Caching in: Who are these people and why are they skulking about in the underbrush?

Posted on April 18, 2008

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All over the township odd treasures are hidden in canning jars and Tupperware containers, awaiting discovery by an intrepid tribe of searchers. Finding these secret stashes is fun, but as in so much of life, the search itself is the main prize. It’s called geocaching, and this week Rob the Firefighter accompanied Miss Sadie, the Cowboy and me on a couple of expeditions.

Geocaching is sort of a high-tech treasure hunt.  The pirate crew hides the swag in a weatherproof container in a publicly accessible place and makes a map where “X marks the spot” is replaced with geographical coordinates, like “N 45° 04.657 W 085° 22.072.”  Searchers use their GPS units – the clever little gizmos that tell you exactly where you’re lost in relation to the entire earth – to get to the spot where the treasure is hidden.  Depending on how nifty your GPS unit is, the coordinates will take you to within a few feet of the cache.  Then you have to use your ingenuity (and sometimes a few provided clues) to figure out exactly where it’s hidden.

You never know what you’ll find in a cache.  Petoskey stones, plastic figurines, lapel pins, laminated “cache cards” (business cards with trail names instead of real names).  There’s usually a little pad and pen where you can add your trail name and date of find, plus comments, like “I didn’t know this place existed – thank you for bringing me here” or “Beautiful spot – big mosquitoes!”  The idea is that you will take a memento and leave another for someone else to find. Some caches are “virtual” ones, where the point is to find and photograph an obscure landmark.

Whether you find the cache or not, you’re sure to explore a beautiful or intriguing place. We had a good time wandering in the woods at the Antrim Creek Natural Area and at the Torch Bay Nature Preserve, finding one cache but not the other. It didn’t really matter. We enjoyed the weather and the views. (Oh who am I kidding – it was fun finding the one cache, and I’m going back after the other until I unearth it!)

If this sounds like something you’d like to do, you can find out lots and lots about it at The Official Global GPS Cache Hunt Site.  Here’s a list of caches in or near Torch Lake Township

I have a brand new GPS unit of my very own, and I’m figuring out where to hide a cache. I have a little red-lidded box all ready, with an irresistible collection of stuff inside. A turkey call. An English pence. A hockey lapel pin. Even a wizard. Stay tuned!

Note: I was bitten by this bug a year or two ago when the Listening to the River project was getting started.  The program for that sunny winter day was a family hike along the Boardman, where caches were hidden near the trail.  Besides the cool treasures, each cache had a note suggesting what searchers could look at or listen for at that spot, and a journal where people could jot down their own observations.  It was peaceful and lovely.  Little kids loved it, and so did this big kid.  I saw an otter and some ducks – and left one of my YakTrax.  LTR is a great program, and I’m glad they let me play with their loaner GPS unit!