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December 02, 2016
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Geocaching: the hunt for cache

Geocacher Chris Mackey acted as guide for the author’s first geocaching experience. Mackey and another acclaimed geocacher in the Northeast have found and stashed thousands of caches.
Photos by Billy Templeton

Our second cache was much more difficult to find than the first. Even with coordinates, caches are often cleverly hidden and tricky to find, and take a bit of poking and scrambling to uncover. Without Chris, I would never have thought to climb on top of a boulder so that I could reach over the trail, where the cache was hidden in a small nook of the rock wall. According to Mackey, some caches are hidden at the top of tall trees, some require repelling gear, and some are accessible only by boat or helicopter. Geocaches can be found on every continent in the world. Yes, even Antarctica.

A bit of bushwhacking was required to reach the next treasure. Mackey guided us to the spot as the crow flies using his GPS, and we reached the location after a short jaunt, where we discovered “Charlie’s Shoe Tie Cache.” The description inside explained that this was a cache made by kids, for kids, to commemorate the location where a young boy learned to tie his shoe. Charlie’s small, camouflaged container housed a few small toys and a sign-in log. The idea is that, one day, he can show his own kids where he finally learned to tie his shoe. In this way, caches often serve as a tribute to historical places, people or events, as well as to small but significant personal memories.

As we uncovered the “treasures” found in these quiet, waiting caches, from exquisitely designed coins to bouncy balls and figurines, I realized that the essence and value of geocaching has little to do with the swag found inside them. True, while Chris’s geo-coins are works of art and have value in their own right, and the toys and even money some geocachers leave behind can be a real thrill to find, the real value of geocaching is the experience itself. Alive and well in cities as well as the wilderness, geocaching is a great way to enjoy nature or one’s neighborhood with hyper-attentiveness and purpose and is, perhaps, an ideal activity for families with children.

Emerging from the woods and trails with recovered objects in tow, one leaves feeling an asynchronous connection with the person who left the last personal artifact, even though you’ll likely never meet. Above all, geocaching fosters a “giving” community that relishes the idea of sharing a special moment or place with likeminded individuals.