Christina Relyea and her family have been enjoying a new adventurous activity throughout the Flathead Valley in recent years — geocaching.
Using just a GPS application on a smartphone, the family embarks on a high-tech treasure hunt, searching for random objects that others have playfully hidden throughout the valley.
They scour the outdoors or other public places following simple latitude and longitude coordinates that are posted on the official geocaching website, geocaching.com. Along with the coordinates, sometimes there’s a hint or two helping searchers find the “cache,” which can end up being any and all types of objects.
These caches come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they’re small canisters, boxes or even fake rocks; other times it’s a lunch box filled with trinkets. The rule of the game is if you take something, you have to leave something behind for the next person. Alongside the trinkets, there are sometimes congratulatory messages or coordinates to another cache.
One journey leads to another. Just between Bigfork and Kalispell, there are coordinates to more than 7,000 caches. Woodland Park in downtown has more than 40 secret treasures.
“It’s fun because you’re outside and doing something together. It’s really a family oriented activity because you can take your whole family and kids love to search for things,” Relyea said. “It’s kind of like a modern treasure hunt.”
Relyea has been teaching students at Flathead Valley Community College about geocaching for the past two years as part of the Natural Resources Conservation and Management program. The class, which focuses on recreation management, has taken up organizing a new annual event for other geocaching enthusiasts or prospective treasure hunters.
The second annual Geocaching Adventure is Oct. 18 at FVCC. The event will feature two courses. An easy course is being designed for kids, families or beginners and will include 10 hidden caches around the immediate campus. A second, separate course will be for competitive navigators who will have to search for 16 caches hidden throughout the entire 216-acre college property. Participants on the competitive course will be timed, and the winner who discovers all 16 caches fastest will receive a Garmin GPS donated by Sportsman & Ski Haus. Other prizes will be awarded, and the easy course will feature prizes within the hidden containers.
“We are excited to bring geocaching to our campus and involve our community again this year,” Relyea said. “Last year’s event was a great success, and we’re looking forward to another strong turnout.”
Last year’s inaugural event drew 75 participants. Organizers are expected 75-100 again this year, and space is limited. Pre-registration is required and the deadline is Oct. 15.
Members of Relyea’s class organized this year’s event and designed the course different than last year, making it harder for participants in the competitive course while ensuring the beginner course will hopefully highlight the fun and excitement of geocache adventures.
Participation is free but organizers are asking people to bring non-perishable food items that will be donated to the Northwest Montana Veterans Food Pantry.
Registered participants are asked to report to the main entrance of the Arts and Technology Building — N 48°13.66333′, W 114°19.55667′ — at 10 a.m., on the day of the event to sign in and receive coordinates before beginning the adventure. Participants must have their own GPS or smartphone with a GPS application.
To register, visit www.fvcc.edu/geocache.
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