Saturday morning I hopped a 7 AM bus from New York to Baltimore so I could spend the weekend with Scott and my family. The bus was crowded, and a young guy asked to sit next to me. He slept half the way up and I read, but about an hour away from Baltimore, we got to talking, and I asked to see what iPhone apps he had, just out of idle curiosity.
“What’s that?” I asked, pointing to an icon on his home screen. He pressed it and thus introduced me to the awesome world of geocaching.
Geocaching is an enthralling hobby, where you use GPS coordinates and hints to seek out treasure boxes. These caches can be find in any city you can think of. There’s a few in our rural are of Edgewater, and on Sunday Scott and I found some in Stevensville, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Go ahead, look some up in your area.
If you find one, depending on the size, there will be any number of different items. Cheap trinkets, business cards, and – most importantly – a travel bug. A travel bug is a dogtag with a number on it. When you find one in a cache, you log it out online using the number, and then put it into a different cache, logging it back in there. Travel bugs can find their way all over the world.
Nick told me he took the early bus to Baltimore so he and his friend would have plenty of time to do a “psycho cache.” The cache is located somewhere within an abandoned asylum and came with a long list of warnings: prostitutes, pimps, johns, drug users, homeless people, people with mental problems, walls covered in crickets, floors crawling with spiders, used condoms hypodermic needles scattered about… the list went on in on. Hence the name “psycho cache.” I wished Nick luck on that one.
Well, when I arrived in Baltimore, our bus was a bit early, so my new friend Nick and I used the iPhone app to navigate to the nearest geocache, a mere .4 miles away. After fifteen minutes of scouring the outside of an art gallery, we found a “microcache,” a tiny plastic box that could only hold a few pieces of paper. We logged in, each writing down our call name (I chose CleanHippie, naturally) and replaced it for the next person to find.
Scott was a little worried when I told him I was wandering around Baltimore with a perfect stranger. But after I told him about geocaching, he was game on Sunday for another expedition out in Stevensville, near his new house. Our first stop was at the local dog park.
It was gloriously sunny and warm outside, with a fresh breeze blowing off the bay. We started to scour, looking in pipes, the nooks of the fence, holes in trees. I heard some voices and looked up to see a dad and his daughter doing the same thing. We started to search together, and after nearly 45 minutes of getting down and dirty, Danya, the daughter, managed to pry a tupperware container out of its hiding place. They were nice enough to “log in” one of their own travel bugs to the cache so Scott and I could log it back out. Basically, they gave us a travel bug to take back to New York.
Danya and Rich are from Wisconsin, and together they’ve found around 120, according to Danya. It seems like a great bonding activity to do together, though the mom was peeved when she called asking where the heck they were and to get back into town for lunch. By that point, with their help, we had found two more, and started in on a multicache. The multicache required checking out some historical sites in Stevensville, gathering some numbers, and doing the math to find the final cache – something we would have to do on the computer at home.
While we strolled down the street from the old church toward the next site, an old train station, a jeep pulled up. “Can we help you find something?” a woman with a Swedish accent asked from the passenger seat. “Oh, we’re just geocaching,” Rich volunteered. “That’s what we thought,” the woman said. Her husband behind her smiled a wicked smile. “We won’t be telling you any clues! Go to Annapolis, there are a bunch there too.” And with that they pulled away.
I guess geocaching is one of those things that once you know about it, you see it everywhere! I logged my finds last night on the website, and I already have a few messages. One from Nick, one from the father-daughter team, and one from the person who hid one of the caches, congratulating me on finding it. I think I’ve found a thriving underground community of nerds like myself. I’m smitten.
I told Vicki about it and now she wants to go this weekend. Yes! I have a geocaching buddy!