Discovering Life Outside My Door: Geocaching
Oh mountain trail, you have stolen my heart; my thoughts and my desires.
When I'm near you my worries cease.
I forget about tomorrow with only thoughts of today,
And with that, dear friend, I'm at peace.
This is the first post of a three part series.
Taking time to reflect back on a summer that is fading fast, it doesn't take me long to realize that a transition has occurred in my life. And to what do I owe this transition? Geocaching, of course. Yet, for me to say it was only geocaching would be short sighted, however; it was definitely the springboard into a much broader array of outdoor activities that has got me outside of my front door. Let me attempt to explain this evolution of processes.
(Note: Picture may or may not actually represent what the author looks like.)
I wouldn't exactly consider myself as a couch potato, but there has been times in my life that I've preferred the warm confines of my recliner and living room to that of a life lived outdoors. Raising two boys hasn't always allowed me to be couped up in the house for too long (some of you know what I'm talking about), for there always seemed to be a baseball game or band competition to attend. If that wasn't the case, I definitely preferred to just kick back in front of the TV with the remote control and a tall glass of ice tea (chips and dip too while watching football!). And while I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, most things can be if not moderated. That seemed to be my life outside of my children's activities and not much else.
Another hobby of mine has always been surfing the web and it was during one of those times when I discovered geocaching. I can't exactly pinpoint how I came across it, but I believe it was through a YouTube video. After watching the video, I started doing a little bit of research and it looked very interesting to me. From that point on, I started asking some of my friends if they'd ever heard of it. Not surprising, I couldn't find one single person that knew what I was talking about. Oh well, I was off to explore this new adventure on my own. I guess the next step that transpired was one which led me to the geocaching.com website. And probably like many others, I created a free account and started looking around. Not long afterward, I became a premium member and purchased a GPS (Magellan Explorist GC), supposedly designed for geocaching. I still use that GPS today in conjunction with my geocaching iPhone app.
Magellan Explorist GC
It didn't take me too long to figure out how to search for geocache listings and I can still remember the first one my wife and I set off to find. The geocache name is "Centerfield" (GC2FHZZ), and it is located less than a mile from my house. I will note that the hardest thing about finding the cache was the learning curve associated with using my handheld GPS. It was nothing like my car's TomTom! When we did find the cache, however; my wife and I were hooked! Now, 101 finds later with two hides, we are still hooked!
The thing that we learned right away about geocaching is that it forced us to get out of the house and do something together. While my wife has always been supportive of "getting out", I'm sure that I've tested her patience more than once by not being willing to do so. My idea of being outdoors would have been watching "The Outdoor Channel" on the tv! Even so, I can honestly say that I felt my prior lifestyle fading away fast, and I'm glad for it. Geocaching was starting to become an obsession, and to borrow an old saying from the 80's, "it was on like Donkey Kong"!
"It's on like Donkey Kong!"
A unique challenge that we came across early was our Georgia State Parks Geo-Challenge. I thought that it was great that our state park system would sponsor such an event and we quickly started gathering facts as to what we were to do. Simply put, over 43 of our parks sponsor a cache. Each cache is located somewhere on a trail throughout the park and contains an ink pad and stamp. Once the cache is located, you simply stamp the applicable state park box on the Geo-Challenge form (it is either downloaded or picked up at any state park). Once you have retrieved 15 state park stamps and your form is verified by a state park employee/ranger, a form is mailed in and within a few days, you receive a bronze geocoin! A silver coin is rewarded for 30 finds, and then you can get the gold at 40 finds. To date, we have recorded finds in 30 of our state parks and have both the bronze and silver coins. We hope to complete the challenge in the next few months.
(Our 15th Ga. State Park Geocache find at Victoria Bryant State Park)
(Our 30th Ga. State Park Geocache find at Hard Labor Creek State Park)
Look for part two of this post within the next few days, entitled "Discovering Life Outside My Door: Hiking and Camping".