Geocaching may not exactly be a new thing, but it is gaining popularity these days. With the capacity of smartphones advancing, and the increased push to get more people outdoors, it’s no surprise, really. But let’s back up and start at the beginning: what is geocaching, and what does it have to do with the always-fun activity that is riding ATVs in Ontario?
What is Geocaching?
Geocaching is a modern, high-tech treasure hunt that uses GPS receivers to find hidden “treasure” all over the world. Geocachers use a handheld GPS or smartphone to find containers using the coordinates that are found on one of several websites. Once you find the location of the treasure, you sign the logbook to show you found it, trade knick-knacks if you want, then log your visit online.
I've always been intrigued by the whole geocaching phenomenon. I’ve adventured up to the Morning Mist Resort in Stonecliffe for their Geocache Poker Ride, an ATV poker run with cash prizes, for many years. How it works is the resort hosts the event; they provide the GPS coordinates, you find the hidden treasure and trade it in for poker cards. This just touches the tip of the iceberg of getting into the geocaching trend.
Geocaching on Ontario ATV Trails
The Morning Mist event isn’t the only geocaching to be done by ATV in Ontario. The Nation Valley ATV Club has delved head-first into geocaching—and they've gotten me hooked. The club was looking to add a family-friendly activity to the roster of ATV activities for people to enjoy. ATVing in Ontario has become more and more family friendly, with the update in regulations on 2-up and side-by-side machines. With more and more families are out there on the trails, it only made sense to add geocaches to their trail system for ATVers of all ages to enjoy.
I was amused to discover that Nation Valley ATV Club’s trail system already had many geocaches hidden along it, as their trail system uses unopened road allowances, and some public properties as part of their trail system—so it would seem the work was partially started for them. The club set about adding additional caches to their trail system so that caches could be found all day long, along their whole main trail route. They have conveniently made a list of all of the caches that can be found on their trail system, as well as a list of caches that are nearby their trail system that can be accessed by ATV or UTV.
Geocaches differ in size, shape, and difficulty level of finding. Some are easy, and some are very hard; some involve many steps and skill-testing questions. Luckily, the webpage gives you a whole breakdown of what you're getting yourself into for each cache. It’s great fun for my family and I. I drive the Honda Pioneer while my daughter watches the GPS, and tells me where to turn and how close we’re getting to the hidden treasure. When we find it, she signs the logbook for us, and trades knick-knacks if something catches her eye.
Now we are basing some of our ATV adventures on where we can go and find some geocaches along the way, or simply checking about to see what caches we may find on an ATV adventure we had planned anyway.
Places to Geocache in Ontario
Many conservation groups and municipalities across Ontario have gotten on board with geocaching as well. In Ontario, the Municipality of Highlands East and the South Gate of Algonquin Park have a string of seven hamlets making up the Geocaching Capital of Canada. The South Nation Conservation Authority has their very own Watershed Geo-Passport recreational route with 20 geocaches hidden across the properties they manage. The Township of North Grenville has an arm of their tourism committee dedicated to geocaching to engage the community and its visitors with geocaching for fun, physical activity, and education. It’s caught on in the Township of North Dundas, and the South Nation Conservation has a geocaching passport program as well.
Since bitten by the geocaching bug, I have found geocaches on ATV trails all over Ontario, and continue the search! With over two million geocaches hidden across the globe, I don’t think I will be finding them all, but I am certainly working on finding all the ones I can on all of Ontario’s great ATV trails.
So perhaps before you head out for your next ATV adventure check out more resources on geocaching before trying it out yourself! Head over to Geocaching.com and take a moment to make yourself a free account before getting out there and start finding some caches. You can use a traditional GPS, or there are free smartphone apps available for download—there’s nothing holding you back from getting on your ATV and adding to the adventure!