Note: This post was originally published on my geocaching blog, 26 March 2011.
Last night I discovered two things: first, I had found a cache beginning with every letter of the alphabet except “X”; second, there was a cache beginning with X a little over five miles from my house.
Why is this important? Because an avid cacher (an understatement!) placed a cache called Geocaching from A to Z that requires one to list twenty-six caches, each beginning with a separate letter of the alphabet. A picture of one’s handle for the post is also required. In the careers of local geocachers, this is a nice landmark cache to secure.
After collecting my thoughts this morning, I set off after the X cache. I hoped to find it, but I also anticipated spending a long tome searching for it, too long to be able to then go after the Geocaching from A to Z cache. I found myself turning into a service road for an office park, one that seemed eerily quiet. The cache site loomed suddenly on my right, an old graveyard languishing in the shadow of empty office buildings. Both graveyard and office complex were wastelands, eerie in the chill, windy morning. I set off after my GPSr compass needle, trotting a little more quickly than I needed to stay warm in the face of the suddenly bitter wind. As I passed an old outhouse in the fringe of the woods, I suppressed a shiver.
Ground zero proved to be an open area in the woods, one strewn with discarded, sun-faded flowers from graveside bouquets, countless blocks of styrofoam from long-dead real bouquets, and fragments of shattered vases that had once watched silently over the same stones. Did I mention this was a rather eerie place?
The cache was a micro, hidden somewhere in these woods among the discarded flowers and twisted trunks of fallen trees. Rusted barbed wire grew through the center of a tree, and I wondered how long ago the graveyard was on family property or behind a long since razed church. Shrugging off these thoughts, I pursued my search on hand and knees, peering under weathered limbs, poking in holes among roots, dusting aside dead leaves. For ten minutes my search was in vain, then my eye happened to fall upon one place the size of a quarter that had a texture incongruous to its surroundings. Elated, I reached out and discovered I had, in fact, found the cache. Chance had led me to this particular spot: I came around an obstacle and my eye fell to just the right spot, but this did not dampen my enthusiasm. On this morning, where others had tried and failed, at times even in groups, I had made a find without reaching for my phone to call a friend for help. X was logged.
To my delight, I found myself behind the wheel of my truck, now bound for Geocaching from A to Z. In something of a daze I drove through a neighboring city whose streets and buildings seemed different to me on this morning. I found myself blindly following the voice of Mandy, my truck’s GPSr voice. “Ahead, turn left,” she would intone, and I raised my eyes to see where I was heading. After forty-five minutes, the city suddenly disappeared from my view and I found myself in the country. Moments later, crossing a lake, I found my parking spot. Grabbing my geocaching pack and my handheld GPSr, I plunged into the underbrush on the far side of the road. I paused on the ridge above a lake. Below me the ground fell away into a rocky ravine; still further down and away from me, closer to the shore of the lake, a mud-packed trail snaked through the woods. For a cacher for relishes escaping into the woods, this was heaven!
Scrambling down the rocks, my trekking poles in hand but frankly forgotten in the excitement, I looked about me. The cache owner’s coordinates were dead on. I spotted the cache, hidden but still visible. My attention turned briefly to a film canister nearby. Opening it, I smiled at the hint that suggested I was in close proximity to the cache. Indeed.
I waited for a moment, almost hesitant to open the cache and log it.
This successful find more or less marked two years of geocaching for me. I vividly remembered my first cache, so many days before. I remembered caching with my parents, who–in their late seventies–were game for the hike if a little slower than my young son, who was leading us wherever his heart took him. I remembered night caching in rain and cold, milling about elsewhere to wait for muggles to clear before making a find. Weeks-long hunts for multi-caches. My first travel bug find. The first travel bug I ever sent out (last found, 3232.6 miles later, in Yuma, Arizona). I reached down and pulled the cache free.
Part of the logging requirement was to create a foam-block version of my geocaching handle, which I accomplished in a little more time than I thought it would take. I didn’t mind, though. The log book was a beautiful, hardbound diary–not your usual geocache logbook! I savored the experience of signing it.
Later, in the comfort of my home, I savored the memory of all of my caches as I created the requisite A to Z list of aches. I chose those that were memorable, that had personal meaning, that evoked a feeling of accomplishment in me. The cache owner had really created a gift for the geocaching community with this one. Everyone should be asked to pause and reflect from time to time. Thanks, RF!