[Editors Note: Whether it's an urban adventure you seek or a deep-forest trek, geocaching explorations allow the fortune-hunter to chose their own adventure. With all terrains and levels of difficulty to choose from, Geocaching is something the entire family can enjoin and the unique locations of the hidden treasures means that everyone will be outside, exploring new terrain. Geocaching is for the entire family, no matter experience, age or expertise, everyone can be a hunter. All you need is a Global Positioning System (GPS), a computer to look up coordinates of the locations to discover and, most importantly, a zeal for exploration and adventure to find the hidden treasures. ]
Cathy Rice lets her fingers “do the finding” of her family’s next outdoor adventure! Cathy Rice and her family live in Wilsonville, but have explored much of Oregon as a part of a growing group of savvy internet users who’ve discovered that the great outdoors is but a finger tap and electronic link away through a new sport – (or is it recreation?) – called “geocaching.”
“It’s fun for people of all ages,” noted Rice. She and her family have been avid geocachers the past eight years. ”For the kids it’s like a treasure hunt because they get to discover new places to see – it’s just a great activity to do while you’re enjoying the Oregon outdoors.”
Geocaching is a rewarding blend of high technology that uses computers and hand held GPS (Global Positioning System) receivers and take you on an old fashioned treasure hunt. Cathy says “fun” is the theme at Geocaching.com At home, she simply enters her zip code and then the distance she would like to travel from her home, and soon a lengthy list of adventures appears on her screen.
She also notes many details about the cache on the website like available parking, whether it’s pet friendly plus the latitude and longitude coordinates that she will plug into her GPS so to guide her family to the cache. Cathy told me that when she began in 2001 there were hundreds of caches in the Portland area – today, there are tens of thousands in the city and surrounding metro region – plus, hundreds of thousands of the hidden treasures across the state.
In fact, “Rice’s Raiders,” as the family nickname implies, are real pros at finding caches. These days, they even create their own caches to hide for others to find. A watertight container like an ammo box or plastic container is preferred for caches because they need to be watertight. Because Cathy’s favorite rock group is “Styx,” she included a variety of related items inside her latest cache: “We’ve added chap sticks…glue sticks, something to sharpen your writing sticks,” she noted with a laugh.
She added: “Now, not everyone will trade within the theme and that’s ok too – but if you can it’s kind of fun.”
So far, the Rice family has hidden over a dozen caches across Oregon and she said that they’ve discovered a lot of locations they’d never have known about were it not for geocaching.
In fact, more and more people are have discovered that Oregon State Parks are popular geocaching sites because they’re convenient, safe and allow for a longer camping stay. But at Stub Stewart State Park, park ranger Heather Currey said that if folks choose to hide caches in a state park, be sure to get permission from the park managers.
“We think it’s fantastic that people want to recreate on state park lands and Geocaching is a wonderful way to explore the parklands, but many of our parks have sensitive plants, habitats, cultural resources that we’re protecting for the future. So, it’s nice for us to know where these caches are intended so we can identify those areas and maybe find an area on the other side of the trail that would be a little better.”
On a recent adventure, the Rice family followed directions to a starting point in a nearby public area and then hunted the brush for more clues. In this case, latitude and longitude coordinates were the clues. They plugged the numbers into their GPS and then the unit guided them to the site of the hidden cache.
The caches vary – and usually consist of small souvenirs that you can choose from – perhaps even a camera and a log book to capture and relate your moment of discovery. But Cathy insists, (and etiquette demands,) that if you take something from the cache, you should leave something in exchange.
Aside from the fun of just looking for something that’s been secreted away in the woods, Ken and Cathy Rice agree that one of the bonuses of Geocaching has been the way the entire event brings the family together.
Editor’s Note: Grant’s Getaways is a production of Travel Oregon brought to you in association with Oregon State Parks, Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife and Oregon State Marine Board. Episodes air Fridays on KGW Newschannel 8 and Saturdays on Northwest Cable News Network.
About the Author: Grant McOmie
Grant McOmie is a Pacific Northwest broadcast journalist, teacher and author who writes and produces stories and special programs about the people, places, outdoor activities and environmental issues of the Pacific Northwest. A fifth generation Oregon native, Grant’s roots run deepest in the central Oregon region near Prineville and Redmond where his family continues to live.