Geocaching – an interactive way to explore Vancouver Island North

Not all those that wander are lost. Some are just geocaching.

If you’re not familiar with the term it’s basically the world’s largest treasure hunt using a GPS enabled device. The treasure or cache is most often placed in a waterproof container and ranges in size from tiny (the size of an eraser on a pencil) to huge (sky is the limit). Caches are not buried but hidden discreetly or camouflaged to avoid random encounters with non geocachers “muggles.” The goodies found in the cache are referred to as “swag.” The unwritten rule is if you take something out of a cache you must replace it with something of the same or greater value for the next geocacher to find.

Nicole Harkonen photo

Starting back in 2000 there are currently 5 million active geocachers worldwide and there are more than 3 million active geocaches. Vancouver Island North is very involved in the game and in Port McNeill alone there are 398 geocaches just waiting for discovery. Not using real names geocachers give themselves a “handle” or nickname. One couple on Vancouver Island North call themselves Lionchaser. These two enthusiastic geocachers they have discovered over 2,096 geocaches and hidden 86 of their own.

Nicole Harkonen photo

If you’re new to geocaching the first thing to do is create an account with a site like https://www.geocaching.com/play or http://www.opencaching.us/ At a minimum you need a way to find geographic coordinates (longitude and latitude). There are free or inexpensive smartphone apps available on IOS or android. More extreme geocachers prefer a handheld GPS. Ensure you’re dressed for changes in weather and different terrain conditions and take along snacks and water. If you want to play tradsies and leave swag behind some suggestions are inexpensive items like trading cards, keychains, puzzles, ornaments or fridge magnets. And bring a pen or pencil to sign the logbook with your code name and date it to prove you found the cache.

An important tip to newbies. Be patient. It may take a few times before you complete your first successful geocache. The reward is a huge sense of accomplishment the first time you open a cache. So now you’re ready to start your search. Go to your app and download the community and choose a flag signifying a cache. You’ll be given details on the location, and terrain surrounding the cache and when it was last found. Do keep in mind when in an area with no cell service you can save the information ahead of time to an off-line list.

Nicole Harkonen photo

There are great perks to geocaching. It will take you outside to the wild outdoors. Act as your own tour guide. You’ll experience off the beaten track adventures – and make memories. One visitor liked the view from a geocache on the rugged Blinkhorn Trail out of Telegraph Cove so much he proposed to his girlfriend there. That’s geocaching magic!!

You can geocache literally anywhere, anytime of the year. On land, underwater, in caves and there are caches at the International Space Station and in Antarctica. Life is a grand adventure. Come explore Vancouver Island North — there’s treasure waiting for you here.

Karen Stewart – Freelance Writer
Karen is the author of This is Port McNeill and At Water’s Edge Ventures

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