This week, I decided to try my hand at geocaching, an activity that I was first introduced to by my in-laws, who are keen proponents of the sport.
The aim of geocaching is to find caches, which are hidden in locations all over the world, and at least one in space. Caches are typically waterproof containers (such as tupperware or ammunition boxes) containing log books, and occasionally trade items. Each cache is marked by a set of GPS coordinates. So basically geocaching is treasure hunting with the benefit of a GPS tracker.
Sadly, unlike the Goonies, geocachers’ don’t get to keep their treasure once they find it.
Instead they get to leave a message in the log book, and record it as ‘found’. (Incidentally, if you are a geocacher who was directed to this website via a message that I left in a log book, hello!)
Now if you’re really keen, you can buy proper geocache GPS systems for upwards of $100. Given that this was my first foray into geocaching (and that I’m cheap), I decided instead to opt for one of the free geocaching apps available to iPhone users.
With the app downloaded, I decided to test out my new toy by taking my husband and the dog for a walk down to Granville Island, where the app told me there were four caches to be found; False Creek #2, Samantha & Braden’s Wedding Cache, Emily Carr/Lame Joke, and Island Oasis.
We purposefully strode across the park at the entrance to Granville Island in the direction of the first cache. Very soon my phone vibrated, and the app informed me that we were a mere 30 metres from the first cache, False Creek #2.
“Keep your eyes peeled,” I instructed the dog as she strained fretfully against the lead, seemingly determined to sniff at something slightly too far in front of her nose. We were by a stretch of water, with a numerous buildings and other structures that could act as a potential hiding place. I tried to imagine that I was hiding something, and where I might put it. ‘Become one with the cache maker’, I told myself. ‘Put yourself in their shoes’. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a neon yellow piece of plastic sheeting dangling discretely under a bridge.
“There it is,” I pointed excitedly. My husband turned away from the bush he had been inspecting and joined me. It was evident that one of us was going to have to crawl through the dirt to reach it.
“Are you sure? It just looks like a piece of plastic to me,” my husband said doubtfully.
“Positive. The app said the cache was in a waterproof container. That yellow thing must be a bag.”
“Well I’m not getting it,” he snorted.
Sighing, I handed him my handbag and the dog, and resolutely rolled up my sleeves. Only to roll them back down seconds later because, well, I was about to crawl under a bridge. The minute I went out of eyesight, the dog, unhappy about the length of time we’d spent in one spot when there was a whole park just waiting to be peed on, started barking frantically. I popped my head out momentarily to reassure her, then went back in. More barking. I gritted my teeth and kept going. Then I stopped. It was getting awfully close in there. In fact I might need to wriggle along the ground to reach the bag, which looked further away than ever. The sound of people walking overhead echoed painfully around me, and I started to feel a familiar tightening of the chest. What if I got trapped under there? Or if the bridge collapsed on top of me? I backed out hurriedly before the inevitable happened and I suffocated.
I’m not good with enclosed spaces.
Seeing me forlornly hovering on the edge of the bridge, looking longingly at the cache that was forever outside my reach, my husband relented and handed the dog over to me. Anxiously we watched as he disappeared into the gloom, but he crawled out moments later with a piece of yellow fabric in one hand and a shiny quarter in the other. No cache though, as I had in fact sent him in completely the wrong direction. I apologised for sending him on a wild goose chase, but he seemed quite content at being twenty five cents richer.
About five minutes later we found the actual cache, and added our names to the log book whilst the dog looked on, suitably disgusted that the box we’d been looking so hard for didn’t yield any treats. Time to move onto the next cache.
When people register a cache on the app, they add a descriptions to explain a bit about why they are placing the cache, list places of interest close to the cache, and aid the geocacher in finding it. The next cache was Samantha & Braden’s Wedding Cache, and its backstory was rather sweet;
This cache was easy to find, and only took us a couple of minutes to locate. Although not before my husband had found his second quarter. Fifty cents up and counting.
Next Emily Carr/Lame Joke. This one was billed as a magnetic nano-cache, i.e. something small. Try as we might, we couldn’t locate it. The app had warned us this might happen, as caches are frequently stolen, broken, or mistaken for rubbish and thrown away. However it could not prepare me for the sheer frustration I felt at not being able to find the damn thing. Then, to our chagrin, the dog decided this was the perfect time to misbehave. Perhaps she just picked up on my frustration, or maybe she thought by our actions that this was a foraging site which she needed to guard, but she took it upon herself to growl at any innocent passer-by who ventured too close. Unless they also had a dog, in which case she barked herself into a hackle raising frenzy. No amount of scolding, cajoling, or tugging on the lead would stop her, and eventually we had to move on out of embarrassment. No doubt from the spring in her step, and the wag in her tail, she considered it a job well done.
On to the final cache, Island Oasis. We’d had enough of geocaching by this point, so we were pleased to find this one extremely quickly. However I can imagine that dedicated geocachers would find the directions insultingly easy, as the description basically told you exactly where to look. Regardless we logged our cache with something resembling pride and, having conquered most of the caches on Granville Island, called it a day;
VERDICT: Whilst I don’t think I would ever take up geocaching seriously, I enjoyed it as a one off, and it would certainly be a fun urban activity if you had some time to kill in a new city on a sunny day. The numerous iPhone apps available mean that it’s an activity you could do at the spur of the moment if you didn’t have a geocache GPS with you at the time, and I may even take some time one lunch break to see whether there are any geocaches near my office. It’s not, however an activity that I would take the dog on again.