Techno Treasure Hunt

The art of geocaching

Wandering through the forest in search of Maryland’s biggest trees can be a thrill unto itself, but today, savvy techno-geeks are traversing public lands to find fortunes!

The United Nations General Assembly declared 2011 the International Year of Forests (IYOF), to celebrate sustainable management of the world’s forests. To provide geocaching enthusiasts the opportunity to be part of this exciting global event, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Maryland’s Forestry Boards joined together to launch the IYOF Big Tree Geocaching Tour.

A geocache container and a Global Positioning System (GPS) unit

Caching on

Geocaching is a great way to merge modern technology with the rewarding adventures that await in our great outdoors. From Maryland to New Zealand and across the globe, geocaching is catching on!

In the technology-based treasure hunt, participants use a handheld Global Positioning System (GPS) unit or GPS enabled smart phone to locate containers called geocaches, that have been hidden by other players.

Getting Started

After signing up for a free membership on geocaching.com, participants can search 1.8 million active sites around the world for nearby caches of interest at Hide & Seek a Cache. There are currently nearly 4,000 Maryland sites listed, including adventures in State Parks, such as Patapsco Valley, or along the Captain John Smith Trail.

To complete the experience, geocachers enter the GPS coordinates and navigate to find containers large and small (size corresponds with the degree of difficulty in finding them); return each geocache to the exact spot where it was found; write about their finds and sign the log book onsite; and finally, log their experiences at geocaching.com.

State Park employee demonstrating geocaching

Finding the big ones

The IYOF Big Tree Geocaches are listed at geocaching.com. Searchers can find them by using the “Hidden by Username” search bar for listings under Chesapeake Forester or foresttech08. More caches will be added throughout the year.

Many of these trees have outlived generations of trees surrounding them. Giant trees, dating back to before George Washington was president and reaching heights of over 100 feet, can be found across the State as part of the IYOF Big Tree Tour.

How did they get so big? Forest management plays a huge role in the development of robust trees. Healthy trees need good soil, plenty of sunlight and plenty of water. It’s important to practice forest management to keep invasive species under control, which rob native species of resources.

Healthy forests clean our air, provide jobs, help improve community and personal health and provide wildlife with livable habitats. Forests also provide clean water by filtering nutrients out of water and stabilizing sediment.

The IYOF Big Tree Geocaching Tour is a fun activity that brings families together to enjoy the outdoors, learn the challenging game of geocaching, marvel at what these big trees have seen in their lifetimes and treasure their existence.

Year of the Forests Logo

International Year of Forests

The United Nations General Assembly declared 2011 as International Year of Forests (IYOF) to celebrate the sustainable management of the world’s forests.

Forests provide us with clean air, clean water, and wildlife habitat and help improve environmental, economical, community and personal health. The United States is participating by taking this opportunity to “Celebrate Forests and Celebrate Life.”

Organizations throughout Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay watershed encourage people to get out and explore and enjoy the State’s natural world. For more information about the U.S. Celebration of IYOF visit CelebrateForests.org. Also, check out: ForestryForTheBay.org for more ways to celebrate IYOF in your area.

Tim Culbreth is a Chesapeake Watershed Forester with DNR’s Maryland Forest Service.

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