There are plenty of ways to enjoy summer in Manitoba: water-skiing at the cottage, swimming at the white sand beaches, berry picking, bird-watching . . .
But suppose you’re looking to try something new and challenging, something that will get you and your family outdoors and keep everyone involved? If so, geocaching may just the thing you’re looking for. Geocaching is a high-tech form of treasure hunting that is quickly gaining popularity worldwide. Here in Manitoba, growing numbers of people are getting involved and tracking down caches while out for the day or on extended camping trips.
Think of it as a computer-assisted walk in the woods or guidebook. Participants equip themselves with hand-held GPS (Global Positioning System) units that guide them to locations and caches based on coordinates they enter into the unit. Any number of people can tag along and your friends and family will definitely enjoy the adventure.
A hand-held GPS is your map, compass and guide all rolled into one. The device itself is a small electronic receiver that gathers information from a number of satellites that orbit the earth twice daily. After longitude and latitude coordinates for a location have been entered, the unit can guide the user to that location. Simply follow the arrow carefully. These receivers are able to show navigation routes to within three metres (10ft) of any place on earth. Some units have electronic compasses and voice navigation. With the information from the Internet, a GPS unit and the curiosity of Indiana Jones, anyone can succeed at geocaching.
Traditional geocache is a hidden container with a logbook, an information sheet and perhaps small tradable items associated with a theme or with the sites and communities in the area. It is expected that those who take an item will also leave an item. Comments in the logbook are of interest to those that follow. A code word on the information sheet is used to log the find on the website of the group that created the cache.
Virtual cache is a location that is usually unique or of some significance to the region you’re exploring. Coordinates, instructions on the logging the cache, a list of questions and other information are all on the website. At each location on the way, questions must be answered correctly. Then, on reaching the destination, these answers provide clues used to determine the code needed to log the find on the website.
Multi-caches are very similar to virtual caches except that a traditional cache is hidden at the last stop of the quest. Clues from the virtual caches along the way lead to the final discovery. Again, you must arrive at the final destination in order to receive the information needed to log your find on the website.
Bottom Line: that little GPS unit may be the best, most thorough and unlikely a tour guide you’ve ever had. As Manitoba has wholeheartedly embraced the geocaching craze, any number of treasures are waiting for you in the most unlikely of places; some are hidden in plain sight, cleverly made to blend in with their surroundings. In St. Boniface alone, there are upwards of 50 caches waiting to be found. Caches are hidden as far north as Churchill and to the south of the province near the International Peace Garden. They range in size from large containers to pebble-sized markers. The idea is to get you out to where you want to explore, whatever your experience level.
Geocachers in Manitoba will have the added fun of exploring a diverse topography. Out east, wooded and rocky regions contrast with the hills and ridges of the Pembina Valley. In the Parkland region, sprawling forests and innumerable trails take you as deep into nature as you could want to go. But be careful: It’s addictive.