Sunday, September 19, 2010

#53 - Geocaching

What child has not dreamed about finding a treasure box, the thrill of knowing where something special is hidden, and the moment of discovery?  Those dreams are probably what's at the heart of geocaching.  If you've never heard of the term, picture using GPS coordinates to find hidden boxes in both rural and urban environments.  Want more information, as well as a short video clip, follow this link:  geocaching homesite.

I went out both yesterday and today trying to find caches.  Saturday was not so successful; I was using a borrowed GPS device (thanks for the loan Dad!) and wasn't very sure how it worked.  My friend Amanda was a good sport about what turned out to be a very long hike over rugged terrain with two little boys (9 months and not quite 4 years old) in tow.  But, it turned out that the GPS device was using a different type of coordinate coding that what I had printed out.  (Hmmm....maybe I need to do more research before I try something like this next time).  Consequently, we went right by where the cache was that we had hoped to find ... we probably were looking for a spot out in the middle of the lake we were hiking around because of the differences in the two systems.  Oh well, it was a nice day to be out, and I got to tell Silas (the older of the two) an abbreviated version of The Hobbit (centered on Smaug since he loves hearing about dragons) to take his mind off the fact that he was tired.  We were all tired; Amanda figured as we got back to the car that our 1.8 mile jaunt for the cache turned into over 7 miles of hiking over lots of steep hills, rocky terrain, and tree roots. Amanda deserves major hiker woman kudos as she was carrying her baby in a carrier backpack all the way.

Today, I met my nephew Jason in Duluth, and we searched for four caches in Enger Park.  Having learned the coordinate lesson the day before, I had copied down multiple conversions for the locations.  Knowing that Jason is more technology savvy than myself, I put him in charge of the GPS unit.  Off we went (with hiccups from the GPS - which seemed to change its mind regularly as to where we were).  However, after a bit of wandering back and forth ...
The first cache
I finally got to see what an actual cache looks like.  The little notebook is a log where you write your name and the date that you found the cache.  The other items are for trade ... you can take something to remind yourself of your find and leave a treasure for the next person who happens along. This box was smaller; the others were WWII ammo boxes.  Some caches can be as small as film canisters, but we didn't try for any that tiny.

The most challenging part for us was convincing the GPS to spit out information that was usable.  Jason spent lots of time saying things like "stop being difficult" and "but you just said that direction was east" to it.  Getting there was not just half but more like 95% of the battle since we needed to first establish where "there" was.
Jason tries to commune with the GPS

Of course, having a topo map would have helped too.  Some of the caches are in locations on a hill and it can be much easier to either start from the top or the bottom depending on the terrain.  The third site was an example; we would have been much better off coming down the hill where a trail was not too far away rather than straight up the hill from the road.
Looking down at the hill we had just climbed up to the third cache
We did find all four caches ... plus some golf balls from the nearby course ... so we came home with some treasures.
My cache treasures, found golf balls, and stick that stowed away in my daypack!

My overall feeling on geocaching ... fun, but I don't think I'll be rushing out to get a GPS since I'm fine with hiking just to enjoy the scenery.  I think that it would be great fun for families (and some of the caches showed evidence that families had been there) to do together.  I might try a few of the local caches just to see how the experience varies in a town environment.  And ... after two days of hiking, I'm really looking forward to a nice, mostly flat, typical morning walk tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Rachel,
    We've been geocaching for years and love it! We've found and planted caches all over MN. I love your entry on this fun activity/sport! :)