By Inger Perkins, Partnerships Ranger in Hokitika
Geocaching – it sounded like something for someone else, perhaps an IT nerd even. But the idea of encouraging people to go out and explore some of the special places that DOC look after appealed to me and I decided to have a go during a sunny lunchtime.
After sitting at my desk wondering why my smartphone could not find my location and getting very frustrated I discovered that, just like a GPS, it was much better to have it out in the open with access to satellites.
The first thing I found, to my amazement, was that there were dozens of caches around the “cool little town” of Hokitika. I set off to find my first one. Each cache had a short introduction adding to the interest of the site, for example, a statue outside the Hokitika Museum, one block from the office has a name – Statue of Summer. I’ve lived and worked here for over seven years and I never knew that.
This was fun. It brought out the eager and excited child in me. It was like heading off on an adventure with treasure at the end.
I then thought about our local special places and possible locations for placing my own geocaches. I chose two sites at the beautiful Lake Mahinapua just ten minutes from town and beside State Highway 6. There are lovely short forest walks there and I chose two of them for my first two caches. Finding a location that was beside the track, well hidden but easily found was challenging but the forest litter came in handy.
We will be hosting a ‘Picnic in the Park’ at Lake Mahinapua for Conservation Week, which will give me an opportunity to share my new found enthusiasm for geocaching and to encourage people to have a go right there and then.
We also have a magnificent new cycle trail, the West Coast Wilderness Trail, which crosses some conservation areas, so I thought picking a site with both foot and bike access would be fun. For my fourth, I have taken geocachers out to the serene Lake Kaniere and suggested more walks and a picnic there.
My fifth and final site was at one of our historic sites, the Ross Cemetery, with views across the tiny township of Ross to the Tasman Sea and up to the Paparoa Mountains. I included a question in the geocaching website entry about the cause of death of one of the cemetery residents, to encourage people to delve into the local history.
The next challenge was to add some fun to the write up on the geocaching website, starting with names. My five caches are: Bellbirds will sing to you here (Bellbird Walk), X marks the spot (where rata vines have created a large cross), At the crossroads (cycleway and walkway), Will it be sunny (between Sunny Bight and Sunny Creek) and finally, Last resting place at the cemetery.
A description of the site follows where I’ve encouraged geocachers to discover the walks, the views and explore some more and then the last entry is a clue to make finding the cache a tiny bit easier.
Since putting the caches out, I have received a few excited logs from people who have found them, especially when they were the first – they love that!
One lady even called in to the office to meet me and tell me how much she loved what we were doing – she was up to around 800 caches. On her logs she noted
“We did the nice loop walk, it is a great spot. We may have to camp here the next time we pass this way. Thank you for bringing us to this lovely spot we probably won’t have come out here/known about it if it wasn’t for your cache”.
Makes it all worthwhile, and I’ll certainly be finding some more.
Take part in DOC’s National Geocaching Challenge for Conservation Week. You could be the Geocaching Challenge Champion, and win great prizes from Air New Zealand and Macpac. Find out more on the Conservation Week website.