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A beautiful spot near Cabri where I recently discovered a Geocache

I love to walk and hike.  I’ve tried the running thing.  Dabbled in biking.  But I keep coming back to my first love … walking.

When my children were little, the stroller was our best friend.  It got us out of the house, exploring our neighbourhood, the parks around us, and some of our favourite camping spots.  Then, came that inevitable time when my children had become too old to sit in the stroller, but not too old to complain when faced with the prospect of walking…anywhere.  The whining and moaning (mostly by me as I begged them to join me for a walk), got to be too much, and I slowly but surely for the most part gave up.

Near Cabri

Until some amazing friends introduced us to the wonderful world of Geocaching.

In a nutshell according to the official Geocaching website, “Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices.”

That’s right…”treasure hunting” – and with those two simple words whispered in my children’s ears we were swiftly back up on our feet walking.  Walking through our neighbourhood, walking through city parks, and walking out in nature.  Not only were my children willing to walk – they would actually ask me to take them walking.  All for the hope of finding a little piece of treasure (otherwise known as a “cache”).

The “GoTo” website for Geocaching is www.geocaching.com

For those who’ve never heard of Geocaching, here’s a quick “How To Geocache” guide to help you out:

  • Simply head to http://www.geocaching.com and create an account (for Free!).
  • Click on “Play” and then “Hide & Seek a Cache”
  • As a newbie you’ll be interested in “Seek a Cache” and you can either throw in an address near to where you want to search – or see a broader view of how widespread this “game” is by clicking on “search from the map.”
  • Once you’ve found an area that you would like to seek a cache in – open up the cache in question on the map, and you will see a description of the cache, with details on everything from size and difficulty, to what some of the items in the cache might be.  You can also read about other’s experiences as they searched for the same cache (though be warned sometimes there’s spoilers that you might not want to see).
  • You can use a GPS device like this Garmin E-Trex to download coordinates

    Click on “Send to GPS” (which of course you’ve already hooked up to your computer) – at which time it will send all the directional info to your GPS or GPS enabled phone and you’re ready to go out walking and hunting for treasure.

And there’s a LOT of treasure to be found here in the Southwest.

Just some of the many Geocaching sites that can be found in the Southwest

Recently I went out to discover two of the caches along Hwy 32 with my two dogs in tow.  First stop was a wonderful little scenic spot near Cabri.  Here, while the air was a little cool, the sun was bright, the fields were golden, and the sky was a crisp clear blue.

The Town of Cabri off in the distance from the vantage point of a Geocache site.

Located in the notes that accompany every cache was the suggestion of where to park, so that I could get the most scenic route for my search.  Following the compass on my GPS unit – which also tells me how near (or far) I am to the treasure, I headed in the directions given, and came to the point where the GPS had to be put down, in order for my well-honed hunting skills to kick in.  (Ha!).

Cache’s can be big or small and can sometimes be very challenging to find.

This is the tricky, and sometimes frustrating part for grownups, and the part that has the most appeal for  kids and those young at heart – the actual hunt for the treasure.  It can be hidden in the most obscure yet obvious places, and those who hide caches are experts at making “hiding in plain sight” an art form.

All shapes and sizes of containers can be found.

Once I found the cache, (and hid it from the “Muggle” *that drove by) I opened it up and followed the three basic rules of geocaching (taken from the official Geocache Website):

  1. If you take something from the geocache (or “cache”), leave something of equal or greater value.
  2. Write about your find in the cache logbook.
  3. Log your experience at www.geocaching.com.

Those who go and look at the map of geocaches available to search for, will be astounded that there are

Ann and Neal Beck of Saskatoon discover treasure in Tompkins

literally hundreds of geocaches here in the Southwest just waiting to be found, in every community no matter how big or small.

There are even indoor caches – as Ann Beck of Saskatoon discovers in Shaunavon.

Geocaches in the Eastend area

Neal Beck shows off his GPS unit as he Geocache’s in Shaunavon

In addition to these user-oriented Geocaches around Lake Diefenbaker Sask Parks has their own set of Geocaches out at Sask Landing

There are even caches that can be found at Cypress Hills, Sask Landing and Grasslands National Park, that aren’t part of the Geocaching.com website, but rather part of the Parks own private game of hide and seek.  Just head over to the Park offices and the interpreters will be only too happy to help get you set up and on your way.  You don’t even have to bring your own GPS with you, as most will have free ones available for you to sign out.

The treasures to be found are inexpensive but fun to discover

So what kind of treasure are you finding exactly?  Most of the times the items to be found are small little inexpensive trinkets, but occasionally you’ll strike real pay dirt and find a Travel Bug or a GeoCoin; two registered items on the Geocache website, that will allow you to follow the path these items have taken as they travel, sometimes literally, around the world.  Sometimes you’ll also find pieces of history or stories about the area you have found the cache in, making the cache as educational as it is fun.

The Southwest has so many interesting places to discover, and things to see.  Places like the simple little walk near Cabri that was as relaxing as it was exciting to discover someplace new.  If you’re looking for an activity that’s fun, challenging, good for you, and best of all FREE, then GoHere – because Geocaching is definitely for you!

How to GoHere:  Simply head on over to Geocaching.com, sign up and read their “Geocaching 101” for more information on how to get started.  Then look up an area in Southwest Saskatchewan (or indeed anywhere in the world) that you’d like to explore and start downloading coordinates.

Gotta Go?:  Can’t help you on this one.  Depending on where you go – is where you’ll…well…go.  Best if going out for some of the more isolated jaunts to pack a roll of toilet paper and some hand sanitizer with you just in case.

Good to Know:

  • The evolution of GPS Enabled Smart Phones has spawned a wide variety of Geocaching Apps.  I downloaded one by Trimble on a trial basis on my phone – and am completely sold!  It made the job of finding the cache, keeping track of the added details (which I use to print out before I headed out), and even logging the cache after it was found – a MUCH easier prospect.  My poor trusty Garmin GPS might never get used again!
  • Occasionally you’ll be the first person to a cache and can claim a monetary or otherwise valued prize.  If a cache is a first-timer – it will usually say so in the details.
  • A “Muggle” is a non-geocacher.  In order to avoid cache’s being found and destroyed, or taken only those “in” on the game should find them, and if someone walks or drives by as you are on the hunt, you should do your best as to not let on what it is you are doing to the “Muggle.”
  • GeoCoins, Travel Bugs and other Trackable geocache items are a great way to teach and to learn about the world, making it a great tool and activity for schools, church groups, youth groups, and clubs.
  • Geocaching is also a great way for an organization, community or tourist destination to get some added exposure in what is being termed as “GeoTourism” – and we here at GoHere will soon be a registered GeoTourism provider, so stay tuned!