Geocaching is a real-world outdoor treasure hunting game where players use a GPS device or smart phone to try to locate hidden containers called geocaches. It’s kind of like playing Call of Duty only you hunt objects, not people, and there aren’t any flashbacks to the Bay of Pigs Invasion, only to other unwelcome invasions.
Geocaching is a great way to break loose from more conventional forms of suburban entertainment like eating frosting from a can while watching Cupcake Wars.
My family’s first geocaching experience was both fun and terrifying. We dodged wild animals, narrowly avoided tree branches, and screamed with fright —and that was just the drive there with our new teenage driver behind the wheel.
The bigger adventure began once we hit the trail, after we recovered from the drive and my husband, Chris, un-muzzled my mouth with his hand.
Having already logged onto www.goeocaching.com (the official goecaching website) and selected some caches to find in a local wildlife reservation, we began our quest by appointing a leader.
We decided on Chris, because he is mature, patient, and held the car keys.
It was dusk as Chris led us down a rocky hillside where we clawed our way through pricker bushes, climbed over wooden fences and jumped over streams until we reached a clearing that served as a good resting stop (and by the looks of the potted mums and swing-set, someone’s backyard.)
“This way,” Chris circled left. “No, this way,” Chris circled right. He seemed to be navigating his own shadow.
We snaked our way deeper into the woods and stumbled upon something unexpected— a middle aged couple sitting at a table draped with a white tablecloth, enjoying a romantic candle light dinner over wine and Subway sandwiches.
They seemed equally surprised to be met by five muddy heathens and their pet dog.
One spoiled romantic mood later, we left the interrupted couple and forged ahead.
“Didn’t that look romantic, honey?” I asked my husband.
“It looked like a Viagra commercial,” he answered.
We continued our search, though we had no idea what we were looking for. We pulled up rocks, tree roots, and one of my daughter’s brand new $75.00 suede boots that had been swallowed by a mud pit.
Finally, after what felt like endless searching, someone announced a discovery.
We darted about in a panic, trying to untangle our feet from threatening, red vines. It was by accident that we stumbled upon a tree hallow that contained the hidden treasure. “I found it!” my son exclaimed.
He reached in and pulled out a Tupperware container masked with camouflage tape. We huddled in excitement as he pried open the lid to reveal: a 1987 quarter, a paper clip, two plastic trinkets, and a rubber band.
I expected to hear cries of disappointment. Instead, my children examined the items as carefully as if they were relics from the tomb of Tutankhamun.
The value of the treasure was less than a Mc Donald’s Happy Meal, but the kids reveled in their success.
We signed “The 5 Amigos” in the container’s soggy logbook and placed the contents back in the container for future generations of geocachers to rediscover.
But the adventure didn’t end there.
Shortly after returning home, a series of screams erupted throughout the house, each accompanied by the word “tick.”
I pulled the first one off my husband. The next three I extracted from my kids.
After checking my entire family and the dog I ran to the bathroom to check myself. I removed my pants and immediately found a tick clinging to my inner calf. I tweezed it and threw it in the toilet, all the while cursing geocaching.
I conducted an entire self strip-search but couldn’t check my own back.
“Chris!” I called out.
My husband entered the bathroom. He eyed my pants on the floor and raised an eyebrow.
“Just check my back for ticks!” I commanded.
“I don’t see anyth . . . wait, I see one . . .”
“What are you doing?”
“I’m trying to dig out this tick!”
I turned my back to the mirror. “That’s a mole!”
“Sorry, it’s hard to tell—you have so many.”
“Just keep looking!”
I felt another painful pinch. “Ouch!” I jerked free from his grip. “What the heck?”
“I found one,” he said, pointing to my left shoulder blade.
“That’s a skin tag!”
“It’s like a land mine back here!”
“Never mind. I’ll check myself. You go check the dog again—and be sure you don’t pull off her nipples.”
We continued to find ticks for days. As for the geocaching, we haven’t gone since. The sport may have been fun, but it came at one expensive pair of boots and one traumatic tick invasion.
Instead of geocaching, the next time I want an adventure I think I’ll let my daughter practice parallel parking . . .
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