and on a hunt nearly every day.”

Trail-laying Jürgen grew up in Thuringia, moved to Saxony later and on to Karlsruhe in 2003 to work in the Daimler factory in Wörth. He discovered his hobby in 2012. That year, Jürgen was visited by a friend from Saxony, who began to roam the streets of Karlsruhe with his phone on a quest for something. His host was puzzled: “What are you doing?” When the friend had found the treasure, Jürgen was completely taken in. “I was seized by this game. I had to go outside and on a hunt nearly every day.”

Jürgen goes on cache inspection tours through the Bellheim forest regularly: Is everything still there and intact? Is the logbook full or wet?

A bit later on and through his hobby, Jürgen became friends with the “Dampfverteiler” (steam distributor), who hid ten Caches in the Bellheim forest and who didn’t manage to complete his job because he became severely ill. With the friend being on his deathbed, Jürgen promised to look after the routes. And he has taken his promise seriously. He goes on cache inspection tours through the Bellheim forest regularly: Is everything still there and intact? Is the logbook full or wet? Jürgen keeps close contact to the Pfälzer Rheinauen forestry office and the Southern Palatinate tourist service of Bellheim municipality. “I like the locals,” he says. “I always get into contact with them when I am on tour. And people, who don’t do Geocaching, simply leave the cashes alone.”

Where is the cache?

The finds vary: from little film cases to entire boxes. There are the traditional Caches, mainly comprising the logbook for the Casher to sign. Then, there are the “Mystery Cashes,” which require puzzle-solving to get the coordinates. And Jürgen has installed stashes particularly for children in the Bellheim forest, such as a box with books of fairy-tales. If you find it, you’re allowed to take out a book in exchange for another one you have brought along. In Geocaching, rules matter: Leave nature and the stashes undamaged. You have to leave the Cache you’ve discovered the way you found it. Anyway, when you have trouble solving a puzzle, you’ll find help if you turn to Jürgen. “But I don’t just give away the answer—so I keep up the excitement.”

“I have found something that keeps me active,” Jürgen explains his passion.

Stumpfi 2109 goes on treasure hunts himself. “I have found something that keeps me active,” he explains his passion. “You’re always outdoors and have to use your brain as much as your body.” Furthermore, Geocachers discover places they would probably never have seen without their hobby. With some friends, Jürgen once made a 32-kilometre tour in one day, making 72 finds. On his way to a vacation in Italy, he even chased and found six Caches in six countries in a single day: in Germany, France, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria and Italy. His most spectacular hunt was the one he undertook on a vacation in Egypt: Jürgen went into the desert and was followed by a man with a machine gun. The latter, however, wasn’t up to no good, but rather watched over the German enabling him to find the Cache in peace. “It doesn’t get boring at all.”

Jürgen already discovered some 9160 Caches.

Another one of Jürgen’s achievements on the occasion of Geocaching is a climbing course—now he can manage to get even to those stashes that are far up in trees. Stumpfi 2109 doesn’t think of stopping Geocaching: neither as a trail-layer, nor as a hunter. The Bellheim forest will soon witness new Caches, which are being thought up—because the skilled aluminium welder is in a so-called passive partial retirement phase, which leaves him lots of time for his passion. Jürgen already discovered some 9160 Caches, as he says, “but this is far from being enough.”

Zur Homepage von Stumpfi 2109


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