By Nicole Hennessy
Unfurling a piece of paper rolled up in a small black canister hidden inside a flagpole, I sign my geocaching name, SinCity1.
I’m muddy and allergic to the budding trees producing pollen, and if it weren’t for our new friends — eagle4mom, Grgrma and Grgrpa — my boyfriend, Mike, and I would still be scouring various wooded areas for out-of-place objects.
Luckily, while nosing around a huge well in Fairview Park’s Bain Park, unsuccessfully searching for a “cache,” eagle4mom asked me, “Are you a geocacher?”
41° 24.564 N, 81° 53.036 W
Initially, Mike and I headed to the Rocky River Nature Center.
Having mapped out the coordinates 41° 24.564 N, 81° 53.036 W, we circled the general vicinity of the Woodland Loop Trail, looking, for about an hour, for signs of the cache.
Later, I learned this is a three-part hunt, during which a poem is assembled, providing the last clue. Having failed to glean that information from the post, which clearly states this, I searched. And searched.
“Hey!” I yelled, at one point. “I think I found it!” But walking toward the object, which was obscured by leaves, I realized it was just a green bottle.
Despite frustration turning to excitement then back to frustration, it is nice to slow down and notice the 70-degree spring scenery.
Everywhere, little yellow flowers bloom. And a beautiful gnarled tree, sitting at the edge of a cliff, bares its branches, anticipating leaves. Finally, abandoning the Woodland Loop, we headed toward Fort Hill where, just off of the bike path, there is an earth cache.
Again, I later learned we had found it without realizing it. The scenery is the cache, that along with the geological information provided by Arby Gee, who posted the coordinates and the information about the “Cleveland shale” the hillside is composed of.
This is an important part of geocaching — learning about and going to areas you wouldn’t normally go.
Hungry and tired, we decided to get some lunch, at which point I suggested we go to Bain Park, figuring it is much smaller, thus more promising of success.
“But in every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks,” I thought, remembering the John Muir quote written on a rock outside of the Nature Center.
Also known as Christie Kort, eagle4mom and her parents, Grgrpa and Grgrma, or Len and Anita Lumsden, have been geocaching for almost a year now, eagle4mom having found 912 caches.
Had we not realized our mutual purpose for gazing down at a shallow well filled with garbage, we may have smiled and said hello; now we are working toward a common goal.
“It’s three feet from me,” Grgrma says, looking down at her GPS.
Still, checking for loose rocks or holes in which something could be hidden, none of us are able to figure it out.
This, as eagle4mom points out, could be due to “muggles” — passersby or hangersaround who may potentially destroy or otherwise interfere with a cache.
Titled “Oh Well,” the post on Geocaching.com categorizes this as a “micro cache,” which means it contains only a log sheet to sign. Other caches contain trinkets you can keep as long as you replace them with items of equal or greater value. One of the items I chose to bring along is a Sir Winston Churchill coin that on the back reads, “Without victory there is no survival.”
Unable to make any progress, I start to feel defeated. That’s when eagle4mom offers to show us a cache she knows of nearby.
In the minivan she and her parents are traveling in, she shows us plastic bags full of trinkets earned, googly eyes, smiley face stickers and “trackables” — items geocachers hide, tracking their movements and providing specific directions to get them to a desired destination.
After driving a short distance, eagle4mom enters coordinates into her GPS and hands it to Mike. Then she reads the cache’s instructions to us and Grgrpa, who hasn’t done this one either.
“’I was listening to REM on the way over to this area and “Man on the Moon” was playing when I arrived, so I named this cache that,’” she reads, the sun just hours away from setting.
“That got me thinking that it has been four decades this July since man first set foot on the moon. July of 1969 … I remember everybody glued to their TV sets that night and everybody being outside looking up at the moon with binoculars or telescopes trying to see Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon. Where were you that night of July 20, 1969? One small cache for man …”
We find the general vicinity in which the cache is hidden pretty easily, and after fumbling around for a few minutes, Grgrpa steps back, adjusting his vantage point, while Mike and I continue lifting bricks, revealing a vibrant community of worms.
When Grgrpa walks back toward ground zero, as a cache’s exact location is often referred to, I get the feeling he’s figured it out, but doesn’t quite know how to execute the puzzle this cache has turned out to be. Soon eagle4mom intervenes, solving it for us as we smile in amazement.
Grgrpa, having signed the log sheet, hands it to me. I pause. I don’t have a geocaching name.
“How about Sin City?” Grgrma suggests, pointing out that’s what my T-shirt says.
So I sign “SinCity,” not realizing a 1 will eventually be added, and then I hand the log sheet to Mike.
For about a half hour, we stand around talking, Mike and I listening to stories of adventure. Stories of caches hidden in cracks in the middle of intersections and in 5-gallon pails in hollowed-out logs.
Children play nearby, oblivious to the fact that they’re muggles.
“What are you guys doing?” a little boy asks us.
“Just talking,” I say.
“Are you on a scavenger hunt?” another kid ventures, going back to playing before we can answer.
WHAT IS GEOCACHING SIDEBAR:
What is geocaching?
Geocaching is a treasure hunt for adults. It started in 2000, and is now an international activity. All you need is a GPS navigator and a free or paid geocaching.com account. In Ohio alone, there are more than 23,000 “caches” to find, with that number growing each day.