Modern Day Treasure Hunters

I know. I’ve been a total slacker about doing a StellarCon 36 blog post. For that matter, I was a total slacker about doing a blog post that I was scheduled to be a guest at SC36. Sorry. I promise to make it up to you. For now, suffice it to say I had a fantastic time and got to be on panels with a lot of great folks.


John Kovalic, me, and Chad at StellarCon 36

Like these two guys. Yeah, one is Chad. But can you name the other? Hint: he's a famous artist (and an incredibly nice guy!).

One of them was fellow horror writer Stephen Mark Rainey (and, no, that’s not him in the picture above. Nice try. Guess again.), who talked a bit about geocaching during our Horror through the Ages panel (which quickly devolved into a “spiders are scary little buggers and none of us like them at all” panel). Chad has wanted to try geocaching for a little over five years. I even got him a GPS as a gift one year, but for some reason or other we never actually went out and did any geocaching. But after chatting with Mark about it, Chad and I decided to give it a go.

We didn’t have anything going on Sunday afternoon, so Chad found a listing for a nearby beginner’s level cache called Fourth. We dusted off the GPS and hit the road. Following the coordinates, the cache’s name made sense as soon as we got near the main site. We found a place to park and started walking all around the place, eyes glued to the GPS.

Now, Chad can attest that I don’t have a bad sense of direction — I have no sense of direction. Ask me which way to turn at a stoplight and unless you’ve given me printed directions to read from, I will invariably pick the wrong way. But after a while I started to get the hang of the GPS. Unfortunately, it led us to the middle of what looked like a recently cleared copse of trees. The geocache’s hint suggested we’d find it on, in, or near a tree, but all we saw was a swath of recently turned dirt covered in straw and piles of chopped up tree branches and roots. We walked the treeline at the edge of the cleared section anyway, looking around and poking under anything that looked promising (and drawing more than a few curious stares from nearby folks), but after a half hour or so we had to accept that either we were completely missing the cache or it had gone walkabout.

A recently cleared field

I'm sure there used to be trees here...

Chad pulled up a listing for another nearby cache called Kernersville Courtyard Cache (yay for smartphones!). By the name alone we had a pretty good idea where we’d be heading, and we weren’t disappointed. The Kernersville courtyard is one of my favorite spots in town. When the weather’s nice, I love to go there to write.

Sadly, though, we had no more luck finding the cache there that we did at Fourth. And, believe me, we looked! Under bushes, inside wall hangings and planters, in storm drains, even under a footbridge (which I did crawl most of the way under, but let Chad dig around in the only hole we found under it. I’m getting braver, but I’m not that brave yet!).

By then I was getting pretty frustrated. I’d been live-tweeting our adventure, and at that pointed tweeted that geocaching is a lot like an Easter egg hunt for adults, only you don’t know if the eggs are still there or not. I knew if we could just find one cache, we’d be hooked. That’s why we’d picked beginner level caches. Well, that and Mark’s talk of belly crawling through low sewers filled with massive spider nests was a bit more than my phobia-riddled brain could handle.

Still, Chad and I decided to try one more cache before packing it in for the day and heading home to feed the cats.(Because when you have six of them, you do not show up late for dinner!) So I fired off a quick tweet that hopefully the third time would be the charm and we hit the road looking for I Can Stop Anytime.

And not two minutes after we parked the car at the coordinates, we found this:

A plastic jug of items in a tree

Woo hoo! First find!

Chad tried to squeeze through the trees to get to the cache, but it was a tight — and low — fit, so in the end I did it. It reminded me of when I used to go walking through the woods as a kid, ducking under and around branches to follow a trail that wasn’t really there.

I was pretty excited when I got back out with the cache, so we dumped everything out and spent a few minutes looking at all the things in it. A Lisa Simpson toy, some traveling coins, some other little knickknacks. Then we signed the log, I played contortionist again to put the cache back where we found it, and we headed back to the car.

Oh, yeah, that was fun! 🙂

So much, in fact, that we went out again after work yesterday to look for a cache about a half mile or so from our house. It’s near one of the routes we take when we go walking, so we figured why not? If nothing else it’d be good exercise. This one was called The Tudors: Katherine Howard, and unfortunately we didn’t find it, although we did find the main site. Apparently it’s supposed to be a quick park & grab, but apparently it’s also got a habit of wandering off. We gave the site a pretty thorough search for about a half hour, but no dice. Since it’s walking distance from home, we’ll try it again another time, maybe after someone else posts that they found it, just so we know we aren’t searching in vain.

Since we still had plenty of daylight and it was nearby, we decided to try finding a geocache called This Little Light of Mine before heading back to the house. We took the long way around, since we were on foot and not in a car, but eventually we found ourselves at the site. I was still orienting myself with the GPS when Chad said, “Look.” And there, hanging from a tree a couple of feet away, was the cache.

A flashlight on a rope and caribiner hanging from a tree

This is tricksier than it looks.

What this picture doesn’t show is that the cache was pretty far up in the tree. We had a devil of a time getting it down. And an even harder time getting it back up there. In fact, I earned my first geocaching battle scars on that one. Tossing the cache back up wasn’t working, so I tried climbing up the tree. Yeah, I should have known better. Even when I was a kid I couldn’t climb trees. My foot slipped down between the two trunks, and both it and my leg got wedged in pretty good. For a minute I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life as a hamadryad — or at least suffer the embarrassment of having to be cut out — but it was a young enough tree that Chad was able to pull the trunks apart enough that I could slip out. I could already feel the bruises forming on my thigh, but it wasn’t even bad enough that I couldn’t manage the three-quarters of a mile walk back home. No biggie. And, hey, we found the cache, signed the log, and eventually got the cache back in place, so that’s another one for the win column!

There are a few other caches within walking distance from our house*, so as soon as I get this posted Chad and I are going to take advantage of the gorgeous weather to try to snag another one. No trees involved in this one, apparently, so I don’t have to worry about becoming a mythological woodland creature!
*For us, by the way, walking distance from the house is anything within 2 miles. That’s about what we cover when we go walking before or after work during the warm months.

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