I am still here in this beautiful evergreen state visiting my cousin. We share a number of interests and recently we’ve added geocaching to that list. My delightful cousin was very aware of my geocaching adventures and asked that I bring my handheld GPS unit when I visited. Along with a friend, we’ve ventured on two successful geocaching expeditions. The challenge and the success of the previous ventures have contributed to a sense of achievement and a desire to continue. Now bitten by the geocaching adventure bug, we planned another hunt.
This time we planned to visit the university which is a larger campus adjacent to a thick and hilly forest. We consulted a geocaching map to study the hidden cache sites. One was located in the arboretum; we eliminated this one due to lack of accessibility for my cousin’s wheelchair. We studied another possibility which we found required the use of a webcam. We dismissed that site too. We then zeroed in on one near a dry “dock”. I programmed the north longitude and west latitude coordinates into my GPS unit. We then chose another site deeper in the forests which appeared to be accessible for my cousin. We also recorded clues for each site.
With our plans set, we headed to the nearest city bus stop. We were blessed and thankful for the pleasant bus drivers we encountered that day. Sometimes the drivers are not so courteous for my cousin with her wheelchair. Although inwardly hurt by their behavior, she has learned to quietly endure this with patience. We took two buses before arriving at the university. Once we arrived, I turned on my GPS unit and waited for it to connect to the satellites. Once ready, we followed the arrow image to a campus commons area.
We began the search for the first cache by looking under wooden benches. Having no success we consulted our list of clues and were reminded of a dry “dock.” We journeyed out of the commons area, ventured down a nearby paved path, and soon discovered a long wooden, multi-layer dock on dry ground. I checked my GPS and found it indicated to continue in the direction of the dock. My cousin wasn’t able to get too close to it but she anxiously watched as we conducted another search. We looked along the top of the dock, dove under to check beneath, and wandered all the way around it. No luck in finding the hidden cache. I kept checking the readings which indicated we were very close. We also found that a portion of our search area was sealed off for construction work. The cache may be hidden in that section so after considerable time of hunting for it, we very reluctantly gave up the search.
At this point, I want to stress something important about geocaching. Sometimes the real treasure in geocaching is not finding the cleverly hidden container but often it is in discovering something in nature. While we concluded our unsuccessful search on the dock, a quiet visitor flew in to rest in the leafy foliage of a nearby tree, a lorquin admiral butterfly (according to my research afterwards). He caught my attention because I had never seen such a butterfly. Actually, I haven’t seen very many butterflies at all in recent years. At this cache site, he was our hidden treasure.
We continued on our journey to the other side of campus where the forest started. This university was so covered in trees and shrubbery that it was almost a part of the forest. I had reset my GPS for the next cache site, and we were led down a paved path and through a tunnel. My cousin commented at this point, “Going through a tunnel sounds mysterious.”
We then entered the forest where the terrain was rough with loose gravel and exposed tree roots. We stopped to access the situation. The uphill trail just ahead looked too treacherous with a large exposed tree root. There was no way for cousin in her chair to avoid that bulging root. Any hard, jarring movement of the chair could result in painful muscle spasms. She also didn’t want to risk damaging her wheelchair. Our friend hurried ahead along a narrower path and found an easier route. It was still gravelly and windy with a portion of the trail going downhill. At this point, I gently encouraged my cousin to take it easy on the path and go slow. I feared she may go too fast over the uneven ground and that any sudden jarring movement would hurt her. I also grasped tightly onto the arm of the chair (as if I could stop a 300 pound wheelchair from rolling too fast, oh hum). But I needn’t have worried so much as she expertly drove her chair and gently traversed the rough terrain. Once again we all enjoyed nature’s beauty. There is just something about being in nature which is nourishing to the spirit. When I can I like to just journey to a beautiful place in nature and it seep into my soul
We rounded another bend in the trail and found a small clearing. Here my cousin relaxed in the shade of the forest while we began our search. We soon found out that this would not be an easy find at all. Our target area included rough terrain, with steep paths, rocks, trees, and bushes. Our main clue alluded to a “foundation or lack thereof.” My GPS kept directing us to a certain tree atop a small hill, so I wondered about the “foundation” or trunk. Every time I climbed that hill, I could see my cousin and I would wave to her as she continued to soak in the greenery and shade of the gently swaying trees. I circled and searched for a hollowed opening of the nearby tree. Found nothing there. I also slipped along the steep and slanting hillside but managed to maintain my footing. We looked for other hollowed out trees and checked beneath the loose base of a light pole. Still found nothing. Deeper in the woods, our young friend found an old and crumbly foundation with large circular openings; we searched inside but only found lurking spider webs. Looking at the GPS again, I retraced my steps back to the first tree upon the small hill and waved again to my cousin. I also shrugged my shoulders to signal that we haven’t located the cache. The tree or that immediate area appeared to be the target. I let myself slide down a steep bank of dirt and found a rock wall embedded in the hillside. We studied and felt along it looking for any loose stones which may hide a container. Again, we came up empty.
Upon studying my GPS again I arrived at the unfortunate conclusion that my readings were inaccurate. Therefore we needed to expand our search area. We traveled back towards the crumbly cement foundation hidden in the forest and reached a small wooden cabin. Our friend trekked around the far side of the building and after a few minutes of quietness she suddenly called out, “I found it, I found it.” The cache was hidden beneath the floor of the cabin where normally would be a cement wall support.
This time it was a large cache; a plastic storage container filled to the brim with small trinkets. With bubbling excitement, she raced through the trees to show my cousin. My cousin was just as ecstatic about our find. We sifted through the “treasure” and opted to make a trade. Our friend added a pin/button to the cache and removed an orange, striped rubber snake. She dashed back through the woods to replace the container for the next hopeful geocache seeker. We are all pleased with our latest success and wish we had time for more such adventures. But my visit here is nearing an end. Thus concludes my geocaching adventures with my cousin in the state of Washington (at least for this visit). Stripe the Orange Snake will be on his way to a new cache in the state of Minnesota.