High-Tech Treasure Hunt Launches May 11 in Minnesota State Parks

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For those who love playing with new gadgets, searching for treasure and exploring the great outdoors, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has combined all three in a new event they are calling the Minnesota State Parks Geocaching History Challenge.

Courtland Nelson, DNR Parks and Recreation Division director, said the public is invited to participate in what is often referred to as a high-tech treasure hunt – the sport of geocaching.

“May 11th is the public kick-off date for the Minnesota State Parks Geocaching History Challenge presented by Best Buy,” said Nelson. “The challenge for participants is to locate an outdoor treasure or ‘cache’ that has been hidden in the park. Inside each cache is a collectible history card from that park and a logbook. Since it’s the custom for geocachers to take a trinket and leave a trinket, the caches can contain all kinds of fun surprises.”

Minnesota state parks will have 150 Sesquicentennial medallions hidden in caches throughout the summer. There also are several challenges that include regional challenges to earn a silvertone medallion and an ultimate 72-park challenge to earn a goldtone medallion. Participants also can help “travel bugs” travel to all 72 Minnesota State Parks by bringing any they find to the next Minnesota state park they visit and logging the move online. Because the bugs are registered with an identifying number, individuals may track the bugs’ progress online.

Coordinates that pinpoint the location of the cache are listed on www.geocaching.com as well as the DNR Minnesota State Parks Web site at www.mndnr.gov. Players input the coordinates into a global positioning system (GPS) receiver and use those coordinates to search for the cache. Best Buy, which is headquartered in Richfield and operates 25 stores in Minnesota, is sponsoring the program by donating the GPS technology to state parks.

“Thanks to this partnership, anyone will have the opportunity to try the sport of geocaching,” Nelson said.

People not familiar with the technology can receive hands-on GPS training from staff and volunteers at any of 16 designated demo state parks that have the GPS receivers available to use at no charge. A list of those parks is available at www.mnstateparks.info. Individuals who own GPS receivers can geocache at any of the 72 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas.

The Minnesota State Parks Geocaching History Challenge will offer geocaching opportunities for all skill levels. Minnesota State Parks worked with members of the Minnesota

Geocaching Association, which lent expertise to the program. The caches will range from easy “park and grab” caches to hunts that involve treks to multi-caches in which clues from one cache lead participants to the next.

“Combine Minnesota state parks staff knowledge of the land, the keen minds of a group of seasoned geocachers and more than 250,000 acres of awe-inspiring terrain, and you’ve got the ultimate geocaching adventure,” said Bryce Anderson, the interpretive coordinator overseeing the implementation of the program.

Nelson added, “Geocaching is a fairly new activity in Minnesota state parks, but one that promises to bring new visitors – especially young people – to our parks and the outdoors. A number of studies have been done that show the value of reconnecting children with nature. With the interest kids have in technology and their ability to use devices like these GPS receivers for geocaching, this program should be a good fit.”

The Minnesota State Parks Geocaching History Challenge is one of 150 special Sesquicentennial programs developed to commemorate Minnesota’s 150 years of statehood. These activities are listed in a free catalogue available at state parks and tourist information centers. It is also available from the DNR Information Center at 500 Lafayette Road in St. Paul, (651) 296-6157 or toll free 1-888-MINNDNR. The list of activities is also on the DNR events calendar at www.mndnr.gov.

The Minnesota State Park Geocaching History Challenge program presented by Best Buy ends Dec. 31, 2008.