Island Experience

Geocaching in the San Juan Islands

Get to know the islands while searching for hidden treasures

Written by:

Shannon Borg

With names like Cattle Cache, Haro View, Shark Bait, Pirate's Plunder and Dragonsnest, there are hundreds of hidden treasures, called "geocaches" all over the islands­—and all over the world­—just waiting to be found. Hidden in tubes and boxes, then stashed under tree roots or hidden in plain site, these geocaches (from geo, Greek for "earth," and cacher, meaning "to hide" in French) are part of a worldwide phenomenon, and a fun way to explore parts of the islands you might not otherwise know about.

Overlook Park, Friday Harbor, San Juan Island
Port of Friday Harbor, Photography by Barbara Marrett

 

A Park with a View

My friend, Amy and I went searching for one of the easier geocaches on geocaching.com,  called "A Park with a View," which took us to Overlook Park, a tiny park, yes, overlooking the Port of Friday Harbor. We had a fun time decoding the message, then searching for the cache, which for us newbies, was at first confusing, but we laughed heartily when we figured it out. It is a great one for people who want to have a leisurely stroll around this historic port town, and stop for a mini-adventure with a stunning view.

Here's an example of the directions to a geocache right at Jackson's Beach in Friday Harbor, where you can learn about how this bay was formed and the surrounding geography. Other geocaches include historical or cultural facts, clues and stories.

Argyle Lagoon and Sandy Hook

"A sand bar attached to a solid, rocky island is known as a Tombolo."

"As currents and waves washed against the edge of Bald Hill, particles were washed off and were carried by the water down the shore [and also by the sand and gravel pit operation on the hill behind it] and built up to form a sand spit. Argyle Lagoon is unique due to the existence of Little Island. If not for this “anchor island”, the lagoon would have totally been enclosed by the bar. The illustrations below show how this feature formed over many years."

Argyle Lagoon and Sandy Hook geocache at Jackson's Beach, San Juan Island

Geocachers find directions online or on smartphone apps (www.geocaching.com is the most popular website and free app), and then make their way to the cache, sign the "geolog" to show they have been there, and perhaps leave an item or take one with them to move to the next cache. Caches can be anything from a shell to a figurine or other small items. The point isn't what the treasure is, but the fun that is had in finding the cache itself.

At www.geocaching.com, you must  sign up (its free) in order to find geocaches in your area, get directions to find stashes, and post your own. In many geocaches there are also "Trackables," which are Geocoins or other objects, that you can take from the cache and stash in the next one, to be picked up and carried on to the next one, and so on. Some trackables have traveled around the world, and it is a fun way to get to know areas where you might not ever venture, and feel a part of a community (both online and on foot).

Here are images from some other geocaching sites: