Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Stop and Smell the Caches.

The land stretches out for mile after mile of green fields and pastures, punctuated by splashes of the rainbow hues of the wildflowers.  Here and there farmhouses and barns peek out from behind a screen of trees.  Small towns with the grain elevators, water towers and church steeples marking their presence snugly settle into the landscape around them.  The ribbon of roads form the vista into a checkerboard cut only by the green wooded banks of the rivers and streams that snake across the land like the roots off a tree.  The rocky ridges and peaks of the mountain rises above this scene like an island jutting from the sea.  In the distance other islands of rock rise up and stand above their surroundings.  
Below the rest of the world scurries about on the daily chores, rushing from place to place.  They and their worries look so far removed.  Everything down below is distant and almost foreign.  All that matters is the moment up here. 
Ahead a new ridge presents itself.  What lies just beyond is a mystery. Will it be another grand vista?  Perhaps a meadow of wildflowers where the butterflies' play awaits you.  Maybe it’s another stream or waterfall like one you passed earlier.  What about the animal signs you’ve seen throughout the day.  Will the next turn give a glimpse of what creature calls the land home?  Only by going ahead will you know.
Where’s that next marker?  Where will the trail take you next?  A glance at the screen of the GPS tells you that you are on course but there is still a quarter mile to go.  What’s the best route? Should you go straight down into the valley and back up or follow the counters around the top of the ridge.
In geocaching sometimes finding the cache is only part of the enjoyment.  Finding the cache at the end of trail is often just the icing on the cake.   A nice long trail or challenging multi are in and of themselves enjoyable. 
Two weekends ago my daughter and I finally placed the thirteen-point multi cache we had been planning for some time. We hiked up the ridge, beyond the marked trail, over the peak and into the way less traveled.  For the next four hours it was her and me, the beautiful views and nature itself.
We saw countless birds that sang to us the whole way.  All along the way the flowers were blooming attracting butterflies that lighted from blossom to blossom.  We passed many small streams and stopped to rest in the shade by a cool clear pool.  At the end of the loop we crossed a meadow over a quarter of mile wide before turning to come back down the other side of the ridge.
At one point in the hike my daughter said to me, “Now I’ll have more stories to tell my Grandkids someday.”  The memories we both took from the hike were worth more than any stat recorded on any website.  Caching is more than just another stat to add to your count.  All the FTFs or leaderboards in all of caching can never take the place of even one moment like that.
In caching, as in much of the rest of our lives, we forget what the truly important things in our lives are.  It so easy to just push next cache on the GPS and rush off as quickly as we can down the road, but maybe we should enjoy the moment when we can. 
This past Saturday two hikers came down to go after this cache.  They called while on the trail a few times.  After finding the cache they stopped by to talk for a while.  It was great to hear their stories.  They had enjoyed the hike and the views as much as we had.  They talked about the troubles they had from time to time, and about the joy of finding the cache at the end of the day.  The log that was posted tells only part of the story.
After I did the X Marks the Spot series near Lawton this week, I received a challenge from the CO to do this multi. When I read the cache page I decided I was going to do this on Saturday. I asked a few cachers if they were interested and I finally got a yes from Josh of TeamAce. I picked Josh up early this morning and we made the drive here through some thick fog all the way from El Reno to Granite and much to our dismay the mountain was covered in this fog. Because of the limited visibility we seemed to have taken the more difficult route in and I was a little bit discouraged at first but was encouraged by Josh who has had plenty of experience in this type of terrain. Being an Iowa farm boy I haven't! Once we finally completed the second waypoint the travelling got quite a bit better. The scenery was very beautiful once the fog burned off. I occasionally checked in with the CO to let him know our progress. We had a great time, laughing most of the time. Some of the time it was at my expense, Josh seemed to think it was funny when I got a long cactus needle stuck in my foot. It wasn't funny, I think it hit bone. He also thought it was funny when I tripped over barbed wire. That wasn't funny either lol. Finally, after what seemed like forever we found the ammo can, opened it up, opened the log and it was BLANK! We did a little celebration by knocking down the last of the KoolAid jammers and lighting up a victory cigar. After we finally made it down the mountain we drove over and met the cache owners and had great conversation with them. It was very nice to meet you Totem Clan. It was a great cache and all the coordinates were right on. I dropped a travel bug and geocoin for the next cachers. Thanks! 
We need to remember caching is not just the number of caches we’ve found, but what and who we found while caching.  Your stats may only increase by one but your life will have increased by much more.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Back Home and Back to Caching!


Geocaching is life to me.  That may seem over the top but as you’ll see it’s not really. 
Growing up I always loves the outdoors.  I would be out in the woods, down by the river or up the mountain any chance I could. One of the things that drew me there was the sheer love of exploring.  I had to know what was over the next rise or around the next bend. 
Even when I was not out exploring I was at home looking at maps; trying to image new places and new things.  I would devour the National Geographic each month when it arrived by mail.  Even travel guides and brochures would be quickly perused for all I could learn from them.  History was the only thing that could draw me away from my maps, only to be pulled into the places it would take me.
When I left for the service I had the chance to go to many new places and see many new things.  This only made me want more.  Seeing what was out there became an obsession, a passion, a hunger.
When I met and married my lovely wife she joined me in my desire.  Soon afterwards the Clan grew and I found my other true passion, my family. 
While stationed in Alaska in 2006, we bought our first GPS.  We purchased it so we could travel of course.  In the material that came with the unit was information on Geocaching.  At this point I had never heard of caching.  It sounded like fun so I went to the site and signed up.  That evening we found our first two caches as a family.  The Totem Clan was born.
In the next month that we had left before transferring to North Dakota we found 70 caches.  We were hopelessly addicted.  There were place we saw that month we had never seen or heard of before.  We were exploring as a family. 
When we arrived in Grand Forks, North Dakota there were only about 35 caches within 50 miles of our new home.  It didn’t take long to clear them out.  After that we had two ways to feed our new addiction.  We would hit the road when on leave to find new caches or we could hide caches.  We began to do both.
As we began to get more into caching Big Bear, my wife, got her own account and began to hide a few caches.  As the cubs grew they each started their own accounts.  I became Totem Clan. 
In November of this past year we moved back to my home.  I returned with my family to the woods, rivers and mountains I so loved as a child.  Now we live and cache in southwest Oklahoma.  My love for exploring, my love of this land and my love of my family all can be found in own pursuit, caching.
My family, my friends, my land, my passion all is here in caching. My life may not be caching, but caching could be my life.