Crystal Lake Park District Nature Center
Background Information on Geocaching
Geocaching is a fairly new outdoor activity that pairs GPS technology with an old fashioned treasure hunt. Geocaches, or caches, are small containers that usually have small trinkets to trade and a log book to sign when it is found. Once a cache is hidden the longitude and latitude are then posted on the internet for other people to try and find it. Geocaches have been hidden all over the world and quite a few are in our parks.
All you need to enjoy this family friendly activity is a GPS unit and a sense of adventure. If you are interested, but don’t know if you want to spring for a GPS unit, we have a limited number at the Nature Center that can be checked out free of charge. We will give you a quick “how to” session and you’re on your way to finding one of many caches located in Veterans Acres.
Crystal Lake Park District Manager of Natural Resources and Interpretation, John Fiorina, has been widely recognized over the past year for the excellent efforts that he has put forth in creating an extensive Geocaching Program for the Crystal Lake Park District.
A recent blog article by Kim Scornavacco (Geocacher name: Bugleann), does an excellent job of highlighting John's efforts with creating the 90 Years of Fun Geocoin Challenge.
Article reprinted with permission from Kim Scornavacco's (Bugleann) online blog from October 31, 2011:
The Crystal Lake Illinois Park District has put together an outstanding geocaching series named the "90 Years of Fun Geocoin Challenge" and if you're in the area, you really should stop by for a fun day of caching.
The series of 12 caches was coordinated by John Fiorina, in celebration of the Park District's 90th anniversary. John's duties include managing the Nature Center, nature programming and managing/restoring The Park District natural areas.
This is John, inside their large, well lit and jam-packed Nature Center. See if he's around when you go in and be sure to say hello. He loves to meet the geocachers!
John placed the caches along with the help of some very key people. Local geocaching legend "Rocky is a Very Good Doggie" provided a ton of support and excellent advice in the planning of both of the park district geocaching series. He also supplied ammo cans for some of the caches. Another local cacher, "Zomarkaan," did all the work on the earthcache including the concept, research and cache page. Rounding out the group was "Mtfish" who supplied invaluable help and has the fun job of passing out the geocoins at the Nature Center. He showed us the ammo can full of the geocoins. It's so heavy that I couldn't lift it. You can see it on the desk behind him.
The concept is to go to one of the cache pages, (GC2YPXP for example) find the cache, and grab a geocaching passport out of the cache container. The passports were designed really well, and each cache in the series is highlighted in the passbook, along with all the key information about the cache.
Inside each of the subsequent caches is a bag with a sticker unique to that particular cache. You go find the caches, which are all located in different Crystal Lake Parks. You sign the log, take a sticker and place it in your passport.
Once you find at least 8 of the 12 caches, you can go to the Crystal Lake Nature Center and exchange your passport for a gorgeous geocoin. How much fun is that?
This is the second series of geocaches that Crystal Lake has sponsored. We did the first group last year and enjoyed it so much that we rushed out as soon as we could to work through the 2nd series. I have to tell you - they outdid themselves this time around too. All the caches were well thought out, placed in fun locations, had spot on co-ordinates, were filled with great swag, and were a nice mix of traditional, small, multi, puzzle and earthcaches.
I'm going to show you some of the pictures we took over the course of our travels to the different caches. I'm not going to tell you which caches they belong to because I don't want to give away too much information.
Ones of the caches is a locked box and you have to figure out how to open it!
I'm going to tell you a little bit about this cache because of the neat history about the location. GC344DR "Barry, Lisa and Nina" is an old farm that the park district now owns. The original owner of the property named his farm "Barlina Farm," after the combined names of his 3 children. The buildings on the property are now used as storage for park supplies and some of the buildings house the Park Police Department and a pre-school.
One of the caches was a multi stage cache and we had to walk a frisbee golf course and gather clues from the tee boxes....
The park was huge and very well maintained. They even have a nice dog park. I wish I had my dogs along!
The foliage was spectacular....
On one of the trails we found dozens of these things..... Does anyone know what they are? Scroll down and I'll tell you!
It's called an Osage Orange. It's from a tree that used to be planted as a living fence along the boundaries of farms. The name of the tree comes from the Osage Tribe and the smell of the ripened fruit. The seeds are the only edible part of the fruit though. Click on the link and go read more about it because it's really interesting. The one I'm holding was huge and about the size of a softball.
John and I chatted for awhile at the Nature Center and I asked him what he felt was the biggest advantage of putting out the Crystal Lake Geocaching Series.
John: There is a push today in outdoor education/nature programming for kids to spend more time outside engaged in "unstructured play". The problem for me was how do you provide a program, which is structured by nature, that offers unstructured play? The answer came to me while watching my kids hunting for geocaches. I noticed, as we hiked to the cache that they were climbing on rocks, playing with sticks, running up and down hills, in other words they were engaged in unstructured play. So in answer to your question, it gets people outside and enjoying our parks.
I also asked him if the park district was offering any instructional classes on geocaching as well.
John: We offer a couple of paid programs: one for families, one for Cub Scouts/Girl Scouts, and we have done a couple of fieldtrips for local schools.
Finally I wanted to know how well the new series was being accepted.
John: The series has only been up for three weeks. So far, it seems to be well received. For example, one cache already has 50 logged finds.
The Crystal Lake Geocache Series is a perfect example of taking a sport/hobby to a new level. I particularly like it because of how well it does interact with children as well as adults. The folks at Crystal Lake have gone above and beyond in terms of implementing this program. I'd love to see more park districts hop on board and do the same.
I'd like to thank John Fiorina for all his help and information on this post. The best of luck to you and when you release the next series, if there is another one, you can bet I'll be out there!
The Crystal Lake Park District sends special thanks to Kim Scornavacco (Bugleann) for allowing us to use her article and pictures on our website.