Tuesday, January 27, 2015

On Geocaching: After Find #150

At the beginning of the year, I made a list of... well, not exactly resolutions. Let's call them "goals". They won't all happen overnight. Some might not happen at all - I'm realistic enough to realize that. But it looked good on paper, anyway.

Keeping in mind with my One Word for 2015: Peace, one of my goals was to find a hobby The Man of My Dreams and I can enjoy together. I mean, we both have hobbies... but reality is, I don't really like hunting all that much, and he's not going to take up knitting or scrapbooking any time soon. We used to love to go camping, but with a farm full of animals that's not really an option so much anymore. (And honestly, we aren't desperate to get away and go somewhere quiet. We live in 'quiet'.)

So my brilliant idea for a hobby is.... hiking! It gets us outside, where we love to be. It takes us to places we haven't seen before, which we both love. It's quiet, it's exercise, it's nature, and most of all, it's together.

A number of years ago, while reading a Facebook post (or was it Myspace? ha!) someone mentioned "geocaching". It was immediately intrigued. We borrowed my dad's old GPS and set out and found.... absolutely nothing. We tried again. And again. And finally it started clicking. Sort of. It wasn't easy, it was frustrating, and I couldn't for the life of me understand why anyone would put a Tupperware container on a ledge way up there for some other stranger to find. We didn't geocache for another three years.

And then we tried again. It got easier. We found ourselves in some really neat places, places we never would have thought to go otherwise. The kids started getting excited about the "treasure" they were finding, and we packed a "geo-bag" to have ready. When we would travel, we'd stop a few times a see what we could find, logging finds in Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming and South Dakota. Since 2012, we've really started enjoying it. We go in spurts - sometimes we'll find 40 caches in a month and then nothing for several months after that. But it's something we all really love doing.

For our anniversary, The Man of My Dreams got me a new GPS (likely so I'd stop stealing his for long periods of time.) It's made this whole sport (is it a sport?) much more straightforward. Not necessarily "easier" when it comes to finding the caches, but easier to get started, at least. And now, we have a real, true hobby.

We spent the majority of today wandering around in an area neither of us had explored before. It would have been a nice hike anyway, but geocaching took us around to different places, interesting spots we probably wouldn't have stopped at otherwise. We had lunch at a campground I never knew existed, climbed a ridiculously steep hill (only to find we could have driven to the top if we'd have kept going.) We walked a couple of miles, saw rock formations I couldn't name, laughed at Littlest One galloping through the sandy creek bed, and stared mindlessly at a rock wall for the better part of half an hour trying to find something I'm pretty sure wasn't actually there. (Such is a geo-cacher's life.) We found ammo box after ammo box, full of trinkets and treasures (and lots of trash.) At the end of the day, we logged our finds and realized we were at #149. Clearly, it would have been ridiculous to stop there, so we found one last quick cache on the way home an rounded it out to #150.

I'm hoping we'll spend at least a few days a month finding new places and hidden treasures, and getting out in the sunshine and fresh air, too. It really is a ton of fun.

Some pics from our day:
Littlest One with an ammo box -
 the most common kind of cache.

Littlest One and I with an amazing view that you can't actually see behind us. I suck at selfies. (Another of my "goals" is to be in front of the camera more often. This is a big deal. I hate cameras and I hate pictures of myself.)

Littlest One and The Man of My Dreams
 at the base of one of those crazy rock formations,
sticking up out of the middle of the desert.

I really would encourage just about anyone to go out and give geocaching a try. There are really easy ones, really hard ones, some that are in the parking lot of your favorite stores (yes, really!) and some that require days of hiking and rock climbing and river rafting to get to. (We're not that cool. Yet.)

Here are a couple of notes though, if you do decide to give it a go:

*Don't expect to find them all. Or even most of them, when you first start out. Be patient. You'll develop a "geo-sense" and it'll get easier.
*If you're going to take something from the cache, the general rule is "trade even or trade up." That means don't take some awesome find and replace it with a piece of twisted up pipe cleaner or a rock you just picked up off the ground. That's just not cool. (And I'm not exaggerating.)
*Do get a GPS. Cell phones work sometimes, and get you close, but they just aren't as good as a real GPS. If you're going to do this with any regularity, you'll want the real thing. Sometimes we use both, depending on where we are, but the GPS wins every time.
*Don't let other people see you. This can be tricky, but there's no shame in pretending to tie your shoe all of a sudden when someone walks by. We've all been there. If someone who doesn't cache finds it, it might be lost forever.
*Carry water. In all likelihood, what should've been a 200 yard walk will turn into a 2 mile hike straight up the side of a mountain. Expect that, and plan accordingly.
*Take your kids! This isn't just for grown ups. In fact, sometimes our kids find the caches first. Being short can be handy, and so can having small hands and skinny arms. Children really are useful little things, I tell you. Plus, they love toy cars, plastic jewelry, and squishy frogs, which is the usual loot in a cache box.

I'll close with that. If all goes well, I should have several more posts this year about our adventures (or misadventures.) This is one goal I really plan to work on accomplishing, so stay tuned!

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