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Janet Shellnutt of Dartmouth won the grand prize for The Great Trail Treasure Hunt, a contest that had participants take part in a geocaching event across the Trans Canada Trail. (Contributed)
Janet Shellnutt of Dartmouth won the grand prize for The Great Trail Treasure Hunt, a contest that had participants take part in a geocaching event across the Trans Canada Trail. (Contributed)

Janet Shellnutt got her start in geocaching in September 2017. This past fall, she won the biggest cache she’s found yet.

Shellnutt won the grand prize of The Great Trail Treasure Hunt, which was hosted by the Trans Canada Trail. The prize is a trip for two onboard a One Ocean Expeditions vessel for a trip to Labrador and Torngat Mountains National Park.

“I thought, ‘What are the chances?’” she says. “I never win anything.”

The Great Trail Treasure Hunt started in August as a celebration that all the trails within the Trans Canada Trail were finally connected. The Trans Canada Trail, known as The Great Trail, is the longest recreational trail in the world.

“We had a brainstorming session and thought a treasure hunt would be a great contest,” says Danielle St-Aubin, vice-president of communications and marketing for Trans Canada Trail. “Our goal is to get people on the trail to use it.”

Another employee suggested a geocaching contest. Geocaching is an outdoor activity in which participants use GPS or other navigational devices to find geocaches or caches at specific locations. St-Aubin says they enlisted the help of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society to help with prizes and logistics.

There were 100 caches spread out along the 24,000 kilometres of the trail across the country. The first person to find a treasure box received a $100 MEC gift card and a one-year subscription to Canadian Geographic magazine. Subsequent finders were entered into other draws, including for the grand prize.

St-Aubin says one participant in Calgary found 14 of the caches and donated his subscriptions of Canadian Geographic to his son’s school. Another woman who found two caches in her hometown in Yukon got on a plane to Nova Scotia to find more caches.

Shellnutt heard about the contest on a geocaching website. She found caches on trails in Nova Scotia, including the Heritage Trail and the Shearwater Flyer Trail.

Shellnutt says there are several reasons she loves geocaching, including the thrill of the hunt and getting outside for fresh air, exercise and exploring new places.

“It’s kind of a thrill,” she says. “It will take you to places you’d probably never go.”

The grand prize expedition will see Shellnutt and her husband travelling from Louisbourg to Newfoundland and on to Iqaluit.

This trip will also be her first time on a ship, besides the ferries to Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island.

“It’s pretty exciting,” she says, “and pretty unique.”

During her search for The Great Trail Treasure Hunt caches, Shellnutt even found names of family members on the trail. Years ago, she made donations to the Trans Canada Trail project and having someone’s name on the trail was part of the donation process.

Shellnutt says geocaching gives her something to do while she’s out. Searching for the caches, she says, is mentally stimulating.

“It really pushes me to get out there,” she says.

St-Aubin says they will work on another treasure hunt for next year, with more caches on the trail. “It was nice to see it cut across demographics,” St-Aubin says. “Everyone loves a good game.”

For more on The Great Trail, visit thegreattrail.ca.

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