Writer discovers the joy of geocaching

I wonder why I always forget how busy September is. It’s like my brain assumes that once the kids are back in school, activities magically cease and tranquility reigns supreme. Of course it doesn’t. But what

do I need the most? I mean, besides taking the kids shopping (at the MALL), getting items dropped off and picked up at the State Fair, cooking a church fellowship meal, getting in one more TaeKwonDo

midterm test towards my Third Degree Black Belt, studying for my Ham Radio certification tests (more on that next month!), starting a sweater Knit-A-Long and driving back and forth to and from golf

tournaments? A NEW HOBBY, that’s what I need.

Remember how much fun scavenger hunts were when you were a kid? Did you ever pretend to be a treasure hunter or a pirate, looking for X marks the spot? If so, have I got the hobby for you. Geocaching is kind of like the treasure hunt without the treasure, just all of the thrill of finding something. In a nutshell, you can download an app to show you all of the registered caches in any given area. The app will give you a picture marked with where the cache is located, what you’re looking for (a cache can be anything from a pill bottle to an ammo can, sometimes even bigger), and maybe even a snippet of history of the site you’re at. When you find the cache, you add your name and the date to the log inside, then replace it for the next person to find. Every now and then, a cache will hold trinkets you can exchange or add to. The most important thing is to be respectful of the area, and replace the cache for the next hunter.

I’d heard of geocaching years ago, and even downloaded the app, always intending to find the local spots. Of course, I never got around to it until one day when my mom was visiting, I decided we needed to do something different. I fired up the app. Now, in the interest of not spoiling your own hunt, I’m not going to tell you where we went or where that cache is. You’ll just have to have your own adventure.

Hopefully you’ll be a little better prepared than I was.

We went to Bible study like we usually do, and then we had some lunch while I talked her into going along with my new crazy scheme. I told her we’d take my car, not wanting to use her gas on my wild goose chases…but forgetting that my air conditioning isn’t the best, and it was a hundred degrees out that day.

Mother and heat don’t mix. She seemed game though, so off we went.

The app is nice enough to tell you about the difficulty of the hide, the size of the item, and even sometimes provide a hint. We got to our first likely spot and started trying to find what was listed as a small camouflage-wrapped pill bottle. Mind you, when I got dressed that morning, I was not planning to go trampling around in the weeds, trying to find a pill bottle. Trying to align myself with the arrow (the beastly thing doesn’t zoom in quite far enough), I soon found myself clambering into brush, trying to avoid the thorns in the tree above me, and check for poison ivy below me. Mom was gamely searching the vicinity and fanning herself with a napkin. As I waded deeper into the thicket, I tried to look for something out of place. I untangled my hair from the tree for the fifth time, and suddenly . . .THERE! It was . . .a rock. Not a pill bottle. Sigh. I finally admitted defeat and checked the hint. It didn’t really seem to make sense, but I backed out a little bit, muttering the clue under my breath. Just a few feet to the right, and . . .THERE! The branches plucked at my hair, and twigs poked my ankles, but I reached down and grabbed THE CACHE!!! Mom was tickled too, even if she did look a little wilted around the edges. I signed the log and we headed back to the car to try another location. The air conditioner sputtered bravely to life.

The next cache was marked as a fairly easy find, on easy terrain, size micro (think little bottle again). We trampled around the trees, trying to use the distance locator on the app. That had us clambering around and through trees, when in reality, we were just overthinking things. Unfortunately, that log was jammed so tightly into the bottle, we couldn’t sign. By now, Mother was definitely looking a bit warm.

The air conditioner blew air at us, not exactly cold, but not hot either.

The next two hides were unfindable, but we did get a chance to talk to a nice Park Ranger at the reservoir about geocaching. Mom was definitely done and so was the air conditioner. Since then, we’ve gone out one more time (she insisted on taking her car this time, probably because her air conditioner has a zub-freezing temperature range) and had decent success.

It’s never too late to find a new hobby, and I’d encourage everyone of any age to give geocaching a shot.

You never know what you might find!

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