Geocaching in Montana.
Do you enjoy scavenger hunts? Working with space-age technology? Getting out and exploring this wonderful place called Montana? If you answered yes to all three, you may be ready to start geocaching. The best definition I ever saw of the game of geocaching was on a T-shirt. “I use multi-billion-dollar U.S. Government equipment to find Tupperware® containers in the woods.” And over the past fourteen years, I’ve found 611 plastic containers, ammo canisters, tiny metal tubes called Bison tubes, old film canisters, pill bottles and lots of other odd objects, not all of them in the woods, and none of them litter. All had at least a piece of paper hidden inside, and some had much, much more. Most were hidden carefully on public land, or if on private, with the consent of the landowner. None were buried, but some were stuck in the ground, or under a rock, or hanging from the branch of a tree.
Photo: A larger cache container complete with log paper and numerous toys
for trading. If you take a trinket, please replace it with another.
The modern game of geocaching got its start in 2000 when the public was able to use the government’s global positioning system (GPS) signals. An enterprising fellow hid an object (a cache), noted its GPS coordinates, then sent his friends out to find the cache. From that start, the game has become a worldwide phenomenon with thousands of caches in Montana alone, growing in popularity year after year. My first year hunting for caches, 2006, there were 115 caches within a 100-mile radius of my then home on Missoula’s Northside. Today, there are 1,736 caches within fifty miles of my home outside of Plains.
Wherever you are in Montana, I can guarantee you are not far from a hidden geocache. In researching this article, I expected that the game would center on Missoula and Bozeman, but I was wrong. Kalispell comes in first with 1,683 caches hidden within a fifty-mile radius. Missoula comes in second with 1,033 and Bozeman is fifth with 571. Admittedly, when I typed 59324 into the Geocaching.com search window, nothing came up. That’s Ekalaka’s zip code, by the way. But when I widened my search to a thirty-mile radius, I found ten caches, four of which were in or close to Medicine Rocks State Park. There are caches hidden along Montana’s highest road, the Beartooth Highway between Red Lodge and Cooke City, with one cache hidden at 10,269 feet. And if you search for Troy, which bills itself as the lowest town in Montana, you’ll find over 1,300 caches within fifty miles. Of course, some of those caches are in Idaho or British Columbia.