Hawk Headlines Goes Geocaching

 

Video Credit: Alyssa Varesio

A small black box concealed in the trunk of a tree may go unnoticed by a normal passerby, but, for geocachers around the world, it means adventure.

Geocaching derives it’s name from the roots “GEO” meaning geography and “CACHE” referring to a hiding place. This recreational activity is widely known as “the world’s largest treasure hunt” and is enjoyed by over 6 million geocachers around the world according to geocaching.com.

A geocache is simply a container hidden in a desired location. A geocacher must then use the provided coordinates to find the geocache.

Once the user is given the coordinates of the geocache, he/she can use a GPS or the Geocaching App to locate it.

Geocachers can participate in this geocaching phenomenon by creating a free account on geocaching.com which allows the user to locate geocaches in their area and also to log their finds into the online logbook.  Users also have the opportunity to hide their own geocaches by using the “Guide to Hiding a Cache” and “Geocache Listing Guidelines” provided by geocaching.com.

And anyone can geocache; all you need is a GPS–or a GPS app for android or iPhone (yes, there’s an app for that)–and a desire for exploration and fun.  Since this reporter has all of these tools, I and fellow geocache-rookie, Alyssa Varesio, decided to test our skills in the uncharted wilds of Mattheis Park one lovely morning.

Armed with nothing more than an iPhone 5s, a sense of adventure, and permission to leave campus, our eager hands pushed against the heavy front glass doors of Woodland as we embarked on our journey to Mattheis Park.

Upon passing through the park gates where cars are no longer permitted, we were immediately confronted with the eery stillness of the quiet wood, quite different from the rambunctious hallways we had just left behind.

Staring down at the phone to guide us, we were nothing but a blue pulsing dot drifting slowly toward a tiny red pin which, not unlike a pirate’s map marked with an “x”,  a small treasure awaited our discovery.

The earth below our soles crunched and crackled, while a canopy of changing foliage pelted us with its acorns and falling leaves. We traveled down a paved path until we reached a dead end. Quickly, we consulted the digital compass; it pointed off the trail to the right. It was time to blaze a new trail, to bushwhack through uncharted territory.

We headed off the path and into the crowded forest. Ducking under low-hanging branches and cautiously stepping over small plants, we reached a small clearing that revealed remnants of an abandoned campsite, untouched and encircled by century-old oaks. Our hearts raced as we turned and noticed a wire-twisted burlap sack only a short distance away. It was like the scene from a movie, the one right before the murderer jumps out from behind the brush. Suddenly geocaching did not seem like such a great idea.  Exciting, perhaps. Scary, a bit.

Glancing in all directions and cautiously questioning our next move, we decided to make a phone call to report our location. Sparked with reassurance and the drive to move forward, we threw caution to the wind and braved several steps farther into the woods.

Within a few hundred feet of pushing through underbrush, the pulsing blue dot and the red pin on the phone’s screen became one, signifying that we have reached our destination.  It takes a while to search the woods for clues since a GPS is usually accurate to 10-30 feet. After a few minutes of hunting, we noticed a camouflage ammunition-box peeking from behind a rotted stump.

We gingerly removed the box from its resting place and began to examine the contents: a roll of toilet paper, a bracelet, a brochure, several other trinkets and the official GeoCaching logbook. Writing our names in the logbook solidified our place in the annals of geocaching history.

We were official geocachers, adventurers, explorers of the unknown.  And only a little late for third block math.