A new type of visitor, with a cell phone or global positioning system in hand, is exploring the Christiansted National Park, hunting for treasure as well as the history of the National Park System’s historic site – Fort Christiansvaern.
Geocaching is “a modern day treasure hunt – a scavenger hunt,” said Ricardo Richards Junior High Teacher Zahra O’Reilly, who created the treasure trove hidden at the fort. She built “Christian’s Defense” in 2013-14 while serving as a teacher ranger teacher at the park during the summer.
Hunting for the exact location and the box of mementos gets kids outdoors and teaches them history without them realizing it, O’Reilly said.
“Unbeknownst to them, they’re learning. It’s a means to get students excited about their history,” she said of the classes who have explored that geo site and others.
Geocache containers come in various sizes, but most of the time a small water resistant box is used, O’Reilly said.
To locate a geocache, clues and a history of the location can be found on the Geocaching.com website.
The coordinates are identified on the website and the searcher sets off with a cell phone or GPS. Once the latitude and longitude have been found, additional clues lead the participant to the container filled with mementos of the area and a logbook to record the find.
Some people take one of the mementos and replace it with a personal item. The fort’s container on Wednesday held a log, a U.S. Army pin, a bracelet, a photo, a business card and a game ticket from a school in Alaska. It also contained a travel bug – a small metal icon.
The log contained names and comments from the most recent visitors and a note that the travel bug wanted to go to Spain. According to the website, more than 116 visitors have found the cache, since it went live.
When visitors can’t locate the site, some will seek out Park Service ranger Benito Vegas for help. He offers tips about the clues, but won’t lead them to the cache. The geocache has attracted a “different type” of visitor, “a new generation of techies,” he said.
“What amazes me is the variety of people. I thought it would just be students” chasing the cache, he said.
St. Croix has a 22 geocaches, including one at Hams Bluff, also created by O’Reilly. There is a site at Point Udall, Cane Bay and the tide pools at Annally Bay as well. The website rates the degree of difficulty in locating the cache and notes the last time it was found, along with other information. Visitors leave comments and several noted they might not have discovered the fort until they learned it contained a cache.
According to O’Reilly, there is a “massive community” of geocachers and 2 million sites around the world. The NPS geocache is the only site in the Caribbean that is part of the National Park Service’s Find Your Park GeoTour and was added in October after more than 100 visitors had discovered the cache.