Geo…WHAT?

By Jennifer McDougall in Community, People

Admittedly my husband and I (and sometimes our kids, depending on the day and the mood) are addicted…to Geocaching.
“Geo…WHAT?” most people will ask when we tell them what we do for fun.
It all started on Mother’s Day three years ago. Settled into the car after church our kids instructed me to close my eyes. I couldn’t see but I could hear and the sound was an overwhelming wiggling of excitement from the kids in their car seats.
“You’re going to love this, Mom! You’re just going to love this!” they kept repeating and in the atypical fashion of young kids they actually did NOT give away the surprise and as we came to a halt, after driving around in what seemed like circles, something hard and rectangular was shoved into my hand. A GPS (global positioning device) borrowed from a friend.
The hunt began. And so did the addiction.
Geocaching is like a real-life treasure hunt…adding in the technology of a GPS you search coordinate locations for an actual container that has a logbook and sometimes little ‘treats’ to trade. (You may have heard about it recently with the Wakefield/Ottawa incident in which the police were called in to look at an unidentifiable object they thought might be a bomb. It turned out to be a camouflage-taped geocaching container that had a logbook and pencil inside.)
We’ve had soakers and sunburns and been creeped out in periwinkle-covered pioneer cemeteries; we’ve reached into ooey gooey spiderweb-filled holes and been stung by wasps when we disturbed their nest attempting to find a mini-sized cache; we`ve donated more blood to chihuahua-sized mosquitoes than to the monthly Blood Donor clinic. We’ve almost bottomed out on a trail truly meant only for four-wheelers at best on an empty gas tank with two wee kids buckled in the back and no cellphone (which likely wouldn’t have worked anyways without service in that remote area).
So why keep at it?
There are locations, just hidden behind treed roadways we regularly travel, that we had no idea existed! Beautiful and unique locations…majestic hikes on government-owned, pristine tracts and under-bridge trails otherwise hidden from view. We’ve seen otters playing and spied painted turtles sunning themselves, climbed trees (and even a bridge) with kid-like glee, hiked trails covered in wild blackberry bushes brambling over the pathway (which was also lined with bear scat – yikes) and had hours of fun in B.C. with a banana-coloured pill-bottle-sized (the large ones) slug that kept curiously poking its head out of the coffee cup where we had temporarily housed it until re-releasing it to its wild home.
We’re more active, enjoying the outdoors and all that it proudly displays…hiking, biking, climbing, canoeing to find these sometimes-elusive caches that can be the size of a small suitcase or smaller than a thimble. We log our experiences on to the website and laugh uproariously at others who also share sometimes-precarious adventures (like the one where a gentleman, attempting to be discreet with other non-caching people around, was so frightened by his daughter’s giggle of glee at finding the cache that he promptly tossed it into the river
beside him).
We’ve learned to take seriously the girl guide motto and come prepared with oodles of bug spray and sunscreen, extra writing utensils, and loads of water for the hike. We’ve had to learn the art of sharing (holding the GPS as the numbers get lower and the cache closer), the craft of detail and discovery, and the spy-like dramatic flair of pretending to do anything but what you`re actually doing. (The GPS really can look like a cellphone when held to the ear, and children`s laces often need to be tied right when you get near a city lamp post that also happens to be hiding a cache.) We have had to learn to get along even better than we previously did. And we`ve certainly learned to appreciate the amazing gifts of nature that are often right in front of us.
It can be as easy as you want, or as hard. There are wheelchair-friendly caches and there are ones where you have to climb mountains, or canoe-trek for 7 days. For more info check out
www.geocaching.com
And now when you ask what it is that we do for fun you won`t be one of the ones muttering, “Geo…WHAT?”