Learning Something New
The love of picturesque walks in nature is shared by my friend Cindy who lives in Wyoming. I went to visit Cindy and her daughter Briana and they introduced me to a new sport: geocaching. Geocaching is a high-tech sport requiring the use of the Internet, and a handheld global positioning system (GPS) device. It often involves long walks, detective work, and a sense of adventure to find a hidden container known as the cache. I enjoy adventures; they add spice to everyday life. So, with this sense of adventure, my friends take me on several geocaching hunts. In doing so we embark on several hikes in the Wyoming wilderness finding that the true reward in geocaching is enjoying the walk and discovering scenic places while finding a secret container.
The Appeal of Geocaching
The desire to track and find the hidden cache is appealing challenge; like a treasure hunt and I am hooked. Since then I have found hidden caches in Wyoming, Minnesota and Wisconsin. I have now added the states of Washington and South Dakota to my list of geocache finds. These Cache containers can be hidden in easy to access locations requiring short walks and little effort while others are hidden in remote places requiring long hikes and an adventurous spirit. These latter are my favorites as I take time to enjoy the journey and the hunt.
A Light-Hearted Adventure
In Wisconsin I go geocaching with my niece, Amber, sharing adventures in tracking down the hidden containers. Amber has sharp eyes that will pierce through the darkest, shadowy places finding the elusive containers. We discover our first cache on geocaching.com entitled “Trout Haven”. I record the location coordinates in my GPS and we follow its direction to a little-known wilderness area containing a small creek flowing beneath an old, dilapidated bridge, long grass, and trees. When we arrive, we spot two other people there and assume they are fisherman.
Next day we return when no one is around. My GPS indicates the cache is near a certain large tree. I circle the tree plunging unknowingly into a deep, soggy, marsh where thick, tall grass blades surround me like a small forest of young saplings and I am soaked to my ankles. Caches are often hidden so they are protected from nature’s elements. Knowing this, I climb back to dry ground focusing on a different side of the tree. I and Amber search in crevices and hollowed out areas. I look closer at the base of the tree noticing something hidden under a loose slab of tree bark. Peering closer, I spy a camouflaged peanut butter jar; we find the cache. We discover later that the “fishermen’ had been geocache seekers also and we still laugh about this.
A Wintry Hunt
Amber and I reference the geocaching.com site again embarking on another hunt in a park for a cache known as “Broken and Twisted”. A wintry chill fills the clear, blue sky and the snow is deep. I park my car where it will not get stuck resulting in a longer walk to the cache. We follow the direction my GPS indicates forging a new path through the heavy blanket of gleaming white snow and into the quiet woods where dark trees, motionless as statues, stand stripped of their leafy crowns. The snow makes the trek difficult but we will not give up. We trudge further into the woods finding ourselves underneath a large, arching, twisted branch.
My GPS reads, “00.00” feet meaning we are near the elusive cache Amber’s piercing eyes are at work as she searches upward into the dangling, broken tree limb, “I see it” and promptly reaches for a small object lodged high in the tree branch (this time a black 35 mm film container). Then I realize I had forgotten a pen as this cylinder container is too small to have one but it does have a small log for recording our visit. My niece is not happy with me. Oops.
Nature’s Unseen Choir
I engage in plenty of geocache hunts where I am unsuccessful in finding the hidden container; I revisit the same places to try again and I know the extra walking is good exercise for me. One place I return to find hidden caches is a wilderness area near my home in Minnesota; eventually, I find the caches. For each visit I endure at least 30 to 40 minutes of fast-paced walking beneath a long canopy of green foliage circumventing a quiet lake. I see red-winged blackbirds fluttering and swooping between the trees while ducks float in the lapping water. Sounds of singing birds fill the air. In the evening frogs and crickets announce their presence with their chorus of croaks and chirps escalating to an incredible ear-splitting crescendo; I marvel at the melody of this unseen choir.
Geocaching has Interesting History
Geocaching is a new sport gaining popularity and is now in its 15th year. According to a “History of Geocaching” website, geocaching began in the year 2000 with a single hidden container near Portland, Oregon and one posting on the web; then new containers have been hidden in California, Kansas, and Illinois. The next secret container resides hidden in faraway Australia and from there it branches worldwide. This new game is based on using the global navigational system developed by the US Dept. of Defense using orbiting satellites.
Getting Started in Geocaching
Geocache sites are registered at geocaching.com and other websites. A geocache seeker must register and log on the website to access the most current information about hidden cache sites. This is important because geocache sites are sometimes temporarily disabled or permanently removed. For each hidden cache, the seeker obtains the longitude and latitude coordinates inputting them into his GPS device. Handheld GPS devices can be purchased at department stores, sporting goods store, and online. I had purchased mine from Amazon.com.
As a geocache seeker, I recommend double checking the coordinates to ascertain they have been entered correctly into the GPS. The geocache seeker will have an inaccurate reading if off by one digit resulting in failure to locate the hidden cache. I realize this mistake once when I find myself standing on the banks of the Minnesota River with my GPS indicating for me to continue trekking deep into the flowing current. Later I check my GPS entry against the website confirming an error.
Being Prepared for the Adventure
The hidden cache is a container usually full of trinkets, log book, and a writing utensil; some caches are too small to contain trinkets or a pen. The cache containers range in different shapes and sizes. A good idea is maintaining a small geocaching backpack or bag (I use a slightly oversized camera bag) with supplies including pen or pencil, tablet to write down extra clues from the website entry, trinkets, camera, and extra batteries for the GPS. Wearing hiking shoes and other appropriate apparel is wise along with having a cell phone. As in any sport, being safe and prepared enhances the geocaching adventure.
Finding the Cache
When a cache is found the geocache seeker records his registered geocache name and date in the log book as proof he has found the cache. He also has an option to make a trade with the selection of trinkets in the cache. The basic rule is to trade fairly or trade up. If a geocache seeker selects a trinket then he also adds a trinket of equal or higher value. In this manner, there is always a small “treasure” to be found by the next geocache seeker. Back at home, the geocache seeker logs back onto the geocaching website recording his progress and adding notes about his geocaching adventure. His entry becomes available for others to read.
A Breath-Taking View and Nourishment for the Soul
Several summers ago, I had returned to Wyoming to revisit my friends and we embark on several geocache hunts. One memorable experience involves climbing a small mountain to its peak and finding an old fire lookout station. This climb is a workout in maneuvering uphill over rocky and treacherous terrain and I realize that my Wyoming friends are in better physical shape than I. Even so, I am elated to be with them and eager to reach the top.
With joy and a sense of accomplishment, I made it to the peak with my friends. After viewing the old lookout station we search for the cache by checking for crevices in nearby rocks, looking under loose stones, and around trees. Cindy finds the cache and we all enjoy the scenery; a breathtaking, high-altitude, panoramic view of the hunter-green, forested valleys below and the distant, tree-topped mountains surrounding us. With longing, I gaze around letting the scene nourish my soul. This is the joy and the adventure of geocaching. I enjoy more scenic walks and discover new places in nature which I would never have known if I did not participate in the fun and the adventure of geocaching.