The holidays are over. The days are getting colder, evenings grow dark early, and the nights are long. Festive parties are little more than a memory, except for those few extra pounds around the middle. But in Martinsburg, W.Va., “The Gateway to the Shenandoah Valley,” outdoor enthusiasts are already thinking summertime thoughts and looking forward to the opening of a new geocaching trail.
Set for a July launch, this will be the fifth trail sponsored by the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Convention and Visitors Bureau, working in collaboration with Tim Eggleston. Known as “WVTim” in geocaching circles, Eggleston has a devoted following in that community, noted Samantha Cronk, communications assistant for the CVB. As a result, Martinsburg (the county seat) and the surrounding area is recognized to be a hotspot for hobbyists.
“Since 2013, Berkeley County has become the No. 1 most favorite county for geocaching in the country,” Cronk said. “International and national visitors have come here for the sole purpose of geocaching.”
For the uninitiated, geocaching is a 21st-century take on treasure hunting. In this technologically updated version of the old pastime, participants navigate a trail using a GPS or GPS-enabled device, such as a smartphone, which receives signals broadcast via satellite. Points on the trail, or “caches,” are located by identifying their latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates. There are more than three million caches in over 190 countries worldwide, testifying to the growing popularity of this often-challenging way to explore the countryside.
The new trail, as yet unnamed, will feature 15 new and original gadget caches, Cronk said. As an incentive, trackable coins will be awarded to cachers who complete 13 of the 15 caches, all of which will be spread throughout the county. Prize or no prize, everyone participating will see “the amazing natural beauty of the county” in places they might never have visited before, she said.
Even as the new trail is anxiously anticipated, two of the previous trails are still active. “People can still come here, even during the winter, and cache our trails,” she noted, thereby getting “a taste of a Tim Eggleston trail before the upcoming launch.”
Make it a full day, or relax a bit and extend a geocaching outing into a weekend getaway: Martinsburg is less than a two hours’ drive from the Baltimore-D.C. area, and the city’s amenities are worth a trip in themselves. Wind down from an active day with a session in a pink Himalayan salt cave at Touch of Grace Spa and Salt Cave, or take advantage of the spa’s traditional services, including massages and a steamer. Tour the Black Draft Distillery, which specializes in whisky, bourbon, and, yes, moonshine. Or unwind at the Rusty Nail Winery, a small working farm that offers red, white and fruit wines.
And don’t hunt away hungry: Fuel up for the day with coffee and muffins “or a plate with the works” at Mugs & Muffins. Cachers who have worked up a hearty appetite can choose from a number of locally owned dining options in Martinsburg, including a tapas and wine bar restaurant (Brix 27) and a steakhouse with an “impressive” selection of locally and regionally distilled spirits (Boyd’s Steakhouse). Or grab a great burger and top off a meal with amazing pie at the Blue White Grill.
As for accommodations, for the stout of heart, there are at least two facilities that offer year-round camping or RVing: Nahkeeta Campsite and Lazy-A Campground. But for those seeking a bit more comfort, the area is host to a wide range of hotels, motels and bed-and-breakfasts.