Visiting historic spots in Marion County has never been more fun thanks to Mark Webb, an intern this summer at the Convention & Visitors Bureau of Marion County.
Webb, who grew up in Fairmont, has been an avid geocache fan since he was eight years old, he said. He’s now 18 and will begin attending West Virginia University in August. Webb felt the pastime he loves would be an excellent way to help promote the history of his home county.
For the uninitiated, geocaching is an outdoor recreational activity where participants use a GPS signal and a mobile device to seek hidden containers — called “geocaches” or “caches” — at various and precise locations marked by coordinates all over the world.
A typical cache is a waterproof container containing a pen or pencil and a logbook. When the geocacher finds the cache, he or she signs the log and dates it in order to prove that they found it. A small souvenir reward for the geocacher’s “find” is usually included in the container. After signing the log, the cache must be placed back where it was discovered for others to find.
The Marion County geotrail includes 10 stops at different locations.
Those stops include: Country Club Bakery, the first Father’s Day church (Central United Methodist), Marion County Courthouse, the disc golf course at Morris Park, Prickett’s Fort State Park, Valley Falls State Park, the site of the Monongah mining disaster, the site of the No. 9 mining disaster, and the Hamilton Round Barn.
“The geotrail goes throughout all of Marion County, from Mannington to Valley Falls,” said Leisha Elliott, executive director of the Marion County CVB. “Each of the stops on the trail has some historic significance.”
Even though the CVB’s geotrail has been open for only two weeks, statistics show more than 500 cache finds have already occurred across the county.
“We’ve found that not only are local people geocaching on the county trail, we’ve also had visitors from as far away as Huntington, Barboursville, St. Albans and several people from the Pittsburgh area who came specifically to Marion County to explore this trail,” said Elliott.
All 10 Marion County caches are listed on geocaching.com and there’s a free mobile app available for download.
“All you’ve got to do is type in the coordinates or find the caches on the app. From there, a compass and map will appear on the app and it will tell you how close you are to a specific cache. It will give you driving directions to it, too. All you have to do is follow the arrow,” said Webb.
If a geocacher visits all the Marion County stops, he or she qualifies for a special gold medallion presented by the CVB as reward for the effort.
“We’ve already had lots of great response to the geotrail,” said Elliott. “Once players have completed all the stops, they may bring in their sheet and we’ll give the souvenir Marion County coin.”
Webb said while geocaching has been around for a couple decades, the sport is growing in popularity.
“Geocaching has been around since about 2000, but it recently gained popularity in 2010 or 2012,” said Webb. “Right now, there are about three million geocaches hidden worldwide. There are 500 geocaches in Marion County alone. It’s pretty popular.”
Elliott believes the local CVB’s geocache trail is the perfect antidote for months of isolation people have endured because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I think we’ll see lots of participation. People are looking for reasons to get outdoors. This is something the whole family can do,” said Elliott.