Most of you know it by now… I enjoy GeoCaching. It’s an opportunity for me to get up and enjoy the great outdoors (something I enjoy doing, but struggle to find the time to do). It’s much less of a time commitment than loading up the canoe, or packing up for a camping trip – and is a little more focused (with a destination and a goal) than simply going for a walk. Plus, getting to use the GPS really tickles the “gadget guy” gene in me.
Honestly, it’s almost the perfect activity in my book. A little bit of many of the things I enjoy doing!!
I had not been out GeoCaching much this summer and when I checked my calendar I noticed that I was not scheduled for work that day! It was a lock! I added it to my calendar and began planning a family GeoCaching adventure! (Unfortunately, the Mother of Five and #2 of 5 had to work – but I made plans for everyone that was going to be around that day.)
The first thing I wanted to do was find a suitable area to cache. I wanted find a place that was not to far, but had a high enough concentration of GeoCaches that I could “up” my statistics a little bit! That’s when I remembered something!! While checking for GeoCaches along the route of our Minnesota River Canoe Trip earlier this year I stumbled upon an “anomaly”. The anomaly was a high concentration of GeoCaches in an area known to me to be pretty “rural” (farmland).
I did a little research and discovered that this area (of high GeoCache concentration) is not farmland, but it’s the Ney Nature Center! It was the first I heard of the place. I did a little further checking and really liked what I found. I placed it in the back of my mind as a future destination. It was the PERFECT place for our International GeoCaching Day adventure!
When International GeoCaching day arrived – I packed a picnic (turkey sandwiches, loaded baked potato Pringles, Trail Mix, and High-C drink boxes), gathered a few misc items that would make the day a little easier, and perhaps a little more fun for all (GPS, FRS radios, and a camera) and we headed out!!
Destination Neys Nature Center!!
About twenty minutes later we arrived at Neys. We pulled up to the Ney Center and did a little poking around to try and acclimate ourselves with the surroundings. I noticed a Cub Scout Den that was breaking camp near the visitor center.
There were a number of “outbuildings” (barns, corn cribs, storage sheds, etc – all presumably from when this was a working farmstead), a hand operated well-pump (also presumably from when this was a working farmstead), a campfire ring, and the Visitor Center (which was closed that day).
My GPS indicated that the caches were located in areas other than the visitor center. We located an information kiosk (with maps of the Center) and got a better idea of where we needed to go. We headed back to the car and drove to the “Farmstead” area of the Nature Center.
Right away the GPS locked on to the nearest GeoCache and we were on our way!
They Ney Nature Center is an AMAZING place!! It features several features of the Minnesota landscape. In addition to the historic farmstead there are areas of native prairie grasses, remnants of the big woods (woodlands), a large wetland, several reforestation plots, a wooded ravine with natural streams, and the historic Oxcart Trail. Throughout these areas are pre established trails Don’s Pond Loop Trail, the Ravine Trail, the Native Prarie Walk, the Oxcart Trail, and the Hidden Windmill Trail. The Trails are mowed and marked with signs and maps to help you navigate the Nature Center!
Top row L to R: #5 of 5 blowing a dandelion – Can you spot the GeoBeacon in the photo?
Bottom row L to R: Example of a mowed trail between the ravine area (on the left) and the prairie grass area (on the right) – TRAIL CLOSED?? There is a GeoCache a little over 400 feet down that trail – Sorry folks, that sign did NOT stop me!!
Note – Here is the GeoCache located in the “Closed Trail”.
Out of respect we did find the cache (down the closed trail) but we did head right back out and off the closed trail…
I may be civilly disobedient at times, but I can also be respectful when doing so!
After a few caches we headed back to the car to grab our cooler and lunch – then headed into a shady spot on the farmstead to have lunch and take a little rest.
If you look close enough in the photo – you ca see a little white speck under the trees in the right side of the photo. That’s were the kids sat down while I grabbed lunch!
I did say “rest” didn’t I??
I actually dosed off while the kids finished their lunch.
Sneaky #4 of 5 thought it would be funny to catch her daddy sleeping in photographic form.
and a short little nap, we headed back down the trail for a few more Geocaches.
As we approached the trailhead from the Farmstead, we learned a little more history about the Neys Nature Center.
Another unique feature of the Nyes Nature Center is the Oxcart Trail.
This historic road is believed to have been a part of the system of Red River Oxcart Trails. It is believed to have been first used by Native Americans who camped along the top of the hill each fall as a foot trail. It’s use expanded as it became used by traders and early explorers.
In addition to being an oxcart trail it also became a portion of one of the local stagecoach runs, then it was used as a county road for many years. Later, the road was turned over to Tyrone township. Along the portion of the Oxcart Trail in the Ney Nature Center we located the remains of the Stagecoach stop.
In the photo you can see the two remaining walls of the Stagecoach stop building.
A little further down the Oxcart Trail is a scenic overlook. At the edge of the overlook is a flagstone ring. The photos do not do the view justice. It was simply and amazingly beautiful! I did not get it captured in the photos, but way off in the distance, along the opposite side of the river valley, was a bright white colored church steeple poking out of the lush green of the river valley – it was very pretty!!
Interesting facts about the Minnesota River Valley – The valley itself is as large as five miles across and 250 feet deep in it’s widest and deepest zones. It was cut by the River Warren which flowed from the Glacial Lake Agassiz through the Traverse Gap (a gorge cut from water over spilling the southern end of Glacial Lake Agassiz when the Laurentide Ice Sheet began melting).
We had a great afternoon! Neys Nature Center was an AMAZING place, and we will be certain to return there again soon!! The weather was perfect. We found all but one of the GeoCaches we looked for. The picnic lunch (and nap) were rejuvenating, and spending time with these great kids is never anything less than a ton of fun!!
Here you can see the “after” photo once I entered all my GeoCaching finds on geocaching.com. (The yellow “smileys” are caches I have found. The green “ammo boxes” are caches I have not yet found). You can see that there are still plenty of opportunities for GeoCaching during future visits to Ney’s Nature Center!
If you are interested in seeing our trek (or at least the GPS data played out in time lapse over a map overlay) be sure to click through THIS LINK to the EveryTrail site.
On a side note… About a week after International GeoCaching Day had occurred, GroundSpeak (the parent company of GeoCaching.com) sent out this message on Latitude 47.
International Geocaching Day Success
You did it! You made International Geocaching Day the biggest day in Geocaching.com history. More than 94,000 geocachers from around the world charged into the wilderness or perhaps walked casually down the sidewalk to find a geocache on August 18. A souvenir for the day could be earned by logging a “Found it” for a physical geocache or an “Attended” on an Event Cache. Thank you to all those cachers who organized the more than 250 events, including 3 Mega-Events, on International Geocaching Day this year.
International Geocaching Day is the third Saturday of August each year. Next year it will be commemorated on August 17, 2013