To celebrate Visit Rainier’s Centennial Geotour, we packed up the family – dog included – and made a loop around Mt. Rainier – on our first geocaching adventure.
On Saturday, June 13, Visit Rainier kicked off the geocaching tour in honor of the National Park Service’s 2016 centennial celebration. To celebrate 100 years, Visit Rainier is releasing 100 geocaches over the next two years in and around the park: www.visitrainier.com/geotour. The Centennial Geotour passport we downloaded and printed to record our finds describes the pastime as “a real world, outdoor treasure hunt using GPS enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container hidden) at the location.”
Geotouring was completely new to me. Heck, downloading an app was new to me, but with careful instruction, I downloaded geocaching.com on my phone. Immediately caches began appearing on my device, and I was amazed by their number. Evidently a lot of people have been hiding a lot of items while I wasn’t paying attention. I selected a cache I was interested in and followed the directions on my phone to its location.
Once we got within 30 feet of a cache the phone would ping, then let us know approximately how close we were to its location. Each cache lists a difficulty rating, and provides a brief story about the location and contents. When we were particularly stumped we made use of the “hint” button. Reading comments from previous cache seekers also offered clues. Geocahes are contained in ammo cans, Tupperware and other waterproof containers, with many offering swag for kids. Once a location was found, we entered the date and code in the passport.
Geocaches are plentiful in Rainier’s gateway communities but park regulations prohibit hiding them within its boundaries. Instead, visitors are on the lookout for “earth caches” inside the Park boundary. Cachers enter coordinates and are treated to educational information such as “Ranier100:1 The Ghosts of Lahars,” which gives visitors information about what lahars are, how they are formed, and their current activity on the mountain.
We stopped for lunch in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, just outside Ohanapecosh, where we explored a nearby creek, checked out new-to-us native flowers, and mapped out the rest of the day’s adventures. From there we went south to Packwood and took Forest Road 52 west, encountering elk, and a creekside wedding along the way.
Geocaching is exploring with a tangible reward, but we found greater rewards beyond the pursuit. Geocaching exposed our family to native plants and wildlife, a day of activity and togetherness and great experiences in and around the park.
I recommend a GPS device, as cell phone service is not always reliable in remote areas around the park. It also offers adventurers more precise coordinates for the hidden treasures.
There will be three more tentative release dates in the Visit Rainier Centennial GeoTour series: October 2, 2015, April 1, 2016 and September 16 2016, with 25 more caches being released with each. Folks who complete each series will receive prizes, and a bonus geocoin for locating all 100 caches.
Find everything you need to know about the Mt. Rainier GeoTour. New to geocaching? Get the basics here. Happy hunting! Let’s Go Geocaching