GPS Geocaching Adventure

“How does this GPS thing work?” “You go geocaching?  What is that?”  These are common questions that members of O.M.E.G.A. have heard over the past year.  Many of us have been geocaching for several years now and have experience with several different GPS units.

Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS units.  The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors.  Geocaching is enjoyed by people from all age groups, with a strong sense of community and support for the environment.

In order to help others understand how to use a GPS to find geocaches or just to use it for navigation, we set up an outing for Easter weekend.  A couple of O.M.E.G.A. members placed a series of temporary caches in Castlewood Canyon State Park on April 23 for a fun ‘Easter Egg’ hunt.

About a dozen people showed up for the hunt.  It was a drizzly, brisk morning, but with the geocaches already hidden, everyone decided to head out and search anyway.  As we left the parking lot, several returned to their cars for warmer clothing, batteries for the GPSs and other forgotten items.  Soon enough, all were headed out and looking for the first set of coordinates.  All but two went off in one direction.  What kept those two back?  They decided the coordinates in their GPS units lead them in a different direction.  While they debated if they were right or not, since everyone else went another direction, the group headed back their way.

Castlewood Canyon

Castlewood Canyon is an area ripe for GPS training. Photo by M. Khaytsus.

So, with everyone on the same path, we started out for the first set of coordinates.  As with many geocachers, the idea of following a trail to get where you need to go is unheard of.  “Why go that way, when I can go in a straight line?”  No matter that there are trees, bushes, thorns, etc. in the way.

Several of the searchers took the time to program the GPS units and tried using the compass to help them find there way and others just recorded the numbers on paper and started walking to match what they were looking for with what the GPS unit was displaying.  Once in the general location, they were told that with the many different brands of GPS units, they should look in a 15 to 20 foot radius for the actual coordinates.  This is a lot harder than it may sound.  They looked in trees, under bushes and behind rocks.  It was one of the younger participants that finally located the camouflaged, duct-tape plastic Easter egg under a rock in a crevice.  This treasure contained several smaller eggs with candy in them to help give them all a boost for the next phase of the hunt.

With a better understanding of what they were doing and a quick sugar fix, the group headed out for find number two.  Many of them once again headed off the paved trail to follow the direct path of where they wanted to go.  It took some time for everyone to realize that they were making more work for themselves then was necessary.  The good news was that everyone was having fun and enjoying sharing stories while walking.

Castlewood Dam

Remnants of the old Castlewood Dam. Photo by M. Khaytsus.

After a few hours, a total of five ‘caches’ had been found and everyone had prizes from the finds.  Many of them now understood how to use their GPS units and others where ready to go shopping for one of their own.  Everyone wanted to know if another event could be scheduled, and so the planning for a second GPS training began.  It was agreed that Father’s Day would be a good time for some of them to request a GPS unit from family members and that soon after would be a good time to use them.

We planned another outing for July 2, this time to Devil’s Head Fire Lookout.  There were a few real caches in this area and the plan was to hide six or seven more for everyone to find on the way up.  This trip was not as successful for hunting as the previous one, but in the end, everyone had a good hike and lots of fun.

As the seekers started out behind the hider, they started looking for the location that appeared to be closest to them.  This turned out to be a mistake that would send us searching all over the side of the mountain we were on.  A few got discouraged and decided to head on up the trail to enjoy the hike and the beautiful day.  The hider hiked back down to join us and locate the cache that could not be found.

Devil's Head Fire Lookout

Devil’s Head Fire Lookout above Pike National Forest. Photo by M. Khaytsus.

It turned out that the first one that was closest to us on the GPS units was actually the second cache hidden, on the return of a switchback.  And as always, the search had been off the obvious trail, so we had missed the first one all together.  Another group headed on up the trail to join the first and a few stayed back with the hider to relocate the caches and pick them up.

It turned out that in the time it had taken the hider to get up the mountain and hide the geocaches, then turn around and come back and head up again, a couple of them were found by other hikers and removed.  It was surprising to us how fast that could have happened.  The party at the top of the hill went in search of one of the real caches and had a successful find, which made the trip that much more rewarding.  The last group up asked a bystander climber to help get a geocache that was approximately 30 feet off the ground.  The man was confused at first, but climbed up and passed the cache down to us to sign and then was kind enough to return it to its hiding place.

Once everyone had hiked to the top, snacked on some food and enjoyed the views, we headed back down.  We were met by sprinkles of rain about midway down, but avoided the hard rain until after getting in the cars and driving away.  Even with the trials and tribulations, O.M.E.G.A. was asked to plan another GPS outing.  It turns out that everyone likes getting out and about, no matter the outcome of the geocaching adventure.

We hope to have another geocache seeking adventure towards the end of the summer.  Stay tuned for details if you are interested in joining the fun.

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