There’s a collection of people at the café at the Manuels River Hibernia Interpretation Centre asking each other how many caches they’ve found. At first listen, it sounds as though there’s treasure buried around that these people are tracking down. And it is something like that.
Geocaching is gaining more and more enthusiasts worldwide and the interpretation centre is teaching people how to get into it.
Dan Ficken is a lead science interpreter at the centre. He’s there to teach people how to get into geocaching and use the GPS (global positioning system). The centre started geocaching in 2009.
“It kinda took off. Now that we have the new building here we’ve decided to make it a proper program so we have GPS here for rent,” says Ficken.
The way it works is that a cache is placed somewhere — in this case along the Manuels River — and the GPS co-ordinates are kept on a worldwide website, www.geocaching.com, which is considered the official global GPS cache hunt site. Every cache in the world is listed there and anybody can go find them.
“You’re actually on a scavenger hunt so some people are really into having a goal in mind,” says Ficken. “People come out and they’re very interested in exploring the trails, and we have about 17 or 18 geocaches along the trails, and it’s a good way to get out and see the river.”
And not just this river, but new places all over the world. Donald Cleveland was online researching which GPS he might like to buy in 2007 and came across a geocaching website that he told his wife, Donna, about.
“It sounded interesting so we decided to try it. Now we’re just a few short of 2000 (geocache) finds.”
The couple has geocached in Cuba, Mexico, the US and Canada. Geocaching isn’t just something they might do on a trip, it’s a part of their trip.
“That is a big part of it. Actually we’re leaving again now in a few days to go to Nova Scotia to spend a day or two and that’s what we’ll do. We’ll map out an area and do some geocaching,” Cleveland says.
So what is it about going after these caches that get people so interested? Like Ficken says, it can take you to new places.
“Being in the outdoors and also taking you to different areas you probably don’t even know exist,” Cleveland says.
They can take you to areas of parks or cities that you just wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. In each cache there’s generally something left. It could be a trinket or a few sheckles. The rule is if you take something from the cache, you replace it with something of equal or lesser value for the next person or group to find. This might not seem like much of a treasure but the real booty of the geocache is the adventure of finding it.
“Once you have your GPS, it’s cheap. It doesn’t cost you anything to do,” says Cleveland.
He figures there are more than two million geocaches hidden all over the world and close to seven million active geocachers. Sometimes the cache is hidden in plain site, but anybody not looking for it won’t see it.
“They say when you’re geocaching to be careful of muggles,” says Cleveland.
(The term comes from the Harry Potter books and refers to people who don’t have any magic.)
“In geocaching a muggle does not have a GPS so he doesn’t have the power.”
“(Some) people are going out every day and getting more and more geocaches, so there’s a lot of incentive to place new geocaches every now and then,” says Ficken.
There’s a new geocache on the river, so as soon as people find out it’s there, they’ll be out to find it.