During the first Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival many years ago, my predecessor asked me to facilitate a geocaching program. I agreed and began to research geocaching. Geocaching.com was a great resource for everything I needed to learn. I found a family-fun activity that gets people outdoors and into parks and places of interest that they may not typically visit. For those who do not know, geocaching is often compared to a treasure hunt. Instead of a map, you have a smartphone or a GPS unit. In place of a chest full of gold, you will most likely find a container filled with small prizes and a logbook.
At the geocaching program all those years ago, I met another paddler there to learn about this relatively new activity and then became super engaged in doing it. Brian Wiley has since hidden and maintained caches throughout Lee County for years. Luckily for us, he has combined his hobbies and hidden many of the caches along the Calusa Blueway. Wiley reports there are more than 150 geocaches on or near the Calusa Blueway. Paddling off the trail and into new mangrove tunnels sounds like a lot of fun and is what caching is all about – exploring new spots you wouldn’t normally go if not for the cache.
If you’ve never gone geocaching before, I recommend downloading the free version to your phone from the app store and taking a look at how many caches are near you. They are everywhere. Try to find a couple and see how you like it. If you enjoy it, why not grab your kayaks or SUPs and hit the water to find a few more? There is a small monthly fee for finding caches with a level of difficulty greater than two. Because they are on the water, most Blueway caches require you have the membership to locate them. My daughter and I tried a cache on land before attempting one on the Calusa Blueway. I think this was very helpful for our later search from paddle craft.
You can go to Geacaching.com for more information on etiquette, but the general principle of “Leave No Trace” applies. You should not need to blaze any new trails to find the cache. Just slip in, find the treasure, and slip out without being spotted by “muggles.” My daughter and I had a blast finding our first caches. I loved watching her navigate and problem solve on the water. She enjoyed the challenge and the fact there was a container of toys hidden on an island. We both appreciated a new way to enjoy our time on the water together. Adding geocaching to your paddling adventures is a sure way to get you to explore new locations and make old favorites feel new. If you haven’t yet, grab your paddle and phone and give it a try!