It’s a sunny Friday morning and Dave Whittington and his 19-year-old daughter Louise are on a mission.
Armed with his Etrex 20 Garmin GPS, a pen and comfortable walking shoes, Whittington and Louise head out to go geocaching. But they’re not just looking for any regular cache — the one they’re searching for, if found, means Whittington has found all the caches within the City of Victoria.
Geocaching is an outdoor activity in which participants use a GPS or smartphone to hide and seek containers called caches. Each cache has a difficulty and terrain rating — some can be found by wheelchair access, while others may require specialized equipment to find.
Caches can take the form of almost anything, from a fake pinecone hidden on the ground to a screw installed on a light post in a neighbourhood or a simple camouflaged box tucked away in a tree.
Hidden inside the object is a log book where people can sign their name. Occasionally, there will be items to trade as well.
There are more than 2.8 million caches in the world with more than 1,500 caches in Greater Victoria alone.
Whittington has been a geocacher for the past decade and has found more than 3,000 caches in Greater Victoria, Las Vegas, Mexico, California, Europe and as far north as Yellowknife.
Almost every weekend, he’s out looking for caches — many of which can be found in local parks, churches, recreation centres and public spaces around the capital region.
“Wherever you go there’s geocaches hidden. Quite often they’re hidden in really interesting places,” Whittington said. “One of the nice things about geocaching here is probably every little park has a geocache hidden in it, every little beach access. It flags up all the interesting places there are to visit in the local area.”
While Whittington said it is very much a family activity, finding some of the more difficult caches can be physically-demanding as well.
One cache he found was in a large hollowed-out dead tree trunk with roots growing through it in Vancouver. Whittington had to climb into the tree trunk and down through the roots to find the cache, which was hanging off the edge of a steep bank.
In one of his longer hunts to find a cache, Whittingon, along with a group of fellow geocachers, hiked 26 kilometres to Heather Mountain near Cowichan Lake, before climbing 1,300 metres to reach the top where the cache was located.
“I love hiking and biking and getting outside,” he said, adding he might find 10 to 30 caches a day in some areas. “Having a treasure to find along the walk gives it a purpose.”
Whittingon’s most recent mission to check off the last geocache in Victoria begins in the parking lot of Topaz Park. The cache he’s looking for is roughly 800 metres away, according to his GPS, and has the hint “paws in parks, bring a tall person.”
Whittington and Louise follow the GPS, which leads them to Oswald Park, a hidden park that Whittingon admits he’s never been to before.
They walk past a pair of children playing on the swings, head down, staring intently at the GPS as it counts down the metres until they reach the cache.
It leads them to the opposite end of the park and they stop in front of a blue garbage can and a sign with doggy bags attached to it. Whittingon searches around wooden logs, but is unable to find anything. However, it is Louise with the keen eye in this adventure.
She notices a screw on the sign that’s out of place and pulls it down. She unscrews the top bolt and out pops the tiny log book. They sign their names and put the cache back in the same spot they found it.
“It’s exciting. It’s a sense of accomplishment,” Whittington said.
Whittington may have found all the geocaches currently in Victoria, but that could change shortly. There are new caches hidden and added weekly.
For more information on geocaching visit geocaching.com.