Eight Years of Geocaching

I began geocaching on my birthday in 2009. That means in a few short weeks, I’ll celebrate eight years of geocaching. I need to confess, however, that I’m not a rabid geocacher. I go through ups and downs with being engaged. In spite of those waves, I’ve always enjoyed the unexpected places geocaching takes me, the people I meet, and what I discover in the process.

stone mountain geocache - val in real life
My very first geocache, an easy find at Stone Mountain Park in Georgia—using paper no less, since I didn’t have a GPS yet.

Taking on a challenge

Beyond the intangible aspects of the sport, geocaching is also a numbers game. It comes with a lot of statistics you can obsess about—how many caches you’ve found, when you’ve found them, where you’ve found them, the types, the difficulty, how many miles your trackables have logged, your streaks, your find rate, your best month, best year, etc. There are a lot of different ways to track your geocaching numbers. Which means there are a variety of ways to challenge yourself in geocaching. You can fill the calendar grid, fill the difficulty/terrain grid, get caches in all states/provinces/countries, complete power trails, clear various radius distances from home, complete local municipal challenges, find a cache in all counties in a state, get all the different types of caches—the list goes on and on.

As my eighth anniversary approached, I was mulling over my calendar statistics—the grid that shows what days of the year I’ve logged geocache finds. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I was only about 60 finds away from completing my calendar. And thus, a personal challenge was born. 

But what’s an adventurer to do when she wants to take on a challenge but isn’t certain she can deliver on it with other demands in life her at the moment? Well, in my case, I didn’t make a big announcement about what I was trying to accomplish! That way if I didn’t make it, no one would be the wiser, right?

So I quietly pecked away at my needed dates. There were many times I thought I wouldn’t make make it and several times I nearly didn’t. The logistics of grabbing smilies during hectic travels, including being in Atlanta for Dragon Con, proved supremely challenging on some days. Even from home, sometimes a simple smiley turned into an adventure getting a stalled sidecar rig back home. And sometimes getting out to grab a geocache was a forgotten task in the midst of work and life. That is, until I’d have an “Oh shit” moment late in the day and race out. One of the saving graces in my quest is that my Nevada HQ has a power trail that runs, quite literally, right behind it. Sure, they’re easy and often not terribly interesting, but in this context, they were my best geocaching friends the past few months.

Finally, with a decided lack of fanfare, I filled in my last date in October. On a busy day, it didn’t feel that epic. Looking back at my full grid now though, I get a big smile on my face and a sense of satisfaction. Especially knowing it didn’t come easy but it did come with lots of fond memories of the adventures I had in achieving the goal. From the daunting efforts to the silly ones and everything in between, they’ve all been worth it. Filling the calendar felt contrived at times but it did motivate me to get out and explore, even in micro-increments. And in the course of filling the grid, I did find discover cool places, as is almost always the case in this sport.

geocaching calendar - val in real life
It’s so very pretty when it’s all filled in! I don’t know that I can articulate the depth of what this represents in terms of my adventures in the last eight years.

 

geocaching atlanta - val in real life
One of the challenges in filling my calendar? Being in Atlanta during Dragon Con. Kind of hard to get to the geocache when muggles are doing a photo shoot on top of the container.

 

sidecar geocaching - val in real life
Geocaching by sidecar with a large dog can be a challenge when your rig stalls and you can’t get it restarted. A quick, easy smiley turned into a not-so-quick one. That’s where the adventure lies though, never knowing what’s ahead.

Memory lane

As I was reviewing images for this post, sifting back through eight years of geocaching adventures left me slightly speechless. Processing everything geocaching has brought to my life in one fell swoop and realizing how much ground I’ve covered in pursuit of geocaches is kind of amazing. In the course of all of this, I’ve gotten geocaches in all of the lower 48 states, nine Canadian provinces, and one little smiley in Baja.

My oldest trackable that visits all my finds, has logged almost 75,000 miles. My best streak (finding a geocache on consecutive days) is 170 days, spurred on by George’s desire to see how long we could go. Sadly, my streak without a geocache is almost as long at 158 days. Oopsie. There’s that lack of engagement rearing its head.

Oftentimes my geocaching efforts involved dragging Fred and George on weeks-long road trips across North America. We’ve done CITO (Cache In Trash Out) events, geocached the E.T. Highway, attended Geowoodstock 10, multiple Going Caching events, and completed the Georgia State Parks Challenge, among many other accomplishments.

Much of the time these days, I go solo. There are times though that I ask patient friends to wait while I “just grab a quick smiley” which is not always as quick as I plan. (Thanks for bearing with me, peeps!) I go by car, foot, motorcycle, and sidecar. Regardless of the context, geocaching has taken me to a lot of places I wouldn’t have otherwise visited. And it has added depth to places I already planned to be, particularly when you consider earthcaches and historic site geocaches.

cito in atlanta - val in real life
Geocaching has helped us get involved in community clean-ups, know as CITO events.

 

geocaching education - val in real life
Many of our geocaches were tied to experiential education for Fred and George. We learned a lot by including geocaching in our homeschooling!

The Nevada irony

Most of the time, geocachers have the most finds in their home state. Makes sense, right? Closer to home is where we usually have the most frequent and accessible opportunities. When I started geocaching, that meant Georgia for me. But completing the E.T. Highway power trail in 2012 threw my statistics out of whack. Because of the nature of power trails, you amass big numbers quickly. In my case, the E.T. Highway made Nevada the dominant state on my geocache map even though in reality I lived on the other side of the country. That always struck me as amusing until it became ironic when I ended up moving to Nevada last year, something I would have never predicted back in 2012. That’s one way to put your map back in sync, I suppose.

geocaching map - Val in real life
My map was skewed to Nevada for several years until I ended up moving here.

 

Geocaching e.t. highway - val in real life
I didn’t know when we did the E.T. Highway in 2012 that I’d eventually call Nevada my home state.

The next challenge?

With my renewed enthusiasm for giving myself geocaching challenges, my next efforts will be to use geocaching to become intensely familiar with my new stomping grounds near Carson City by clearing an increasing radius. In tandem, the next obvious challenge to tackle is my difficulty/terrain grid. It’s heavily skewed towards easier finds because of power trail finds. I’d like to expand my geocaching cred by diving into the more difficult geocaches. This sport takes you unexpected places and I know I will discover amazing things by pursuing harder-earned smilies.

It’s been a fabulous eight years of geocaching. I don’t know exactly where the next eight will take me but I do know it will be memorable.

geocaching grid - val in real life
Clearly I have some work ahead of me to get my D/T grid filled!

 

See you on the hunt, friends! Here are a few more random memories from the geocaching archives.

 

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