Visitation, education, exploration – those are the key components of Wyoming County’s Tourism Department. They’re also the cruxes of the geo-trail set up by Marketing Director Eric Szucs and his team of geocachers.
“The idea was brought in by a local geocacher and we started to talk about it,” Szucs said. “Jim Nelson, Crystal Fisher and Ken Wallace, local geocachers helped set up the trail. It was also a collaborative effort between local businesses and recreational areas to get the trail together.”
The geo-trail a treasure hunt that uses a GPS (global positioning system) unit to find things people have hidden “in the woods” so to speak. Since its opening on June 29, several visitors have completed the trail.
“We are a four-season outdoor destination, which is a draw for the county and this is one more way for people to experience the outdoors in a different way,” Szucs said. “And, it’s a perfect fit for the county.”
This is the first time an organization in Wyoming County has put something together here for promoting businesses and nature combined. Not only does the trail get people to visit the county, it allows them to explore the area in a way different from a typical day trip. Additionally, the new trail expands areas within the state for geocaching enthusiasts – it’s a bonafide trail on the official Geocache website.
While geocaching began in 1999 with one guy in Oregon hiding a can of beans in the woods – there’s even a plaque commemorating the beginning of the cache – Szucs says, the Wyoming County trail is the first countywide cache trail for Wyoming County.
“There are more than 2.8 million geocaches to be found worldwide in 180 countries,” Szucs said. “Our challenge was to make this trail memorable. At the end of the day, we wanted people to enjoy the trail and make it fun…it was always in the back of our heads. There is no order in the way you do the trail. There is no right or wrong way to do it.”
Twelve caches have been hidden throughout Wyoming County, highlighting local attractions and businesses, including Artisan Villa, Beaver Meadow Audubon Center, Byrncliff Resort and Banquets, The Farmer’s Wife, Hidden Valley Animal Adventure, Letchworth State Park, Silver Lake State Park, and more. The geo-trail will remain active for two years, with plans to expand upon it, adding more fun elements and new trail locations, in future years.
To participate in the Wyoming County Geocaching Trail, one needs:
• A GPS-enabled phone and or handheld GPS device;
• Create a free profile on the Geocaching.com website;
• Search for the WyCoGT geocaches, go find them and collect the special code word in each geocache; and
• Visit the Wyoming County Tourism website to submit the code words and receive one of only 300 commemorative Wyoming County wooden nickels – geocachers have to find 10 caches to get the wooden coin.
“We wanted to do in such a way so that there was a mix of unique businesses and areas that would give people an outdoor experience,” Szucs said. “The geo-trial gives people an opportunity to spend time in the county and visit places they may not have known existed. It’s also a way for people to learn more about the county.”
“Any time you can add something to your arsenal of tourism assets benefits the county overall by reaching a different segment of the population with different interests thereby exposing potentially new visitors to Wyoming County,” said Wyoming County Chamber & Tourism President Scott Gardner.
Longtime geocachers John Fudalik (cache name hfjoh) and Scott Benz (cache name elbapatch) recently came back from hitting a trail in Asheville, N.C., and decided to try the one Wyoming County.
“John got me involved in geocaching in 2005,” Benz said. “I hope to hit 18,000 caches this year.”
Since the duo began, Fudalik started in March of 2001, they have covered 31 states, four Canadian provinces, and the nations of Greece and Mexico. They explore trails three times a week during the warmer months but also find trails to do during the winter as well.
“They take you to places you wouldn’t even know about or knew existed,” Fudalik said. “The most memorable one was in a nature spot with three-tier waterfalls in Livingston County.”
How long it takes to complete a trail depends on how it’s laid out, say the pair. However, since Fudalik is retired and Benz is semiretired, they take their time and enjoy the scenery. In April, they are going to Utah to walk the trails in five national parks.
“For each one you do, you get an emblem,” Benz said.
The Wyoming County geo-trial features caches that may multiple parts which include multiple caches, ones where you get the cache at the one coordinate, and others that are more like puzzles.
“My favorite kind is letterbox style,” Szucs said. “You get clues to find the cache. At Beaver Meadow there are two ways to get the cache. If the nature center is open you get the coordinates immediately. If the center is not open, you have to follow the clues to find the cache.”
All the cache boxes were painted by Jim Nelson to look like cows to coincide with the "Wyoming County Approved" tourism logo. And while some of the caches are more involved than others – there is a rating system on the geocache website – most are rated between two and three in difficulty.
“We wanted to make them easy enough for all to enjoy, yet challenging for those who are accustomed to geocaching,” Szucs said. “There have been about a dozen people who have completely finished the trail already and the response has been incredibly positive.”
For more information about the Wyoming County Geo-trail click here.
For more information about geocaching visit www.geocaching.com.