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.”


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.”


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.

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