Treasure Hunt for the Internet Generation

In my never ending quest to live my life with joy, I am always looking for new adventures. Some in the past were a bit disastrous, such as the wine-tasting outing at Aspens restaurant or my trip to Two Monkeys; some reflect my cooking challenges (Beer Can Chicken) and some have demonstrated my growth in faith and my love of my grandchildren.

But my goal, since I began this blog, has always been the same… to look for new adventures that will allow me to live my life fully … to remain engaged with the world around me and to find joy in ordinary events in my life.

With that in mind, I decided yesterday to make my first attempt at geocaching. For those that think I am speaking a foreign language, geocaching is (and the following text is courtesy of Wikipeida): “Geocaching is an outdoor recreational activity, in which the participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called “geocaches” or “caches”, anywhere in the world.

 A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook where the geocacher enters the date they found it and signs it with their established code name. After signing into the log, the cache must be placed back exactly where the person found it. Larger containers such as plastic storage containers (Tupperware or similar) or ammunition boxes can also contain items for trading, usually toys or trinkets of little value.” 

(More details can be found at: Geocaching website: http://www.geocaching.com/. The fascinating story of how geocaching started: http://www.geocaching.com/about/history.aspx  and a great map of the United States showing locations of various geocache containers: http://www.geocaching.com/map.)

So, after downloading my Geocaching App to my iPhone, I headed out to the Marietta Square with my hiking buddy, Walter. (Past readers know that Walter is a small stuffed dog. Many hikers take their dogs with them on hikes. I take Walter. Just go with it.)

The first step was to open the App on my iPhone and select “Find Nearby Geocaches”. Several options immediately appeared. I chose MGC-Hill Park—the geocache container was a mid-size container as indicated by the red dot in the third box.

I thought it would be best if my first geocache was not the size of a film canister but was more the size of a lunch box. Surely I would be able to find that.

Once selected, I tapped “Navigate to Geocache” and my map appeared. I was the blue blinking dot and my goal was to walk/crawl/swim/whatever to the big green blob. How hard can that be? My smartphone even tells me how many feet away I am from the geocache/treasure.

I start walking to Hill Park which is just a couple of blocks away. I get so close to the geocache container that my blue blinking dot and my big green blob are merging and becoming one.

I am standing in a small park and there is a concrete chess table and bushes and the map suggests I should look in the bushes and I know that it could be “stashed” in the bushes somewhere so I start looking in the bushes and crawling behind the bushes and my map tells me I am standing right on top of it but I CANNOT FIND THE GEOCACHE CONTAINER.

Of course, the fact that I am not sure exactly what I am looking for and how it is hidden makes it a bit tricky…this being my first geocache hunt. After about 15 minutes, I am starting to sweat and my hair is losing its “sassy” look but instead getting the “sweaty-stick-to-my-head” look and I am not too happy and made less happy by reading the previous players’ on-line logs.

You can, once you find the geocache, go on-line and make comments and all the past logs were saying things like “great hunt…found it really easily…my first geocache….this is so fun” and so forth.

Really???  Are they just rubbing this in or what?  And Walter is beginning to start whining and I keep looking and cannot find any kind of any container (other than a Wal-Mart bag) much less a geocache box.

Grumble Grumble…………so I decide to go to Plan B. I get my smartphone and I search for another geocache location and I find that there is one at my favorite Nana/Lauren Park which is 10 minutes from where I was….so we decide to go find the geocache located at MGC-Laurel Park.

A few minutes later, Walter and I are at the park and I tell my smartphone to “Navigate to the Geocache” hoping that this time my smartphone will actually be smart.

I dutifully walk down the path trying to navigate my steps so that my blue dot and my green blob will merge and become one.  And once again, I am standing in bushes. I do not see any containers of any kind.

By now, my joy level is really going down and my unhappiness level is going up. I am also thinking that there are little children in the world that are 50 and I do mean 50 years younger that I am and they are finding their geocaches. Why can’t I find just one lunchbox size geocache?

So, now I go to Plan C. One of the geocache videos I had viewed said you could use your compass on your phone…that is would be more accurate than the map. (As the map is either not accurate or I am a total loser at this, I decide to try the compass.)

There was good news and bad news about this. The bad news: using the compass meant I had to decipher all these numbers that were appearing (I was never good with numbers) and it showed me numerically my location and the destination location. For example: I was at N: 033 56.935’ and I need to be at N: 033 56.963’ which meant I was (for the N Parameter) 28’ off. (Of course, I did not know what “28’” meant—is that 28 steps? 28 paces? 28 feet? Eh?)  

And I also had to calculate the same information for the West Heading……which meant I had to take steps forward or backwards or sideways.

The trouble was, of course, that I had no idea as to whether I should take steps forward or backwards or to which side….so I am walking around the park… holding the smartphone in my hand… watching the numbers change for my location as I take the steps……muttering to myself…. Yes…no ……go to the left…..oh…now I better go to the right…..ooops……now I need to go back some. And the entire time the compass is also moving but I had no idea as to why or what it was doing.

I swear at one point it was telling me I had to go to the left and that would have been ok except going to the left would have put me in the middle of a pond. I did not think they would hide the geocache under the water.

And to make matters worse, it was holiday weekend and the park was full of families… having picnics and playing games and here I am …. a somewhat tall blonde woman with a backpack with a stuffed dog hanging off the back of it…….with sweaty hair…… holding something in her hand and going around in circles and back and forth and muttering to herself.

I could just see the families telling their children to stay away from the lady over there…… give her plenty of room….step away from the lady talking to herself.

Sigh.

I felt my frustration mounting even more but I became equally determined to figure this out even if I had to hunt all night under the full moon. So I took a deep breath and started over again and this time the path started taking me into the woods (and away from the bushes) and all I could remember is a friend telling me recently that the woods at Laurel Park are full of poison ivy and I am walking through the woods chanting over and over to myself “leaves of 3, let them be…. leaves of 3, let them be….” and all of a sudden, I see something up ahead in the ground.

(Remember—I told you there was good news and bad news about using the compass….we are getting ready for the good news.)  

As I do not want to spoil this for any future geocachers, I will not tell you exactly what I saw but my heart skipped a beat as I thought to myself… “Self, if I was a geocache, I might be hiding in there” and I looked around on the other side and YES….there was the geocache box!!!!!!!

Walter and I were overjoyed. I might as well have found gold. My neighbor recently gave me a small bottle of champagne for my birthday and if I had only thought this out, I would have put the bottle in my backpack. We took the geocache box out from its hiding place and signed our names in the log book. Some geocache boxes have small exchange items in them as in you can take an item if you put one in of similar value.

Walter and I did not bring any items to exchange (I was merely hoping to find the geocache box) but we looked through the items and then packed the box back up and stored in its hiding place.

Flush with confidence at our success, we decided to go BACK to Hill Park and hunt one more time for the geocache box there. This time I used my compass and not the map.

You can imagine my joy when we found the box. At this park, there is a small table with a chess set on it.  We sat at the table and entered our names (Janet and Walter) in the log book and took a picture.

As it was close to 6 PM …..Walter and I headed to Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwich Shop for a sandwich and soft drink. The weather was so delightful, we ate outside. It was the perfect way to end a wonderful Sunday afternoon.

Assuming you have a smartphone or a portable GPS device, geocaching is a creative way to spend an afternoon and it doesn’t cost any money. At the Hill Park, I had just gotten back in my car and was getting ready to go to dinner when I saw a family arrive.

They hopped out of their car and scurried around and they found the geocache container (much quicker than I did—they must be pros!) They were laughing and taking pictures…. and doing something that would create memories and stories for them to share later.

Perhaps the day will come that I can take my grandchildren on geocache hunts…. a modern day version of a treasure or scavenger hunt but yet the end result would still be the same…sharing time with each other and creating memories.

There would be nothing better than that.

jfh

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Walter is ready to Find Nearby Geocaches—List of nearby geocaches—Info re Hill Park Geocache—Map #1 to Hill Park Geocache (1 block away)—Map #2—Bushes (Come out Come Out Little Geocache Container)—Trying to Find ANOTHER Nearby Geocache—Map to Laurel Park Geocache—More bushes and no Geocache (auughgh)—Compass—The Pond (what am I doing wrong?)—YAY the Official Geocache—Geocache Treasure (Exchange Items)—Back to Hill Park to try again—Hill Park Geocache/Janet and Walter sign the Log Book—Dinner at Jimmy John’s