Ranger Rick’s Geocache Trail at Circle B Bar Reserve now offers Polk County families a free, high-tech, wildlife theme adventure featuring Ranger Rick and his pals from the award-winning children’s magazine published by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). It combines GPS-enabled technology with a real-life outdoor treasure hunt designed for families, especially those with kids ages 6 to 14.
“Ranger Rick’s Geocache Trails is our way of combining ‘screen time with green time’ in a fun, interactive way that encourages learning about nature and wildlife,” said Meri-Margaret Deoudes, vice president of corporate relations and special events for the National Wildlife Federation. “This is the newest addition to NWF’s Be Out There campaign, developed to provide fun, easy outdoor activities for kids and families.” Here’s how it works: Start the adventure online by using resources at www.geocaching.com/rangerricktrails to locate the trail available at Circle B Bar Reserve, then printing the passport game sheet.
Each geocache has its own online page with information about the location and terrain, clues to help find the treasure and coordinates for downloading onto a GPS unit or Smartphone. With passport, clues and coordinates in hand, it’s time to hit the trail and start the search. Along the way, families will actively observe and connect with their natural surroundings, stimulating kids’ imaginations and curiosity while keeping them moving. Locate a Ranger Rick’s geocache and shout, “Eureka!” Sign the log book found inside the cache.
Then, using the clue card and paw print stamp, also found inside the cache, determine which of Ranger Rick’s pals visited the cache before first and stamp passports with the answer. Each geocache contains a different clue card and paw print stamp featuring Ranger Rick or one of his pals. Geocachers love to trade treasure items. So before moving on, families can take a treasure from the box, but must replace it with something of their own. The first hunters to locate a treasure box at Circle B Bar Reserve might find a pair of youth binoculars, or a flashlight. Then it’s time to hit the trail again and search for more geocaches. Once back home, visit RangerRickTrails.com to check passport answers and learn more about Ranger Rick’s pals.
Don’t forget to share adventure stories about with other geocachers who found the cache at www.geocaching.com. “The Polk County Environmental Lands Program is happy we can provide this unique outdoor adventure to families in our community,” said Tabitha Biehl-Gabbard, stewardship coordinator for the Environmental Lands Program. “Our Ranger Rick’s Trail not only makes treasure hunting fun and exciting by incorporating technology that kids love, but connects families to nature along the way.” Through the Polk County Environmental Lands Program, the Southwest Florida Water Management District and Polk County jointly purchased Circle B-Bar Reserve, a 1,267-acre parcel located between Bartow and Lakeland, in December 2000.
The property contains two of the three major inflows to Lake Hancock – Banana Creek and Saddle Creek – as well as oak hammock, scattered wetlands, improved pasture and approximately two miles of Lake Hancock’s shoreline. Compatible recreation uses include hiking, trail running, non-motorized bicycling, wildlife observation/nature study, horseback riding, and picnicking. Visiting Circle B Bar Reserve and Polk’s Nature Discovery Center is free, but visitors are asked to respect the wildlife during their stay
Polk’s Nature Discovery Center is open 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Tuesday – Saturday, and Noon - 4 p.m. on Sunday. The trails are open 5 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. daily for hiking and biking, and equestrian trail riding is offered quarterly. Polk County established the Environmental Lands Program after the Environmental Lands Referendum successfully passed in November 1994. The program protects Polk County’s water, wildlife and wilderness resources. Celebrate Polk, www.polkproud150.com. Visit Polk County on the web, www.polk-county.net.