In a nutshell geocaching is sort of like a treasure hunt using a handheld Global Positioning System (GPS) unit to find your way to a set of coordinates where a cache is hidden.
A cache is another word for container. A cache can be big or small such as a five gallon plastic bucket or a 35mm film container.
Each cache contains items such as log books, monetary items, trinkets, etc. Using clues published on the website and the GPS coordinates you head out on an adventure never knowing exactly what you are going to find.
A few of the great things about geocaching is that it is free (except for the GPS unit and gas money), it’s a great form of exercise as you do a lot of walking and hiking and you discover many areas in your local community that you never knew existed.
A couple of weeks ago we engaged in several days of back-to-back geocaching and found some very creatively themed caches.
One of our favorites was a series of eight “haunted places” geocaches in our surrounding area. Each cache was hidden in a location that was supposedly haunted. Each cache also detailed a local legend such as the ghost of a witch that haunts a set of woods or the remains of a house where a family was murdered resulting in reports of ghostly activity.
Another multi stage cache detailed a legend of a local vampire and had you travel to his childhood home and final burial place.
A multi stage cache is one where the first set of coordinates lead you to another set of coordinates and so on. The story was fun and the cache locations were very interesting to visit.
The last cache we attempted was not themed but proved to be the spookiest, ok, the scariest experience of them all.
The cache could only be done at night because the GPS coordinates took you to the starting point of a forest then required you to use a flashlight and follow reflective markers placed on the trees. The resulting hike was about a ½ mile into the woods in complete darkness, at which point you were to discover an X marked on a tree with the reflective tabs. Once you found the X you were supposed to turn off your flashlight and search for a red blinking beacon which would guide you to the next step.
On our first try at this nighttime cache we brought our boys ages 13 and 10, this proved to be a mistake because being in the middle of the woods in the pitch black was more than they could take.
Several nights later my wife and I attempted the cache again by ourselves. I’ll admit I’m not the bravest person in the world but I’m not skittish….but…after 40 minutes of trying to see the red beacon things started to get spooky.
First there was constant high pitched screeching all around us, bats we assumed, and while I rather like bats I had no desire to have one fly into my face in complete darkness. My wife and I decided to call it a bust and head back to the car.
Our little flashlights barely illuminatating the trail in front of us, my wife in the lead and me right behind her.
Everything was cool until I heard something, and by something I mean something big enough to make trotting sounds cross the trail right behind me.
Like an idiot in a bad horror film I stopped and swung my flashlight around to see what just passed behind my back, nothing. The moment I turned around to catch up with my wife I heard the “thing” cross the trail right behind me again going the opposite direction. This time I didn’t look back but rather quickened my pace and let out a small sigh of relief as we made our way out of the forest and back to car.
We plan on returning and successfully completing this geocache but next time we will bring a couple of adult friends with us. Not that I’m a wimp or anything I just think we should share the fun with our friends.
Geocaching is great fun and I urge you to give it a try if you have never experienced it. If you don’t have a GPS unit ask your friends, family or co-workers as I’m sure somebody has one that they would lend you for a couple of days. If you have kids it’s one of the coolest hobbies you can do as a family…as long as it’s daylight.