Geocaching, for the uninitiated, is like a treasure hunt where you find tiny treasures using a modern day map on your GPS device or smartphone.
According to Geocaching.com, more than 2 million caches exist around the world, and 1,880 geocaches near Bellingham. The sizes, shapes and difficulty vary.
Never having geocached, I turned to my friend and veteran geocacher George Juszynski for some advice. He and his son Max, along with my son Joe and I, set out on an easy beginners urban adventure to get a taste for geocaching in Bellingham.
We met at the Bellingham Public Libraryâ€™s central branch downtown for a quick tutorial to get started. First, you need to have a geocaching app to access the cache information and a map. With more than one app to choose from, you can try out a couple to see which one you like best. We used the GCDroid app.
The best, most complete repository of caches is on Geocaching.com, George said, with details on caches the world over. You need to sign up to become a member, but there is no cost at the introductory level. (For the â€śpremiumâ€ť membership you get access to additional caches and more app features.)
Once youâ€™re into your geocaching app, the GPS will pick up your location and its map will show you the caches nearby. With several caches within walking distance of the library, we had plenty to choose from.
First, we headed toward Maritime Heritage Park to search for a cache located there. Even though I could take one look at the map and know how to get there on my own, we used Google Maps’ walking directions as an opportunity for the boys to practice their navigation skills.
Traveling on foot is a great way to connect more fully with the community. Walking down Prospect Street on our urban adventure, I got to see things I might have not usually noticed, such as the new Sculpture Northwest gallery, which I hope to go back and check out sometime soon.
Once we arrived at our destination in the park, looking up at the Old City Hall, it was time to search for a large, flat rock that was to be the landmark for finding the cache.
We never found it.
A note posted to the appâ€™s log from just a few days before our search indicated those geocachers hadnâ€™t found it either. So, it was time to pick a new cache to hunt.
George knew of a cache at the historic Pickett House, a short walk away, so we headed in that general direction while letting the boys explore the park along the way. (Which means throwing a few rocks and sticks.) Whatcom Creek was running fast and high, so it was quite an experience to cross the bridge with all that rushing water.
Once at the Pickett House, we stopped to read about this historic home, the oldest house in Bellingham, built by U.S. Army Capt. George Pickett in 1856.
Now it was time to search for the cache, located somewhere near the house. I wonâ€™t give away the exact location, but this time we had success in discovering the cache!
Once you find the cache, geocaching etiquette requires you to sign the log to say when you found the cache. Often, as was the case here, youâ€™ll find trinkets stashed with the cache. You are welcome to take a trinket if you replace it with something of equal or greater value. (The boys chose a punch card for a local sandwich shop. Itâ€™s always food with boys, isnâ€™t it?) Then, you replace the cache exactly where you found it.
With success in finding a cache, we decided to call it a day. It was a fun couple of hours that got us outside and exploring our city. Next up, we will have to try geocaching in a wilder outdoor setting.