Food, Family, Fan — May 27, 2010

Family fun is around the bend and along the trail

Summer is prime geocache time

It isn’t just about the trinkets kids can collect at the end of the search. Geocaching is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and summer is a perfect time to get started. For the small investment of a global positioning system (GPS) and a can of bug spray—under $100—families can begin finding “treasure” all around.

Hailey and Nathan Shipaila found this cache along the Cannon Township trail. Along the way they also saw a family of geese, including a dozen golden goslings, a hawk and a muskrat on a boardwalk over a wetlands.

Geocaching has become increasingly popular and GPS prices have dropped since the hand-held devices first came out. Here in Rockford, geocaching can offer tidbits of history and direct hikers to new vistas. By visiting geocaching.com and plugging in coordinates to caches, anyone who can hike can find a variety of treasures. Some geocaches are handicap accessible as well. Geocache hiders can leave behind the traditional ammunition container or be creative with Tupperware, other plastic containers and even “micros,” such as the film canister hidden on the property of The Rockford Squire office at 331 Northland Drive. Many caches are on public land but some, like the Squire’s, are on private property with permission. Here at the newspaper office we love to see geocachers searching around out building trying to figure out where the cache “Free since 1871” is hidden.

Our cache is a good example of how geocaching can educate residents about the history of their community. “Free since 1871” refers to the fact that the Squire, formerly the Rockford Register, is the oldest business in the city. The first issue came out February 1, 1871. While geocaching during business hours, we invite anyone to pop in, say hi, and see what the first page of the first issue looked like. We have it framed on our wall.

Another in-town cache is at Pioneer Cemetery. This one is a multi, which means finding the first set of coordinates is just stage one. You use the information on the gravestones to figure out your next set of coordinates. While completing the mutli-stage cache, searchers receive a mini history lesson on some of Rockford’s earliest residents.

Caches in Rockford include Pickerel Walk View (in Pickerel Park), Indian Joes 7, also in Pickerel. Who remembers when the property was known as Indian Joes and the resident used to sell Christmas trees? The piece of history lives on in geocaching. Find the “Secret Garden” on the same property. For a walk, head along the Cannon Township trail. Rust bucket is both the name and a clue to a geocache hidden there. Farther along find Cannon Trail Walk, just about at the half-way point from the township hall to Townsend Park. Warren of Townsend is another geocache, hidden at Townsend Park. Mr. Eko takes searchers to a very interesting piece of the White Pine Trail that you would not expect to find along the normally flat stretch of trail.

Summer is also a good time to geocache because the hobby is world-wide. Literally anywhere you go—with the exception perhaps of Deb Smitter’s Antarctic expedition—you can find geocaches. Look up geocache locations along the route of your next vacation and use the finds as a way to break up a tedious drive. Before leaving, you can also enter geocaches to be found at your destination. In Maine there are caches designed to explain the geologic history of that unique part of the country. At Ludington, find many historic-themed geocaches and others that take hikers to scenic parts of the park.

As school days near their end for this semester, parents can consider geocaching as an option the first time they hear those summertime complaint: There’s nothing to do. I’m bored.

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