by Becky Dumais
What happens when you mix traditional scavenger hunting with global positioning technology? Geocaching! It’s a new activity for people of all ages, and it has participants searching for caches hidden in locations all around the world – including Halton.
Geocaching is a free outdoor pursuit that anyone can do. The goal is simple: find hidden containers called geocaches with the help of a smartphone or GPS, then share your experiences online with the geocaching community worldwide. Aside from searching for the cache itself, fellow geocachers often hide caches in locations that will lead you to a fabulous view or experience.
The most popular resource for geocachers is www.geocaching.com. Registration is free and allows you to access the exact coordinates of a cache, its difficulty and terrain rating, and a range of clues, tips and comments from users who’ve already located it. A cache can be as small as your pinky finger and as large as a backyard shed. Cache etiquette dictates that you must put it back exactly where you found it and often requires that you replace something in the cache if you remove an item that’s hidden there. With that said, plan to bring along some small items to put in the cache for the next cache seeker!
Two years ago last March, Oakville resident and mother of two, Vicki Lelievre caught the geocache bug after seeing a Facebook post on geocaches in the Bruce Peninsula. “I discovered hundreds of geocaches hidden right here in the Ontario/Burlington area,” she says. Voila! – an activity that would get the family outdoors and having fun together. Lelievre registered, downloaded a $10 smartphone app and headed out the door. The first cache she and her family found was in Oakville at the Lion’s Foundation of Canada Guide Dogs Facility. It took 20 minutes to find the cache, sign the logbook and return it to its hiding place. Since then, they’ve made 336 finds throughout Ontario and Quebec and have extended their geocaching as far as Florida!
Lelievre’s sons, Patrick and Sam, love participating. In fact, geocaching is an ideal activity for children. Kids jump at the opportunity to head outdoors to go on a hunting expedition, although Lelievre says they prefer the quick and easy caches and don’t have the patience for the trickier hides. Don’t tell her kids, but she and her husband have been known to do more difficult caches when they’re not around.
What you’ll find inside each cache can vary, and it’s that element of surprise that makes geocaching fun. One of Lelievre’s favourite finds was a little plush bird in a nest, located in North Burlington. The logbook was tucked into the bird’s tummy. “Another neat one we found in Oakville was a toy frog that croaked when picked up,” she recalls.
One local and elusive cache is still defying the family. It’s called “Good luck with this one!”, and it’s hidden somewhere near the shores of Lake Ontario in Oakville. Although they’ve solved the puzzle to determine the proper coordinates of the cache, they still haven’t found it after several attempts. Hard to find caches can be found in the least likely of places, such as the one she found in the Sixteen Mile Creek area. “It was way up in a tree,” says Lelievre. Thankfully her husband is a great tree climber.
Even if you’re not into climbing trees, geocaching can be a lot of fun. It’s wonderful to be outdoors and exploring nature right in your hometown. “You learn a lot about history and different places,” comments Lelievre. “Most of all, it’s fun, especially for the family member who gets to shout out ‘Found it!’”
TFTC = Thanks for the cache
DNF = Did not find
BYOP = Bring your own pen
FTF = First to find (a new cache)
Muggle = Non-geocacher