How do I tell the world about something that’s supposed to be a secret? I’m not talking matter-of-national-security secret, more like no-spoilers, keep-the-muggles-out secret. (No Mom, I won’t end up like Edward Snowden.)
Geocaching is not exactly a secret and, luckily, the first rule of of Geocaching is not You Do Not Talk About Geocaching. This fun hybrid of treasure hunting and orienteering has been popular for years and is truly a worldwide phenomenon.
In fact, it is so not a secret that I suspect many of you are already familiar with Geocaching, and I will refrain from banging on at length about what it is. There are loads of resources online, but here’s a brief synopsis for the uninitiated: Participants use GPS coordinates to locate caches that have been hidden by other geocachers. A cache typically has a log book where you record your find, and might also contain trade goods (you are free to take an item if you replace it with something else) and trackable items such as travel bugs and geocoins that travel from cache to cache. Finds are also logged online on the Geocaching website, which has grown into an enormous global community.
The fact that Helena, Montana has a GeoTour is also not a secret, but is something I would like to make much more widely known. The trick is, how do I tell you about it without revealing information that will give away the locations of the caches, and thus spoil your fun?
As is often the case, the answer turns out to be to post more embarrassing pictures of myself on the Internet. After cropping out as much identifying information as possible from my boatload of photos, what you get is a series of semi-undignified shots of me geocaching and having fun exploring Montana’s capital. Enjoy!
Did I mention there’s a prize? The wonderful historic sites, natural spaces, architectural gems, tasty treats, and ample local character that you get to enjoy on the tour are their own reward, but the icing on the cake is the handmade, limited-edition geocoin that you can earn for doing the Helena GeoTour. These handsome trackables are made of clay and depict Helena’s historic fire tower, Guardian of the Gulch.
The organizers of the Helena GeoTour helpfully provide a passport listing all 38 of the geocaches that form the tour. So, all you need to do is record the passwords from the geocaches on it, and if you find at least 25 geocaches you take your passport to the Birds & Beasleys gift shop on South Last Chance Gulch (is that an epic street name or what?) to claim your lovely geocoin. The geocoins were handmade by ceramic artists at the Archie Bray Foundation and are only available while supplies last, but as of this writing there are still some left for Geocachers to earn.
It is also well worth noting that local businesses are enthusiastic about the Helena GeoTour and several area hotels offer special discounts and packages for geocachers visiting Helena, Montana. Current offers are listed on the Helena GeoTour webpage.
So yeah, the GeoTour is great fun. It’s killing me not to be about to tell you more about it, but you’ll just have to go to Montana and experience it for yourself!
Acknowledgements and disclosure: Huge thanks to Heidi O’Brien and Mike Mergenthaler for taking me out geocaching in Helena and helping me capture all of the aforementioned goofy photos. This trip was hosted by the Helena CVB.