A mysterious find in Belfield
BELFIELD — The three kids found more than a person as they played hide and seek after school on a recent Thursday afternoon near Belfield Pond.
The small green tube looked like a film canister, but held something much stranger than film: a scroll, softened by age, with a list of dates and names dating back to 2009.
It’s a geocache, or an item hidden for the purpose of bringing others to a new place with the help of GPS coordinates and clues.
A geocaching.com map shows the dam cache is the only one in Belfield.
The map also shows about 50 caches hidden throughout the city of Dickinson, and several scattered throughout Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Worldwide, more than 2.2 million geocaches are hidden and more than 6 million geocachers are out hunting, according to geocaching.com.
“I think it’s pretty cool,” said Randy Wilkinson, who wasn’t sure what his kids had found when they first showed him the forest green container.
Wilkinson’s three kids, Joe, Mac and Cody, found the “cache” in late October, and at first thought it may be a time capsule. They found it near the Belfield Pond and dam, about 100 yards from their house.
But the more than 80 names on the well-worn scroll correspond to geocachers’ code names — “Whiplash1024” was the first to find (“FTF”) in July 2009, and others, including “Findit4” and “LazyEye,” have since traveled to the pond to sign their names.
Some players also list where they came from, like Regina, Saskatchewan, or Rochester, N.Y.
The state Parks and Recreation department runs its own geocaches, which bring new people to the park, said Amy Schimetz, interpretive naturalist at Lake Metigoshe State Park.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park Superintendent Valerie Naylor said the national parks don’t allow physical geocaches in the boundaries to keep out what they see as debris.
However, virtual caches, which consist of coordinates and nothing else, are allowed, she said.
Naylor said those caches are a good way to get people out of their cars and exploring new areas in the park.
Schimetz said about 35 physical caches are hidden throughout North Dakota state parks.
To find any caches, those on the hunt go to geocaching.com and put in a designated area to get a list of geocaches with the coordinates and any hints provided.
Some caches have trinkets or other little treasures.
“The main thing is to take them to an interesting place, somewhere where they’ve never been before, whether it’s a historical place or a scenic view,” Schimetz said.
“I think the whole point of it is to get up off your couch and get in the outdoors.”
On the webpage for the Belfield cache, for example, geocachers compliment the area where the canister is hidden — and the sturdiness of it, as it has apparently survived four North Dakota winters.
Geocaching has also turned out to be a marketing tool for state parks. Schimetz said people have written in the web logs that they wouldn’t have gone to the park if there wasn’t a cache there.
“It’s a great way to get direct feedback. People are leaving great compliments about our park,” she said.
“It’s a win-win situation. We’ve added another option for folks to come in terms of recreation here in the parks.”