By: Lynne Frank

I-heart-geocachingIn March I set up a new geocache inside the Teeswater Public Library. It’s for those of us who don’t want to fight the elements! Watching the www.geocaching.com website, however, I can tell that geocachers are coming out of their winter hibernation. Now that spring is showing up in splotches and blotches, I am also restless to get outdoors to do some hiking and geocaching! We have some great trails, through 3 or 4 conservation areas, right here in South Bruce! For three seasons we also have a multi-purpose rail trail. There are new ‘hides’ almost daily now. You can borrow a hand-held GPS from any Bruce County Library branch to get started.

If you have set yourself up with an account, (remember it’s free), and logged a few ‘Found It’s’ you may be ready for this next logical step… Creating and hiding a geocache. There are rules to obey. You must rate your cache by 1) how tricky it is to find, 2) how difficult the terrain is and 3) the size of the cache container. Things are explained step-by step (pun intended), on the ‘how to hide and seek’ section of the website. There are also videos.

I want to expand on some of the things to consider when placing a cache. Primarily, ask yourself “WHY should a person go there?” I will NOT go in garbage-strewn ditches along an urban trail. That’s neither scenic, historic nor relaxing! Caching makes a trail hike or walk through town more interesting. A series of caches with a theme or a puzzle to complete is great too. Many caches are hidden in busy public places and in some unlikely spots such as graveyards. An historic tour of buildings and murals in your town can be set up. Statues, benches and bus booths can be great hiding places. No matter how much you fight with your neighbour, however, please don’t lead cachers to his front door step! No one needs strangers fingering their flowerpots. Also, make sure you can get to the thing time to time to perform maintenance when needed, (so again, I’ll repeat, not near that guy’s ugly mug)! It is very important to get permission from a land-owner and to be sure caching in a public place is allowable. Avoid schools! Parks Canada decided a short while ago to remove and never allow geocaches on it’s grounds.

In South Bruce there are all these nice trails I’ve mentioned. More caches will soon be hidden there, with room for more! Walk a trail, do a bit of measuring with your hand-held GPS and think of a a hiding spot; a rock pile, old trees with big holes, fences and tree branches to hang something from,… It is also important to know the terrain. Any trail or conservation area will have wet areas at certain times of the year, (fall and spring). This is a safety hazard, as are lakes and rivers. If you really want to hide a cache at that spot, then keep it off the ground. Mention those conditions, and rate the ‘difficulty’ accordingly! It can be a very long way back to safety with cold, wet kids and dogs. Do not go far ‘off trail.’ People can get lost or hurt and nature destroyed with too much ‘off trail’. Can you make your cache accessible in winter too? Are you certain that come summer your container won’t be surrounded by hawthorns or burrs? That’s just nasty, but make sure you write about them if that’s the spot you want! I have a cache hidden on Faulkner’s trail, (2nd Concession, SW of Teeswater). The first place I chose was the base of a tree, amongst the roots. When I checked it the next day for the co-ordinates’ accuracy I discovered my PB jar had been rolled away…. Looking closer I could see that some critter had been digging it’s home there, so I chose a new hide out! I don’t want people to risk getting bit, or having to replace the jar frequently.

geocachingI personally think that anything smaller than a fake pine cone in the wild is just cruel! Something air-tight and virtually unbreakable works best. Perhaps you can make your containers the very same or ask that the trading trinkets inside be Toronto Maple Leaf-themed. Everyone needs a giggle. If you want to set them up for night caching, use reflective tape on the outside. Check your co-ordinates a few times, and look at your hide from different angles. You don’t want ‘muggles’ (non-cachers), able to spot it easily on their hike. A very well-washed PB jar lightly covered with some camouflaged duct tape is great. Do not tape the jar’s threads or stick too much of it on the lid. It’s not needed, and after being ‘handled’ a few times, is difficult to put back into place. Do not put food products or anything that would decompose in cold, damp conditions. I have removed brand new, but very soggy, tissue packets from caches. I collect those mini silicon bags found in electronics’ packaging to put in with my log books to help avoid dampness getting into the cache.

Do remember to stay safe; keep an eye on children and dogs around water, mud holes, burr patches,… Let people know if you’ll be gone for an hour or a day if you are going out alone! Carry drinking water and your eppi pen. Our trails and conservation areas are quite enjoyable. The Saugeen Conservation office is right in Formosa. There are some maps also on line. Please practice “Cache IN Trash OUT” to keep these areas clean for all to enjoy! Now then, it is getting warmer and the snow’s melting. Go do a little hiking and geocaching!