Geocaching along the Paul Bunyan Trail

Filed in Destinations by on October 6, 2015

1015LAHM-GeocachingStory and Photography by Heidi Kratzke

Most people walk, bike, snowmobile, and drive past them every day. That’s part of the appeal. Finding geocaches, which are hidden containers of all sorts and sizes, is a unique outdoor activity people of all ages and skill levels can enjoy. Searching for the containers is called geocaching. It involves using a global positioning system (GPS) receiver or mobile device to locate the hidden objects. A specific set of GPS coordinates is provided for each geocache.

Once found, the geocaches (also known as caches) are opened by the finder to reveal a logbook. This book contains the names of everyone who has already found the cache, in addition to the dates on which the cache was located. After signing the log, the finder must place the cache back in the exact location where it was found. Some of the larger containers also include small items such as toys, trinkets, or even money that are traded among the people who find the cache.

As the popularity of geocaching increases, more and more caches are being hidden throughout the state of Minnesota. One of the best places to search for these tucked away treasures is along the Paul Bunyan Trail. Approximately 1,000 caches are hidden along the 112-mile trail that extends from Brainerd to Bemidji.

The Paul Bunyan GeoTour is recognized as a power trail by geocaching enthusiasts because of the close proximity of caches hidden along each mile of the trail. “The caches are all over,” explains Sue Galligan, Events and Communications Manager with the Brainerd Lakes Chamber. “The coordinates of the caches are provided so people can pick and choose which caches they want to look for. Some are close and some are farther off the trail.”

The Paul Bunyan State Trail is visited by 650,000 people every year. It has the distinction of being Minnesota’s longest continually paved trail, winding through forests and lakes and providing plenty of rest stop opportunities in towns along the route. The flat terrain makes the trail ideal for walking, running, biking, and rollerblading. The caches along this scenic trail are rated based on the difficulty level in locating them. This allows geocachers to choose how challenging they want their high-tech treasure hunt to be.

“From my experience working in the Pequot Lakes Welcome Center, I’ve seen people get very excited when they hear about this opportunity,” notes Galligan. “We’ve had people come here specifically for geocaching. A number of visitors list that as their main reason for coming to the area. We also have people who weren’t aware of the GeoTour and want to add it to their itinerary.”

In addition to the satisfaction that comes from finding one of the hidden caches, geocaching provides an opportunity to explore the area in new ways. For both visitors and locals, taking some time to get off the paved path and look for a hidden treasure allows for the opportunity to enjoy more of Minnesota’s beautiful and diverse landscape. The caches are hidden in some extremely clever places, so be prepared to search both high and low on the GeoTour.

Most of the caches along the Paul Bunyan Trail are available year round, but snow cover can limit accessibility to a few of the caches. Anyone who plans on searching for caches during the winter should use a snowmobile to travel along the trail. The Paul Bunyan Trail website reminds everyone who plans on geocaching that the trail’s primary winter use is for snowmobiling. It is dangerous to walk or attempt to ski on the trail during the winter.

The large number of caches along the Paul Bunyan Trail makes it easy to pick a section of the trail to focus on and take the time needed to thoroughly explore that area before moving on. Trail towns along the way offer a wide variety of food, shopping, and entertainment opportunities.

For those who enjoy exploring, utilizing technology, and spending time in nature, geocaching is the perfect outdoor activity. There is no fee to search for the caches on the Paul Bunyan GeoTour, and participants are free to search for as many caches as they want.

“Geocaching along the Paul Bunyan Trail also gets you away from the trail a bit so you can see more of the area,” Galligan adds. “It’s one of those hidden gems that you don’t hear a lot about but once people start to geocache, they really enjoy it.”

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