Parks Canada wants to lure you away from your computer screens and out into the wilds of Kejimkujik.
Staff have teamed up with the members of the Atlantic Canada Geocaching Association to hide containers around the park.
“It’s going to be quite a bit of fun getting to all these locations,” says park interpretation coordinator Paul Lalonde. “You have to walk a bit, canoe and maybe even bike to some of these spots. That really reflects a strong commitment to healthy outdoor activities.”
Lalonde says that developing a connection to a natural area, like a National Park can be important to developing an active lifestyle.
“The caches guide you to interesting locations, they encourage you to explore and get to know the park but you also learn about the sites and their stories through the challenges.”
There are fifteen caches in the park, five hidden last year as part of the “Under starry sky challenge”, another five hidden this Spring as part of the “Front country challenge” and five brand new ones this September for the “Family foundation challenge”.
Jim Cyr is the chair of the ACGA and one of the cachers responsible for selecting the challenge sites.
“We’re hoping this will bring people out to explore the park,” says Cyr. “That was the original intent of geocaching – to bring you somewhere special you wouldn’t normally go.”
To complete the challenges, you need to look up the coordinates for the geocaches online or simply pick up a passport from the visitor information centre at Keji.
Using a GPS and probably a map as well, you then set out to find the caches. Each container holds a logbook and a punch. When you find all five caches and obtain all five punches in your passport, you can redeem that at the VIC for a limited-edition badge or geocoin.
One geocacher who went looking for the caches in the Starry Sky challenge is Kevin Hatt of Dartmouth. His geocaching name is Kevco and he found the cache Rock Star on July 30 this summer with fellow cacher “Madhatter”. This is what Hatt wrote in the logbook:
“One year ago before we started geocaching, if someone had said they had done a 20k hike, I would have thought they were crazy and that I would never do something like that. But yet one year later the Madhatter and I did it in the pouring rain without any problems. Just a few sore joints so thanks to ACGA and Parks Canada for the challenge.”
Hatt says he’s a diabetic and until a year ago he spent about 10 hours a day just being a couch potato.
He found his first cache on Oct. 13 last fall. It was about 900m from his house in Dartmouth, about as far as he could manage to walk in those days. After finding that cache his wife let him buy a GPS receiver and since then he hasn’t sat still. He’s found almost 600 caches and lost 50 pounds in the last 12 months.
“I was 280 pounds and my knees used to ache like crazy,” says Hatt. “My knees don’t bother me at all anymore.”
Hatt is looking forward to doing the Family Foundation challenge this fall even though, or maybe because there is a 30 km bike ride involved.
“I haven’t been on a bicycle in 20 years,” he says. “I’m not worried about my legs, but I’m worried about my butt getting sore.”
Not all the caches in the park are so challenging. The caches of the Front country challenge are, as the name implies, not in the backcountry, but in easily accessible areas of the park.
Lalonde says Parks Canada wants the caches within Keji to be aimed at beginners. The park also has GPS receivers to lend out to anyone who’d like to try it during their stay.
For more information on the geocaches, you can look up atlanticgeocaching.com, geocaching.com, opencaching.com or contact Kejimkujik National Park.