Discover a Hidden World in Plymouth

by | Jun 2024

Millennium Garden features four separate gardens (rose, butterfly, water and native shrub) along with a portion dedicated to woodland restoration.

Millennium Garden features four separate gardens (rose, butterfly, water and native shrub) along with a portion dedicated to woodland restoration. Photo: City of Plymouth

There’s a treasure hunt happening 24/7,* 365 days a year. Geocaching is a global phenomenon where people just like you or I squirrel away containers and mark their locations via GPS. These caches of small trinkets and toys are hidden throughout parks and public spaces.

Geocachers use GPS devices or apps to locate the cache but then must search the area carefully to actually discover the container, which can be hidden in any number of clever ways. Once found, geocachers sign their name to the ledger in the cache and can trade one trinket of their own with something in the container of equal or lesser value.

Admittedly, when I started this Editor’s Pick story, I had something a little different in mind. What started as a guide for spending a day around Plymouth was quickly subsumed by geocaching, both at Clifton E. French Regional Park and beyond. I’d caught the cache craze.

Before I set out on my first treasure hunting expedition, I sat down with Heather Gordon, a recreation program specialist for the outdoor recreation school at Three Rivers Park District, to figure out how to get started.

“There are two ways that you can do it,” Gordon says. “Number one, you can come to French Park, and you can geocache using an app on your phone. The most popular one is the Geocaching app, which is the main overarching organization that oversees geocaching.”

Through the app, geocachers hide caches (that can vary in size between a film canister and a lunch box) throughout the park after receiving a permit from Three Rivers Park District. “You open up the app, and it’ll show you a map of where you are, and it will show you where there are geocaches listed,” Gordon says.

Around half of the caches listed for the park are freely accessible through the app, but the more advanced half require upgrading to premium. “But even if you have the free version of the app here in French Park, there’s eight geocaches that you can find,” Gordon says.

The second method for geocaching at Clifton E. French Regional Park is to sign up for a program. “Instructors from our department will provide handheld GPS devices, and we make our own sort of course where there are things hidden,” Gordon says.

Geocaching at Three Rivers Park District

Photo: Three Rivers Park District

Often these programs correspond to holiday themes. Leprechauns hide caches in March, and the Gobble Gobble Geocaching event happens the weekend after Thanksgiving. “Just by the nature of their theme, they’re kind of silly,” Gordon says. “So [participants are] usually families with kids,” she says, noting the age range is inclusive, from toddlers all the way up to tweens.

Since the next Three Rivers Park District geocaching event at Clifton E. French Regional Park isn’t until around Halloween, I downloaded the Geocaching app and, equipped with a plastic bag of small treasures to trade, I set off.

*Geocaching must abide by posted public hours for parks and public facilities.

A Third Way

Starting this summer, visitors will have a third option for geocaching at Clifton E. French Regional Park. “Folks will be able to check out handheld GPS at units, and those units will be programmed with some of the public geocaches in the park,” says Heather Gordon.

10 a.m.

First, it was time to fuel up. I made my way to the Original Pancake House (OPH) for a breakfast that’s worth the wait. OPH’s Dutch Baby pancake has been an obsession of mine since my first visit as a kid. A fluffy cross between tender crêpe and eggy popover, this oven-baked pancake requires a heroic appetite along with patience. My strategy was to place my order as we were ordering drinks, which made up for the long cook time. 1415 County Road 101; 952.475.9151;


I arrived at Clifton E. French Regional Park full and with some trepidation. Newly downloaded app in hand, I set off for the closest public cache, Accessible 4 All #1, which Gordon says is one in a series of accessible caches she and her team placed in the park. The app works like Google Maps, pointing me in the right direction and outlining my route but, ultimately, the search itself was up to me. I found the cleverly disguised cache and counted it as the first test passed.

Clifton E. French Regional Park Hiking Path

Photo: Three Rivers Park District

My confidence boosted and my bearings found, I set out on the trails for my next cache, Trusty Rusty … and became a bit flummoxed. I knew I was in the right place, and I knew the cache could only be 25 feet from the center of the trail per Three Rivers Park District rules, but I was coming up empty—and feeling a bit foolish in the process.

The section on the app for hints was equally empty, but the activity log showed someone found it earlier that day. Scrolling further, I found a log entry that read, “Spent a couple of minutes looking then my focus settled right on the cache.” And like a stroke of inspiration, so did mine.

Without giving too much away, I discovered a moderately sized canister filled with trinkets, stickers and a log. I left my first offering and, absolutely giddy, I set out again.

Although the logs for the next two caches—Dog cache and Locktopus Octopus—promised ease, I was still a bit humbled by how long it took me. It was helpful to keep in mind that caches can’t be buried and that finding them cannot harm or otherwise disrupt their natural settings. 12605 Rockford Road; 763.694.7750;

2 p.m.

Although I hadn’t fully burned off the Dutch Baby, I still became a bit peckish. Luckily, Sunshine Factory Bar & Grill was a hop, skip and jump away with plenty of shareable appetizers and an admirable patio. I invited my partner to join me for a lunch of deliciously blistered Szechuan green beans and housemade pork potstickers. Recharged and joined by my partner in crime, I was ready to tackle the next adventure. 4100 Vinewood Lane N.; 763.535.7000;

4 p.m.

In the Geocaching app, I noticed another hotspot for caches that starts off at the edge of Millennium Garden before heading north through the walking paths at Plymouth Creek Playfield. The name of the first cache, Rest at the Millennium, made it pretty clear where we should start our search.

But no dice.

The activity log shared varying reports, ranging from equally stumped searchers to triumphant finders. After a determined 20-minute search spent squinting between floor boards, eyeing metal guardrails and closely inspecting the space between nearby rocks, we ended up feeling a bit conspicuous to other passersby. But even though there’s something inherently a little frustrating in the search, there’s something meditative, as well.

Usually, if I’m meticulously searching the ground, something has gone awry—a missing earring or errant shards from a dropped glass. But as I was inspecting the area for the micro-cache, I found myself studying nature and my surroundings with a degree of scrutiny far beyond the average. Even when we admitted defeat and set off for the second cache, Cache of the Millennium, I found myself inspecting my surroundings with new interest.

Our route took us past the Fieldhouse, over Plymouth Creek and through the disc golf course. Both Cache of the Millennium and A Dream of Sunshine proved more fruitful, and a competitive spirit definitely sparked between my boyfriend and me. Our hunt complete, we leisurely made our way back to the Community Center parking lot.

6 p.m.

When dinnertime rolled around, my partner and I made our way to nearby Rock Elm Tavern, maker of some of the best burgers in town. My Vat 17 Burger featured the titular Deer Creek Vat 17 white cheddar cheese, hearty strips of candied bacon and savory roasted garlic aioli. His Dry Heat Burger had a healthy crunch thanks to the Chili Cheese Fritos and a little kick thanks to a slice of ghost pepper cheese and pickled jalapeños.

Rock Elm Tavern offers 30 tap-line rotating beers with a preference for local beers.

Rock Elm Tavern offers 30 tap-line rotating beers with a preference for local beers. Photo: Rock Elm Tavern

Pro tip: I like to see what seasonal beer from Plymouth’s Luce Line Brewing Co. is on tap any time I visit. 16605 County Road 24; 763.208.4451;

8 p.m.

Our adventuresome day made it difficult to bid Plymouth adieu. Before our action-packed expedition came to a close, we paid a visit to Plymouth Grand 15 for a late-night movie. The seats: abundantly comfy. The popcorn: perfectly salted. And even if none of the summer blockbusters suit your taste, the local theater does a great job of bringing past releases back to the big screen. 3400 Vicksburg Lane N. #13; 763.551.0000;

Plymouth Grand 15 offers an excellent mix of new releases and popular past ones.

Plymouth Grand 15 offers an excellent mix of new releases and popular past ones. Photo: Mann Theatres


Recent Stories

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This