GUIDE TO TWIN CITIES GEOCACHING
Hop on the Blue Line light rail for geocaching fun in the Twin Cities
Image by Luis Pérez/flickr
By Tammy Galvin
Searching for buried treasure isn't just stuff from tales of pirates. Geocaching is a free outdoor recreational activity that is available to people of all ages, 24/7, all around the globe. Sound too good to be true? It almost is.
By definition, geocaching is an activity in which participants use a GPS or mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers called “geocaches” or “caches” at specific locations marked by coordinates all over the world. A typical cache is a small, waterproof container holding a logbook and pen. The geocacher enters the date they found it and signs it with their established code name in order to prove they found it.
After signing the log, the cache must be placed back exactly where it was found, so as not to disturb the coordinates. Larger caches exist as well and oftentimes come in any number of shapes and sizes of plastic storage containers—sometimes even ammunition boxes. These large caches are the real treasures (at least my children think so) as they contain small toys or unusual trinkets for trading—usually of far more sentimental worth than financial. And the rule is simple: Take something, leave something.
My brother and his wife introduced my family of four to this crazy world of treasure hunting several years ago, and it has become one of our favorite activities to do together as a family, wherever and whenever the mood strikes.
And there really are caches everywhere. As I type this blog from my downtown Minneapolis office, there are 11 caches within a half mile radius. Yes, in the midst of this concrete jungle, I could walk outside and find many of them on my lunch hour. However, that wouldn’t be the wisest of decisions. Why, you ask? Because I would not want to be seen by any muggles.
Yes, muggles—one in the same with the non-wizarding folk from the Harry Potter series. Muggles are non-geocachers. The idea—like any treasure hunt worth its, well, weight in gold—is to be stealth-like in the pursuit of caches. It doesn’t mean going to remote areas in the dead of night or wee hours of the morning, although you could (particularly when searching for reflective light clues). Rather, it means not drawing attention to what you are doing. And once you’ve found the cache, being certain that no one nearby is watching as you swap out trinkets or simply add your name to the logbook. Caches that have been “muggled” usually means discovery by a non-geocacher and that the cache in question has either been dismantled or removed.
Caches vary in size (ranging from the tiniest “nanos” to massive ammo boxes) and in difficulty (easy terrain to exceptionally difficult). They also vary by type:
- Traditional caches are the most common and are complete with logbook and trinkets, depending on size
- Multi-caches involve two or more locations, with the final location being a physical container with a logbook inside. There are many variations, but typically once you’re at the first stage, you will receive a clue as to the whereabouts of the second stage. The second stage will have a clue for the third, and so on
- EarthCaches are special geological locations people can visit to learn about a unique feature of the Earth. EarthCache pages include a set of educational notes along with coordinates. Visitors to EarthCaches can see how our planet has been shaped by geological processes, how we manage its resources, and how scientists gather evidence. Typically, to log an EarthCache, you will have to provide answers to questions by observing the geological location
- Mystery or puzzle caches are the “catch-all” of geocache types that involve complicated puzzles that you will first need to solve to determine the correct coordinates. Mystery/puzzle caches often become the staging ground for new and unique geocaches that don't fit in another category
Much more information on the wonderful, secret world of geocaching can be found at my favorite website (and app) geocaching.com. Be sure to visit the glossary page to quickly learn all you need to know to get started. There are many downloadable apps (free and membership based) available to help you get started, but you can also simply visit the website and record the GPS coordinates in your phone, then use any number of services like Google Maps.
When I purchased the app years ago it was the best $9.99 I ever spent on an app (still holds true to this day). My family and I use it everywhere and have created amazing memories on our treks through the meandering paths at nearby Hyland Lake Park and Reserve—where you can actually borrow a handheld unit to try it out—to the much more rugged terrain of the Grand Tetons, and even smack dab in the middle of Canal Park in Duluth.
So get out this weekend and join the secret world of cachers. You won’t be disappointed. To make it even more interesting, why not hop on Metro Transit's Blue Line and follow this itinerary (or reverse it if you prefer to start downtown). These caches are strategically located and timed so you can hop off the train at the station, walk a short distance, find the cache, and return to the station before your next train departs. As you plot your course, be sure to check out other attractions along the Blue Line.
The geocaching code (GCXXXXX) is on the left, station name on right. For more information on each of these geocache sites, including GPS coordinates, tips, distances, and the like, visit geocaching.com.
GC1FP6E—28th Avenue Station
GC2DV2J & GC2265C—American Boulevard
GC16WJ1—VA Medical Center
GC16WJZ, GC1646M & GC370D—50th & Hiawatha
GC16WJF—46th & Hiawatha
GC16WK3—38th & Hiawatha
GC16WQ8—Franklin & Cedar