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Volume xviii, Issue 8 ~ February 25 - March 3, 2010

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Adventures on the Geotrail of History

New technology traces a 200-year-old story

by Ben Miller

The National Park Service is following in the footsteps of Indiana Jones, creating adventure by uniting history and technology. The Star-Spangled Banner Geotrail is the latest adventure. It goes online February 27, with geocaches ready for discovery.

Geocaching is “a high-tech treasure-hunting game,” according to the website The active techies who participate in this worldwide sport are geocachers. Using the Global Positioning System, these tech-adventurers follow clues and solve riddles to find hidden containers, the geocaches.

A geotrail is a series of caches connected by theme. The Star-Spangled Banner Geotrail links sites on the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail. Part of the national park system, the Trail is more than the story of the national anthem. The trail commemorates the events of the War of 1812 in the Chesapeake region, including Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

The new geotrail is aimed at encouraging people who like history, adventure and the outdoors to visit places connected to the War of 1812.

The War of 1812 is remembered now mostly for the attack on Fort McHenry in Baltimore, when Francis Scott Key’s awe at the bombardment provoked him to write the lyrics that have become The Star-Spangled Banner.

The war was much more than those two events, especially in the Chesapeake. It was a fight between Great Britain, the most powerful nation in the world, and a young upstart country that had won independence by rebelling only three decades earlier.

British raiders attacked towns all along Chesapeake Bay and far up its navigable rivers. A British army came up the Patuxent River, soundly defeated American defenders at the battle of Bladensburg and marched into Washington to burn the White House.

The British winning streak ended at Baltimore. The Americans won the battle of North Point outside Baltimore, and Fort McHenry withstood a fierce bombardment by the British navy.

The Game

Finding the geocaches on the Star-Spangled Banner Geotrail is a high-tech game. You’ll need equipment: a handheld GPS, a computer to access sites before you go and a camera or cell phone to take a picture of yourself with each geocache.

To play the game, you first sign up for a free basic membership at, the official geocache website. Then, as of February 27, you find the map coordinates for each geocache on the Star-Spangled Banner Geotrail.

The next step is to visit Here you print your geotrail passport.

Then you’ll need to find at least 20 of the geocaches, recording the location, code and date you found them. Next, photograph yourself with the cache container.

The Prize

With any game there must be a prize. A trackable geocoin rewards the first 400 geocachers who locate 20 geocaches along the trail. A trackable geocoin has a unique identification number by which, when entered into, you can follow around the world. Geocachers often use the caches to swap these trackable geocoins.

To receive the geocoin, send your completed passport to the address at

The Effort

The Star-Spangled Banner Geotrail is a coordinated effort by the Friends of Chesapeake Gateways, the Maryland Geocaching Society and the National Park Service.

“It would not have been possible without volunteers,” said Eleanor Mahoney of the Friends of Chesapeake Gateways.

Mahoney credited geocacher Susan Kelley of Calvert County with directing volunteers throughout Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., in coordinating with the sites and hiding the geocaches.

Learn More

• Geocaching:

• The Star-Spangled Banner Geotrail:

• Maryland Geocaching Society:

• Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail:

• Bay Weekly: (Gone Geocachin’— A scavenger hunt with a technology twist).

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