Geocachers at Wildcat Mountain State Park, from left, were yours truly, Ike, Trish, Grace and Dave. This crooked, self-timer shot made the terrain look almost as steep as it was.
Geocachers at Wildcat Mountain State Park, from left, were yours truly, Ike, Trish, Grace and Dave. This crooked, self-timer shot made the terrain look almost as steep as it was.
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Last week I took a break from my Labor Day weekend/Kickapoo Valley Reserve tales, instead shar-ing my visit and upcoming events at the Motor Mill near Elkader, Iowa.

That break proved fortuitous (my big word for the day). I still have geocaching adventures to share from the LaFarge and Ontario areas of Wisconsin. Specifically, we had a group of five that went geocach-ing at Wildcat Mountain State Park at Ontario. We found a series of six caches, along with a seventh and final one from clues provided in the first six.

It was a blast - and geocaching with five sets of eyes also puts some competition into wanting to find the cache first.

I want you to specifically take note we were geocaching in a Wis-consin state park. Geocaching had been banned from Minnesota state parks for quite some time, while volunteers from the Minnesota Geocaching Association (MnGA) worked with state park officials to come up with a policy to allow the techno-sport.

And… just this past week a pol-icy was approved and the Minne-sota Department of Natural Re-sources (DNR) announced geo-caching will be allowed in the state parks. (I had to chuckle - and would like to thank each and every one of you who forwarded that information to me. It was informa-tion I was happy to receive. And it's good to know you're looking out for my - and area - recreational interests.)

Caches, it should be noted, will need to be approved by managers at each park.

Official DNR press release: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/news/releases/index.html?id=1159300366

Guidelines can be found here: http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/outdoor_activi-ties/state_parks/geocaching_guidelines.pdf

Permits are located here:

http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/outdoor_activities/state_parks/geocaching_form.pdf

Before talking more about geo-caching at state parks, let me give a good definition of geocaching, straight from the Web site www.geocaching.com. It's specifi-cally from here, which also gives even more helpful information, http://www.geocaching.com/faq/

"Geocaching is an entertaining adventure game for GPS users. Participating in a cache hunt is a good way to take advantage of the wonderful features and capability of a GPS unit. The basic idea is to have individuals and organizations set up caches all over the world and share the locations of these caches on the Internet. GPS users can then use the location coordinates to find the caches. Once found, a cache may provide the visitor with a wide variety of rewards. All the visitor is asked to do is if they get something they should try to leave something for the cache."

And here's the definition of "GPS" from the same site: "A GPS unit is a electronic device that can determine your approximate loca-tion (within around 6-20 feet) on the planet. Coordinates are nor-mally given in longitude and lati-tude. You can use the unit to navi-gate from your current location to another location. Some units have their own maps, built-in electronic compasses, voice navigation, de-pending on the complexity of the device.

"You don't need to know all the technical mumbo jumbo about GPS units to play geocaching. All you need to do is be able to enter what is called a 'waypoint,' where the geocache is hidden."

Whew! In case you've been wondering for weeks what geo-caching is, well, there's your an-swer.

I'm certainly happy to see it's now allowed in Minnesota state parks. It will give one more recrea-tional reason to stop by, perhaps taking a person on trails they might otherwise have missed, or to some other feature.

As noted, our group of five had a blast caching (the shortened form of the word "geocaching") at Wild-cat Mountain State Park in Wiscon-sin. The caches (the hidden con-tainers) were placed on many dif-ferent trails, taking us up hills and way down into valleys. They showed us a forest area planted by youths from a school. They showed us wonderful overlooks of the drift-less (non-glaciated) terrain. And they made us beam with goofy pride when we logged the last one some three to four hours after we started. (We also found, on the highway near one of the stops, some black, feminine Harley Da-vidson underwear, a scary, yet in-teresting, diversion.)

I've also geocached at Wyalusing State Park near Prairie du Chien, Wis., where there's a multi-cache (a single geocache that takes you to different points before reaching the final), and at Pikes Peak and Back-bone State Parks in Iowa. They all were fun and it's great to see Min-nesota finally getting on board.

All that said, I'd advise you - if hoping to learn more about geo-caching or planning to get into it - attend a group event. There are quite a few listed this fall before the snow flies. Drop me an e-mail and I can send links to some events.

OK, let's get back to the Kicka-poo Valley Reserve and the adja-cent Wildcat Mountain State Park, both integral to the relaxed Labor Day weekend of paddling on the Kickapoo River, hiking, biking, geocaching… and, yes, sitting in the rain as the weekend ended.

We did have run-ins with the vi-cious, screaming turkey raptors, as we came to call the overgrown, lizard-like creatures that could both run and fly. Only at the end of the weekend did we discover, thanks to a photo on the Reserve's brochure (and one knowledgeable person among us) that they were sandhill cranes. We'd unknowingly chosen our campsite on the Kickapoo River right next to the nesting area of a pair of sandhill cranes and their young one.

I finally spotted the threesome as it was time to leave on Monday. They flew away… and so did I, for home. But first I scored five more geocaches. My favorites were in this subdivision-type park in Westby just full of huge, jumbled boulders. It was so unexpected for its location in town. I mean, I wanted to stay and play. But home I went. Labor Day weekend com-pleted.

For more information on the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, go here, http://kvr.state.wi.us/home/

Lisa Brainard is the news editor for the Republican-Leader and Chatfield News. She writes for the Phillips Bluff Country Publishing group of newspapers, which also includes the Spring Grove Herald, Bluff Country Reader, News-Record, and Spring Valley Tribune. She can be reached at: lbrainard@republican-leader.com