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, Media Relations Manager for the University of Oregon, says the GeoTour really sets the 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.”
The Willamette Valley has more than 13,000 caches within a 60-mile range, according to Don Bacher, a geocacher from Albany. 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. Notably, the Oregon Garden hosts public and private caches throughout the garden and resort grounds.
Back in 2000, the world’s first geocache was hidden in Oregon’s Mt. Hood Territory. Still today in the region, you can locate some of the oldest active caches in the world, as well as the Original Stash Tribute Plaque. Some stash sites are relatively easy to find, like Estacada and Willamette Falls, while others are only accessible in the summer with a National Forest Pass. Oregon’s Mt. Hood Territory has been known to release hundreds of commemorative geocache coins, so keep your eyes peeled for the latest challenge.
Geocaching in Eastern Oregon brings the kind of payoff you might expect. “Wide open spaces,” says former 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. Or head to the Wallowas, where you can locate 30 caches and earn a special coin.
Not that you need an excuse to visit Maupin, but the city still has a handful of its limited-edition Maupin Area Chamber of Commerce GeoCoins to award. All you have to do is complete the 12-cache passport, most of which leads to cool historical landmarks, such as an old powerhouse at the bottom of a waterfall. At the Oregon Skyway along the Willamette Pass, there are 15 geocaches to find — but if you get distracted and take a ride up to the top of the 6,666-foot summit instead, it’s okay, we understand.
There are 20 different geocache sites in the Klamath Basin GeoTour, covering the region’s scenic mountains, rivers, lakes, trails and trains — all within an hour’s drive from Klamath Falls. Since the city is located about 60 miles from Crater Lake, you can add geocaching to a visit to the deepest lake in the United States. It’s a good excuse to explore.
For more information, visit Geocaching.com.