Amidst the drizzled trees and mossy floors of Sitka’s forests dwell hidden treasures. In Southeast, we are familiar with the inherent beauty of the Tongass; the golden shimmer of waterdrops reflecting off of lichens aside our feet; the specks of blue and red colors from berries splashed onto a green canvas. These newest hidden treasures, however, are human-made. The secret capsules are called “geocaches” and contain messages and trinkets from generations of treasure hunters.
Colt Wilson and 4-H members observe GPS devices while geocaching on Castle Hill. Photo: Molly Johnson
Geocaching is an outdoor activity that uses GPS devices to track down these hidden containers. Enthusiasts create their own and post the location coordinates online, so that others can search to find them. Sitka itself has about 50 geocaches placed throughout town. In 2016, Sitka Spruce Tips 4-H club was honored to have had Colt Wilson as the founding leader of our geocaching project.
If you’re searching for a gem, look no further than Colt Wilson, a fireman with the U.S. Coast Guard. 19-year old Wilson grew up in Torrington, Wyoming on a cattle ranch, and first started participating in 4-H shooting sports at the age of 8. After developing a passion for archery over the years, he became a 4-H Junior Leader - a leadership training program for teens. “The program allowed me to grow as a leader, but also as a teacher,” Wilson explains. “I got to take what I was learning and share it with the younger people in my community”.
Colt Wilson and 4-H members discover a micro geocache on Cross Trail. Photo: Julia Tawney
Wilson first began geocaching in the fourth grade, when his science teacher taught him how to use GPS units. Both his parents strengthened his appreciation for the hobby by searching for geocaches on family road trips. Wilson’s favorite of part of the activity: “the thrill of the hunt,” he explains. In his brief time stationed at Sitka’s U.S. Coast Guard base, Wilson reached out to 4-H to share his geocaching skills with local youth.
4-H geocachers meet monthly to program their GPS’ and begin the hunt. They search high and low, even decoding additional hints, to discover geocaches along various trails. It is a new and exciting project that holds the potential to develop into a lifelong hobby for the 4-H members. As project leader, Wilson speaks to the importance of passing knowledge down to younger generations. Using geocaching to teach youth about navigation, Wilson highlights the significance of getting out into the Tongass and experiencing a “treasure hunt” in Sitka’s backyard. We are very grateful to Wilson for his time and contributions to the project. He demonstrates why skill-sharing is such a valuable element of the Sitka community. We wish Wilson the best on his future endeavors.
4-H members huddle while learning geocaching basics from Colt Wilson. Photo: Molly Johnson
For more information on how to start geocaching, check out geocaching.com. Also keep an eye out for geocaching opportunities with the Sitka Spruce Tips 4-Hthis fall.