Gotta Cache ‘Em All

GPS-based geocaching goes beyond Pokémon Go

Geocaching is gaining popularity with folks who are left wanting more from Pokémon Go. 

“It’s almost like a secret society,” Jacques Bourgeois says. He is leading a workshop on geocaching at Oak Hammock Marsh on Sept. 11. 

“It’s vaguely the same concept as Pokémon Go, but with this you get to find something physical. There are boxes everywhere!”

Geocaching integrates outdoor activity and play for people of all ages. The cache may be anything from a large box to a tiny magnetic tube disguised as a screw on a park bench, but beginners generally start by using the geocaching app to locate a waterproof container. 

Boxes generally contain trinkets, some of which have trackable serial numbers, and there is always a logbook for the geocacher (or cacher) to leave their codename. 

Carole Plante has been geocaching since 2009 and sometimes takes her co-workers out with her during lunch.

“I describe it as a high-tech treasure hunt,” Plante says. “I let them know the rules, such as not letting ‘muggles,’ or non-geocaching folk, know that you are actually looking for something. This can be hard in busy areas, but stealth is a virtue.” 

Plante clarifies that this measure is taken to keep the caches safe and give other geocachers a chance to explore the world. 

“It’s an incredible tourism tool,” Mike Neale, president of the Manitoba Geocaching Association, says. “Probably the best story of tourism is outside of Las Vegas in the Nevada desert, there (were) a thousand geocaches hidden along the highway.” 

When those geocaches were taken away due to safety issues, hotel owners saw a decrease in off-season business. After an outcry from the cachers and the hospitality industry, Nevada is now home to new cache treasures. 

“Geocachers aren’t going to Vegas for Vegas stuff,” Neale says. “They’re going to drive two hours north to go find geocaches.”

Bourgeois sees the passion that cachers have as an educational opportunity. At his workshop and hunt at Oak Hammock Marsh, he plans to find new ways to challenge his cachers. 

“We don’t just give the coordinates that easily. People have to earn them,” Bourgeois says. “In order to get those coordinates, you have to perform tasks.” 

He says the tasks make people aware of their environment and what goes on at Oak Hammock Marsh.

The main draw for most cachers is the variety and the fun of racking up hundreds of finds.

“It gets me to see parts of the province I’ve never thought of going before,” Plante says. “Hitting my first hundred was the best and every hundredth find after that, I still get that excitement.”

“The goal in Pokémon Go is to catch them all,” Neale says. “There are over a million geocaches around the world. I guarantee you won’t catch them all!”

Published in Volume 71, Number 1 of The Uniter (September 8, 2016)

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