I tried geocaching today. Never heard of it? Neither had I.
My sister Lizzy and her boyfriend Fred were over today. While we were hanging out, Fred asked if I’d ever heard of geocaching. Pronounced Geo (like the car) cashing (like I’m taking my check to the bank for cash). He explained that it was like a giant scavenger hunt – online. People hide things in off-the-beaten-path places, post the coordinates online and then you can look up something online, get the latitude/longitude and go find it. You can then either replace the item with a random item of your own. Sign a log indicating you located it or just have the personal satisfaction of the find.
I thought this sounded incredibly fun, and being the spontaneous crazy gal that I am, told Fred we should look one up and go get it. Never mind that Lizzy was wearing very nice clothes and I have a 2 year old and a 3 month old. Who cares about such trivial things when there are “treasures” to find. Oh, and did I mention that we didn’t have a GPS? Or a compass? And that it was getting dark?
So, Fred got online and looked up a 1/1 (1 meaning very easily placed…not buried or something like that and the second 1 meaning the terrain to get to the item was easy…not up a mountain side or in a river or some craziness) item in our area. Meanwhile, Lizzy changed and I got a backpack prepared with kiddo items (snacks for Madison, diapers, wipes etc.). We spent a few minutes attempting to load a GPS application onto my iTouch, but apparently, since I have the original version – it’s not sophisticated enough to carry a GPS tracking signal. Lame. No matter. I was sure we could make due with the sort-of-GPS on Fred’s phone.
The item we went searching for was labeled “Duck!”. And was located somewhere around the woods of a large mega-store in our general vicinity. The website had a clue written in a coded form – something like this:
Vs lbh pna ernq guvf v tvir lbh znq cebcf
Decryption Key A|B|C|D|E|F|G|H|I|J|K|L|M ------------------------- N|O|P|Q|R|S|T|U|V|W|X|Y|Z (letter above equals below, and vice versa)
Our clue was also written backwards – even once we got it decoded – we were very very confused and thought for sure the person writing the code had screwed up royally. We finally figured it out though, but the clue still made ZERO sense. So off we went into the gathering darkness with our printed coordinates, our enthusiasm and not much else!
We arrived (sort of) at our location and began trying to figure out the coordinates using Fred’s phone. Not so easy. We ended up behind the store in a pretty densely wooded area. I parked the car and (gasp) left my kiddos in it while we went to look into the woods. The website said the item was located within 15 feet of parking, so I knew I wouldn’t be far.
Just as Fred, Lizzy and I started poking our heads into the bramble and brush growing near the edge of the woods, a guy pulled up in a beater truck. If I hadn’t seen his name tag (indicating employee status at the nearby store), he would have totally freaked me out. He looked kind of creepy. He asked if there was anything he could help us with – to which I kindly let him know we were on a scavenger hunt. He warned us that those woods were “full of hypodermic needles and homeless people” – and to watch ourselves in there. I tried to shrug off his warning, but my mind hearkened back to a different time – actually probably the last time someone warned me to not play in an area. I was 14 and leading an “expedition” into some swampy woods with the siblings of my brother’s baseball team. A guy came out of his house and warned us not to walk barefoot thru the stream because people threw beer bottles in there all the time. I tossed aside his concern knowing that we’d be fine. I went 4 or 5 more steps before I felt something very sharp scissor thru the bottom of my bare foot. I ended up in the hospital that afternoon getting stitches and a tetanus shot. So, with this new warning ringing in my ears, I thought it best to maybe wait in the car with my kids while Fred and Lizzy continued our searching. Conveniently, my baby started crying just then, offering me a perfect out.
While I rocked back and forth soothing my infant, Lizzy and Fred tromped thru the undergrowth looking for the Duck!. Fred’s lame-o GPS didn’t really work in the woods, so he kept having to come back to the parking area to get his bearings. The returned glumly to the car after about 10 minutes to report the search a bust. However, in addition to no Duck!, they also saw no needles or homeless folks. This news prompted me to give it a (short) go myself, but I had the same luck as them. None.
As we drove away into the dusk with no Duck! we vowed to return to geocaching with the proper equipment and search again. I think it will be great fun to seek out the 200 or so items hidden within 5 miles of my house. Especially once I have a working GPS.
As a side note: while we were sitting on the couch together, the following conversation took place between Fred, my daughter and me:
Madison: Kiss the lamb please Fred. (she got a little stuffed lamb from Sunday school today and has been carting it around all day)
Fred: Ok. <kiss>
Madison: You kissed him.
Fred: Oh, the lamb is a he?
Madison: Yes – you’re silly Fred.
Fred: Is Donovan silly?
Me: What is Donovan?
Madison: He’s a Prince.
Me: What are you Madison?
Madison: I’m a queen!
Madison: You’re a QUEEN Fred!!
My daughter made him kiss a (boy) lamb – and then called him a queen. Poor Fred.