With more than 50,000 Eagle Scout service projects completed every year, chances are good that you walk, bike or drive past one every day without even knowing it.
“If you aren’t actively seeking out Eagle projects, they are easy to overlook because they fit in so well in the environment,” says Eagle Scout Sarina Horner, a member of Troop 729 of Winston-Salem, N.C. “It’s also hard to know about the service-oriented projects because you can’t physically see them.”
Wanting to bring more attention to this hard work, Sarina created an Eagle Scout geocaching trail that links together 14 projects throughout the community of Winston-Salem, N.C., part of the Old Hickory Council.
The 6-mile loop takes hikers past a playhouse constructed in 2015, a memorial garden built in 2017 and a flower box built in 2020 that was one of the first North Carolina Eagle projects completed by a young woman.
There’s also a stop at a trail marker built in 2020 at Reynolda Gardens near the campus of Wake Forest University. This Eagle project is special to Sarina because it’s her own.
The course includes interesting historical notes along the way. Sarina’s geocaching guide points out landmarks like the place where George Washington spent the night in 1791; Salem College, the oldest educational institution for girls and women in the U.S.; and the Old Salem Coffee Pot, a 7-foot-tall tin pot that can hold 740 gallons of joe.
“I knew there were a lot of interesting things about Winston-Salem and Old Salem that I didn’t know — and a lot that I did,” Sarina says. “I thought it would be really fun to combine the two: history and Eagle projects.”
So why was geocaching Sarina’s pick for this project? Why did she decide to embark on such an endeavor even after completing her own separate Eagle project? And what advice does she have to others wanting to plan a similar “Cache to Eagle” trail in their communities?
Sarina shared her story with Bryan on Scouting.
Why a geocaching trail?
Some Christmas Eve traditions involve egg nog or Home Alone marathons. In the Horner household, it’s geocaching.
For years on Dec. 24, Sarina’s dad would set up a geocaching-style course in their home.
They would hunt for clues hidden throughout the house, with the last clue leading to a prize somewhere near the Christmas tree.
“These memories are some of the favorites I have growing up,” Sarina says.
Thanks to that activity and other family outings to find caches, Sarina was extremely comfortable with geocaching.
But as a Life Scout, she was less comfortable with the process of selecting an Eagle project idea.
“It got a little frustrated because I did not have a good idea of what an Eagle project really entailed,” she says. “I realized that if I had this issue, many other female Scouts would as well, because we were all in new troops that just started up after Feb. 1, 2019. We didn’t have the history of helping with Eagle projects.”
That means her Cache to Eagle hike could be three things, all at once:
- A fun geocaching hike through a historic part of Winston-Salem
- A way for Scouts and others to learn about Eagle projects in the community, including those “invisible” projects that didn’t involve permanent construction but still left a lasting impact
- A six-mile hike with an elevation change of about 400 feet that could count for rank advancement and merit badge requirements
How she did it
With the good idea percolating in her head, Sarina’s first call was to Diane Clinard, the recently retired registrar at the Old Hickory Council.
Clinard gave Sarina a list of all Eagle projects completed by Scouts in Winston-Salem. Sarina plotted those projects on a map to begin building the course.
Sarina also wanted to include fascinating bits of history, so she worked with Grace May, a local librarian, and Jason Thiel, president of the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership.
“Research the area, ask for help and don’t be afraid to reach out to your community resources to help you,” Sarina says.
With a course in mind, Sarina walked the course several times to make sure it made sense. She obtained permission from every property owner along the geocaching course, getting their OK to hide the small granite-looking rocks that visitors would hunt for along the trail.
To promote the Cache to Eagle course, Sarina:
- Added the stops to geocaching.com, the popular database for geocachers. (To find it on there, search for the username eaglescout729 in the “hidden by” box.)
- Printed copies of the course instructions and delivered them to local hotels for visitors looking for a fun afternoon activity.
“The course has only been live for a week, and I’ve already had about 80 people locate the caches and many have left comments thanking me for the series, favoriting the course and remarking how much Scouts have given back to our community,” Sarina told Bryan on Scouting in January. “Many have also commented they had never visited many of the historical locations on the Cache to Eagle course and were glad to be able to do so.”
Sarina has spent more than 50 hours working on this project, but she hasn’t done it alone. She’s had a support team that includes fellow Scouts as well as Scouters like Steve Cortazzo, Peter Hucks and Jennifer Black.
“They are amazing people,” she says, “and I hope many females in new troops have as wonderful of an experience as I have had with people like them.”
More about Cache to Eagle
For more details and guidelines about the Cache to Eagle program, visit this page on the geoscouting.com website, which clearly explains everything you need to know to get started.
And to find Sarina on geocaching.com, look for the username eaglescout729.