RunnerCaching Fred: Hospital Hill and Cowan Boulevard


First, if you didn’t catch my RunnerCache Wrap for January, check it out.  I did a lot of running last month, but not much geocaching.  We’ll see what February brings!

I thought this would be a super-short list, but on closer scrutiny I realized there are more geocaches along this route than I thought.  I also realized that there will be some overlap on a few caches in this series (see Really Wet Land, below; and be sure to check out my first two RunnerCaching Fred posts, Canal Path and Heritage Trail.).  This is a very popular route for runners, and it’s an infamous well-known part of the Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon.


(The 2014 Historic Half was my first half marathon.  Here I am goofing off with a couple of historical dudes before the race…)

 Within half a mile of the start near the Fredericksburg Expo Center, the Historic Half follows the length of Cowan Boulevard almost to the end (about two miles) until it veers off into the Westwood neighborhood.  After ten miles and a lovely tour of downtown Fredericksburg comes the long incline up Hospital Hill which many people dread.  When you reach the top and you think you’re done with the hills, you take a right onto Cowan Boulevard and head uphill again toward the finish line.  Last year, this part was named the Blue Mile, decorated with flags and photos of fallen service members.  It was very moving and something to meditate on as you were trudging powering up the last hills on tired legs.  Lots of people run on this course because there’s plenty of parking in Central Park at the end of Cowan Boulevard, and Hospital Hill is just off the Canal Path and a great place to practice for the Historic Half.  And if you want to find some caches while you’re training, look no further:

Really Wet Land (GC 10CZM)

Just off the canal path is an access walkway to Hospital Hill, and a little viewing platform for the wetlands where you might see some birds, and even find a cache.  Don’t expect a quick and easy find, though; it took me three tries and an email to cache owners Aloha! Wahine and Eye Spy.  If you have good eyes and good geosense (geocaching intuition; like spidey sense, but for geocachers) you might get lucky and find it on your first try…

BOOM Shocka Locka (GC407VR)

If you take a small detour before the steep part of Hospital Hill that everyone dreads, onto Park Hill Avenue and into the maze of medical office buildings, there’s a cache just past the end that you’ll LOVE.  You have to venture into the woods just a teensy bit, but trust me, you’ll get a kick out of this one!


hospital hill

(I snapped this photo a couple of years ago, the first time I ran up Hospital Hill, feeling like a total bada**.)

Crohn’s Cache #1 (GC612XA)

At the top of the notorious hill is a fairly new, easy-to-find cache near a medical facility.  A common type of hide with a slight twist…

Cowan Boulevard, Smith Run Trail Ext. (GC3AP2K)

Cross Cowan Boulevard at the light, and head to your left toward Route 1.  The nice thing about running Cowan is there are sidewalks and paved walkways on both sides, with traffic lights and crosswalks at just about every intersection.  When you get to the CVS, turn into the parking lot where you’ll find this cache.  It’s the same type of hide as Crohn’s Cache–not very original, but it’s nice to have an easy find while you’re running (or a quick park and grab if you’re not).

Water, Water, Everywhere, Smith Run Trail Ext. (GC2WZ0G)

On the other side of Cowan from the CVS is a little park with a playground, right next to the water tank.  There is a geocache here, apparently, because lots of people have found it.  Every time I come by to look for it all I see are trees where the cache is supposed to be.  I’ve had at least one person give me hints and a description of the cache but I’ve never been able to find it.  I don’t expect to be searching for it again any time soon unless someone who has already found it happens to be with me and is able to point it out for me. (It’s RIGHT HERE, you blind doofus.)

Smith Run Trail #1 – Trailhead

If you head back toward Central Park from the Cowan Boulevard Cache, on your left will be Hugh Mercer Elementary.  Just past the visitor parking lot is the first in a series of caches along the Smith Run Trail.  I’m including this one on my list because it’s so easily accessible from Cowan. (If you’re caching by car, I wouldn’t recommend parking here during school hours.)  This one eluded me for a long time until recently when the cache owner Goingtopot moved it to a different hiding spot.  Don’t rely on the hint though; he didn’t change it when he moved the cache.


(A friend took this photo of me during last year’s Historic Half, as I reached the top of Cowan Hill, right before the I-95 overpass.  I was feeling so miserable, and when I saw her it brightened my mood for just a moment–hence the goofy grin.  I don’t know who that lady is to my left, but the look of sheer exhaustion on her face pretty much sums up how I was actually feeling.)

Cowan Quandary (GC1FPRT)

The legendary WeirdHarold hid this one on the overpass where Cowan Boulevard crosses Interstate 95.  It’s another one that took me several tries to find until I finally had an a-ha moment!

Today was a beautiful day, and did I do any geocaching?  Of course not.  I did go for an eleven-mile run though, and then went with my youngest son to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the second time.  So….what are YOUR theories about Rey, hmmm??  I have several.  After seeing it again I’m convinced she’s somebody super-important, and Kylo Ren knows her story and it scares the bejeebers out of him. I just wish we didn’t have to wait two years (or more) to find out!

Next up:  It’s the new-ish Virginia Central Railway trail and all the geocaches you can get away with finding without straying too far off the path.  I’ll probably bring that one to you in two parts, there are so many!  Stay tuned!





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