The bird's the word for the all-new statewide geocaching challenge — the Geocaching Avian Adventure — which will take flight on Saturday, June 9, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Camouflaged "Bird Cache" containers will be hidden, waiting to be discovered throughout the state. At least one will be at each of Minnesota's state parks and recreation areas, plus one on the Root River State Trail.
The clues to their exact whereabouts will be posted at 8 a.m. June 9 on the DNR website, www.mndnr.gov(http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/geocaching/index.html). National Get Outdoors Day is also June 9, so admission to all Minnesota state parks and recreation areas will be free.
Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game with great popularity around the globe. Participants utilize global positioning system (GPS) devices to hunt for hidden cache containers. Typically caches are old ammo boxes camouflaged in the outdoors, making them a challenge to locate.
Nested in each of the bird caches are collectible cards featuring color photos of Minnesota birds by nature photographer and birding expert Don Martin. The cards include facts about each bird that will help visitors identify it when they see or hear it. They are also color coded to indicate one of the state's four distinct natural communities, also known as biomes: the prairie, deciduous (hardwood) forest, coniferous (pine) forest, and tallgrass aspen parkland. Cache finders are encouraged to sign a logbook and take a free bird card as a souvenir of their visit.
In 2008, Minnesota state parks first invited geocachers to participate in the Geocaching History Challenge presented by Best Buy. More than 20,000 geocache finds were recorded by experienced and first-time geocachers alike in less than one year. At least that many caches were also found during the subsequent Geocaching Wildlife Safari, which ended in May.
"The Geocaching Avian Adventure will be fun for new and experienced geocachers alike," said Kathy Dummer, interpretive services coordinator for the DNR's Division of Parks and Trails, "and everyone who participates will get a little better acquainted with Minnesota's birds and biomes along the way."
GPS demonstration parks provide free tips and equipment for beginners
At 25 designated geocaching demo parks, GPS units can be checked out for free, and Geocaching 101 workshops will provide hands-on instruction for first-time geocachers.
Geocaching 101 programs are scheduled in each region of the state:
Northeast Region -- Friday, June 8, 1-1:30 p.m. at Gooseberry Falls State Park (Two Harbors).
•Northwest Region -- Saturday, June 9, 2-3 p.m. at Buffalo River State Park (Glyndon).
• Central Region -- Saturday, June 9, 10-11 a.m. at Interstate State Park (Taylors Falls).
• Southern Region -- Saturday, June 9, 1-4 p.m. at Camden State Park (Lynd) and 7-8 p.m. at Sibley State Park (New London).
Since the Geocaching Wildlife Safari began in 2009, the interpretive naturalists at Minnesota state parks have offered 325 Geocaching 101 programs that have reached more than 9,000 participants. GPS units were checked out from the demo parks more than 2,754 times in 2011 alone.
For more information, including the locations of the demo parks and dates of additional Geocaching 101 programs, visit www.mndnr.gov(http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/geocaching/safari/demo_parks.html)
or call the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.