By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Hidden throughout Morinville are a number of containers and canisters, all part of a global treasure hunting pastime called geocaching. The containers (called hides) are placed in a variety of spots and the location’s GPS coordinates are put on a website devoted to the activity. People in the community and those visiting can then spend a few hours or the whole day finding the hidden caches and recording their presence in the log book.
Morinvillians had the opportunity to learn about geocaching and to try it Sunday afternoon at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre. The event was hosted by the Morinville Centennial Celebrations Committee.
Fort Saskatchewan geocache enthusiast Eric Schulz was one of two instructors who showed newcomers the ropes Sept. 18. For Schulz, geocaching is more than just something to do on a Sunday afternoon; it is a pastime he has been actively engaged in for the past six years. “It’s an outdoor adventure that gets the family outdoors,” Schulz said. “I like it because I get to create unique hides that the average person will go right past and wouldn’t realize it was a geocache. Geocachers get to find it and find something new that they haven’t found before.” Schulz said he enjoys reading the write ups from people who have found or tried to find one of his caches. The experienced geocacher said everyone is drawn to the pastime for different reasons: some finding the caches, others creating the hides. Some are in it to find as many as they can and others enjoy a 12 kilometre hike through the bush on some of the more elaborate quests.
But participants in Sunday afternoon’s event did not have any long hikes to worry about. Some caches were hidden around the cultural centre, some in plain sight or pretty close to it.
One person who came out to give it a try is Morinville resident Simone Chevalier. “It’s great,” she said after locating her first cache. “I think it will be an interesting hobby for holidays. I think the hardest part will be learning how to use the GPS, but it really does lead you to where it [the cache] is.”
Not all participants in the geocaching demo were locals. Edmonton resident Becky Charette said she had heard about the event at the cultural through the geocaching website. Having been doing some research into the pastime, she decided to head north to see what it was all about. “I’m learning a lot in a short amount of time,” she said. “I’m amazed at the ingenuity of these geocachers, how stealth they are. I’m just really glad they’re volunteering to share this information with the rest of us.”
The Sept. 18 event was attended by local scouts and their leaders who took to the fields first to find the hidden treasures before guiding the newcomers on the geocaching trail.
In addition to hosting the event, the Centennial Celebrations Committee have acquired some numbered commemorative medallions with the Town of Morinville and Centennial logo on them. These medallions will be deposited in geocaches and, if taken from the caches and deposited in other caches, can be tracked as they potentially make their way around the world. Geocaching traditionally involves taking and leaving something in the caches people visit.
Centennial Celebrations Committee member Monica Bradley said she hopes geocaching catches on in the community. “I think it allows Morinville a great opportunity to be part of something that is worldwide,” she said, adding it carries the potential of attracting geocaching tourists to town. “The ones that are numbered are going on the geocaching website so geocachers can continue to cache long after the centennial is over.”
Bradley said the idea of geocaching was suggested to the committee by former Morinville resident Dave Redman. “It was a great opportunity for us to expand what we were offering and allow us to offer people something different,” Bradley said. “We wanted to offer some events that were different and outside the typical centennial event.”
For more information on geocaching or to find coordinates for Morinville’s caches visit www.geocaching.com.