Find hidden treasures in north Snohomish County

Imagine a family walk through an interesting area you’ve never been, your goal a box of hidden treasure. Your route is directed by the GPS in your hand. Your kids are bursting with excitement as they eagerly run ahead, thrilled by the prospect of finding a treasure first. As you near the treasure, the GPS gives an upbeat sound announcing your arrival at the search zone. After searching around the underbrush, you unearth the treasure.

What do Twin Rivers Park, the Arlington library, and the airport trail have in common? They are each the site of one of these hidden treasures known as geocaches. In fact, there are almost 300 caches within a 10 mile radius of downtown Arlington. Geocaching is the game of finding hidden ìtreasureî, also known as caches. The process of finding the cache is a bigger draw that what is contained in the cache. Treasures found in the caches usually include: happy meal type toys, hot wheels cars, and small items an outdoor enthusiast would enjoy. An individual hides a cache and reports the latitude and longitude of the cache on the official website www.geocaching.com. The cache locations are available to any user who completes a free registration process. All the equipment you’ll need is a handheld GPS.

How does it work? After registering for a free account and logging on to www.geocaching.com, select ìhide & seekî a cache. Put in a zip code and a list of caches nearest that zip code comes up. You can read a description of each cache and decide which ones you want to visit. Enter the coordinates into your GPS, take note of the hint if one is offered, grab something at home to exchange in the cache and you’re on your way. It is a good idea to bring along an extra set of batteries for the GPSand a writing instrument to sign the log book contained in the cache.

When you’re ready to begin the hunt, remember to respect private property boundaries. Your GPS will count down to the foot of where it says the treasure is hidden. Unfortunately, GPS devices are not accurate under 20 feet. Add to that the 20 feet of error in the GPS of the person who placed the cache and you have a search area. Walk around in circles to see where the arrow is consistently pointing to and look for likely hiding spots. People who are not engaged in the hunt may see you. In order to protect the security of the cache site, you should not retrieve the cache until you are unobserved. Always come prepared to place something in the cache in exchange for taking something out. Never leave food in the cache, it is too tempting to animals. Return the cache where you found it and carefully conceal it with natural items. Make sure to log your visit in the cache log and on line when you get home.

Geocaching began May 3, 2000 when Dave Ulmer placed the first cache near Portland, Oregon. There are now over 700,000 placed all around the world. If there is a place you are planning to visit, there are most likely caches hidden there. These cache sites can help you find interesting locations you might otherwise miss. Caches are ranked according to their difficulty and can range from an easy find that can have you back in the car in minutes, to a difficult cache which can require multiple stops, long hikes, rough terrain, or even boat rides. Some caches contain puzzles to solve and others require you to research a topic and use the information learned to fill in the coordinates.

Geocaching is a great family activity. Everyone gets some exercise, there is treasure at the end, and you are able to come together as a family to achieve a challenging task. We have geocached as a family all over Washington to explore unique areas we’d never heard of. Lava tubes, abandoned mines, scenic vistas are waiting to be discovered. There is hidden treasure all around us. Take advantage of this great way to find it.

Stephanie Dickson has lived in the Arlington area for over 25 years and is the mother of six children. She enjoys exploring the area to find family friendly recreation.

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