Parks Canada SnowDays Winter Extravaganza is running in Banff National Park from January 14 – February 12, 2012. This year, the Park has developed 2 geocaching challenges for SnowDays participants. First off, there's a 6-part temporary geocaching challenge. The first 10 visitors to find all 6 temporary geocaches and take photographic evidence of their success to the visitor centre in Banff will win great prizes, such as one night’s stay in the park, Helly Hansen base layer clothing and more. As of noon today, 7 of the 10 prizes had been claimed. Parks personnel expected the last three to go either today or tomorrow.
Since we weren’t interested in driving all the way to Lake Louise today, we opted to take part in the other Banff National Park Geocaching Challenge. Parks personnel have placed 5 permanent geocaches in accordance with Parks Canada’s geocaching policy. All five caches are listed on geocaching.com and on theParks Canada website. To complete this challenge, cachers find at least 3 of the 5 geocaches, using the special punch in the cache container to punch their challenge game sheet. Each container also contains some interesting facts about the park and the challenge game sheet requires you to record the answer to a specific question for each cache you find.
Our day started out well enough, with a couple of stops along Tunnel Mountain Road. “A Giant in the Forest” is hidden at a spot we’ve visited a few times over the years. The trail provides some great opportunities to
photograph the Banff Hoodoos and the Banff Springs Hotel. Unfortunately, heavy cloud cover made it pretty much impossible to come home with good pictures today.
Our stop at “Where is the Tunnel” was quick. Youngest GeoKid got cold feet during our short walk to the first cache, and preferred to stay in the vehicle. Mrs. GeoK disdained the use of microspikes or crampons and since Mr. GeoK followed suit, we struggled a bit on the steep incline to the cache site. We opted not to continue to the top today, as it was snowing lightly and the kids were back in the car. The all-weather-runner jogging past probably wondered what we were up to there on the trail, but wasn’t curious enough to stop and ask.
Our third stop was at the “Cosmic Ray Station” cache. Although we found the cache quickly enough, the punch was missing, so we resorted to taking a picture of the logbook and Cosmic Ray Station information sheet. Parks Canada personnel accepted this as proof of visit and is hoping that someone will turn the punch in when they come to claim their Banff National Park Geocoin. This cache is located close to an earthcache, so provides new visitors to Banff with an opportunity to claim two finds at one stop.
We had all kinds of trouble with our fourth cache attempt. First off, Mrs. GeoKs’ GPSr is loaded with maps that are 5 years out of date. As a result, we missed the turnoff to Vermilion Lakes Road and drove 10 or 12 km out of our way. Next, as we approached the corrected coordinates noted in BVPete’s log for GC3AR7H A Rare Find, a 15-passsenger tour van was parked in the middle of the road and the guide had everyone outside, taking photos and looking at some antlers in the back of the van. So we used the old “we just want to take some pictures” trick while surreptitiously searching for the cache. One of Mrs. GeoKs’ photos was of the spot a container used to be…but isn’t any more…as confirmed by comparing our photo to the official hiding spot photo on hand in the Visitor Centre. We’re wondering if a tour van operator picked up the container, thinking they were picking up trash?
Fortunately, this was a very scenic spot, and we got a couple of good pictures.
After our lack of success at the Vermilion Lakes cache, we decided it was our final stop for the day. We headed to the Visitor’s Centre to claim our geocoin and report the problems. Celine confirmed that we “found” the last cache, even though we didn’t actually “find” the container, so we have permission to log this one. Parks Canada will be sending someone out to check into the situation, but didn’t give us a timeline. They also awarded us a non-trackable Banff National Park geocoin as a prize for finding at least 3 of the 5 challenge caches. They started SnowDays with a supply of 450 coins and have awarded just a few so far.
So if you’re in the area between now and February 12, 2012, be sure to print a copy of the geocaching challenge sheet and head out to find a few of these new caches. In addition to some smileys, you might just earn a geocoin!