When my family visited Montana this summer, we knew we wanted to take a rafting trip, but we weren’t sure how to choose between all of the outfitters and itineraries.
Then we saw a trip tailor-made for geeky families: Pangaea River Rafting‘s Clark Fork River geocaching excursion. The float combines rapids and raft games with a stop at a breathtaking location to hunt for a series of custom caches.
On a sunny morning, we headed to the river from Pangaea’s headquarters in Superior, Montana. On the Clark Fork, we paddled through rapids and even rode on the nose of the raft, hanging on as tightly as we could, through some of the calmer rapids. While floating in the flat water between the craggy cliffs of the Alberton Gorge, we spotted wildlife and dared each other to try raft games like rodeo, balancing on the outer edge of the raft while the guide spins it in ever-more-dizzying circles. After a picnic lunch on the riverbank, we set off hunt our geocaches.
No geocaching experience is necessary for this trip, but I’ll warn you: If you haven’t geocached before, the splendor of this location and the creativity of its caches might just ruin you for run-of-the-mill variety.
I was expecting a typical cache that anyone can look up online and find with their smartphone or handheld GPS. Instead, what we got was a multicache so involved that Pangaea’s owner, David Lawrence, visits the site the morning of the trip to set out each of the caches he dreamed up. (He also meets the group at the cache location, so you don’t have to take your GPS device on the river with you.)
Once our guide pulled the raft up to the beach where our hunt began, David handed us our first clue. We used the coordinates and the rhyming clues to find the cache, an ammo box that held a pretty big hint about the location of our next cache, and what we’d have to do to find it. I don’t want to spoil the surprise for future guests, but let’s just say it put us face-to-face with the trout in Fish Creek, a gorgeously clear, cold, and scenic tributary of the Clark Fork. Our third cache had us scrambling up a cliff with gorgeous overlooks on both sides.
I told David that if we hadn’t stopped to hunt for the caches, we might have floated past Fish Creek without even noticing it. He said that’s what he loves about these trips: showing visitors the lesser-known parts of the river he loves.