New Texas A&M Study: Geocaching Improves Physical and Mental Health

Now, this is old news to me, as someone who’s lived what the study was studying. But, it’s great to have an actual “study” backing up what those of us who participate, already know.

http://blog.geocaching.com/2013/11/new-texas-am-study-geocaching-improves-physical-and-mental-health/

1,000 Geocachers volunteered to be part of the first ever major study of geocaching and its effect on health. The 14-month Texas A&M study called Geocaching for Exercise and Activity Research(GEAR) launched in January of 2013. The first set of results from the study were presented on November 5 at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association in Boston.

Each of the participants were given devices to track their movement and a logbook to record their level of geocaching intensity. The first results showed the effects of regular geocaching. Researcher Whitney says, “The GEAR study has identified an association between geocaching and improved health.”

Another researcher, Garney, goes on to say, “GEAR participants who report geocaching once a week or more are more likely to meet national guidelines for physical activity and are more likely to report good or very good health status compared to those who geocache less frequently.” In addition, research showed that geocachers reported fewer days of poor physical and mental health compared to state level data.

Follow Geocaching on Instagram for more epic and inspirational geocaching pics http://instagram.com/gogeocaching

These findings are still preliminary, but nevertheless we’re excited about them. The study concludes in early 2014 and final data will be analyzed and presented later that year.

Any other Geocachers have the same experience? Please share yours!

WALC Raptor Loop

A blog about our outdoor and Geocaching adventures that the wife writes.

cache hownds adventures

With the new section of highway 97 done, a few new WALC (walking around Lake Country) trails have emerged. And what does any good geocacher do…..going hiking to place new caches of course 🙂

The trail was a pretty easy 3km hike. Liams favorite part……going through the tunnel under the highway. We walked on a variety of nice man made trails, dirt bike/quad trails, and some deer trails. Looking at the map I thought this hike was going to be pretty long, but we managed, and Liam did awesome! However with placing 11 caches along the trail it did take use just over two and a half hours. The end of the hike was getting a little hurried as it was getting dusk very quickly. We made it back to the car close to 4:30….just in time, any longer and we would have had to break out the flashlights.

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Fall Geocaching.

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Fall is my favourite time of year.

If I had a choice of one season to spend the rest of my life in, this would be it. I love the changing colours and cooler weather.

I’ve been cooped up most of my days off at home with a sick kid. Damn bug has taken it’s toll on the family; each of us, one by one. Although having an extensive project list still to work on, I needed to get outside for a bit and back to nature.

A quick hike and short drives to series of caches put me back where I love to be. There’s been a fog hanging over the valley for the last few days, and I was in the thick of it. At times I would stop, and enjoy the sound of practically no sound. Silence, broken only by the falling of collected mist on to the forest floor. Lost in the purity of nature at it’s most beautiful. My concentration only momentarily broken, noticing the dull hum from the direction of the city.

Foggy!

Foggy!

Here I could not see the forest for the trees… No seriously, the fog was that thick. Maybe 50 feet in front of me, that’s it. The road I was on was frequented by several trucks carrying quads. It is hunting season after all. I tried to do my searches without looking too much like a deer, or moose. At one cache I thought “funny that I’ve heard no gunshots”, and then right on cue <BOOM!!!>! Fairly close by too. Okay maybe time to call it quits, and next time, bring a hi-vis vest!

While I enjoy nature, it’s purity spoiled reminds me of how disgusting of creatures we humans can be. Garbage and prunings dumped in pull-off areas. I know hunting goes on in the are and that doesn’t bother me, but surely you can dump off your deer carcasses, skin, heads and other miscellaneous bits somewhere else besides right next to the main road!

Almost embarrasses me to be human.

Purposely placed stones in small circle. Animal Grave?

Purposely placed stones in small circle. Animal Grave?

Ellison Park Geocaching

A quick note: I actually started this quite a while ago, and am just now getting around to finishing it. One of those projects that got pushed back and forgotten about, until now. Figure now is as good as a time as any to finish it!

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During the second weekend in June, we camped out at Ellison Provincial Park near Vernon, BC.

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This trip served a dual purpose as chance to try out the tent trailer we bought at the end of last season (my wife called it the “maiden voyage”, and I preferred to think of it as a “shakedown cruise”) and a chance to make a home-base for the weekend and try to find the roughly dozen or so Geocaches within the park boundaries. Friday was the day to find a spot and get setup while Jeanne was at work. Ellison Park has just over 70 camp sites (and two Yurt’s for rental), but 50 of them are reservable, meaning 20 were first-come first-served if they weren’t already occupied. And since when is leaving chair considered claiming a campsite? If I’ve got my trailer with me, I think that overrides your chair. When did this become a rule???. Anyway… When I got there just after noon, there was abut six spots still available. I found one to my liking (or easiest to back into) and got the trailer set up. Mission accomplished. Good thing too! By the time I left, there were only three sites that I could see still available. Now for a trip back home to get Jeanne and Liam once she was off of work. So no Geocaching Friday, but that’s what Saturday was for!

Twisted

Twisted

After breakfast on Saturday, we headed out for the most logical location for caches, which was along the hiking trail. The park has a hiking trail that loops around and is just over 2km in length. The trail entrance is near the Information Kiosk in the park. The first Geocache wasn’t far off from the start. This however, is where it pays to check the ratings of the cache before just following the pointer on the GPS! Where I figured it would be up on the hillside, turned out to be at the base of the hill. I figured this out while standing at the cliff edge and the GPS telling me to travel 10m over the edge. Crap. Well we could go down an find it, or keep going and come back later since it’s not far from the trail head. I saw a gentlemen come along the trail below with four other kids, thinking perhaps they were just on a hike until I heard one of the kids say “maybe it’s a micro”. Nope, fellow Geocachers. We opted to carry on and try again later. The next cache was a relatively easy find, and found a geocoin located is this cache that was listed as being in the previous cache! Good idea moving it newbs, but gotta learn how to log them! The next cache we weren’t so lucky with. The trail twists and bends, and the GPS gives you a direction in a straight line to your chosen coordinates. So while we thought we were going on the right past, turns out not so much. Such is the hazard of trails never before traveled. We could have got to the cache if we were willing to do a little bushwhacking, but dragging Liam and Jeanne through the terrain didn’t sound like a great idea at the time. Must be a trail we missed. Geocaching rule: the most direct route to the cache usually isn’t the easiest route. Carry on, and try again another time. The final cache took us to the top of a ridge and cliff face that would have taken the Looney Tunes expression  “Watch out for that last step! It’s a loo loo!” to a whole new meaning! Fortunately the cache wasn’t located anywhere near the edge, and a quick find using the cache’s name “Cone you see me?” as part of the hint. the next issue was where to go from here? The trail generally had some markers and a singular direction, but the trail along the edge of the cliff went in two directions. I checked out the one direction that would have taken us in the direction of another cache. However after discovering that this short section of trail had a drop off at the end of it that screamed “almost sudden death” (almost, because the fall would have taken a few seconds!), the other way seemed much more logical. This proved to be the better choice is it looped back to the campsite.

Getting the "log" out.

Getting the “log” out.

Before the dip...

Before the dip…

 

We stopped back at our campsite for a quick food break for us and the kid before carrying on to a few more caches down by the beach.

Darth Wimpy

Darth Wimpy

After refueling, we made our way down the winding trail to the beach area. There was a cache not to far away on a hillside in between the two coves that make up the beach areas. We decided to skip this one, and make our way to the one cache the furthest north on the beach, then work our way back to this one. Liam decided that he wanted to go into the water… naked. We decided that taking off his shoes and socks and wading out into his shorts would be good enough. Of course Liam being Liam, the height of the water on his legs got further and further up. We walked along the beach with Liam wading behind us, and we came to the point of a large bush that took up the beach space. We had to go around, but Liam could wade through the water around the bush. We ere half way around and heard a sploosh, then a “WAAAAAAAAAH”. Crap. Should have let him wade naked. Fortunately Jeanne had a towel in the backpack (for the camera) so we had something to dry off Liam as the clouds and some raindrops rolled in. We were close enough to the cache that I was able to grab it, then help dry off someone and wring out his clothes. With a towel wrapped around his waist, Jeanne’s dark hoody around him, one of this precious sticks and a droopy expression, I dubbed him “Darth Wimpy” (see photo). Although Jeanne and I would have liked to have got that other cache, Liam’s new wardrobe dictated otherwise. We went up another trail from the beach that we saw in the campground. Although not as steep as the first trail, this one went to a higher elevation and had more switchbacks in it. In the end it may have been longer than the first trail, but at least we now know which one to use! I had coordinates on a couple of other caches in this direction but both looked like they involved a little bush walking. Not a good idea at that time, but easy enough to get too. Back to the campsite to feed grumpy and give him a needed rest. Jeanne and Liam took a break, and Jeanne said I could go after some of the ones we missed. Not one to miss an opportunity to get a few more smileys, off I went!

1233954_10151638409012765_562591473_nThe first one we missed was easy, and I backtracked to the campground to try the other two on the hillside we didn’t get on the way back from the beach. I found a better route to the one called “Belay Station” (This area is known for it’s rappelling and rock climbing.) that offered a beautiful view of one of the coves. Despite the coordinates being off and leading me to some sketchy terrain that didn’t match the rating or hint (and a drop off that would have ended in a “sploosh” instead of a “splat”), the find was easy enough to make, and picked up a Travel Bug to move along. A little bit of bushwhacking was required to get the next cache named “Lichen Moss and Ferns”. Glad I was wearing my jeans at the time! I figured I’d try looking for the next cache without using the hint. I got to where the cache was supposed to be by the coordinates, which was smack on top of a rocky hillside. Hmm… Well lets try looking around. This spot looks like it could be hiding something. Let’s see what under this ro… <then something moved> SNAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAKE!!! Considering that I’m in an area known for rattlesnakes, I dropped the rock. Taking a moment to collect myself, my “maleness” kicked in; meaning my curiosity overrode any sense of danger I had at that moment. “I know it’s a snake” I though, “but I wonder what kind of snake?” Carefully lifting up the rock, I was greeted by a small tan body twisted around, and two pairs of legs. Oops. Okay, since this was the only obvious spot and I don’t see it, lets check the hint, Hint said “hidden 14m NW of coordinates”. Well crap. Turns out the old cache site was “muggled” so the Geocachers who found it, moved it to a new location for the Cache owner. Following the new direction made it an easy find. I took a new set of coordinates and pictures of the cache site for the cache owner so they could find it again themselves. Time to return to home base!

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Another later trip to the beach at the far end of the campground for a swim and a couple more geocaches to finish they day. In total, around 8km hiked that day. A bit long winded, but this is what a day of Geocaching adventures is like for us, and why we love it as much as we do. Funny how most of our trips all revolve around Geocaching now!

The view from up here…

You know there’s a shift in your habits when it’s now a hard decision trying to decide what you want to do for exercise that day!

I decided to tackle a mountain I’ve climbed once before (figuratively and literally) when I started Geocaching. Id been up to one of the higher ridges to do a Geocache a year before, but missed another one further up the hill, due to lack of fitness at the time, and also a 3-year old in tow. Since then (according to the map on Geocaching.com) two more had been placed on the mountain. So, I decided to go for a climb!

Looking North

Looking North

Now here’s a tip for any new Geocachers: study your terrain and read about the caches before going after them. This can provide you information on the best way to get to a cache, or if it’s a puzzle cache, try to figure out the location before going to the location on the map (often, it’s not there, or even near there). Despite having some experience myself (315 caches found and counting), I did none of this. Conquering the mountain again was my quest on this day. Climbing the steepest part of the ascent was a lot faster than the first time I tried; a mix of being in better shape and no young child in tow! I was at the hill top and decided to check the coordinates of the mystery cache. 284 metres from my location… at the bottom of the hill.

Well crap, that might have to wait for another time.

Looking East

Looking East

I carried on to the top of the mill and the cache that was located in the area. I got close to the coordinates, but decided to check out the one a little further down the hill. Problem was, the hill was a steep decline to the bottom. I could go down, but getting back up was going to be a long climb, and I had time constraints. came across a fellow coming up the other side of the hill who gave me some directions on the trails that are on the mountain. He told me he’s climbed the mountain every day for two years and lost 50 pounds! Good on ya! Anyway, had I got the cache at the top first, I could have  descended for the other one and took a trail at the bottom of the hill to get back to my vehicle. I really didn’t want to get that cache and then climb back up the hill again for the first one. Oh well, at least I now know a better route from the bottom to get the other caches! Next time I’ll return with my bike.

Looking South

Looking South

Sometimes my Geocaching excursions turns out to be more of a “scouting mission”, to survey the terrain and to return at a future date. Today was one of those days. I only got one cache I was after, but I discovered an easier route (and a new trail!) to go after the other two.

But in the end, finding the cache was just a bonus. In a way, we all have our own mountains to climb. Sometimes, it’s not the goal at the end that’s important, it’s the fact you made it to the top!

Bones from an old abandoned Orchard.

Bones from an old abandoned Orchard.

Get Outside!

Get Outdoors!

Get Outdoors!

Today is “Get Outdoors Day” within the Geocaching Community, and today I did just that.

Originally we were supposed to go as a family up to Big White to do some hiking and Geocaching up there, but Liam got real sick real fast, so that put a hold on those plans. Jeanne did let me go out to do a couple of caches so I could get the souvenir (seen above). I decided to finish off a short series I had started a while ago. One cache was a distance from the starting point, so I decided to take the bike out for a quicker return trip.

Having been on this path before (actually, it’s chunk of old highway) I knew what was upcoming, but being later in the year than the first time I was here, the weeds were at least 8 feet or taller in areas right next to the road, allowing for no view of what’s coming up. I made sure and had the bear bells out, especially with signs of bear scat on the road that didn’t look that old. The ride back was primarily uphill but not too hard to do. It was a good leg workout without being too exhausting. I did my best to keep my eyes open for sharp rocks to avoid on some parts of the trail.

Sign the Log?

As I got back to my vehicle, my GPS “leapt” (I’m sure I had it fastened on right?) off it’s mount and fell (good thing it had a rubber cover). As I leaned over to pick it up, I heard a large PSSSSHHHHHHHH from the front tire! I could feel air rushing past the valve stem from inside the rim. Moments like this is where I swear there’s someone watching over me! This happens WAY too often in my life to be mere coincidence (which I don’t believe in). If it was going to fair, as I get back to my vehicle is perfect! Have to repair the tire now, but better than a kilometer walk alone in the middle of nowhere!

Did one final cache while in the area, on a hillside that I’m pretty sure would have left a goat feeling winded. Geocaching takes me to great spots, some even take my breath away!

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Gorge Creek Trail Loop

Not all those who wonder are lost – J.R.R. Tolkein

Despite the many years I’ve lived in this province, I’m continually amazed by the places I never knew existed, or may have driven past a thousand times without stopping. This location is a little of both (more the former), and discovered – in a roundabout way – thanks to Geocaching.

I’ve been to Craigellachie multiple times. It’s usually a common rest stop when I used to travel back and forth from AB, however I’ve never ventured much further than the flats. I had no reason to.

If it wasn’t for this kiosk…

If it wasn’t for Geocaching, I would have had no reason to venture up the small hillside to look for a cache. I would have never gone past the small kiosk with pictures and info about the Gorge Creek trail. I wouldn’t have taken a picture of the sign (so I didn’t forget) and shown it to my wife.

Almost a year later of “we should go there sometime”, it became the destination of a family hike on Mother’s Day of 2013. Finding some directions online, it turned out to be easier of a find than expected. Craigellachie is about 1 1/2 hour drive from Winfield (including fuel stop). Plenty of parking is available in the “Last Spike” rest stop. Once past the bathrooms, there’s a short paved path going up the hill, follow this to the kiosk. Once there, look to your right and there’s a short path to the highway. If you look west across the highway, the sign to the trail head is clearly marked (Unless you’re driving on the highway! Can’t read it going North, and it’s angled wrong to read it travelling south.).

Being a coastal boy I fell in love with the area, which I can simply describe as “lush”. Much of the area is covered in a thick layer of green moss. The day was cloudy with the occasional short shower, but we were dressed for it and I enjoyed the cooler weather.

Fir Falls

Upon coming to Fir Falls – the first of the three – my first impression was nothing short of awestruck. While not the largest falls I’ve seen, the deafening thunder of rushing water with the spring runoff, and the thick mist in the air which felt like we were in a cool shower was nothing short of amazing. The view was even more impressive on the bridge which crossed in front of the falls, and had a small falls of it’s own. Log rails are in the area to help define boundary but I wouldn’t count on them to resist much weight on them.

Cedar Falls

This location at Fir Falls is where the trail branches off across the bridge to the trail on the other side of the creek, or continue going west on the trail to the other falls (personally, go this route). Whatever route you take, this is the spot you’ll return to on the loop.

Cedar falls is next on the loop. The mail trail will continue on with a short trail that will take you to the falls. Not a great view when first approaching the falls, but another short trail that follows the creek will give you a better view of the falls. There’s also a small (and I do mean small) bench in the area to have a seat and enjoy the view. return to the mail trail to carry on. From here the trail does get steeper in parts and while not a must, hiking (walking?) poles are an asset.
Hemlock Falls

Hemlock Falls in the final falls on the trail – and in my opinion – the tallest of the
three falls. View of the falls from this spot is at a bit of a distance, but when the water flow is high, you can understand why you wouldn’t want to be too close! It sure doesn’t’ detract from the beauty. From here, the loop carries on above Hemlock Falls to a bridge that crosses the creek and carries on the south bank of the creek. My son took a liking to a couple of stumps that someone took the time to carve into chairs (you’ll see them just before crossing)! Once across the bridge, a picnic table is close by to stop and enjoy a snack before finishing the loop.

Hemlock Falls

The south bank of the trail offers a closer (and nicer) view of Hemlock Falls from this location. Please exercise caution on this side of the trail, as the trail significantly narrows with a sharp drop to the river in a few locations. My highly-distracted almost 4-year-old gave us a couple of heart attacks on this side of the creek with the occasional slip by not watching his footing; damn him and his lack of fear. Also, there’s a couple of steep spots while descending where poles would be handy. Now to cross the bridge near the base of Fir Falls with a thunderous roar of water underneath you. Once crossed over, trail markers guide you back to your starting location.

Below Fir Falls bridge.

Now… part of the idea of Geocaching  is to place caches in interesting locations to bring people to areas they may not normally find on their own. Did we place any? Well of course! However I’ve entered these caches as part of the BC Geocaching Association’s 2013 Blitz, which should start on May 25. I’m actually surprised no one has placed any caches in this spot after all this time? Hopefully they get approved. Kind of a distance to maintain, but as my wife said, this spot will easily be a yearly venture anyway.

Edit: Caches are approved! GC4C89Q, GC4C8A5, and GC4C8AQ.