Thursday, July 28, 2011

Lesson 78: Cache Me if You Can

The light is back on at the Lamp Post, readers.  If you drove by and noticed that it was always on at the tippy top of my house as usual, I fooled you.  It was on a timer.  We were away for a week in the woods and I didn't really want all of cyber space to know it, so I pulled a little trick on the locals.  Sorry.  It was all in the name of safety.  I wouldn't want anyone rifling through my stuff, not that I own anything that valuable anyway. The things of greatest value in my house are the pool table and the piano, so I say in advance to a thief, "Good luck with that."

When we spend our annual week in the woods at the camp of my in laws I have to mentally prepare.  Any mother reading this blog full well knows the torturous planning involved in getting ready for any vacation when kids and pets are involved.  You need things to keep them warm and dry.  You need things to keep them nourished.  You need things to repel the biting insects.  But most of all, you need things to do--to combat the boredom that sets in after the first couple of days.

Guests took care of that for the kids this year.  A couple of sets of friends made the trip down for visits.  They had fun fishing and swimming and hiking and poking sticks in fires and crayfish catching and also geocaching.  What?  Back up a minute.  What did you say?  Geo-catching?  No---geoCASHing--that's how you pronounce it Slovenians.

Geocaching is actually what Eloise does to combat boredom.  It is a hobby some friends turned me on to in 2009, and boy did it catch me.  It is the perfect hobby for someone who likes to be outside.  I love the outdoors but my peaceful nature prohibits me from hunting and fishing for sport.  I have no problem with those who do responsibly, it just isn't for me.  I have a hard time killing a mosquito, so shooting a deer with anything other than my camera would be impossible for me.

So what is it, you are asking?  Allow Eloise to instruct--one of my favorite things to do:   Geocaching is a game that is played internationally.  It is similar to a treasure hunt.  Little hidden "caches" are placed around the world, and the coordinates and clues are left on the geocaching website  Anyone can hide them.  Anyone can seek them.  Membership is free.  All you have to do is sign up for an account and you need just a few things.  You use a GPS--a Global Positioning System--to find the treasure you want to look for.  Mine looks like this yellow one.  I got mine about 5 years
ago for my husband to use when fishing to mark his schools of fish.  I keeping with nearly every single thing I ever get for him--he never used it.  I dug it out of his fishing bag myself, figured it out, and typed in my first coordinates on a wet, dreary April day in 2009.   You obviously have a computer because you are reading this blog--so that is all you need to get started.

You can read more about the history of geocaching on the geocache webiste or the wikipedia article if I've peaked your interest.  In brief, the game began in 2000, after President Clinton allowed GPS technology for civilians.  Up until that time it was reserved for the military.  Some guy named Dave out in Oregon hid something in a bucket and logged in the coordinates, curious to see how accurate the little gem he held in his hand was.  He called his buddy who also had a GPS and told him to see if he could go find it.  Buddy did, and the game grew from there.

To find your first cache, sign up for the free geocaching account, then go to "hide and seek a cache."  I suggest you type in your home address and click, "search within 10 miles."  You will be shocked how many pop up--even in Slovenia.  When I did that, the computer told me the nearest one was 440 feet from my house.  I put on my boots and slogged through the backyard with the GPS pointing me to the area of the picnic pavilion in the park behind my house.  It brought me and the kids right to the middle of the picnic tables and it read, "Reached destination."  My kids were like, "Now what?"  I said, "Look for something."  They replied in kid like fashion, "What?!?!"  I replied in Big kid like fashion and said, "I dunno.  Just look for somethin'."  Sure enough, we found a little hide a key holder magneted to one of the posts.  We slid the key slot open to find a piece of paper.  Upon unfolding it, we found a long list of names and dates--people who had come before us and found the very same hidden treasure.  Someone had discovered it only the night before.  How cool!

After you find a cache, you can log back into your computer account and click "found."  The computer keeps track of your finds for you.  It is also good to log in and click "not found" if you got skunked.  It lets the person who took the time to hide the cache that something could be wrong with it--that the coordinates are off or some little punk stole it, which they are known to do.  I just checked my account this morning and I have 45 finds to my name, but I have found more than that.  I am not always that good about going back in to log in the finds.  That is because I really don't care about the accumulation---its the journeys that matter the most to me.  I run the race to run, so to speak--not to get the ribbon or my name posted in the paper.  The same applies for geocaching I guess.  

The above photo story set to the U2 song I Still Haven't Found What I'm Lookin' For, is a collection of photos from some of our caches.  The first ones are from this past week, and the end ones are from two years ago when we first began.  You can tell the time change just looking at Ellen.  It is amazing how much a little girl can change in two years.  She's braver now, so I lower her down into some crevices that my 40 year old body doesn't want to cram itself into.  She's a trooper about tromping through belly high ferns, too with nary a complaint.  That's muh-girl.

You will see that from the camera shots, I am always at the same position of the line up no matter who I've roped into going---I'm bringing up the rear.  Now that, Slovenians, is a figure of speech in America that means I occupy the last place in the line--not that I got a butt lift.  Those are the Californians--I'm Pennsylvanian, remember?  I lag back and walk last purposely to get shots like the ones on the movie, and that I walk a little slower, savoring the scenery.  My kids argue that I am just a big chicken, and let them go first in case there is a bear, mountain lion, or rattle snake.   Not true.

When I slowly walk and take in nature at its beauty wherever I am and whatever the season, I can't help but think about God.  I don't really pray, but I feel connected to it all for some reason.  I like to read about the US Presidents.  Not the political stuff--the other stuff they write when they are not campaigning.  Jimmy Carter is my favorite because I share his Christian and peace-promoting beliefs.  I love to read Clinton for his sheer craftiness and originality of his language, but it is Ronald Reagan that was the biggest nature lover.  He loved the time he spent walking and riding out on his ranch.  It was then he said that he felt closest to God--when he was out in nature.  I believe him because that is how I feel, too.

I had a rough week leading up to the camp trip.  If you are a regular blog reader you will recall that I lost a friend this week in a tragic way.  While we were on a relatively easy hike, I lagged back as usual and thought about Melanie and wondered if I had done enough to help her.  I didn't know until I read her obituary that she collected angels.  I should have figured that, because she has a big one in her front yard.  I run past it nearly every day.  I thought a lot about her as I put one foot in front of the other and promised myself that I would never forget about her.  I whispered to the trees, "I hope you are at peace now, Melanie," just before we came upon the Catch a Cache hide in Cook's Forest.  It is placed about a half a mile's walk from a fish hatchery.  My daughter and her friend Kara found the box.  It was a bigger one with trinkets inside.  It was Kara's first time geocaching, so you will see photos of Ellen showing her how to sign the log book, and take a trinket from the hidden stash, replacing it with one we brought.  I was half paying attention, trying to keep track of the dog, Sam, and listen for Natalie (she always has that iPod playing so it makes it easy).  I said to the girls, "What did you pick out?"  Ellen replied, "Oh, Mom.  I just had to take this.  I doubted anyone wanted it because it was broken, but I like it for some reason."  I looked up to find it was a small angel, painted gold, with a broken wing.  No lie.  Intrigued?  I guess you will have to click play on the above photo story to see it for yourself.

You just can't make up stories this good, Dear Readers.  It was a message.  Melanie must have heard me somehow.  The little gold angel now sits on my desk here at the Lamp Post.  And there it will remain forever, watching over me while I write, blessing my fingers as they try to send messages of good news and hope.

It is my hope today that everyone can get outside for a bit and air out your bodies.  Let them breathe a little, no matter where you are.  And while you're at it--give something a new a try--geocaching.

Always (as in always looking for something),

1 comment:

Diane C said...

Of course once again you made me laugh and cry.. You are so talented. I love that we all have angels watching over us!
God Bless Melanie and her family!