By Ryan Cornell
The newest trail across Frederick County doesn't include a path.
Similar to a treasure hunt, geocachers on the Winchester-Frederick County Civil War Geo-Trail use GPS coordinates to find hidden containers at 20 historic sites spanning the breadth of the county. Some of these containers can only be opened by solving a puzzle or answering a question about the area's Civil War history.
Renee Bayliss, visitor and community relations specialist at the Winchester-Frederick County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said some of the cache sites are near a historical sign with enough information to answer the questions.
"You don't have to be really knowledgeable in history," she said. "The purpose is for you to learn more. It almost gives you a driving tour of the area."
The Civil War Geo-Trail comes at the beginning of a year marked by the sesquicentennial commemorations of the Second Battle of Kernstown in July, the Third Battle of Winchester in September and the Battle of Cedar Creek in October.
Most of the cache locations can only be explored in the daytime, Bayliss said, though the permanent trail will be available to geocachers year-round, even during seasons when some battlefields and attractions might close.
"It's something you could probably do in a day," she said. "If you were really dedicated, you could probably get it done in a couple hours."
Geocachers who find 10 of the 20 caches and return to the visitors bureau with their clues can receive prizes donated by the county's Civil War sites.
"It's pretty fun and takes you to places where you might not typically visit," Bayliss said.
She credited local geocacher Wallace Shipp with determining the cache sites and coordinates. Shipp had previously been working with the visitors bureau on designing another geocaching trail, A Historical Tour of Winchester, which launched in December.
Because Shipp volunteered to help the bureau create the trail, Bayliss said the only money spent were for refreshments at the geo-trail's upcoming kick-off event.
The event, scheduled for 10 a.m. to noon Feb. 15, will release the coordinates of the cache sites and provide a networking opportunity for local geocachers. It will be held at the Winchester-Frederick County Convention and Visitors Bureau, located at 1400 S. Pleasant Valley Road, Winchester.
The trail will be available to anyone with a GPS device or smart phone app and access to a vehicle. Bayliss recommended the geocaching.com app, which shows information about the cache sites and comments from geocachers.
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org