EarthCaches an opportunity to learn about unusual locations

jeff.mayor@thenewstribune.comJanuary 12, 2014 

Friday marked the 10th anniversary of the first EarthCache, created in Australia as a form of geocaching.

EarthCaches can be described as a noninvasive geocache. In geocaching, participants leave behind a hidden container filled with goodies and doodads, and then post the GPS coordinates and hints at An EarthCache takes

people to unusual natural locations, but geocachers are challenged to use their geological detective skills to uncover the answers to specific questions about the location.

Such caches are popular at places such as national parks, where visitors are encouraged to stay on trails. In geocaching, caches are often hidden in places that require some off-trail searching.

At Mount Rainier National Park, visitors can search for the “Kettles, Kames and Varves” EarthCache. The GPS location takes you to a spot along Reflection Lakes.

The creator of the cache is using the location to give visitors information about glacial and lake features. Kames, the creator wrote on the website for the cache, are mounds of sediment deposited along the front of a slowly melting or stationary glacier.

Another at the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center, takes participants on a 1.6-mile hike to make observations of the Nisqually Glacier and the air temperature in the vicinity.

An EarthCache at Olympic National Park takes visitors to the Hall of Mosses Trail in the Hoh Rain Forest.

Kevin Bacher, the volunteer and outreach coordinator at Mount Rainier, is a geocacher and a big fan of EarthCaches.

“I find them a great way to learn about an area. This past summer, we visited Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Craters of the Moon national parks and completed 28 Earth Caches along the way, 23 of them in the parks,” he said. “We learned at least as much through our smartphone app as we did from the park wayside signs.”

He has created two EarthCaches at the park, one at Sunshine Point and another at Longmire he called “Dude, Where’s My Horse?”

The Longmire cache tells the story of James Longmire’s discovery of the mineral springs when his horse wandered off while Longmire was climbing the mountain in 1883, Bacher said.

To complete the cache, visitors have to borrow a thermometer at the visitor center and take the temperature of several of the springs, and compare them to the temperature of the nonthermal stream that flows past the historic cabin.

The location of the first EarthCache was posted online on Jan. 10, 2004. A father and his two daughters created the cache to lead visitors on a short tour of the rock features at Wasp Head in Australia.

There are currently 16,600 active EarthCaches worldwide, including 202 in Washington. Evergreen State caches include spots looking at the ancient Missoula flood, a Puget Sound tsunami, the Theler Wetlands tidal marsh and Mima Mounds.

While a number of celebration events were held last week, more are planned throughout the year. They include the third annual International EarthCache event in Duncan, B.C., on Vancouver Island.

Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640

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