Geocaching Treasure Hunts
It’s every kid’s dream: navigating an unknown trail with a secret map to discover hidden treasure. Only with geocaching, the map comes from GPS coordinates and the treasure is a logbook where you connect with previous explorers. According to Geocaching.com, more than 6 million people are searching 2 million-plus geocaching sites around the world. Caches range from traditional sites that include a logbook and a bit of booty (etiquette directs that you leave something of equal or greater value) to EarthCaches (teaching about geology) to Event Caches (geocachers parties). It’s fun, free and accessible to all ages. All you need to join the fun is a GPS device or a smart phone app. Here are some places to get started.
Eugene Cascades & Coast GeoTour
To date, 143 cache sites are hidden along this 200-mile route, which includes the McKenzie River area, Oakridge, Florence and Oregon’s historic Territorial Highway. Routes lead explorers to some of the most beautiful and off-the-beaten path locations in the region — hidden waterfalls, coastal vistas, covered bridges and historic landmarks. Some of the most popular include Waldo Lake, Sahalie Falls, Cape Perpetua and Dee Wright Observatory. Molly Blancett, public relations and social media manager for Travel Lane County, says the GeoTour really sets her region apart for geocaching. “We strategically placed the caches at places that we know people will find interesting and beautiful. There are only 39 official GeoTours in the world, which means cachers know that we went to great lengths to make Eugene, Cascades & Coast a geocaching destination.”
Geocaching in Eastern Oregon brings the kind of payoff you might expect. “Wide open spaces,” says Ontario Mayor LeRoy Cammack. “We’ve got a lot of room, and there is a great variety of terrain.” Cammack, who’s been a geocaching enthusiast for 10 years, estimates that there are several hundred caches scattered around the mountains, valleys and desert near Ontario. And you can pick your poison. “You can find them right in the downtown area in parks,” he says, while others may take all day because of the rugged terrain. Cammack’s favorite, Dry Creek in Malheur County, is of the latter variety. Way out in the desert, where you’ve seen nothing but “sagebrush, rocks and rattlesnakes,” you’ll come upon a gorgeous steep-walled canyon with a creek flowing through it. Cammack likes that one can explore alone or with a group.
The Willamette Valley has more than 13,000 caches within a 60-mile range, according to Don Bacher, a geocacher from Albany. Bacher organizes the Arts & Air Challenge — a geocaching event that goes on during the Northwest Art & Air Festival. The challenge, which takes place on August 22, sends participants to 20 different locations, including 15 businesses, with a puzzle to solve. Bacher and his wife, Judy (who’ve geocached in all 50 states and more), have also created a set of 40 challenge caches on country roads outside Albany called the DJBach Challenge. Bacher says the hobby connects people from around the world and all ages in a spirit of exploration. “Caching takes you places you didn’t even know existed even around your home,” he says.
Summer brings new geocaching challenges to communities across Oregon’s Mt. Hood Territory. The first one will launch in mid-June in Estacada, which is fitting because the world’s first geocache took place just outside its city limits. Canby and Molalla are marking major anniversaries with geocoins, including the Canby Ferry’s 100th anniversary and Molalla’s year-long centennial celebration. Other summertime challenges will also out in Government Camp, Clackamas and West Linn.
about author Eileen Garvin
Eileen Garvin is the editor of Travel Oregon’s Seasonal Features, enewsletters and annual visitor guide. When she’s not cooking up trip ideas, Oregon Dreamer profiles and outdoor adventures to write about, she’s out exploring Oregon.
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