“Cache In Trash Out” is an ongoing environmental initiative supported by the worldwide geocaching community. Since 2002, geocachers have been dedicated to cleaning up parks and other cache-friendly places around the world.
I’m not sure exactly where I first heard about geocaching, but curiosity recently led me to Geocaching.com to obtain more information. My retirement status afforded me extra time, and I needed an outdoor hobby that provided an additional way to make our trips memorable.
The gist of the pastime is to find hidden geocaches (or treasure) via GPS coordinates. They can range from small magnetic micro-tubes, film canisters, empty pill bottles, watertight plastic containers, ammunition boxes, fake rocks, or anything the imagination can conjure. These containers can be hidden in remote natural places, cemeteries, roadsides, city parks, underwater, high in trees, or in busy populated areas like the New York subway. They can be found virtually anywhere. Each container holds a log that is to be signed and returned as written proof the “cacher” found the “cache.” Generally, there is a little keepsake treasure inside. The honor system is used to take a souvenir and leave one of equal or greater value for someone else. The container is then re-hidden in the exact same place for the next person to find. Sometimes the container can hold a ‘trackable,’ that is purchased through the website and given a unique code, logged on line, hidden in a cache, and then travel from geocache to geocache as it is found and re-hidden. The ‘trackable’ can be traced and a person can see all the places it visits.
I started at Geocaching.com and signed up using my unique username, RandomBitsRV, and then downloaded a back-up app called Cachly. I was delighted to see there was a geocache hidden about a mile from our campground. My first priority was a visit to Hobby Lobby to get tiny treasures to leave in the containers I find. I chose tiny silver and gold key charms and fuzzy little birdies (the kind put in Easter baskets).
I was excited to search for my first treasure. Armed with my cross-body purse filled with my goodies and a pen for log signing, I set out of the campground on foot to walk the mile along the road to the hidden treasure. I had both apps open–Geocaching and Cachly. As I got closer and closer to the area off the road and meandering into the ditch, I started to get a little nervous. What if the police stopped and asked what I was up to? A determination took hold and I didn’t care. My goal was to find that treasure. The app said it was the right spot, but there was nothing but a rusted fence, a high-voltage underground cable warning sign, a huge fire ant pile, and soggy earth beneath tall grass and wildflowers. I was stooped over and looking intently around for–I had no idea what. A car approached and slowed down, and I pretended to take pictures of the wildflowers until the car passed. I resumed the visual search, trying to stay out of the ant pile and looking under small rocks and around the fenceposts. Then I found it! I let out a girly squeal of delight and made a “whoop whoop” motion with my hands above my head. I took out the tiny log, signed it, and looked to see what goodies I had to choose from. The only item in the cache was my first treasure-to-keep–a miniature pink pair of sunglasses. I left a little golden key, twisted the top on the container so everything would stay dry, and put it right back where I found it. I traipsed out through the ditch and back up to the road for the hike home. I felt victorious–and totally hooked on the whole process. It wasn’t the treasure that was exciting, it was the challenge of locating it.
Since my initial find, I have located ammo boxes in a state park and nature preserve, even though they took me literally hours to locate. I’ve left one trackable and collected other little keepsakes. I’ve found tiny boxes where no “treasure” was exchanged. I even found a canister at a used car lot with only a log book and a lonely dime.
My sister-in-law, Jackie, invited me to go to a park near Lake Travis in Austin where she enjoys peace and quiet while my brother-in-law, Phil, goes SCUBA diving with friends. I pulled up the app and found there were three caches in the park, two of which were underwater and required SCUBA skills (I do SCUBA, but didn’t have plans to dive that day). I was explaining the concept to the divers, who asked where the underwater caches were. I gave the coordinates and directions and off they went on their dive. Jackie and I thoroughly searched for the single cache above the water line, but neglected to find it. As the divers came up out of the water, the excited “muggles” (check out that term) explained they found the empty cache 70 feet below the water’s surface. That was a very cool find by proxy.
I’m in my infancy at this past time, but it is challenging and fun. Caches are everywhere, and I’m always checking to see which ones are in the immediate area. I have a couple more travel bugs (trackables) to place, but I want to do it with my goddaughter and nieces and nephews–they’ll get a kick out of finding treasures and seeing where their goodies travel. It’s a brilliant team-work family activity. I usually search solo, but Mike has been a big help on an occasion or two. Our coolest find was in a neglected cemetery nearby.
It’s a wonderful way to explore our environment, get a little exercise, leave it cleaner than we found it, and challenge the brain.
Until the next treasure,