Geocaching is, quite literally, the modern day version of treasure hunting. Rather than set sails for uncharted, deserted dessert islands, the modern day pirates simply log on to the website (www.geocaching.com) and search the map for the treasure they’re wishing to unearth. Along with encrypted clues for you to solve, there are various riches to be found. Among them are geocache coins which are collectable, the traditional cache consisting of various small, inexpensive trinkets, and then there are the highly sought after prizes – the ones with the Travel Bugs. No, this isn’t a relation of the Swine Flu, nor is it some six legged creature waiting to crawl up your fingers, but rather a tag resembling that of the military dog tags inscribed with a traceable number. The owner of the tag records the number, along with the geocache coordinates onto the site, then your mission, if you choose to accept, is to find the treasure prior to any Indiana Jones clone, record your victory and hide it again in a new and exotic location, such as in the cache down the street or perhaps across the country to Florida, as we have done.
It was a still, foggy November morning, the grass heavily laden with dew when the four of us, my husband Erik, my stepson Bjorn, and I set off along with our dog, Casey, in search of treasure containing a travel bug. As the sun began to rise, so did our hopes as we drew nearer and nearer to the location where we suspected it lay. The songs of winter birds, the trickle of a nearby creek, the scent of an early morning in winter encouraged us toward our goal, hidden somewhere with in the forest. Would it still be there? Perhaps we would be too late and some other fortunate adventurer had stolen our prize. Referencing the clues left behind by the owner of the treasure, we set our minds to deciphering them, turning this way and that down the trail of hopes. At last, the chill of the morning now long gone and being replaced by feverish excitement, we fell upon the location, the ‘X’ that marked our spot. With trepidation, Erik skillfully cleared the natural debris, reminiscent of Indiana Jones, and opened the box. Success! There before our wondrous eyes, laid a travel bug, ready to move onto its next location, already planned out in advance by our team. Gleefully signing the log and noting our haul, we triumphantly returned to the warmth and comfort of our home to prepare for the next leg of our journey.
The following morning with backpacks and travel bug in hand, Erik and I boarded a plane set for Florida, while Bjorn stayed with his mother and Casey with friends. That night after being rather enthusiastically greeted by my parents, we ate at Clark’s Fish Camp, a nearby restaurant. Anxious to dine upon local cuisine, we ordered the ‘Swamp Platter,’ a delicacy not to be missed and filled each other in on the current events of our lives. While enjoying the uniqueness of our meal, our discussion turned toward the hoards we brought with us and where we were going to bury them. The sun was shining brightly the following morning and we had successfully talked my dad out of substituting an imitation Indiana Jones hat for his Scottish Balmoral, and traded in our down jackets we donned just a day or two prior, for shorts, t-shirts, and sunscreen and loaded ourselves into the family car, heading for our secret location. What a change of weather from Seattle’s overcast skies, highs of mid 30’s to Florida’s sunny sky and highs in the mid 70’s. Forest of evergreens were replaced by live oaks with Spanish moss hanging from the branches and babbling creeks were substituted with still water, lurking alligators just below the beguiling calm surface. Heading toward the tree of choice, I drank in my surroundings and thought, I don’t think we’re in the Northwest anymore, Toto. After successfully hiding our loot, we headed off to see the other sites Florida had to offer before returning back home the following day. Jet setters we are not, but a mini vacation was all the time we could afford and Dorothy was right, there is no place like home.
Geocaching is as expansive as your imagination will allow. Whether you’re hiking the trails along the Cedar River, trekking the wilds of Florida, or simply running errands around Maple Valley, there is a geocache nearby, waiting to be discovered. In today’s economy, finding fun and unusual activities, whether with or without children, can be challenging. This is a marvelous way of enjoying the outdoors whether by yourself or with friends and family, without worrying about the ghastly rising fuel costs. And with a little inspiration from http://www.geocaching.com, you can transform your average weekend into an adventure; no pirate outfit or whip and hat required.