Set to launch on National Trails Day, June 4, 2011 at the Accokeek Foundation at Piscataway Park, the new Captain John Smith Geotrail is a journey across Chesapeake landscapes that evokes scenes and stories experienced by Captain Smith 400 years ago. Adventurers will have the chance to explore more than 40 sites that highlight places associated with Smith’s explorations, the natural resources of the Chesapeake, and American Indian communities then and now. Located along the James, Rappahannock, Potomac, Susquehanna, and the Nanticoke Rivers, the geotrail’s sites complement and promote the congressionally designated Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.
This multi-state initiative is sponsored by the National Park Service and its Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network, Maryland Geocaching Society, and Chesapeake Conservancy.
Geocaching, pronounced “geo-cashing,” is a worldwide phenomenon, in which participants use a hand-held GPS (Global Positioning System) to plot map coordinates in order to locate a hidden treasure or “cache.” Searching for a cache is akin to going on a treasure hunt and can involve clues, riddles and visits to multiple locations. Shovels are a forbidden tool – caches are never buried. A “geotrail” is a series of caches tied together by a common topic or theme.
If you are a journalist or blogger interested in a sneak preview with an experienced geocacher, please contact Susan Kelley or Cindy Chance for a Captain John Smith geocache experience near you.
Geocaching volunteers will be on hand at the kick-off event to teach the basics to newcomers, and extra caches will be placed, including some just for kids. The event begins at 10:00 am and runs until 12:00. Do expect most serious geocachers to bolt as soon as the Smith Geotrail cache coordinates are officially “published” sometime around 11:30 and cachers download to their mobile devices.
Participants will find plenty to explore at Accokeek. On the banks of the Potomac, with Mount Vernon visible on the opposite shore, the Accokeek Foundation and its National Colonial Farm offer a wide range of fun activities for adults and children.
“The geotrail is a wonderful way to introduce people, especially families, to the wide variety of resources available on the Captain John Smith Chesapeake trail” said Jonathan Doherty, National Park Service Assistant Superintendent. “As a National Historic Trail, we have an obligation to help everyone discover important Chesapeake places and provide an opportunity to have fun learning about our common heritage. Geocaching is good clean fun that gets everyone outside!”
Charlie Stek, chairman of the Chesapeake Conservancy, said “Encouraging families – and particularly our youth -- to explore the John Smith Trail, Chesapeake history, and our great natural resources, is a top priority of our organization. 400 years ago, Captain Smith sailed Chesapeake waters in search of gold and other riches. With this geocaching initiative, citizens today have the opportunity to join in a similar adventure and discover ‘treasures’ of their own.”
To join the adventure, a geocacher must access the official geocache website at www.Geocaching.com to set up an account. A basic membership is free. Once an account is established, the geocacher can use the advance search function to locate the Captain John Smith account, retrieve the map coordinates, and see the cache details for each Captain John Smith Geocache. Included with the information for each cache location is a description of the site and its significance to the Chesapeake and Smith’s voyages. The next step is to head outside with a GPS to find geocaches along the Captain John Smith Geotrail!
This is the second Chesapeake-focused geotrail built in partnership with a National Historic Trail. Last year, on a cold February day, the launch of the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Geotrail drew nearly 800 weekend visits. In the past year, that trail has drawn nearly 8,000 visitors to its sites.
A collectible, highly coveted, and trackable geocoin will be given to the first 400 geocachers who locate a minimum of 15 geocaches along the trail. To be eligible for the coin, geocachers must download a trail passport from www.smithtrail.net, find and log on www.geocaching.com at least 15 geocaches from the trail, record the secret code word from each cache on their passport and post a picture of each cache location on the corresponding geocache webpage. After discovering the 15 required caches, geocachers may have their passports validated in person or via mail at the National Park Service Chesapeake Bay office: 410 Severn Avenue, Suite 314, Annapolis, MD 21403.
About Chesapeake Conservancy
Chesapeake Conservancy is a non-profit organization whose mission is to ensure conservation, stewardship, access and enjoyment of the Chesapeake’s iconic landscapes, great rivers and cultural and historic assets. The Conservancy advances this mission through education, the marshaling of new resources and the forging of partnerships with governments, businesses, public-interest groups and citizens. The principal focus of the Conservancy is the implementation of: the John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail; the Chesapeake Gateways and Watertrails Network; and a Chesapeake Treasured Landscape Initiative. The Conservancy believes that by helping educate citizens about the Chesapeake Bay and by providing new opportunities for improved public access, tourism, recreation and cooperative conservation of its treasured landscapes and ecosystems, we can create a lasting ecological and cultural legacy for the Chesapeake Bay.
About the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail
The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, extending approximately 3,000 miles on the Bay and tributaries, is the nation’s first water-based trail. It follows the routes of John Smith’s exploratory voyages in 1607-1609 and offers trail visitors recreational and educational experiences on land portions as well as on the water. Primary interpretive themes center on 17th century American Indian societies and cultures and the natural resources of the Bay.
About the Maryland Geocaching Society
Founded in the fall of 2002, the Maryland Geocaching Society (MGS) was among the first groups to organize around the adventure and passion of geocaching. Over the past eight years, the Society has welcomed nearly 3,000 members to its website and sponsored multiple state-wide activities, including “Cache in Trash Out” programs to assist in the maintenance of parks and trail systems. The MGS promotes geocaching as exciting, earth-friendly and adventurous outdoor recreation for the whole family.