BIDDEFORD – If you ever participated in a treasure hunt as a child, you probably remember the thrill of finding whatever it was you were searching for.
Two dozen people turned out for Sunday’s geocaching event at Blandings Park Wildlife Sanctuary to revisit that childhood pastime of treasure hunting — but using a GPS navigational device as an aid — and to explore the sanctuary’s network of trails.
Handing out trail maps to Sunday’s group, sanctuary founder Peggy Ayers explained that she would lead folks on a sample geocache hunt, while Paul Gadbois, a sanctuary advisory board member, would use GPS navigation and lead a “more adventurous group” to the site of a registered cache.
Those more interested in exploring the preserved land ventured on a hike with Dave Ayers, sanctuary co-founder and Peggy’s husband.
“(It is) something for everyone, as it is our goal to introduce everyone to the sanctuary for outdoor fun and enjoyment,” Peggy Ayers said.
She led four women down Terrapin Trail, the shortest blazed trail at the preserve. Following a map indicating five hidden treasures, Ayers said this sample geocache was created for the sanctuary’s first fundraising event in October. Along the trail, little plastic ladybugs marked the caches, tucked behind rocks or in bushes, with treasures in each.
Rounding a bend in the trail, Ayers said, “So ladies, if you were following the map, here is the first spot and what do you see?”
“Oh, I see the ladybug,” Roxanne Thibeault said.
Stepping over a downed branch and some brush, Ayers and Thibeault found the container and the treasure inside — silly bands shaped like animals, a hit with children who participated in the Turtle Trek last month.
“Now if this were a real geocache, you would take the treasure and leave one in its place,” Ayers said.
Meanwhile, Gadbois led a larger group deeper into the woods on another trail to find a registered cache.
“There are probably 100 caches in a 10-mile radius in Biddeford,” Gadbois said before the hike.
The cache his group found held a geocoin, a special coin created and left behind by an avid geocacher.
Ayers said she hopes more permanent caches are placed within the sanctuary for geocachers to find.
Thibeault, who lives near the sanctuary, said she turned out for the event because she wanted to check out the trail network. She hopes to bring her grandchildren there to explore.
“It’s a great family thing. The kids like to hunt for treasures,” she said. “And it’s fun to do for exercise and to get out in the air.”
Blandings Park Wildlife Sanctuary opened the network of trails off of Blandings Way at the beginning of the year. The sanctuary covers 161 acres between Guinea Road and Pool, Granite and West streets.
Ayers said the sanctuary is working on acquiring another 35 acres.
She hopes snowshoeing and cross-country skiing events will be offered this winter.
“In Biddeford, it’s nice, because you don’t have to go far to enjoy nature,” Thibeault said.
Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at: