In life, sometimes little things can make one smile.
Whether a moment, a person, a hobby — just about anything. And to get a smile, you can feel like life isn’t so bad.
In February of 2008, we were in the midst of a normal upstate New York winter. Some snow, cold and everything else. It was also but six months since my father had died, so I hadn’t really gotten out of a funk.
Then came geocaching.
A friend, Darren, told me about a game he had discovered. Geocaching, he said, was a game where people placed things out and about and you then used a GPS to find it.
I believe my initial reaction was something along the lines of “Why would anyone want to do that?”
Soon after, plans were made to try the game out the following weekend as Darren had a couple of GPS units we could use. He told me about the website and to sign up and get a name and all. I did that and peeked around a bit, trying to figure out what this game was about.
It seemed simple enough.
People — known as geocachers — hid containers in the wild. It could be in the woods or in an urban setting and the size of the container could be anything from the size of a thimble to the size of a car or bigger. The hiders took coordinates and uploaded them to the website. Finders would get those coordinates and then go search for the geocache. Once found, you signed the log and, if you wanted, you traded for things people left in the container. The one rule there was to trade evenly or trade up. Then, when home, you logged the find online.
I figured I could handle this game.
Once I had an idea of what was going on, I was interested. I wasn’t sure if I would like it, but it was worth a day. Darren and I had talked about letterboxing — a non-GPS treasure hunt — before, so this seemed OK.
March 1, 2008 is when we set out. The first cache found was one just a few miles from me. It was at a covered bridge. As a covered bridge nut, I was into it.
But I felt odd. Here we are looking around on this bridge for something. After starting to understand what was going on, the cache was found. I did feel a little odd as a car or two passed us.
My first log:
Two of us ventured out today — my first day of geocaching! Found this one. GREAT spot. This was the first of, I think, five we hit. Really cool spot and wild how you set it up. And being I’m a fan of covered bridges, this was awesome for my first time. Well done! TNLNSL.
Imagine that. First log and I was using abbreviations.
We had printed a few caches out (no paperless when we first started!) and hoped these would be winter friendly ones. There was snow out, you see, and we didn’t know what it would be like to find these suckers in the snow.
We ended up tromping through snow for a few of them. One cache, we even asked some people who worked at one place about it. They said they knew about it, but weren’t sure where it was. We ended up finding it, thankfully.
In total, five caches were found that day.
Five days later, we went again. Six more caches were found. There were several different sizes, too, including a nano cache for the first time. One was a pretty long hike in the snow, too, which was somewhat miserable. But in the end, not too bad.
After all, this was exciting.
People were hiding things all over the place. It could be in my backyard, basically, and I never knew about it. This was cool.
I didn’t have my own GPS, so I was kind of stuck. Darren let me borrow one of his for a couple of weeks and I ventured out to find some others.
I soon purchased my own GPS — a Garmin 60CSx. I really debated which GPS to buy. The 60CSx, which was about $300 and seemed to be perfect for geocaching, or the Garmin eTrex, which was about $125. In the end, I decided to go with the big one in hopes that it would be perfect.
It was and I still use that GPS unit to this day.
I remember the feeling I had when I first found caches. It was invigorating. To think that I was doing something that not many people did as well. How cool was that?
Many firsts followed.
My first cache out of state. My first event. My first Earthcache.
As time went on, I discovered more and more things about geocaching and I loved it. There weren’t many negatives. Every experience was different and very cool.
Darren and I hit up an event a few months after starting out. As we pulled into the parking lot, we saw two people get out of a truck and head in. We stared and our thoughts were “What are we doing here?”
In the end, it was fun.
Since then I’ve been to dozens of events and have hosted many others.
As I look back on the four-plus years I’ve played this game, most of the thoughts are positive. I’ve met many wonderful people — some of which are good friends to this day. I never would have met them if not for this game.
Heck, when I went to Ireland in 2010, I had the chance to cache with several people there, but two specifically who took me on an amazing day of caches throughout the countryside. Talk about fun! This game has taken me all over the place. According to my GSAK stats, my cache-to-cache mileage is 41,916 miles. That’s as the bird flies, too. And doesn’t include ones I traveled to and didn’t find. Or miles I traveled to get to a spot or to meet somebody.
I bet it’s easily in the 50,000-75,000 mile range traveled.
All for a box in the woods or something small in an urban setting.
It’s a game that forces you to get outside. Whether it be a long and challenging hike or a quick urban grab, you’re outside and moving somewhat. The long hikes are great and some of the views and spots I’ve been brought to are simply amazing.
The geocaching community, as a whole, is pretty solid, too.
When I first started, I was looking for basic info about everything caching — placing caches specifically. I went to the Geocaching.com forums and soon, a volunteer on the site, offered to send me a few things. I’ll never forget that and have tried to give things to newer cachers as well when I have the chance.
I also always try and stay positive. That’s not to say that I sometimes won’t let something get to me. But, for the most part, I stay positive. With cachers, with hides, with logging and with anything else. There’s a lot of negativity and uppity attitudes in this game and I try and stray away. It’s easier that way. Avoiding it is hard sometimes, but I tend to try and ignore it now and move along.
The only thing that stinks is after four-plus years and 3,000-plus finds, sometimes that original feeling isn’t there.
I remember starting and finding the geocache. It was such a thrill. I’d dig through it and see what’s there. Now, the thrill isn’t the same. Seeing so many different hides, sometimes you just walk up on them. But, sometimes you can have that feeling when somebody designs or places a really wild cache. Something you haven’t seen before or that often.
But it’s still fun.
I have no idea how long it will take me to get to 4,000 finds. I don’t really care, either, as I’m to the point now where I just like to go out and find some geocaches. Let the numbers count. I’ll pay attention as I’m a stat junkie, but the time frame of it is of no worry.
People hide. I find. I hide. People find.
It’s an ever revolving cycle in this game. And it’s really cool.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be doing more about my four-plus years and 3,000 finds. The posts will be periodic, but I’ll be going through some of my favorite finds/hides, cheating in the game (seriously!), and some other things I’m working on. This game has been very good to me and I have some fond memories I want to share.
In the end, though, I’m still mesmerized by 3,000 finds. Somebody asked me if I ever thought I’d get to this point when I first started. Heck, I remember how stoked I was when I found No. 100, let alone 3,000.
In that time, I’ve seen waterfalls and bridges. Forests and roads. Back roads I didn’t know existed and rest areas along major highways. I’ve seen some of the most beautiful countryside ever and abandoned buildings. I’ve been questioned by cops and gotten looks from people passing by wondering what the hell I was doing. The experiences are many and most are ones I’m fond of.
This game, no doubt, has been very good to me. And for that, I’ll be forever thankful.
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