Monday, July 06, 2009

Gold Country Caching - Cache Creek

Had the good fortune to do a road trip to Cache Creek for the kick off of the Gold Rush Event on this past Saturday. Cache Creek is one of 6 B.C. Interior cities that have benefited from government funds to help the local economy recover during this economic downturn.

Cache Creek, Lillooet, Lytton, Clinton, Logan Lake and Merritt were all part of the Gold Rush Geocaching program designed to bring tourism dollars into the cities.

Aprrox 72 caches were placed between the cities and surrounding areas, highlighting the historical locations and at the same time, bringing in a new wave of tourists, in this case geocachers.

I had the pleasure of sharing the day's journey with Scruffster, also known in real life as Stu. I have travelled a fair amount in BC, as have many other cachers, and know the lower part of BC fairly well. Spending a day with Stu is always a treat, first because he's just basically a great guy; second, sharing a road trip with a person who doesn't see this part of the world very often reminds myself of why I like travelling as much as I do. Stu's excitement is contagious, and it leads me into enjoying the trip that much more.

The gawd awful time of 6.00 AM was the pre-arranged meet time in Maple Ridge where Stu would leave his car and jump in the Jeep. That meant I had to get up around 5.00 AM, and Stu was up even earlier....I think Stu was up at 4.00 AM !

We met up, loaded Stu's things into the Jeep, and then set off eastbound and down on the Lougheed Hwy.

We did a cache in Chilliwack just to warm up, but we should have taken this as an omen; it was a real, simple hide, that took Stu and I the better part of 15 minutes! Sadly, our caching skills would not improve much on the day.

We then travelled up the Fraser Canyon, with Stu shooting video for me where possible and firing off his own camera when ever he could. We stopped at the old Alexandra Bridge, then stopped just up the road at the Alexandra Lodge where we took some more shots of the old building and made note of the start of the First Brigade Trail, a Hudsons Bay Brigade Trail that wound over the mountains into the Coquihalla Valley.

Back on the road we stopped again at Hell's Gate to have a look over the edge at the river and building complex down below. While filming here, the gondola cars moved; one went down and one came up; on the one coming up, a woman was sitting out on the structure of the large arm that attached the car to the cable. She was obviously a tech checking the cable for wear and tear; if you think it's scary enough inside the car suspended over the canyon, try sitting outside above the car in a seat barely big enough for your bum! Didn't seem to faze her though....

From there we basically made a bee line for Cache Creek to make it in time for the 11.00 AM dead line where they would hand out the locations of the caches. We arrived at 10.30, which gave us time to sign in, put our name in for door prizes, and eat some of the large geocaching cake made especially for the kick off festivities.

At 11.00 AM precisely, a book was handed out to the cachers; the book contained not just the caches for Cache Creek, but for the other cities as well. Each cache had two pages dedicated to tell the historical significance of the area so that we may appreciate the history presented to us as we looked for the cache.

The cache pages also had parking co-ordinates, and the actual cache co-ordinates, it even gives the cache co-ordinates in UTM. Plus, as an added incentive to those non-cachers, the cache is also designed as a letterbox type. That means, rather than being provided with GPS co-ordinates, you are supplied with a set of instructions such as "walk 10 feet past the last fence post, then turn right and count 20 steps till you reach a large boulder". This way, even non-cachers can still be drawn to the local historical locations and have a chance to re-live the past.

Having this book is a great idea; you can pick up the book from the local tourism office, then as you travel through the Interior of BC following the Gold Rush Trail, you can pick and choose which caches to do, at the same time be educated about the history of the province.

The benefit to the communities is that they have now created themselves as a destination point, rather than a drive-through town. This will pay dividends in time for the local business owners; here's an example I over heard from just one couple this weekend; they arrived Friday night, head a few drinks in one of the local pubs, went over to a restaurant and had dinner, then stayed at a motel. In the morning they got up, had breakfast, started caching, had lunch, gassed up the car, had dinner and then headed home to Vancouver. Each one of those businesses benefitted from the Gold Rush campaign as, more than likely, they would have not even stopped and would have carried on to another destination like Kamloops.

Scruffster and I cached the morning away in Ashcroft and Cache Creek meeting up with several other cachers at various cache locations as we all searched for the elusive treasure hidden by the local Gold Rush group. The morning passed quickly and soon it was after lunch before we knew it.

We met up with another set of Vancouver area cachers called MSthebrain and Pinky, and decided to travel together as we started thinking about a route home. We decided by heading south-east we could hit Logan Lake and Merritt, two other participating cities in the Gold Rush event. This enabled us to pick up 12 event caches on the day; 12 more and we can send away for a special prize which I understand is a gold nugget... ""

We had a great day doing the road trip, we had a ton of fun doing the Gold Rush caches and learning the history of the areas, and we had absolute blast spending time with MSthe brain and Pinky, they made the long trip home seem so much shorter.

AND, we got to share their finding of their 3,000th cache...only we didn't know it at the time and I'm not sure if they did either! :)

The road trip ended up being 750 K and 17 hours long, but I would do it again in a heart beat if I could. It was the two things combined that make up the core of a geocacher; exploring the open road and exploring new areas and finding new caches. In other words, just exploring is what drives a lot of us; that curiosity to see and find something new!

A big thanks to the Gold Rush staff who put this event together, and congrats to their cities for having the foresight to look at a new form of low impact tourism.

I have split the day's journey into two videos loaded up to YouTube. You can see them watch here or by going to my YouTube page here to view them and other geocaching videos I have done.

Cache On!

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