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A unique new experience: Geocaching on the North Shore

Jul 01, 2021 05:52PM ● By Editor
A couple placed this geocache after getting engaged at the Grand Marais Lighthouse.  Photo: CVR

By Jaye White from the Cascade Vacation Rentals Blog - July 1, 2021

Recently, we added “Go Geocaching” to our list of Free Things to do on the North Shore. This family-friendly activity came highly recommended by many but was something we hadn’t actually tried ourselves. So, this week, we decided to go Geocaching! This is our experience Geocaching on the North Shore.

What Is Geocaching?

Explore Minnesota describes it as “a global scavenger hunt in the modern era”.  To start your journey, download the official Geocaching app. From the app, select a cache and follow the directions on your cell phone to identify the location of a cache. You go to the location, follow some hints and clues, and find the cache. Well, that’s the basic idea, anyway. Some caches require multi-step searches. Others, specifically those found in some State Parks, have a specific topic to help you learn more about the area.

What the cache actually is varies a lot, as they are placed by fellow Geocachers. Most of the caches we found were either pencil-box sized or pill-bottle size. Many just contained a slip of paper that you sign your name to, while others contained small toys and trinkets available for those who find the cache to take. No matter if the cache contains a small treasure or not, we found finding them to be thrilling each time.

There is much more to Geocaching that we have yet to explore, personally. There’s even a whole lingo glossary to learn, should you really want to get into the activity. We did find ourselves checking what certain acronyms meant as we went on our local Geocache adventure. But, you don’t have to know what everything means to enjoy this activity.

And, yes! Geocaching on the North Shore can be a FREE activity. And, it’s definitely family-friendly! While the app allows you to upgrade to a Premium account to get access to more caches and other adventures, a free version will provide you with ample caches to track down. Should you decide this is an adventure you want to expand on, the upgrade only costs about $30 for the year.

The Five Mile Rock Geocache.  Photo: CVR

The Start of Our North Shore Geocaching Adventure

We set out all around Grand Marais and Lutsen to see what this whole Geocaching thing was all about. I had heard of it and seen posts by friends who are very interested in it but had never actually tried it myself. Downloading the app was easy- we had it on our phone and an account set up within about five minutes. Once we had the app downloaded we set out to one of my favorite public beaches- Five Mile Rock.

I was intrigued by this cache mostly because I had visited the beach several times with my kids. We have spent hours walking the beach, hunting agates, and just enjoying the gorgeous Lake Superior shoreline at this location. Being very familiar with the beach, I wondered where a cache could possibly be hidden that I hadn’t already stumbled upon. The directions on the app led us to the start of the beach- right to the area we always park at and the stretch of the beach I was most familiar with. Clearly, I had to use the app to find the cache as where it was, and even what it was, was a mystery to me being a first-timer.

Using the App to Find a Cache

We arrived at the beach and spent a bit of time exploring the app for clues. Each cache has a name (this one is called “The Rock”), a difficulty rating between 1-5 (this one is a 1.5), a terrain rating of 1-5 (this one was also a 1.5 rated), and size (this one was described as “micro”). The app tells you who placed the cache and when (Border Brats on 6/3/11), and gives you a hint should you have an issue finding it.

Hilariously, I found the cache the first place I checked because I made a comment about it when we arrived. “I never noticed this thing before!” I said. But, having no clue what I was actually looking for, I didn’t realize that was the cache! It wasn’t until we peaked at the hint after wandering around for a bit that I realized that was, in fact, it.

Micro, we quickly learned, describes a pill-bottle-sized cache, although we later learned that micro could also be much smaller!

The app also includes a description of the area and often explains why the user placed the cache there.  There’s also an activity log that often contains more hints and tricks for finding the cache, should the provided hint not help. Users can include photos of the cache and the area. They keep photos hidden just in case they include spoilers, which they often do.

Searching at the top of Ski Hill Road in Lutsen.  Photo: CVR

Quick Tip: Bring a pen with you! This first cache didn’t have one and we couldn’t find one to sign the log. We ended up going back to the office for a pen!

After singing our name we left behind a small prize for whoever finds the cache after us. You do not have to do this, we just wanted to leave a little something behind at each one!

Geocaching on the North Shore

From Five Mile Rock, we went back to the town of Grand Marais. There are about 15 caches located within city limits. Some, like those located on Artist’s Point, require the premium upgrade to find. Others, like six located within the Grand Marais Rec Park and Campground, are included on the free account.

We decided to search the Rec Park for our next one because they were so many. We quickly found one left on the Sweetheart Bluff Trail on 10/9/19 by a user named troll lover. This one was the size of a pencil box and contained a small notebook as a log and some trinkets for kids. Mostly stickers and temporary tattoos. We once again signed the log book, left behind our own little prize, and then carried on.

Over the course of the next couple of hours, we tracked down four more caches. We did upgrade to the premium account and found two on Artist’s Point before heading up the shore and finding one along the Superior Hiking Trail. Then, we decided to head down to Lutsen to see what the Geocaching scene was like there. While there weren’t nearly as many as in Grand Marais, we found finding the Lutsen caches to be a lot of fun and they required a bit more hiking.

Sadly, there were two that we simply couldn’t find! The Passion Pit cache in Grand Marais and the Cutface Creek cache on our way to Lutsen. I actually happened to know the user who placed the Passion Pit cache and they said they’d go back and see if they could find it and put it back as the activity log showed the last couple of visitors couldn’t find it.

The tiniest geocache found at Cutface Creek. Photo: CVR

A Great Way to Explore a New Place

Geocaching isn’t just a North Shore thing. It’s a popular way to explore any new city virtually all over the world! Wherever you go, you can open up the app and go on an adventure!

Most of the caches along the North Shore are located in popular, public areas that anyone can explore. Some required a little hike and a couple even brought us to place we have never explored, like the trails behind Cutface Creek. We’ve previewed where some caches are in the Silver Bay/Beaver Bay area and Two Harbors. Several are even There are so many you could easily plan an entire trip searching for the free account caches and then exploring the area around them. In Duluth, there were just too many to count, likely too many to find on even a week-long visit to the city.

We ended up upgrading to a premium account in order to start doing Geocaching Minnesodes for the Exploring the North Shore Podcast. Wherever we go to feature a new North Shore destination we plan to pull up the app and see what caches we can explore. It’s such fun, easy, and free (or really affordable) way to add some adventure into your day!

Listen to the Podcast Episode

Listen along to our first Geocaching adventure on Exploring the North Shore Podcast! This episode takes us around Grand Marais and Lutsen hunting for eight caches. We tried hard to not reveal exactly where we were (as much as possible) and we did leave behind a little prize of our own at each cache we found.

To see the original article and read more about North Shore adventures and experiences, follow the link to Jaye White's Cascade Vacation Rentals blog.

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