Media Archive

Geocache, other treasures, discovered over weekend

Article from The Piscataquis Observer, Vol. 165, No. 37, September 10, 2003

Guests came hoping to learn more about Geocaching, the quest for hidden treasure. What they found during the Piscataquis County Soil & Water Conservation District Demonstration Forest Open House on Sept. 6 was more than they bargained for.

"I never knew the district had something like this," and "Thank you for putting this on," were the comments visitors made to district staff. Forty-two people turned out under gorgeous blue skies on Saturday to tour the Demonstration Forest, learn about Geocaching and see Global Positioning System (GPS) units in action. Many in attendance were pleased to discover the newly constructed outdoor classroom, picnic tables, a privy and miles of hiking trails complete with interpretive signage.

"Enjoy it, because it belongs to you, too," District Executive Director Sheila Grant told them. The 180-acre district-owned lot in Williamsburg Plantation is open to the public year-round for hiking, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and educational outings. This most recent event was geared toward public education/recreation and encouraging more people to visit the forest.

During the days prior to the open house. District Forester Gordon Moore of the Maine Forest Service placed a Geocache just off one of the trails. A Geocache is a hidden, water-proof container holding a log book and small treasures that finders can claim as souvenirs. The caches are located using GPS coordinates posted at www.geocaching.com. These caches are hidden across America and beyond. Seekers can enter the zip code of their location and pull up a list of caches within their desired mile radius.

Traditionally, having found the cache, folks sign the log book with the date, their name, what they took, what they left and any comments they wish to make. They also log onto the website and share this information, along with any hints about the location that they wish to share.

It was James Macomber, advertising representative at The Piscataquis Observer and an avid Geocache seeker, who first suggested placing a Geocache at the Demonstration Forest as a way to encourage more visitors. Macomber, along with Moore and District Board of Supervisors Chair Stephen Hobart, were the guest speakers at the open house.

Hobart greeted the 42 people gathered around freshly finished picnic tables in the outdoor classroom. He explained a bit about the history of the forest, which was property reclaimed from homesteaders by the federal government during the depression. Part of the White Mountains National Forest for years, the land was eventually turned over to local ownership by the conservation district in the 1980s.

At first, the property was used only for harvesting to provide some additional income for the district. In the 1990s, the idea of an educational forest was bom and the district supervisors began years of labor on the project. There have been many funding partners and volunteer laborers along the way. Work is still underway to fund and complete access road improvements and projects within the forest.

Moore demonstrated the use of GPS units for the crowd. Some were experienced Geocachers. Most were eager to learn how to use the GPS and get started. The forester cautioned them that no technology is perfect and coordinates would usually be a little off the mark. Based on triangulated readouts from six of any given 24 satellites orbiting at the time, the coordinates may be thrown off by heavy, wet tree canopy or by nearby bodies of water. Moore brought extra GPS units for guests to borrow during the treasure seeking trek. Macomber was on hand to provide information about Geocaching. He first heard about the program when it was listed on the travel channel's "Ten Best Treasure Hunts" episode.

"But that was out in Arizona, and I figured there wouldn't be anything like that around here," Macomber said. Curious, he visited the website and soon discovered that Geocaches are peppered throughout the Piscataquis region. "I wanted something to do outdoors with my family, and that's mostly why I got into it,"
he said, pointing to his wife and two young daughters, who were patiently waiting for dad to quit talking so they could go treasure hunting.

As Moore guided guests along the trails, explaining the various forestry Best Management Practices displays, the experienced GPS users helped those who were just beginning. Several paused to ask questions about the displays and to remark on what an asset the forest was to the region. Many were already planning return trips with family members. The teachers in the group, three from SAD 4 and two from SAD 68, were looking for ways to apply what they were learning with their students.

Eventually the cache was found, a large, green ammunition box containing souvenir district lapel pins and pencils for everyone, as well as some other goodies. Macomber's daughters, three and four years old, were first to peek into the box and select their prizes. Everyone signed the log book, then weary hikers returned to their cars while the more adventurous ones headed off to examine a vernal pool with Moore guiding the way.

For more information about the Demonstration Forest, contact the district at 564-2321.


NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.