I suck at Geocaching

But my dogs are great at it.

As a search and rescue team member, I am going to have to be good at reading maps and using a compass. I have to be really good at it.  With only one orienteering course in the area, I needed to find another way to practice.

I have had an interest in geocaching.  What would happen if I took away the GPS?  The perfect land navigation practice around.  With over one million geocaches hidden all over the world.  I certainly had enough to choose from where ever I may be.  I could trust the location of the placed caches as they are placed at the coordinates using a GPS and are checked by dozens, even hundreds of others.

All I needed was a topo map of the area, a compass, and a grid square.  The topo maps I printed from my National Geographic Topo! software.  I was good to go.

grid squareI tried to find the first cache by shooting a bearing from the end of the cul-de-sac.  A huge jumble of rose brambles and a need to walk down the middle of a muddy stream put an end to that idea.  Instead I just looked at the map quite closely and used the grid square to determine the distance I would have to walk from the stream to the geocache location on the hill.

Right on the point of the hill I was heading for, there was a huge downed loblolly pine tree still with its green needles on.  This was a perfect target. I counted my steps and found myself right where I thought I would be.  The pine must have fallen quite recently, even pine cones were still dangling from thin branches. I was just on the Southwest edge of a hill before it dipped into a three fingered hollow further west.  The geocache should be right here!  Grom and Heidi spent a good part of the time tripping me, each other, and themselves.  Brand new downed trees were everywhere from the recent snowstorm, winds, and rain.  This was not going to be easy.

After a good thirty minutes of crawling around downed trees and splintered tangles of branches, I sat down.  Both dogs plopped happily at my side.  After only a minute, I decided to go back to the road and start over.  Maybe I should try for the other cache first.  It very well could be that this cache was washed away.  Grom zoomed around the hill with his leash dragging behind him.  After taking a gainer attempting to dodge branches and getting wrapped up I let the dog drag his leash.  I spotted a small plastic box just sitting out in the open covered in camo duct tape.  Ahhh! here we go.  This little guy obviously got washed down the hill.  Happily unsnapping the lid, I found a tiny book with a bunny farming tomatoes on the front.  Skunked!  This was not a cache, this was a letterbox!  I nestled the letterbox securely between the roots of the nearest tree and wandered back to my starting place.


they are there somewhere

This time I shot a bearing from the stream and followed waypoints marked by chosen trees along my path.  Strangely the bearing took me directly along a real path.  About 200 meters from where I started, I beared left and started looking.  Nearly every tree had a small hollow or hole perfect for a cache.  No go.  For fun I walked to the end of the path and its intersection with the road and shot a bearing from there to the cache.  Right back to the same spot. Hrmm.  Back to the road and walked due west.  There was a distinct curve in the road and I shot a bearing off that on the map from where the cache would be.  I walked away from the road until my bearing to the road matched in real life what it said on the map.  Nearly at the same place I was before.  OK it has to be around here somewhere.  I walked a bit further back in the woods and found it in a huge hole in a tree.  The darn thing was so big, both dogs went in!

Finding the cache I could not find earlier by simply shooting a bearing and walking straight along it to the cache worked like a charm.

This map stuff really works.  Cool!

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