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Let's Get Out There: Geocaching at Columbia Springs in Vancouver

The site of an old wood mill, Columbia Springs has the feel of a remote location, but it's just a short drive away.

VANCOUVER, Wash. — In this week's Let's Get Out There, we're headed to Columbia Springs in Vancouver. A newly-installed geocaching scavenger hunt is a great way to explore the 100-acre area.

Off Evergreen Highway in Vancouver, Columbia Springs feeds right into the Columbia River. It’s the site of an old wood mill turned trout hatchery and interpretive area.

“It's not like you have to… drive an hour to get to this remote place in order to explore nature, it's right here,” said Columbia Springs’ volunteer manager Apryl Corey.

She and community engagement specialist Kylie Sahota came up with an idea to get people re-engaged with this hidden treasure.

“So maybe you don't find like a box with a coin in it or something, but you get all of this,” said Sahota, who wrote the material for a geocaching-style scavenger hunt called “Behind the Scenes at Columbia Springs.” If you’ve got a phone all you need is an app called “Adventure Labs.”

Credit: Jon Goodwin, KGW

“I like how you actually have to go and get out into nature and keep walking,” said 9-year-old Dale Cory. He’s as familiar with Columbia Springs as anyone —his mom Katherine is the executive director. Dale gave a tour of the geocaching course.

Credit: Jon Goodwin, KGW

“It's a lot more approachable with the app because you don't have to have a GPS device and know anything about coordinates,” said Apryl. “It just shows you on the map, and you follow along.”

“What a great way to come out, learn a little bit about your surroundings and how you can get involved in your natural landscapes even more,” said Sahota. “I'm really proud of it and excited that other people are enjoying it.”

There are six stops along the way, with lessons about the surrounding ecosystem in each clue. The app poses a question at each of the stations. Once you answer correctly on your phone, it unlocks the next stop. 

Dale has a message for his peers.

“Instead of sitting on your PS4 all day and playing Fortnite or something or some games, you could get out into nature,” he smiled.

Credit: Jon Goodwin, KGW

“If you come out here for your adventure lab to take your time, and you don't have to follow, you know, step one, step two, step three, you're gonna find things that distract you and pull your attention like, ‘oh what's down this trail?’ Follow the trail, explore. You can always pick up the next stop afterwards, but there's lots of different nooks and crannies to investigate while you're out here,” Apryl said.

“I think the treasure, really, is this site itself, being able to see that it's here,” Sahota added. “A lot of people don't even know that Columbia Springs is this gem right in their backyard.”

Family nature days and field trips will slowly trickle back along with summer camp programs that are now happening. Remember Columbia Springs the next time you get out there.

Let's Get Out There airs once a week on KGW's 4 p.m. newscast and The Good Stuff, which airs at 7 p.m. We're including viewers' photos for this series. You can text your photos to 503-226-5088 or post them on the KGW Facebook page.

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