A gi­ant scav­enger hunt

Prince Ed­ward Is­land woman pas­sion­ate about geo­caching in the great out­doors

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ENTERTAINM­ENT - HEATHER FEGAN

She’s fallen into a few brooks and been bit­ten by ticks twice. But that hasn’t slowed Brenda Bul­ger down a bit.

The Char­lot­te­town, P.E.I., woman was look­ing for a hobby to get into after re­tir­ing from the Prince Ed­ward Is­land Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­mis­sion in 2011. She wanted some­thing in­ex­pen­sive to get her out­side and back to na­ture. After a bit of home­work, she de­cided to take up geo­caching. Her cacher name is “is­land­dunes.”

“I grew up in the for­est land of north­ern New Brunswick, and I re­mem­ber as a kid go­ing out and hid­ing pen­nies in trees or cer­tain places, un­der rocks and then the next sum­mer go­ing back and try­ing to find them,” says Bul­ger.

“Well, then it was based on your mem­ory, you had no GPS or co-or­di­nates or any­thing to take you to the ex­act lo­ca­tion.”

Bul­ger de­scribes geo­caching as where peo­ple, called geo­cachers, place a con­tainer in cer­tain spots around the world. The con­tainer can be any size, from the tip of your fin­ger to five gal­lon con­tain­ers or even big­ger, says Bul­ger.

“You go and you hunt for this con­tainer us­ing your GPS, some peo­ple use their cell phones, but most use a GPS be­cause it tends to be a bit more ac­cu­rate, and you’re not us­ing data. Most caches have a log sheet or a log book, where you record that you found it. Then when you go back home, or even on your GPS, you can log that you found it.”

IN IT FOR THE HUNT

Bul­ger says some geo­cachers are in it for the find; they want to be the first to get to the cache.

“I know some here on the is­land that have found around 48,000-50,000 caches. I cer­tainly have not, to that ex­tent. For me, I’m just sort of tin­ker­ing around with it,” she said.

Bul­ger says she tends to be more of what she calls a ‘lop­sided cacher.’

“I en­joy the hid­ing of them as op­posed to the find­ing of them,” she says.

There are over 7,000 caches planted across P.E.I., in­clud­ing about 1,800 along the Con­fed­er­a­tion Trail, which goes from one end of the is­land to the other.

“I haven’t found very many be­cause I spend most of the time hid­ing them. I have 64 caches that I main­tain, some­where be­tween 600 and 700 that I’ve found. I take a lot of time in find­ing out where I’m go­ing to put my cache and take co­or­di­nates on two or three oc­ca­sions, then fi­nally place the cache and sub­mit it for re­view,” she said.

Bul­ger has a va­ri­ety of caches — in­clud­ing one in a flower bed in her front yard called ‘Prince Charm­ing.’ Caches of­ten have a hint that can be found on the geo­cache web­site, along with the cache co­or­di­nates, a de­scrip­tion, and some­times pho­tos.

“For Prince Charm­ing, my hint is, ‘She kissed her magic prince’ be­cause I’m a mar­riage com­mis­sioner. My sign for that is kind of up above it. So here’s your Prince Charm­ing.”

Three years be­fore she re­tired, Bul­ger had de­cided she wanted to con­tinue to do some­thing af­ter­wards on a part-time ba­sis. She now also teaches the mar­riage com­mis­sioner course on the Is­land.

Bul­ger also has a cache down­town Char­lot­te­town called ‘Peo­ple watch­ing with Johnny’, around a bronze statue of Sir John A. Mac­don­ald.

“It’s right in the bar dis­trict of Char­lot­te­town, so when you go to find it, you get a lot of tourists around. You know where it is but it’s just a mat­ter to get to it...with­out be­ing too con­spic­u­ous.”

When she first started geo­caching, Bul­ger says she was a bit con­fused as to how caches got out there in the first place and who looks after them.

“As a cache owner, you’re re­spon­si­ble for main­tain­ing them. After a while, you can ar­chive them if you no longer want to look after them,” she ex­plains.

Bul­ger likes to in­clude what cachers re­fer to as swag for kids in some of her big­ger caches.

“It’s just lit­tle trin­kets that you can trade. So, if you take some­thing from the con­tainer, you put some­thing back of equal value.”

‘ALL OVER THE WORLD’

Buglar likes to use track­ables — a tag with a num­ber on it, is­sued from geo­caching.com. It can be ac­ti­vated on the web­site, at­tached to an item, and placed in a cache.

“Another cacher comes along, takes your track­able and takes it to the next cache. So, ba­si­cally, the track­able hitch­hikes along with the cacher.”

She’s had them go all around the world many times, in­clud­ing to Antarc­tica.

“I have one that is named after Stacy, my other daughter, and it’s been on the go for four years and it’s been all over the world. You can fol­low it and it tells the path it took and how many kilo­me­tres it’s trav­elled.”

Bul­ger enjoys geo­caching for a num­ber of rea­sons.

“You can do it any time of day. You just need a good pair of sneak­ers or hik­ing boots, a GPS and en­ergy to go. That’s about it,” she said. “There’s lots of young fam­i­lies in­volved, a lot of re­tirees too. It gets them out­side, gets them walk­ing.”

Bul­ger says she enjoys geo­caching on her own, with a close friend who is also re­tired, and with her daughter Kristy.

“Kristy al­ways goes at least on one geo­caching trip a year. She says she has to stay good in the will,” laughs Bul­ger.

It’s also how she met fel­low geo­cacher Matthew Ward, a for­mer P.E.I. res­i­dent who now re­sides in Dart­mouth, N.S.

“When I lived in P.E.I., her and I geo­cached on the same turf. We ended up get­ting to know each from find­ing each other’s caches,” says Ward.

“On geo­caching.com, as mem­bers, you can send each other mes­sages. We had sent each other mes­sages be­fore about dif­fer­ent caches of each other’s and ended up meet­ing to look for a spe­cific cache to­gether once, talked back and forth a lit­tle bit about caches and dif­fer­ent ideas for hides.”

Ward is the trea­surer for the As­so­ci­a­tion of Nova Sco­tia Geo­caching.

“It’s a small organizati­on set up by some lo­cal cachers from all around the prov­ince,” says Ward. “The as­so­ci­a­tion puts on events to help peo­ple learn how to play the sport. It also puts on events for school-aged kids to try and get more peo­ple out and en­gaged.”

Ward says any­one that geo­caches in Nova Sco­tia is con­sid­ered a mem­ber.

“I en­joy the chal­lenge of find­ing the cache it­self and visit­ing dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions that I may nor­mally not have gone too had there not been a cache there,” says Ward. “It’s not only the chal­lenge of find­ing the cache but some­times the cache owner wants to take you some place to see some­thing you may not nor­mally see.”

Bul­ger has been geo­caching all over P.E.I., New Brunswick, Que­bec City, Toronto, and Hal­i­fax. She just got back from cel­e­brat­ing her birth­day with a day of geo­caching on Big Tan­cook Is­land, off the coast of Ch­ester, N.S., Bul­ger says there are 41 ac­tive caches on Big Tan­cook Is­land. She and her daughter found 15 of them and shared a lot of laughs.

She fig­ures for as long as she can walk, she’ll geo­cache.

“It’s in­ter­est­ing, it’s en­joy­able for me. Other peo­ple may find it bor­ing, that’s for sure,” she said. “It suits my needs be­cause I like to scav­enger hunt and I like the out­doors. I like do­ing things on my own and I like do­ing things in groups. It’s the best of ev­ery­thing.”

The first is a visit to Canada’s first geo­cache called GCBBA. It is lo­cated just out­side Ch­ester, N.S., and it was placed in June 2000 and has about 3,000 logged vis­its. Brenda Bul­ger is pictured on the trail to the cache — aptly named “Geo­cache Lane."

Brenda Bul­ger says it’s rec­om­mended to find at least 100 caches be­fore con­sid­er­ing hid­ing any. Her cache, ‘Peo­ple watch­ing with Johnny,’ can be found near this bronze statue in down­town Char­lot­te­town.

Prince Charm­ing sits in a flower bed on Brenda Bul­ger’s prop­erty. The cache is a nod to her work as a mar­riage com­mis­sioner. If you place a cache on pri­vate prop­erty, you have to have the owner’s permission.

Ev­ery track­able has a name just like ev­ery geo­cacher has a name. Once you’ve logged that you’ve re­trieved it, it be­comes your in­ven­tory and is listed as be­ing with you un­til you record on­line that you dropped it off at another cache. Now it’s listed in this cache un­til some­body comes along, picks it up, and takes it some­where else.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.