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Quest for the coin - geocaching comes to the Gulf Islands

Treasure seekers will hunt around the meadows, forests, rocky headlands, quiet coves, and sandy beaches of the Gulf Islands this summer.

“This geocaching program is an amazing experience to see the park in a different way. It’s basically a self-guided passport,”,” said Robyn Sealy, park interpreter for Gulf Islands National Park. “It’s a centennial program to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Parks Canada as a national park service … Since 1911 Parks Canada has had 100 years of conservation, education and visitor experience programming. So it’s a really big deal, and we want people to come out and learn more about parks and experience the parks across Canada.”

Treasure hunters can download a passport from the park website and starting June 11 get coordinates from geocaching.com. The cacher will follow a trail of hidden treasure by plugging coordinates into a hand-held GPS or smartphone.

“Those coordinates will lead you to really amazing places in the park,” Sealy said. “Places you wouldn’t normally know to go.”

The hidden treasure boxes will be filled with information on the area, activities, a notebook to track those who’ve found the cache, a punch for the passports — and prizes.

Geocaching 101 is available for newbies.

“One of the things we’ve developed to support the new program this year is a new kind of how-to program,” said Francine Burnette of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. “People can actually head out on the islands and take part in one of the programs. We’ll actually be able to lend you a GPS so that you can walk around and get a sense of what are these coordinates and how do I know when I’ve gotten here and how does it work. We’ll walk you through so you can participate in the fabulous new program in the park.”

Visitors can have a hand at a cache or two for kicks, but to get the coin, there is a quest.

There are only two ways to win one of the 100 hand-painted centennial coins. The Gulf Islands Survivor Challenge is a family-friendly route that includes four cache sites where kids can test their skills, do fun activities and learn about nature and history. Complete three of the four (water challenge in Winter Cove, rescue challenge at Prior Centennial Campground, creature challenge at Sidney Island and plant challenge at McDonald campground) to receive a geocoin.

The second way is to participate in the Gulf Islands Top 10, a challenging route that includes: best spot to sit and watch the tide go by; best chance to see an orca; best view of the park; best place to meditate; best place for a hike; best place to see history come alive; best place to spot a beaver; best place to try your hand at birding; best place to see the impact of invasive species and best place to see an underwater forest.

Sealy hopes people will take the time to enjoy the natural sights across the 15 islands while searching for caches this summer.

“I think my favourite would be Boat Pass on Saturna Island. It’s one of those places where you can go every time and see something different,” Sealy said. “You walk out onto the point there and it’s this amazing ecological thing that’s going on. There’s these huge tides and currents; sometimes you can see a kayak or a boat trying to get through the pass other times you’ll see seals or otters ... in the springtime you might see wildflowers.”

For more information visit www.parkscanada.gc.ca/gulf or call 250-654-4000.

 

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