In the spring of the year 2000, the U.S. government for the first time made GPS satellite data publicly available. A few days later, one man hid a single container in the woods south of Portland, and posted its GPS coordinates in an online forum. A few days later, someone else went out and found it.
With that, the sport/hobby/obsession known as geocaching was born.
Fifteen years later, there are 2,648, 922 geocaches in the world. If you’re one of the thousands of folks who like combining travel with treasure-hunting, then finding the Original Stash–that very first cache–is probably on your caching bucket list. Luckily for you, Oregon is not only home to the Original Stash, but to lots of additional caching events, clever puzzles, and even official Geotours. Here are a few of our top Oregon Wine Country geocaching picks to help you celebrate the 15th anniversary of geocaching in the birthplace of the sport:
Join Oregon’s first mega-event: Oregon’s Mt. Hood Territory is hosting the Cache the Stash event to mark the 15th anniversary of the placement of the first stash outside the community of Estacada. The local geocaching community has come together to create what organizers hope will be Oregon’s first “mega-event,” with more than 500 cachers on hand for a single event. The Cache the Stash Challenge is scheduled for Saturday, August 8 at the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in historic Oregon City.
Participants will have the chance to earn coins that will piece together to form Oregon’s first-ever three-dimensional puzzle cube. Cachers will have to complete challenges in six communities to finish the puzzle cube. Each coin is designed to highlight unique elements of the participating communities.
Earn a limited-edition coin: For enthusiasts who are unable to make the mega-event, The Territory has additional challenges you can take part in. While coins last, several Mt. Hood Territory communities have commemorative coins that can be earned by finding caches throughout the city. For other geocaching adventures in Oregon’s Mt. Hood Territory, check out their geocaching page.
Hunt in a garden and win a free resort stay: The Oregon Garden in Silverton offers 10 caching sites scattered throughout its 80-acre botanical garden. Special overnight geocaching packages are available at the Oregon Garden Resort, and treasure hunters who identify all 10 sites receive a commemorative pin and a chance to win a an overnight stay at the Garden or its sister property, the Village Green Resort in Cottage Grove.
Go on the world’s first (and 11th) Geo-Tour: The Eugene, Cascades & Coast GeoTour is Oregon’s 1st, and also the 11th GeoTour in the world. Comprised of four editions to showcase the best of the Eugene, Cascades & Coast, each leg takes Geocachers through a variety of natural wonders between caches and in the surrounding environments. From the coastal areas in Florence to the crest of the Cascades, a series of geocaches are focused on small communities and rural locations. The routes highlight iconic attractions like the Sea Lion Caves and covered bridges; stunning natural beauty with locations including Proxy Falls and the Oregon Dunes; and hidden gems like the Old McKenzie Fish Hatchery and Horse Creek Trail. Come see more than 200 scenic miles with 143 caches just waiting to be found. There’s even an Anniversary Geocaching Challenge (a new Geocaching program in all four edition sites) beginning in August.
Solve a puzzle and learn about Corvallis: Corvallis is known for being super-saturated with caches. Almost every park or greenway contains one or more caches, and for travelers who prefer puzzle caches, Corvallis has a wealth of puzzles varying from the very simple, all the way to insanely difficult. Here’s one of our top picks–a fascinating two-part interactive puzzle cache that is guaranteed to teach you more about the city (but we won’t tell you how!): Trying to Catch Some Zs, Steve.
Come for the hot air balloons, stay for the picnic: Every year during the Northwest Art & Air Festival, the skies above Albany are filled with gorgeous hot air balloons…and the streets are filled with geocachers. Join dozens of families who come to town for the NW Art & Air Festival GeoChallenge–if you find every location on the list you’ll be rewarded with a commemorative coin. Then visit with other geocachers when you stay for the annual GeoPicnic–an event whose location is advertised using only GPS coordinates.
New to geocaching? Learn how to play at the official Geocaching site. Want more Willamette Valley ideas? Explore maps, trip ideas and sample itineraries at OregonWineCountry.org.
Photo credit: Oliver J. Anderson