Friday, November 28, 2008

Geocaching: The Family That Trespasses Together. . .

Instead of hitting the stores for Black Friday, we did some geocaching here in the mountains. Dad has gotten really into this in his retirement. Geocaching, if you don't know, is a kind of game where you use your GPS device to locate little hidden containers, or caches, that people have hidden in out-of-the-way places. You may leave little treasures in the boxes, and take something in return, or just sign in that you've been there. It is great--a more fun version of taking a walk. Some of the caches are what they call "park and grab," as in you don't have to go off into the woods very far, but sometimes, like today, you have to get out of bounds.

We had a multi-step cache that required a couple of waypoints, finally leading us to the site near here where a scene from the movie The Fugitive was filmed. Remember the part where Harrison Ford is on the prison bus, and it crashes into a train, and he gets away? That was filmed right by the Tuckasegee River here in Dillsboro, and the train cars and buses they used are still sitting down by the river. The clues and the coordinates seemed to indicate that the cache was hidden on the wreckage somewhere, but we couldn't actually drive anywhere near that part of the riverbank. Finally we realized that this little road must lead down there. The gate was open, Officer.
The Magellan was our guide, but notice that Dad has the target coordinates written on his hand. So high-tech! Turns out he wrote them down wrong, but we figured out where we were going. Sure enough, the coordinates took us right to the old bus used in the movie.

The bus says "Illinois Dept. of Corrections," because the movie was set in Illinois, of course, and the train says "Illinois Southern." So, we knew the cache we were looking for was a magnetic hide-a-key box, and it seemed like it could be anywhere on this bus, or possibly on the front of the train. The margin of error is such that the GPS won't take you to the exact, precise spot, so you have to get there and look around. But with all this wreckage, it was really hard to look everywhere. Here's Laura after I had relaxed my "No Climbing!" rule.

So this cache was unfindable, at least by us. We felt up that entire bus, but it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. We think it might have been taken by Muggles. Yes, the geocachers refer to non-cachers as Muggles. Laura loved that. Down at the railyard, she did find some stocking-stuffers, so it wasn't a total loss. Hurray for coal! So we need to read the online comments on that cache and get some more info. Then we'll regroup for another sortie. But it was really fun getting up close to the wreck, trespassing and all. I think this is great fun for kids, especially if they're with-it enough to work the compass and the GPS. Here's Laura helping pack up a cache that Dad hid.
That little toy with the dogtags is a trackable item. It will travel from cache to cache, with its location logged online. Really cool. And here's a cache's hiding place.
This was down under a suspension footbridge over the river, where you'd really have to be looking for it. Each cache has a friendly and helpful little note in it in case it does fall into Muggle hands. So, lots of fun for the family, and I think the community around it is really interesting. It's just pure play, you know? With no real reward and nothing to prove. I look forward to doing it lots more, and there are TONS of these things all around, so go to the website and check it out.

Hope you had a restful and fun Thanksgiving Friday!

9 comments:

Keely said...

Wow, I've never heard of that! It sounds awesome!

(and I just went and looked, and there's even a few in our province)

tonka_boy said...

I found your post from a Google search of geocaching. That's a pretty cool place - a movie set. I'm surprised that "Hollywood" left that stuff there. Great place for a geocache.

My wife and I have a blog all about geocaching. Stop by and say hello.

The Northwoods Geocats

Hootie said...

Here's a short article with a geocache element...

http://www.floridaadventuring.com/wakulla-river.html

The Stiletto Mom said...

That sounds like a total blast...and this is coming from someone who can get lost on her own street.

How fun...glad you are having a good time!

Bren said...

You can tell Laura that at first I thought the photos of her were Amy. Even hiking through the woods she looks mahvelous.

We want to join the Camp Papa club, please.

Michele said...

So it's like tech geek meets treasure hunter. So cool!

My oldest boy would love this; he makes maps for a living.

crazylovescompany said...

What a fun idea. It's like a scavenger hunt, but not.

Chris said...

Being from Illinois, I always wondered where those mountains were at. LOL!

Michele said...

What a wonderful sounding holiday! My family with 3 boys got so worn out from a stay in FL and not much sleep. They would have LOVED the geocaching. I have learned something new on your site. We need to get a GPS. My parents have a summer place in Waynesville, NC-- I thought that was coincidental. But we've never done anything cool like that. Did your sister fly back to Austrailia yet?
--Michele in Duluth