A real life, grown up treasure hunt.
Full disclosure – I first heard about geocaching while watching the ‘Real Housewives of New York’. It’s not something I’m proud of but it feels good to get that off my chest. Phew.
However if, like many, many other people, you have better things to do with your time than watch RHONY, you’d be forgiven for never having heard of geocaching, so allow me to elaborate…
According to the official website,
“Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.”
Basically, there are thousands of hidden packages all over the world and probably some near you. You can simply download the app, get the coordinates and set off to find them.
Whilst we live in a city with around 25 geocaches, pavements and office buildings didn’t seem quite adventurous enough for us, so we set of to Kings Mountain State Park, just across the border in South Carolina. I say we, I actually woke Tom up, told him what to wear and put him in the car without any insight into our plans for the day. We’re always looking for new date ideas and surprising each other with a spontaneous itinerary, so I feel compelled to inform you that he enjoyed this and came willingly. It bore little to no resemblance to kidnapping, promise.
While the concept of hiking appeals greatly to us and it was nice to be able to explore and stretch our legs, I’ll be the first to admit that we were more than slightly underprepared. I had packed a picnic for us along with a huge bottle of water, sun hats and sunscreen – 3 house points for me. What I hadn’t anticipated was the urgent need for bug spray, the total lack of cell service and the concept of distance in its entirety.
We walked a long way. And this comes from a couple who like to walk. We also ended up doing the majority of this walking in the middle of the day, when the sun is the highest and the temperature is the hottest. We got lost on numerous occasions and had to sprint through long grass trying to ignore what terrifying amphibians could be hidden under our feet. Despite our experience of walking in the New Forest or strolling round Hyde Park, we were not ready for this. At all.
I also helpfully remembered halfway round that parks here in the USA have things that can kill you in them, like bears and snakes, and I had no idea if this park housed such creatures (I have since been informed that it did not). Schools in the UK simply don’t teach you enough about how to deal with bears. Do you play dead, or make yourself large and intimidating? We concluded that if we encountered a brown, black or grizzly, it was every man/woman for themselves and then shook on the fact that we could use whoever proved themselves the weaker as a human shield.
As luck would have it, we didn’t come across anything that could kill us, but we really did see some amazing things, like real life cowboys, scenic vistas and other, safer animals.
As for the geocache, when you get close enough more details appear describing what it is you are looking for. Some will be large boxes with a gift inside for the first finder. Others, like ours, will be as tiny as a film canister, leaving you in a state of utter despair, wondering why you just trekked for 2 hours in 80 degree heat to probably go home empty handed.
It’s worth mentioning that we did this the morning after a huge storm, meaning the cache could have been displaced. The coordinates also only take you as far as a 30 foot radius from the cache, so after that you’re on your own, digging around in the undergrowth for the proverbial needle in the haystack. Finally, we were in a wild state park, not a neat and tidy yard or concrete jungle. Things were overgrown, to say the least.
We looked for a good 10 minutes, defeat creeping closer with every second that passed. As this was my idea I began to feel slightly disheartened that I had dragged Tom across a state border in search of absolutely nothing. But just then, we changed tack and I head a gasp – we had found the cache and we were nothing less than true champions of exploration and kings of geocaching adventure.
Sadly, this cache didn’t include a prize, but that didn’t take away from the total euphoria we felt from locating it after our hours of sweaty trudging. Inside the canister was a logbook to record those winners that had found the cache, although this one was BYOP (that’s adventurer talk for ‘bring your own pen’ for the novices among you) so we weren’t able to document our success. However, on the app you can leave notes for other ‘cachers so our efforts weren’t totally in vain.
So there you have it, our first foray into geocaching and definitely not our last. It was a steep learning curve, but a fun way to get active and add a little something more to your hike than just hiking.
If you’re thinking of trying it, my recommendations would be to pack appropriately (think water, sunscreen, snacks etc.), not to go too ambitious if you’re a first-timer trekker and finally never give up! It may not seem that exhilarating, but I was surprised at how exciting finding that little canister was.
Have you tried geocaching already? Got a question not answered here? Drop me a note in the comments below.