Geocache Hunt

By Craig Kimble

It's mid April and I getting ready to set off on another hunting trip. I take inventory of the needed gear. Hiking boots, daypack, water, and GPS receiver. With all my gear I drive to the first leg of the hunt.

Because of the date you might think I'm after a wild turkey and your wondering why I need a GPS receiver. No I'm not hunting Turkey this time, I'm after a new quarry and I going to stalk it in a totally different way. To stalk this prize all I will need is its longitude and latitude and a little information I printed off an Internet site.

I arrive at the first coordinates and they have brought me to a parking lot not far from my home. To the west of the parking lot is a trail. Using the second set of coordinates found on the printout I set off in that direction. The display on my GPS unit indicates that I have about a ¼ mile walk to reach the longitude and latitude. As I walk I realize that the trail winds about, so the expected ¼ mile ends up being a little longer. I make a mental note that all distance indicated on the GPS would be “as the crow flies”.

The hunt that I'm participating in today is called Geocaching. Geo from the word geography and Cache meaning a hiding place for concealing and preserving provisions. You pronounce it Geo-cashing, like cashing a check. Geocaching is a High tech game of hide and seek combining the use of tecno-gadgets like the GPS receiver and human power to Hike, Bike, Climb or even Scuba to find a hidden prize.

Standing on the indicated coordinates I look around for the place the next clue will be found. My print out tells me that I will find the next location inside a film canister. I know that the accuracy of my GPS unit has only brought me to within maybe a dozen yards of the hidden canister, so I look for likely hiding places. After 15 minuets of no success I decide to regroup and check the GPS display and confirm that I'm hunting in the right place. That verified, I again look around but this time I look for something that is out of place. Bingo. At the base on a sage plant I spy a piece of broken concrete, the only piece of concrete in that area. Lifting the concrete I see the film canister hidden below and without thinking let out a whoop of pleasure.  Man, I'm getting into this!

Geocaching is a sport invented in May of 2000 after then president Bill Clinton issued an executive order removing the signal degradation that kept the civilian Global Positioning System less accurate. Before the executive order the GPS signals could only bring you to within several hundred yards of your position. Now the 12-satellite system on a good day can bring you to within feet. The Idea of the sport is for someone to hide a Cache, Post the coordinates of the hidden cache on the Internet. Then, a person like me, using the posted information, sets out with his GPS receiver in hand to find the Cache. Sound too easy? I don't think so.

The walk to the next location was pleasant. The fragrance of spring blossoms was in the air and the cottonwood branches swaying in the breeze caused sunlight to dance on the water of the slow moving creek. My GPS display indicated that I had arrived at the desired location. Before me stood an abandoned bridge over the creek. I spent some time looking for the hidden cache but to no avail.  Included on the web site print out in my pocket were an encrypted hint and a key to decrypt it. Working out the simple code I discover that the next coordinates could be found in a magnetic key holder stuck to an iron support beam somewhere on the bridge. Looking like I was playing a game of twister I finally contorted my body in such a way that my fingers found the container. Entering the new coordinates into my hand-held GPS unit I was off in search of the next clue.

I have lived in this area for over 13 years and worked near hear for over 20 but have never walked this trail. I have always opted to hike, hunt, or fish somewhere out of town but am now finding the idea of geocaching close to home intriguing. The many local trails and parks are something that can be enjoyed on an evening or maybe at lunch. I could make my visits more interesting by seeking a cache. This idea is not new to me alone but as explained on the geocaching web site, it's the way the sport is played.  According to the web site there are 149,971 active caches in 214 countries around the world. Hundreds can be found within 50 miles of my home.

I closed my eyes tightly and gritted my teeth as I timidly slipped my hand into a hole on the side of a cottonwood tree, hoping no small critter thought I was invading its home.  As I had speculated my fingers touched a plastic container holding the last GPS coordinates. This last leg of the trip took me out of the trees to a place that I could look out over the city to the mountains beyond. Fair weather cumulus clouds puffy and white drifted in the blue sky and last week's snow showed bright white on the blue-gray mountains. I thought to my self that I had overlooked a very real natural resource in the local trail system and was going to use it more in the future.

So you're probably thinking, “what's in the cache?” and the answer could be “just about any thing”. The first cache hidden had a sling shot, a can of beans and some software sealed in a waterproof 5-gallon container. Some caches have a theme of some kind like “hot wheels cars” or “old coins” or “cards”. Others are just containers that people trade trinkets like a yo-yo for a plastic gum ball ring. Other variations can be found too like one that was a specific book in the public library. All caches include a logbook of some kind to log your find. The cache its self can be fun but the real treasure is getting outdoors and playing with high tech gear.

500 ft, 250 ft, 75 ft, My adventure is about to come to a close. I find a green ammo box under a rotten log and open it to see the prize. Wow so much to choose from. A key chain, Rockies Baseball cards, whistle, toy car, plastic dinosaur…………….. After spending a few minutes considering the bounty I decide on an unusual coin and leave a cat eye marble in it's place. I sign the logbook and put the box back into its place making sure is well hidden I set a reverse course and enjoy the walk back to my truck. What a great way to spend a beautiful day.