Thursday, February 4, 2016

The mini-adventure-a-day Challenge (+ an Intro to Geocaching)

The February Blues.  I assume everyone gets them to some extent, at least up here in colder climates.

Despite this winter being unusually mild, it has still been dreary and long, at least for me.  The lack of snow also doesn't help, for the small beauty that softly falling snow brings is often the only relief from the brown and dry scenery.

In order to combat these February blues in my self, I have decided to challenge myself to find one Geocache every day for a month.

For the uninitiated, geocaches are small containers that are hidden in the woods (generally), like treasure boxes.  They typically contain small dollar store trinkets as well as a Logbook where you sign in with the date that you found the container.  People all over the world hide these containers in their local areas, and then post the GPS coordinates (latitude and longitude) on the website  If you feel like going 'treasure hunting', all you have to do is log on to the website, look for geocaches in your area, input the coordinates into your GPS device, and off you go.

What is it that compels us geocachers, mainly adults, to go looking for plastic containers in the woods?  I think every geocacher has their own answer.  For me, part of it hearkens back to vague longings in childhood where I would have periods of desperately wishing to discover some old treasure map that would lead me to a secret place and find a box full of mystery.

It's not about the trinkets for a lot of us - if you see something you like, a nice pebble, eraser, or foreign coin, the rule is to trade for something of yours.  But most people just find the geocaches for the sake of the hunt, the adventure itself.

Someone suggested that I blog about my February challenge, so here I am.  I'm not really sure if I'll write every day, or if I'll have anything worthwhile to say.  But perhaps that is part of the challenge for me - to find meaning in the mundane.  To craft words that can bring others with me on small, city-living adventures.  That is a writing exercise that is much more challenging that taking my reader with me to the stunning landscapes of New Zealand or remote beauty of Fijian islands.

Today there were two geocaches.  I needed to get gas, so I got out of bed much earlier than I normally would have, and went to my favourite gas station a few minutes away.  I checked the map and there was a geocache in a park closeby, so off I went.  It was a simple cache in a tree behind a children's plagyround.  The playground itself was a tiny dot in a vast, open field.  There were obviously no children playing in this frigid weather.

Seeing as how I had the whole morning ahead of me, I drove to a nearby ravine with a creek to look for another.  The trail was muddy and wet, and I had to climb over and under several fallen trees, and carefully move branches out of my way as I went.  The large-sized container was nicely hidden in the side of a fallen tree.  As I opened it, I immediately noticed a little beaded charm with a peace symbol on it - the signature swag of a fellow geocacher that I know.  It made me smile - here I was, in some woodlot in a random part of the city, alone and cold, and I see the sign of a friend. Sure enough, there was her name in the logbook, signed almost exactly a month ago (January 3rd).  She had been the last person to find it before me.

I feel as if I should write something philosophical about small connections like these, and what they mean in our lives.  But some writing just can't be forced.  The peace charm made me smile, and I took it home with me (leaving my own signature swag, a small card with a bird photo on it, in its place).

Right now, I'm typing on my bed, watching the birds at my feeder.  There was a Hairy Woodpecker at it just now, and it carefully picked through the sunflower seeds to find a peanut, and then flew off to a nearby tree with its own newly found treasure.  That made me smile, too.


  1. I usually get the wintertime blues, too. But not so much this year. The weather, for sure, has played a part. What do you do on days when work keeps you during all the daylight hours, when exploring on "free time" means braving the woods in the dark?

    1. That's a great question :) Thankfully, in a city like Toronto we have an abundance of all kinds of geocaches, not just ones in the woods. Magnetic boxes under park benchws, tiny magnetic containers the size of your fingernail under lamp post skirts in shopping mall parking lots, Earthcaches like the ones we did together in Hocking Hills... it makes it easy to grab a "quick" one in a safe place after dark. I'm also not beyond exploring city playgrounds after dark with a flashlight or headlamp should the opportunity arrise... ;) The adventure will be different every day :)

  2. So now I am making an account on and researching prices for GPS. Darn you Ana! :P

    1. Haha. It's so much fun! But before you buy a GPS, do you have a smartphone? You can download the Intro to Geocaching App (the intro version is free) and use the GPS system within your smartphone to navigate to caches. If you have a car GPS, they also work pretty well if you put them in off-road mode. Message me if you need more help!