August 23, 2004

Geocache

Continuing on our adventures in Letterboxing and Geocaching, we attempted a quick trip yesterday. It was back to BCC, the site of our previous “failure”.

This time, instead of letterboxing, we were geocaching armed with a Magellan Meridian Gold GPS device. (aka. MeriGold) There are many, many more geocaches in the area than there are letterboxes, so having the GPS opens up many more opportunities for getting out there and enjoying the countryside.

I thought it would make things easier, but it didn’t. Not exactly. But it did make for a lot of fun. And this time the discoveries were a little more generous.

We decided to take on the “Don’t Fence Me In” geocache (GC48A8 on geocaching.com).

This was not our first geocach, technically. We’d already successfully logged the JFK Virtual cache, but virtual caches are merely locations. They are a lot of fun, too, but the kids and I really wanted to find something that someone had hidden.

So, we took on this geocache. It was very close to a couple of letterboxes we were looking for last time, so we knew the trail. In addition, it was a hybrid geocache, meaning that a letterbox was hidden along with it. (Somewhere there must be instructions for finding the letterbox — perhaps on the Letterboxing North America site but we didn’t have those.

We used a shortcut trail that we saw some kids using to get into the forest in the middle of the trail we used last time. This made for a shorter trip, as the cache was hidden near the middle of the trail.

We quickly found the coordinates and were standing near the cache. However, knowing “where” the cache is is the easy part of geocaching. The trouble is finding it. GPS devices like the MeriGold are supposed to be accurate down to 3 meters. But there is enough variation (and interference from fences and trees) to make your search area a little larger than you expect.

While we were wandering around, a young teenager biked up the trail, locked his bike to a tree and set off into the woods. He returned shortly while we were reassessing our search and stood next to us without speaking for some reason. I nodded “hello” to him and he wandered off again. I was relieved when he unlocked his bike and pedaled off. Geocaching and letterboxing are for everyone, but I did not want to find the cache in front of someone who may not be interested in the sport. There is a reason they hide these caches well. When non-geocachers find them, they are sometimes plundered for their contents.

Caches usually contain notes in them inviting people to participate in the sport if they have come upon the cache accidentally. They are asked to take something from the cache if they wish, but please leave something of their own in return. And re-hide the cache carefully.

Once the teen left, I returned to the trail and looked for likely hiding places. This time I used my small keychain flashlight for looking under things. The foliage was heavy and the hour was late, which made a flashlight necessary. Next time I need to remember to bring a brighter one. But the teeny tiny Maglite Solitaire performed when it was needed.

In a thorough search of the area, I suddenly saw some plastic among the leaves under one of the very many large rocks just off the trail. I called the girls over and we moved some smaller rocks to finally reveal the cache! And just behind it was the letterbox. Both were in Rubbermaid containers, well-protected from the rain.

We stamped with our stamps in the letterbox notebook and we signed the cache notebook. I also took a postcard of BCC from the cache (scanned and displayed above) and the girls took a rubbery little sea creature. In their places I left some surprises of my own.

We were lucky to have some privacy going through the cache and re-hiding it. It was close enough to the trail, and the trail was busy enough that I worried it would be revealed. This cache has survived a while, it’s a nice one, and I’d hate to be the one to cause it to be revealed. It was surprisingly close to a teen hangout where someone had a campfire. Many people have probably leaned against the rock not knowing there was something hidden beneath.

In any case, the Sun’s rays were getting long and we didn’t have time to pick up another cache, so we headed home to get some food.

I think the postcard is a great find from the cache. If you look at the larger scan of the card you can see the North Watuppa Pond in the background and Route 24. In the foreground is BCC, and in the bottom left corner is the pond with the non-forest walking trail. It is in the forest between the pond and Rte. 24 where the cache lies.

Why did I say above that geocaching is not easier than letterboxing? Because you still have to search for a well-hidden cache once you get to the location. Caches must be hidden sufficiently to protect them, so once you are there it is a game of hide and seek.

Posted by James at August 23, 2004 10:19 AM
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