How I Learned about Geocaching and Almost Strangled a Groundhog

13 Sep

I’ve really been putting the suck in sucker these past few Lollipop Tuesdays.  A failed apple pie, a hanging herb garden that now only has 1/5 herbs still alive, and today: a lot of wandering in the woods that amounted to nothing.

Happy Lollipop Tuesday, ladies and gentlemen.

I’ve been taking adventure anywhere I can find it lately.  Flyers, newspapers – whatever.  So when I was out to dinner meeting some new people on Sunday and someone mentioned their obsession with “geocaching”, I signed myself right up.

I know, right? Double yoo tee eff is geocaching?  Geocaching (pronounced jee-oh-cashing) is, well, let’s just yoink a clip from geocaching.com, shall we?

Right.  So basically there’s an entire underground network of people out in the world putting little knick knacks and doodads in containers and hiding them.  They go online, list the coordinates of their hidden treasure, and when someone finds it they go online and post about finding it.  The idea is that you try to keep it a secret.  Non-geocachers are referred to as “Muggles”, a la Harry Potter and it seems to be a cardinal rule that a muggle not notice a geocacher in the midst of their adventures.

People can share things small and large.  They can include a puzzle that gives a hint when solved.  They can even share a view or perspective with you by leading you to a certain place in the world that they have seen and loved.  It’s actually pretty groovy.

Unless you’re a bumbling idiot like myself.

I’m not good with maps or coordinates or… let’s just put it this way: I’m not naturally inclined in anything Boy Scouts are taught.  Which is why I went to two different geocaching locations last night and wandered around for five hours empty-handed.

When I first started I didn’t have a GPS device.   I just mapped the coordinates on Google Maps, printed the map, and took a stroll because I thought it was all cool and casual like that.  But it’s not.  I just wandered around and around, digging at trees, stirring up brush with my foot – and watching the same groundhog go back and forth from a pond to a tree.

Back and forth.  Over and over.  For two hours.

Having no context for the experience, I had no idea if I was looking for something buried, hanging, or simply camouflaged.  I printed a few posts from geocaching.com that served as proof that the cache had indeed been found, but alas I had no success.   After I’d been sitting in the trees and dirt for a few hours, I asked Dave to drive to me with the GPS so that I could get some serious business done.  But as it turns out, GPS devices take absolutely forever to communicate with something in space when you’re in the woods and by the time my screen updated, I’d already gotten impatient and moved on.

I don’t have the patience for space travel.

By the time I really decided to dig in with determination (cache or die!), it was pitch black and I was armed with naught but a wee flashlight, a car GPS, and a dream.  I failed.  And I failed hard.  By my third hour there in the rubble, I wanted to shake the living daylights out of the groundhog and yell “TELL ME YOUR SECRETS, GROUNDPIG!”

It was time for a change of location.

So I drove to another area of town where there was rumored another cache.  It was a park and it was a wide open area that was much more friendly with the GPS.  And even though I was standing exactly on the spot that the cache was marked for, I couldn’t for the life of me find anything.  Not a single thing.  I printed off a few comments from other successful geocachers on the website and kept repeating them out loud to myself.  “Don’t take the high road or the low road.  Just outside the Game Field.  Don’t take the high road or the low road.  Just outside the game field”.  And just when the crazy started to really set in, I snapped out of it and instead traded insanity for rage.  

I’d been out and about all night long.  Five hours in the dark with a tiny little flashlight and a piece of paper promising me treasure and I found nothing.  I was enraged at my stupidity and suspicious that this was some sort of sick, twisted, elaborate joke.

But I went home and checked the spoilers online.  The caches are indeed there.  

I like to think sunlight would have helped, but let’s be honest: I was hopeless.   Navigation is not my forte.  

It’s evenings such as those that I have to remind myself that Lollipop Tuesdays are all about trying something new that I’m inclined to suck at out of sheer inexperience.  And sometimes that helps but most of the time it just enrages me.  

I want to try again.  I’ll feel vindicated if I find something.  And if I ever get any good at it, it will be a great trick to show friends when I’m out for a leisurely stroll (at a place of my own choosing of course).  And the idea that out there all over the world are little tiny secrets that someone has left for others is incredibly charming.

If I can ever find the damn things. 

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16 Responses to “How I Learned about Geocaching and Almost Strangled a Groundhog”

  1. Dominic Malizia September 13, 2011 at 9:27 am #

    Geocaching is great fun, I’ve found about 40 so far. Quite a low number considering I started 2 years ago. It seems to go that around February, I get in the mood to geocache. Then spend a day finding them, then forget about it for another year. If you give it another try, look for one that falls into the easy category, for terrain and difficulty, u should be able to find one, and it’ll boost your confidence. But yes a car gps will make it a whole lot easier, but they’re still no picnic. Ive been trying to rationalize buying a handheld for 2 years now 😛 Meh maybe next February….

    Like

    • Jackie September 13, 2011 at 7:36 pm #

      Oh I was hoping I’d unearth a geocacher with this post! 🙂 You know what’s sad? Both of these fell in the easy category lol But yeah – I may try again in the future. I feel like a big failure but I just coax myself into submission with the reminder that it was pitch black.

      Ah, a handheld – I figured there had to be a better way to operate.

      Like

  2. pegoleg September 13, 2011 at 10:42 am #

    Did you forget to dress up as a pirate and say “arr matey” a lot? I think that would help in finding buried treasure.

    Like

    • Jackie September 13, 2011 at 7:35 pm #

      Dammit. Where were your tips yesterday?!

      Like

  3. lunarmoth September 13, 2011 at 10:59 am #

    Geocaching sounds like fun! Except, I don’t have a GPS and I’m a bit nervous about getting caught. However, I may try it just for the heck of it.
    But what is Lollipop Tuesday? I’m missing something here. 🙂

    Like

    • Jackie September 13, 2011 at 11:03 am #

      hi Lunar! There’s a page at the top labeled “What’s Lollipop Tuesday” -click and read up! it’s the most exciting part of The Jackie Blog 😉

      Like

  4. lunarmoth September 13, 2011 at 11:25 am #

    Thanks! I didn’t even think of looking around — I guess that’s like not reading manuals. lol

    Like

    • Jackie September 13, 2011 at 7:35 pm #

      no worries – I don’t read manuals either 😉

      Like

  5. pickle September 13, 2011 at 4:01 pm #

    Once I walked straight up the 80 degree angle of a mountain looking for a geocache. And didn’t even find it…but the view was great :S

    Like

    • Jackie September 13, 2011 at 7:34 pm #

      I would have been livid. But thankful the next day for the awesome butt workout 😉

      Like

  6. Bridgesburning Chris King September 13, 2011 at 9:34 pm #

    My sister and her husband have done the geo thing for years and love it! Me..I am a little too lazy for it but it does sound like fun..okay maybe not lazy..just so directionally challenged I would rather plead lazy! Good for you!

    Like

    • Jackie September 15, 2011 at 1:03 am #

      Give it a try! You totally should. Look for one that’s already in an area you frequent or have always wanted to go. …but better luck to you than I had haha

      Like

  7. whatimeant2say September 13, 2011 at 10:33 pm #

    You need to take Cap’n Firepants with you. He’s a great navigator. I love to geocache. He goes along so I won’t get lost or fall into a well. He doesn’t really like it. Especially when we are in a public area with lots of people around watching us act suspiciously.

    Like

    • Jackie September 15, 2011 at 1:00 am #

      I just love your name for him. So much that I subscribed. That’s right: I subscribed just because of an awesome nickname.

      Like

  8. jakennicksmomma September 14, 2011 at 11:21 am #

    I had heard about geocatching, but have never tried it before. Despite not finding anything, your post makes me think I want to try it. Mind you I am in my PJs still and just finished my coffee, so everything seems possible.

    Like

    • Jackie September 15, 2011 at 12:54 am #

      Try it! Definitely do. If you don’t find anything, you’ll at least get a nice walk in 😉

      Like

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