Just off Route 17 in Dixfield, secluded by budding trees and evergreens, a waterfall tumbles off the craggy rocks and pools at the bottom.

It is just one of the hidden treasures uncovered by Mike Ladd of Jay, who shares his special finds with others through photos and comments on Web sites www.geocaching.com and www.geocachingmaine.org.

Known as the Lost Hiker Man online, Ladd, 22, uncovers the beauty of Maine — from Devil’s Den in Andover to Squirrel Point Lighthouse in Woolwich — one hunt at a time.

He has hiked up Tumbledown Mountain, through the woods and along rivers, following the latitude and longitude location coordinates others have provided to help guide him and others to the sites they are seeking.

First, Ladd logs on to geocaching.com site to choose a challenge for the day. Then he prints off the directions, which contain a general map, sometimes a coded hint and coordinates that he’ll punch into a hand-held global positioning unit. He takes his camera to capture the sights he’ll see along the way.

In his travels around the state, Ladd has found more than the actual physical caches; he has also discovered bits and pieces of Maine’s heritage often hidden from the eye.

Ladd has hidden his own cache in a rock wall between Valley Road and “Hidden Falls” in east Dixfield. It’s a fishing spot he decided to share with others.

Though the physical treasure in his self-coordinated hunt is a large, plastic mayonnaise jug full of trinkets such as sea glass, a log book, his signature cards and items that others have left behind, it’s the sound of Tucker Valley Brook running over the rocks about 10 feet away that captures the interest of visitors.

Ladd had to climb up and over fallen logs, some uneven ground and a rock wall before reaching the destination.

There are more than 159,000 active caches in 214 countries that others like himself are hunting in the adventure game or sport.

“It gets you out and you’re able to explore and witness new things that you otherwise wouldn’t explore or normally see,” Ladd said. “The whole idea is to get people to see new things.”

“It’s pretty,” Ladd said of the site where he chose to hide his cache. It’s secluded enough and out of the way, he said, but it’s not secretive.

“I like waterfalls. I like the sound of rushing water. It almost takes you away,” Ladd said. “It’s a calming experience. It’s hard to explain.”

Ladd, a lumber grader, said Devil’s Den in Andover is like a gorge the way the river cut the spot out. He calls it the Grand Canyon of Maine. He’s been there twice. It’s one of his favorites.

Another site is Old 470, the last steam engine that went through Waterville. Ladd said it was the challenge of trying to find the cache and seeing a bit of history that made for an interesting hunt.

He collects the trinkets he finds. The 2004 container is full and he’s well into storing items found in 2005.

“I’m saving them. They’re strange little tokens to remember where I’ve been,” he said.

As he wanders his way around Maine and into New Hampshire, Ladd said, he tries to take things more slowly to enjoy the outdoors and to have fun at the same time.

To find some of the treasures of Maine that Mike Ladd of Jay has found, log on to www.geocaching.com and click on Hide & Seek a cache. You can either hunt for information by typing Lost Hiker Man into the user category or by typing cache namess (such as Hidden Falls, Devil’s Den or Old 470) into the key words section. You can also enter postal codes to find information.

Latitude and longitude location coordinates for three sites are:

Devil’s Den — N 44 degrees, 4.719 W 070 degrees, 44.840.

Old 470 — N 44 degrees, 33.588 W 069 degrees, 37.610

“Hidden Falls” — N 44 degrees, 33.353 W 070 degrees, 17.875

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