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Search never ends for diehard geocaching couple (24 photos)

Sara and Joe Boileau are so enthusiastic about the GPS-aided treasure hunting hobby that they have become living geocaches

Sara and Joe Boileau, who make up Team Clockwork, started geocaching ten years ago and, at time of writing, have found 2,046 geocaches.

Sara says many people describe geocaching as a sport where people use multi-million-dollar satellites to find Tupperware lost in the woods and, as oversimplified as the description is, it works.

"We started it because my friend Christine dragged me into it, as she does with every obsession she ever gets," Sara said with a laugh. "Then, I just roped in everybody else."

Geocachers are generally creative problem solvers who think outside the box, as is evident by the lengths to which some go to both hide and find geocaches.

They use a global positioning system (GPS) receiver or mobile device to locate and get to caches at specific locations marked by coordinates hidden by other geocachers at different places all over the world.

"It's like a treasure hunt or a scavenger hunt," she said. "You never know what kind of place it's going to take you to. You never know what kind of things you're going to find in the cache or story behind it."

Containers, or caches, are hidden all over the world. Some are easier to find or get to than others. They are in cities, forests, fields, lakes, parking lots... pretty much anywhere people can go. 

"We had one hidden near our sign at Clockwork," said Sara. The Boileaus used to own and operate Clockwork Computers on Black Road. 

"We kept that one where we could keep an eye on it," she said. "It was fun to see people look for it and finally find it." 

They've got 87 caches currently hidden in the area in and around the Sault. 

"We look at the place we want to put one and then decide what we're going to put there," Sara said. 

Some are simple like a small container hidden in a fake chain link that screws open, others are more complicated like one beside a river that has to be fished out of a pipe.

Any that are hidden out of sight need to be more creatively hidden, Sara said. "To keep them from muggles."

Muggles, she explained, are people who aren't geocaching but may come across a cache and take, move or damage it usually because they don't know what it is.

That's another reason to be careful when you pick up and open a cache to make sure curious muggles aren't watching you, she added.

The one they remember most fondly was one specially designed for a fellow geocacher who didn't like micro (very small) caches or caches hidden where you had to cross through thick brush to get to them. 

They spray-painted an old microwave oven with camo paint patterns and put a log book, pencil and loot into a Tupperware container inside it.

"We stopped on the side of the road and ran 50 to 100 feet straight into the bush and put it beside a tree," Joe said.

They, like most geocachers, use an app from on their phones to find and log caches found, track caches they've placed and watch for geocaching events. 

The app has a free version and an inexpensive paid version, works on both iPhones and Android operating systems and, with the paid version, geocachers can download the information they need for any caches they want to look for before leaving their wifi behind and geocache without using data or needing access to wifi. 

Caches are waterproof containers that contain at least a logbook that geocachers sign with their established code, their name and dates to prove they found the cache but some can be very creative.

Larger caches may contain trackable or tradeable items. A trackable is an item that is supposed to be moved and left for someone else to find and they usually have a specific goal in mind, like finding their way to the ocean, for example.

Both Sara and Joe have put a different twist on the trackable cache. They both have bugs tattooed on their arms. If a geocacher approaches them and they offer to have their tattoos scanned a screen will pop up in the app telling the geocacher who Sara and Joe are and why they like geocaching. They are, in effect, living geocaches.

Another kind of cache is called an earth cache. These have no physical containers but the app offers a geological location people can visit to learn about a unique feature of the earth. Earth cache pages include a set of educational notes along with coordinates.

Some are multi-caches or caches that give the coordinates to the next cache in a series, often using a puzzle the geocacher has to solve to get the coordinates to the next cache. 

Others contain puzzles or instructions for something people have to do to log the cache.

Sara and Joe's 2,000th cache turned out to be one of those. It was called the hugging tree, located in Webbwood, and they were to take a selfie or have someone take a picture of them hugging a tree the cache was located at.

They weren't always successful, though. Some multi-caches include a puzzle or riddle that has to be solved to get coordinates to the next in a series of caches.

"There are some we found but couldn't log because we couldn't solve the puzzle," Sara said. "They can be frustrating."

But the possibility of being able to log a difficult cache keeps them going back.

One of these cache trails led to a geocacher's mailbox at the end of his driveway. He was sitting outside on a lawn chair watching when Sara and Joe arrived to try to find the last cache hidden in a puzzle.

He watched with wry amusement as the Boileaus tried and failed to solve the puzzle several times until they finally got it. 

Sara said one of the biggest reasons she loves geocaching so much is because she finds interesting, touching stories about people and places in her travels and those have inspired Sara and Joe to create caches that memorialize some of the special dogs that have been part of their lives.

She and Joe found her favourite cache at an old stone bridge left from the old Highway 17. 

"It was past the turnoff to St. Josephs Island on the right side of the road," she said. "You have to park your car on the side of the road and go down to it."

They actually found three old bridges on that walkabout and Sara said the area was incredibly beautiful.

Joe prefers caches that present a challenge. He also likes to try to be the first to find new caches so he can claim that achievement but he's not alone in that quest.

"I liked the one where I climbed the rocks straight up out at Gros Cap," he said. "Then I found a trail on the backside and went all the way down that way."

He also talked about one that was hidden out at Robertsons Cliffs. 

Team Clockwork raced to the parking area and Joe set off straight through the woods to get to it first. Just as he approached it, Sara saw a competitor coming out of the woods and the 'found it first' achievement showed on the app as taken. He missed being first on that one by minutes but he still logged the cache.

"I like the ones that bring us to places we wouldn't think of going," he said. "Like through a trail to a waterfall, an open field or an airfield we didn't know was there."

Sara said the first time they found the airstrip Joe was talking about was good but not the second time.

They didn't know someone had purchased it and it had become private property. Because they followed a trail through the forest to get to it, they didn't see any 'no trespassing' signs.

They quickly learned the cache was no longer accessible when they were chased off the property by guard dogs and men in golf carts.

"That one was a very different kind of fun," Sara said. "It was run-for-your-life fun!"

That's why the Boileaus recommend that beginning geocachers try to go out with experienced people and always be careful. Dress for the conditions, bring gloves, stay aware of your surroundings and look where you are going, not just at the map on your phone.

"Some of the places can be treacherous if you're not paying attention," Sara said.

Joe also said to keep in mind that anything and everything can be a geocache. People hide them in fake chain links, bolts, rocks, logs or poop. Some of those fakes look pretty real, too.

They've enjoyed geocaching events in the United States and Canada so far but hope to visit Ireland for a geocaching adventure.

To start, just download the Geocaching app to your phone or get yourself a GPS with it factory installed. A few GPS-makers offer models with the app already installed in the device. 

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Carol Martin

About the Author: Carol Martin

Carol has over 20-years experience in journalism, was raised in Sault Ste. Marie, and has also lived and worked in Constance Lake First Nation, Sudbury, and Kingston before returning to her hometown to join the SooToday team in 2004.
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