One Woman’s Journey Brings Physical Geocaches to National Parks

Abby Wolfe (hydnsek) on left and Park Ranger Cindy Bjorklund on right

Geocacher Abby Wolfe (pictured on the left) wears many proverbial “hats.”  The avid hiker is the President of the Washington State Geocaching Association (WSGA) and chairs its Park Advocacy Committee. Her Geocaching.com username is hydnsek.

Abby is also one of the few to make physical geocaches in national parks in the United States a reality.

Here’s her story, in her own words. See what you might learn about bringing physical geocaches to a national park near you.

LATITUDE 47: Tell us the big geocaching news about the North Cascades National Park, what happened and how did you make it happen?

ABBY: The first two physical caches were recently published in North Cascades National Park Service Complex (NCNPSC) – Cascade Pass Trailhead and Gorge Dam Overlook. This may be the first western national park to permit physical caches – a great win for geocachers!

I first contacted North Cascades three years ago to get permission for an EarthCache. They were receptive, and their interpretive specialist suggested the location for a second EarthCache. I met with them, and built a relationship from there—becoming a park volunteer (VIP) and their geocaching liaison, and educating them about geocaching and the potential benefits of physical caches. It helped that the superintendent was already enthusiastic about “questing” activities (as he calls them) because he’d taken his kids letterboxing, and they had already permitted a letterbox.

Near Cascade Pass Trailhead geocache

LATITUDE 47: What lessons have you learned about working with the National Park Service that other geocachers should know?

ABBY: Many cachers believe the NPS bans geocaching, which isn’t entirely true. The current NPS geocaching guidance document (PDF file) leaves it to the discretion of individual park superintendents. Many NPS personnel aren’t familiar with it, so you may have to educate them about the guidance doc as well as geocaching.

You’re more likely to have success with lesser-known parks that are looking for ways to raise their profile and increase attendance (and funding). For example, Mount Rainier is hugely popular and has no incentive to permit physical caches (although we’ve turned a key ranger into an avid geocacher). North Cascades is a different story; they receive only 19,000 visitors each year (!), so promoting geocaching as a popular activity and educational tool that could help attract new visitors was a strong selling point.

LATITUDE 47: Why do you think geocaching belongs in national parks?

ABBY: Many of our greatest natural wonders are in the National Parks. Geocaching provides a fun and educational way to explore them, especially for families, since kids are more engaged by the “treasure hunt” than by scenery and signs. EarthCaches are great, but they’re limited to geological features and are less appealing to some cachers and kids. Physical caches can showcase scenery, flora and fauna, and human history.

Near Gorge Dam Overlook geocache

LATITUDE 47: How do geocachers (seekers and those seeking to hide caches) continue a healthy relationship with the national parks?

ABBY: I think the best way is to show that we understand their goals and concerns, and that we respect the environment (think CITO!) and park policies. Becoming a park volunteer is a great way to foster this; it’s helped WSGA win over several parks. If you can get park personnel to view geocaching as a positive recreational activity that supports their mission without adding to their workload, it will be easier for them to support geocaching.

Building these trusting relationships is the goal of WSGA’s Park Liaison Program, which pairs a geocacher with a park system to self-manage geocaching activities. North Cascades was one of our first participants, and we currently have 10 park systems in the program.

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Groundspeak Weekly Mailer – December 15, 2010

Turn a “Muggle” into a Geocacher in One Step

Turning a “muggle” into a geocacher is as easy as giving them a geocaching Starter Kit from Shop Groundspeak. The Starter Kits introduce curious friends and family to geocaching with a combination of must-have items. Depending on which kit you choose, contents may include a lanyard, Travel Bug® set, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Geocaching” or even a GPS device. There are six available kits, so you can pick one that’s perfect for the muggle in your life.

If you live outside the US, make sure to visit the list of International Distributors to find everything you need to introduce someone new to geocaching this holiday season.

You can also show friends and family what the new geocacher experience is like by sharing one of the latest videos on Geocaching.com-“Newbie Geocaching 101.”

Holiday ToughCase Promotion

Here is a Special offer for Geocaching.com Members in the US and Canada. Save $80 on the Magellan ToughCase with built-in GPS for iPhone or iPod touch! Originally $179.95! Now only $99.99! ToughCase is the perfect companion to Groundspeak’s award winning Geocaching App for iPhone.

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• Precisely locate Ground Zero with the built-in high sensitivity GPS. ToughCase gives 3-5 meter accuracy and does not rely on a phone signal so you can use it with your iPod touch as well as your iPhone.

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“Newbie Geocaching 101” A Geocaching.com Lost & Found Video

Millions of people around the world use Geocaching.com to launch and share their treasure hunting adventures. And every person has something in common—each geocacher was just “newbie” in the beginning.

Watch this video and learn some tricks for first-time geocachers. Go along as “newbies”  tackle their very first GPS-enabled  treasure hunt. But they’re not alone. Hear the wisdom of experienced geocachers who have logged thousands of finds and hidden hundreds of caches.

No longer "muggles"

Share this Lost & Found video with your friends and family who are taking their first steps as geocachers.

You can explore more videos that capture the adventure of geocaching.  Check out  the Geocaching.com Lost & Found video gallery.  Explore an “extreme” geocache, watch a Travel Bug® go around the world and visit the highest and lowest geocaches in existence.

“Nad Podkovou” GCXEWR GEOCACHE OF THE WEEK December 6, 2010

“Nad Podkovou” GCXEWR hides in the hills of the Czech Republic. “Nad Podkovou” translates from Czech to English as “Above the Horseshoe.” The cache takes adventurers above a horseshoe in the Vltava River. It’s the longest river in the Czech Republic.

Near geocache GCXEWR
A view down river

A. da Mek placed the difficulty three, terrain three geocache in July of 2006. Geocachers hike to a path 500 feet (160 meters) above the river. The cache is just off the path, allowing geocachers to avoid scrambling around the dangerous cliffs. More than 120 geocachers have logged a smiley on the cache.

Continue your exploration with some of the most engaging geocaches from around the world. Explore all the Geocaches of the Week on our blog or view the Bookmark List on Geocaching.com.

Groundspeak Weekly Newletter – December 1, 2010

This holiday season, there are many ways that you can share the joy and adventure of geocaching with friends and family alike.

Now, for the first time ever, you can introduce someone to geocaching, or treat an existing geocacher to all the features and benefits of Premium Membership with a new Geocaching.com Premium Membership Gift Card! This card provides the recipient with 12 months of Premium features, including Pocket Queries, instant cache notifications, watch lists and more.

The Premium Membership Gift Card can be used to upgrade a new or existing Basic Membership or to extend an existing Premium Membership for an additional 12 months. Geocachers outside the United States can give a Premium Membership via our website.

Also, don’t forget that at ShopGroundspeak.com we have everything for the special geocachers in your life, including GPS devices, Shirts, Hats, Stickers, Cache Containers, Trackables and more. Check out all of the great geocaching gifts at www.ShopGroundspeak.com. For International geocachers, make sure to check the list of International Distributors to find everything you need for holiday geo-gift giving.

Reconnecting with Nature through Geocaching

Vote to reconnect people with nature by promoting geocaching on public lands in the United States. America’s Great Outdoors Initiative is designed to gather ideas from the public on how to best conserve outdoor spaces and reconnect people with nature. We believe that geocaching is one of the best ways to accomplish the latter, and we hope that you agree. If you do, please encourage the US government to promote geocaching on public lands by clicking “Promote” on the left-hand side of this page. Please note that you must register to vote.

Not in the United States? Let us know how geocachers in your country are working with land managers to help reconnect people with nature-send an email to pr@groundspeak.com.