By Rachel Monroe
Have you ever dreamed of setting out on a quest for hidden treasure? If so, geocaching may be the perfect opportunity for you and your family to collect fun treasures and create lasting memories together. Thanks to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service there is an exciting geocaching challenge for the residents of Grays Harbor and surrounding counties called the Chehalis Basin Pacific Lamprey Geocaching Challenge.
What is Geocaching?
If you are new to geocaching you probably have many questions. In its simplest form, geocaching is an outdoor treasure hunt. You will need a smartphone (free apps available) or GPS device to help you locate hidden “caches” or containers within a specific location. Caches contain a logbook where participants can sign their name, along with tradable items or “treasures.” When taking an item from a cache, participants are to leave another item of similar value.
Geocaching Close to Home
The Pacific Lamprey Geocaching Challenge involves visiting six locations. The first three in Grays Harbor County. These locations include: Friends Landing, the Satsop River and Preachers Slough. The remaining locations are Porter Creek, Alexander Park and Discovery Trail. The entire expedition can be completed in one day (3-7 hours) and is designed to be friendly for newcomers and families. While most geocaching challenges are simply a fun quest for treasure, the Pacific Lamprey Geocaching Challenge was created with two goals in mind.
Geocaching with a Purpose
One of the primary goals of the challenge is to encourage people to enjoy the natural world around us. “Technology most often competes with nature for our time and attention,” said Daniel Spencer, a biologist with the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife in Lacey and creator of the challenge. “Geocaching is unique in that it is a great way to get our tech savvy population outdoors and connected with nature.”
The challenge is also designed to help people learn about our local environment. In order to identify the correct coordinates that will lead you to the hidden caches, participants must answer trivia questions related to the Pacific Lamprey fish and the Chehalis Basin watershed. “The question for the longitude pertains to the Chehalis river basin and the conservation partners working to restore and maintain the watershed,” Spencer said. “The latitude question focuses on Pacific Lamprey trivia.” Web links are provided so participants can identify the correct answers.
“I think that people inherently want to learn more,” Spencer noted. “However time is a limited resource. I believe that you have to make learning fun if you want to attract people to the subject matter and hold their attention.”
Appreciating the Pacific Lampreys
Educating the public on the nearly forgotten Pacific Lamprey fish is one of the primary reasons the Pacific Lamprey Geocaching Challenge was created. “Pacific Lampreys receive very little attention compared to salmon,” Spencer said. “As juveniles, Pacific Lampreys keep our rivers clean by filtering the water. They are a source of food for many species of animals throughout their life cycle and bring valuable nutrients from the ocean to fresh water environments. They are also culturally important to the Chehalis and Quinault tribes.”
In 2003 a petition was presented to the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife to include the Pacific Lampreys on the endangered species list throughout Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California. The status was denied due to inadequate data. However, there is little doubt the species is on the decline due to modern dams, water pollution and climate change. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working in conjunction with local tribes to preserve the species. “Raising awareness is the first step to recovering the population,” Spencer explained.
Join the Quest
To participate in the Pacific Lamprey Geocaching Challenge, visit www.geocaching.com and download the geocaching app onto your smartphone. There is no fee for participating. Click the link to the Friends Landing cache and it will provide all the directions, including links to the passport and the other caches. Print the passport designed for the challenge and take it along with you.
After locating each hidden cache, stamp your passport with the stamp provided in the container. You can also sign the logbook in the cache and have fun trading items.
Once you have located all six caches, mail your stamped passport to the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife office in Lacey. Mailing directions are included on the passport. The challenge will last till the end of 2015.
This is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the outdoors in your hometown and beyond.