Next time you’re out and about, whether shopping in the city, grabbing pizza in the suburbs, or walking through a peaceful small town park, stop and take a good look around.
There’s a decent chance that, not so very far away, something is hiding.
Hiding–and waiting to be found.
It might be hidden under a rock or some sticks, on a tree or a stop sign, inside a log or a library book. It might be hidden high, low, or anywhere in between. It might even be hidden in plain sight. Often all you have to do is open your eyes and really look. Of course, that can be harder than it sounds.
Back in July 2012, some friends opened my eyes to the magical world of geocaching, a treasure hunt of sorts where participants hunt for caches (over two million and counting) hidden pretty much all over the planet. If you look up your home city or town on Geocaching.com, the official geocaching website, and map the results, you’ll likely find it speckled with cache symbols. Usually camouflaged in some way, geocache containers range in size from teeny-tiny to surprisingly large. They may have space only for a paper log to sign or enough room to contain “treasure” for trading. They might be fairly ordinary (plastic water bottle), tricky (fake rock), or capable of tugging at your heart strings (small plastic butterfly in memory of the cache-owner’s deceased son).
Our first hunt took my husband and I to a serene little park near a historic power station, a place close to our home that we hadn’t visited in years. My GPS device steered us straight to a tree where we found a pile of branches hiding our quarry: a big, musty-smelling ammo can full of plastic toys, stickers, and other trinkets.
You would have thought I’d unearthed a treasure chest filled with pirate gold.
Since then, though we’re by no means obsessive (I’ve only amassed a mere 166 finds), we’ve searched for caches in cities and small towns, in parks and along quiet country roads. We’ve hunted caches while hiking in the mountains and desert, and while bicycling rail trails and one long, dark train tunnel. We’ve discovered caches in nooks and crannies and in places we never knew existed. Along with the thrill of each discovery, I think it’s this aspect I love most about geocaching–how it lures us to interesting new places or makes us look at familiar places from a different perspective. I love, too, how each excursion feels like an adventure. Like a secret mission. Part of the game, after all, is to avoid being spotted by “Muggles,” or non-geocaching persons. And part of the fun is sometimes running into other intrepid geocachers while engaged in the hunt.
Another perk? It gets us outside and moving, even on dismal, soggy, or icy winter days. Exploring the historic little coal town of Wilkeson, for instance. Or trekking along an abandoned road through a winter wonderland of hoarfrost. Or finding a hidden fish hatchery/nature park where great blue herons huddled in the rain or flapped by, croaking like pterodactyls.
So even on those occasions when we can’t locate a cache–and oh yes, they happen–we’re rarely disappointed.
If you’d like to learn more about geocaching, check out https://www.geocaching.com/guide/
Thanks for reading!