In the first of this series, reporter Charles Kreutzkamp visits hidden treasures in locations served by Record-Journal weekly newspapers.
On August 1, I went on a real-life treasure hunt. Easter egg hunts were far out of season, and my dusty old parchment map with a red “x” on it was in the shop, but thanks to Geocaching, the global treasure-hunting phenomenon, anyone with a smartphone can go on a treasure hunt, 24/7.
Armed with the free geocaching app and with my geocaching name, “YFNReporter” – short for ‘Your friendly neighborhood reporter’ – I set out for Kensington after a quick reread of the rules.
One of the most fascinating discoveries I made in my first attempt is that many caches carry significant meaning for their owners. The first cache that caught my eye, “Big Guns,” was located somewhere near the American Legion Post 68, next to Stop & Shop.
This cache was placed to commemorate the owner’s first experience with voting, which happened during a budget referendum in 2003. He wrote that he was interviewed by a reporter on that fateful day.
The app pinpointed the cache within 30 feet, and I looked high and low for something the size of a film canister or spice jar for more than twenty minutes. I did find two active wasps’ nests, and after a couple of dive-bomb attempts at my face, I abandoned my search.
Every person has a right to a phobia, and mine is flying, stinging insects – so reluctantly I logged a “DNF” (did not find) on the geocaching website for my first time out.
The next cache I sought after, “Thank You Veterans,” was placed within walking distance at Veteran’s Park and was placed to “honor all service members, past, present, and future,” according to the listing.
I picked up a few bits of trash. Keenly aware that their hobby involves leaving objects in the woods, geocachers place a lot of emphasis on picking up litter, with the slogan “cache in, trash out.”
This cache eluded me as well, despite a frantic half-hour search, as did “What’s all that buzz about” at Sage Park.
“I pitched this to my editor as a series about geocaches in our towns, not a series about a reporter wandering around unable to find anything,” I kept thinking.
The next day, my fiancée (code name: HisGirlFriday) accompanied me for another shot at finding a cache somewhere in Berlin. Thinking we might have a bit more luck looking for a traditional in-the-woods cache, we went looking for “Cross Country at Sage Park.” It all began to seem hopeless as we stomped about in the woods, but once we returned to the path, we finally spotted bits of red showing underneath black electrical tape wrapped around a spice jar.
We opened it, and gleaming inside were a few pieces of paper. We logged our visits under our geocaching names with the date. Filled with the rush of victory, went back for another crack at the three I couldn’t find yesterday.
My fiancée had no more luck than I locating those, but we struck gold again down the street at “Does anybody really know what time it is,” a very cleverly hidden cache located at Volunteer Park. The piece of candy inside this cache reminded us that another part of the treasure hunt is trading items for something of equal or greater value.
We removed nothing, but added a Russian ruble to the container, which was disguised with camouflage tape.
We finished with another cache at Maple Cemetery. My fiancée, an Indiana native and a lover of history, was awed by the 1800’s-era gravestones. An excellent hint led us to this cache, which contained a small heart-shaped pendant and a folded up playing card. We added a glass bead.
I’ll close with three pieces of advice for other first-timers: one, read the rules and etiquette thoroughly. Two: some caches are easier than others, and size is a big factor. A small or medium cache seems an easier first find than an extra small. Hiking trail caches seem easier than urban ones. Three: study a photo of the poison ivy plant before going, just in case.