Reporting Mike Binkley
NERSTRAND, Minn. (WCCO) – Some say the more we focus on technology, the less we appreciate the world’s natural beauty. But over the past several years, Minnesota state parks have seen the opposite.
More than 100,000 hikers using GPS devices have been drawn into nature, looking for hidden treasure.
All 76 Minnesota state parks and state recreation areas have collectible cards and clues hidden somewhere.
Visitors follow satellite coordinates to reach them, and those who find all of the caches get to see how different our state can be — from the Sawtooth Mountains along the North Shore to the rolling prairies of the southwest, and the river bluffs in southeastern Minnesota.
Retired Carleton professor Richard Nau and his wife, Sharol, have been on geocaching trips to Europe, Central America, the Caribbean and throughout North America. They’re grateful that the DNR is helping them see so much of their home state by offering its own geocaching adventure.
“There’s some beautiful landscape in these parks,” Richard Nau said. “They’re certainly far away from the Twin Cities but once you’re there, there’s a lot to see.”
Twenty-five parks have loaner GPS units, with instructions, that visitors can check out for free.
This year, Dena Sievert and Dennis Lindell hope to complete their fourth time around the state.
“It’s just a lot more fun to do it together,” said Sievert, “especially with somebody who knows you and you can draw on their strengths.”
Sievert says she’s the more persistent geocacher, while Lindell takes care of the more physical parts, including any climbing, crawling or reaching into dark spaces.
“It provides exercise, it’s a challenge and it’s an adventure,” he said.
They spent their honeymoon in a few state parks in 2002. They’ve since seen them all, repeatedly, and they have the collector cards to prove it.
“Bear Head Lake, we really enjoyed that,” said Sievert. “That’s one of our favorite state parks.”
But as it turns out, geocaching has helped them in more ways than they ever imagined. They got divorced.
However, geocaching was the one thing they didn’t want to give up when their marriage went south. So they still get together several times a year, going whichever direction their GPS units take them.
“We’re not so great at living together,” said Sievert, “but we still like to travel and geocache together.”
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