The treasure may only be plastic trinkets, but adventure seekers love to geocache on Oregon’s Tillamook Coast. Here, the salty air and breathtaking natural geography lend an otherworldly experience to the already fun quest.
Caching adds deeper layers to a vacation or day trip experience. Spend a day caching, or just an hour. Stay in coastal towns and find caches hidden there, or journey along the coastline and into the woods—the exploration and discovery awaits.
Getting started in geocaching
Part treasure hunt, part outdoor adventure, geocaching is the real-world Pokémon Go hobby for families, hikers and those who love to explore off the beaten path. The level of difficulty can be matched to the age and physical ability of the hunters. It is also an inexpensive hobby—requiring only the purchase of a handheld GPS unit or simply downloading an app to a smartphone.
“Cachers” select a cache to find from the website www.geocaching.com, type the latitude and longitude coordinates into their GPS tracking unit. While hunting, the GPS unit gives the geocacher a near-precise location for the hidden object, but won’t bring the person directly to the cache.
The next step is to search the area for the hidden cache. After finding the cache, the seeker then logs back onto the website and marks that cache as ‘found.’
The Tillamook Coast has thousands of secret caches hidden in both mundane and out-of-the ordinary places.
“We have had some amazing adventures geocaching right here at home,” says Heather Hurliman, a Tillamook mother who uses caching to teach her family about their home county. “From bunkers hidden in the woods to caches hidden under the roads—we climbed the ‘G’ in Garibaldi for one. We’ve located caches that were right under our noses, and we have searched and searched for others.”
Creative hiding places
Part of the fun of finding the cache is discovering how creatively it is hidden. Often, right off a path traveled by hundreds of human feet will be a small, everyday object such as a canister used for holding camera film, or a metal lunch box hidden under brush.
Many popular hiking trails on the Tillamook Coast have several geocaches along them. The allure for a cacher is knowing there are secret objects in areas populated by those who know nothing of their existence.
Most caches are small containers with a simple paper registry inside. With these types, the cacher simply signs the registry and returns the container to its hidden location. Be careful putting the cache back—one of the rules of the hunt is to be certain non-cachers, known as ‘Muggles’ do not see you finding or hiding a cache.
Other caches contain small, inexpensive trinkets. The rules are simple: take a trinket from the cache and leave a trinket of your own in its stead.
Each cache is rated on a difficulty scale; some are easier to find than others. One cache, located on the North Tillamook Coast, requires a boat and low tide to reach. Its creator, a north Tillamook County resident, says on average, only one person a year is brave enough to seek it.
Quilt Trail geocaching
Love quilting? The Tillamook County Quilt Trail has a special geocache hunt designed to follow the trail’s beautifully painted quilt blocks mounted on buildings and barns from north to south Tillamook County. Jennifer Johnston of Tillamook and her daughter, Rachel, 7, have found eight of the 32 caches in the quilt trail hunt. Each time, says Jennifer, she finds something new to love about the coast.
“I have always loved treasure hunting,” says Jennifer. “Geocaching is something great both Rachel and I can do.” The cost, she says, is “free, other than gas to get you near and far.”
Rules of the hunt
Geocachers take seriously courtesy rules posted on the official geocaching website. Damaging property is not acceptable. Neither are leaving garbage, breaking trespassing laws or harming the environment in any way.