Our geocaching adventures

Here’s another topic I should’ve written about in 2014, but didn’t: geocaching.  Amber, Andrew and I started geocaching back in June.  For those of you who may not know what geocaching is, basically we “use multi-million dollar satellites to find Tupperware in the woods.”  Wikipedia has a better description than that t-shirt slogan, and mostly we do urban caches more than the woodsy ones.  The principle is the same though: we use GPS to find containers of varying sizes in the world that other folks (a.k.a. cache owners) have hidden and posted coordinates for on the internet.

This was our first find.  The container was a Costco-style pub-mix plastic cylinder and contained a log book and several trinkets to trade.

Our first find

If you take an item from a cache, you are supposed to replace it with something of equal or greater value.  We don’t bother much with that, mainly we are in it for the find.

The caches can be quite small.  Here’s an example of a micro (a.k.a. nano) we found.  The log is a small piece of paper rolled very tightly inside.  The container is magnetic so it will stay in place when hidden.

A micro cache

Here’s a small cache that is a little more traditional, a camouflaged plastic box.  This one was what’s known as a puzzle cache.  In order to get the GPS coordinates, you have to solve a puzzle.

A puzzle cache (small)

It took us a while to decide on a team name, but logging as Amber, Michael and Andrew was a little boring, so we finally came up with our team identity: Drives with Eagles.  It’s from a day when we were driving from Seattle to an ultrasound appointment and saw an eagle flying and diving into the water of Lake Washington.  We joked that Drives with Eagles would be Andrew’s Native American name and that it was a good omen.  (My apologies if this is culturally insensitive to anyone.)

We decided a couple months before the end of the year that we were going to try to get to 100 finds by the end 2014.  I think we had something like 30 to go, but we made it.  We even took a day trip down to Portland a few days before the new year to visit this plaque and its nearby cache, the original stash tribute.

The original cache tribut plaque

We had hoped that it was going to be number 100, but it ended up being 99.  As of this writing, we are at 111 finds.

Why do we bother doing this?  I find there are several benefits.  Firstly, it gets us out and walking around more.  It also helps us explore our neighborhood and cities.  We have found so many parks around Redmond that we had no idea existed since we started doing this – many within walking distance of our house.  Similarly, it is a fun activity to do to explore an area while on vacation.  We did several caches on a visit to San Diego last June, including our first puzzle cache.  It’s a relatively inexpensive hobby.  You don’t even need a GPS – we just use apps on our phones.  We do have a premium membership to www.geocaching.com, but there are actually free sites that provide similar services.

Most importantly, though, it’s fun!

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