Follow the geocache trail in East Bethel

There is a new geocache challenge for those who frequent East Bethel city parks.

Some of the bigger geocaches have inexpensive trinkets inside of them that people can take. The good protocol is to then replace it with something of similar value.

Some of the bigger geocaches have inexpensive trinkets inside of them that people can take. The good protocol is to then replace it with something of similar value.

The task at hand is to find all 24 geocaches located in 16 city parks. The Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve has the most geocaches — five. Booster Parks East and West have six combined. Some may be the size of a test tube, while the larger geocaches are the size of an ice cream bucket and contain items.

All the 24 geocaches, except six, were already in place at city parks when East Bethel Public Works Manager Nate Ayshford became aware of the citizen-led initiative. He was able to track down those who already placed geocaches and asked them to be a part of East Bethel’s geocache trail. He also enlisted volunteers to set up six more in secret locations.

Enter code at geocaching.com to find coordinates and hints
Booster East: GC3HA5F, GC2C6J6, GC3HA5J
Booster West: GC2CCY1, GC3HA5A, GC395M4
John Anderson: GC1EFZX
Bonde: GCZVXD
Hidden Creek: GC3KYW1
Anderson Lake: GC27ZAN
Whispering Oaks: GC2T1PH
Eveleth: GC2T1Q1
Rod and Norma Smith: GC21QDW
Cedar Creek: GC27N2A, GC2958R, GC29596, GC2959J, GC2959W
Norseland Manor: GCVVDY
Eagle Ridge: GC3HCCT
Maynard Peterson: GC3H19G
Northern Boundaries: GC3HAYH
Carlisle: GC3HAYV
Deer Haven: GC3HAYY

“There’s different difficulties,” Ayshford said. “Some of these will be harder to find than others.”

For those not familiar with the activity, geocaching is essentially “a high-tech scavenger hunt,” Ayshford said. A GPS-enabled device is needed to punch in the coordinates to the geocache location.

East Bethel has geocache codes that can be entered into the search engine at geocaching.com to get the coordinates and hints.

Once found, you can take something from the geocache as long as you put something else back or you can just note that you found it on your log book. Some items in the geocaches have a bar code on it that you can scan with your smart phone to find out where the item has been.

“The purpose of this program was to try to create more activities for families and residents to get out and visit our parks and maybe draw in people from other cities to visit our parks,” Ayshford said.

A popular activity

Geocaching has become a very popular activity for those who want to do more than observe nature. Jeff Allen of Wyoming, known as “trailzombie” in the geocaching world, loves the activity because his family are getting exercise and they have found many “hidden gem” parks they were not aware of.

“It forces people to get out of their habits of going to set places,” said Allen, who has placed over 200 geocaches himself, but none in East Bethel.

“Geo” stands for land and “caching” is a computer term for storage, Allen said. He bought his first GPS device seven years ago.

Nate Ayshford, East Bethel’s public works manager, reveals a hidden geocache. Photos by Eric Hagen

Nate Ayshford, East Bethel’s public works manager, reveals a hidden geocache. Photos by Eric Hagen

Allen, his wife and four children ages 11 to 16 travel throughout the metro area on weekends and will occasionally make geocaching hunt pit stops on long road trips.Anoka County Parks started a geocaching pilot program five years ago at Rice Creek Chain of Lakes Park Reserve in Lino Lakes and Centerville, according to Jeff Perry, parks operation manager for Anoka County. Its success led to geocaches being hidden at Bunker Hills Regional Park in Andover and Coon Rapids, Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park, Lake George Regional Park in Oak Grove, Riverfront Regional Park in Fridley and Rum River Central Regional Park in Oak Grove and Ramsey.

Perry said he was a little apprehensive at first about how this activity would impact the parks, but there have been no negative impacts on nature.

“It’s a great activity for people of all ages and for families and people wanting to get exercise,” Perry said. “Overall, it’s been a positive experience for everyone involved.”

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) lets people check out GPS devices at Afton, William O’Brien and Fort Snelling state parks so amateurs can see if they like the activity before purchasing their own equipment, according to Kathy Dummer, interpretative operations coordinator for the DNR’s division of parks and trails.

The DNR also started a Geocaching Avian Adventure June 9 and will wrap it up in June 2014.

The DNR challenge goes like this. A Geocaching Avian Adventure bird cache has been hidden in every one of Minnesota’s 76 state parks and recreation areas, as well as the Root River state trail in southeast Minnesota. Each bird card is color coordinated to one of the state’s four biomes. Yellow is for prairie, green is for deciduous forest, blue is for coniferous forest and brown is for tall grass aspen parkland.

When you find these 77 bird cards, show these to a staff member at any park office, which is the building where you purchase permits and pick up maps. They will give you the coordinates of four additional biome caches at Camden State Park, Nerstrand Big Woods State Park, Savanna Portage State ark and Lake Bronson State Park. These locations have four additional bird cards. If nobody is at the office, clues will be posted so you can still find the four geocaches.

Once you have the 81 bird cards, bring your collection to Itasca State Park’s visitor center to show a staff member. They will then give you the coordinates for the final secret cache. Once you find this final cache and the final bird card, take a picture with your family and friends who helped along the way. Send the photo and a caption to the Minnesota DNR by following a link on the DNR’s Geocaching Avian Adventure description page.

Eric Hagen is at eric.hagen@ecm-inc.com

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