Cache 3: Rise of the seekers

In the third part of this series, reporter Charles Kreutzkamp visits towns served by Record-Journal Weeklies to search for Geocaches. SPOILER ALERT: specific details ahead. For last week’s story, visit http://tinyurl.com/RJCache2.

This is the week Geocaching really caught me in its spell: I captured three caches as I went about my week, while waiting for a government meeting, or just along my commute. I also finally picked up my first “nano” – a type of cache cacher Joyce Kennedy describes as “smaller than the tip of your pinky finger.” This little bullet-shaped magnet would have been enormously tricky to locate without a clue that led me directly to the park bench it was attached to.

This week we headed to Plainville, home of The Plainville Citizen, after getting some sage advice from veteran Geocachers.

Firefighter Skippy, one of the top Geocachers in the area with more than 20,000 finds to his name, gave me a rundown of what the typical small and “micro” caches look like. Typical containers for these include old medicine bottles, waterproof matchstick containers, and bison tubes – containers originally used to carry pills on keychains that have been nicknamed after the capsule containers sold by Bison Manufacturing.

There are some truly devious methods of hiding caches out there. Many use little plastic containers that can hold strips of logbook paper known as “pico tubes.” Skippy said he’s seen caches in golf balls hidden at driving ranges, and caches hidden underneath what looks like a piece of asphalt partially buried among pieces of broken pavement. Some Geocaching containers disguise themselves as rocks, pieces of wood, or mushrooms.

There are even caches with five-star difficulty ratings that require special equipment to access, such as SCUBA gear. You can see videos on YouTube of mechanical caches that require a battery to open using a mechanism that raises and lowers the cache container.

According to some veterans, a GPS device with greater accuracy than a smartphone can be very useful in locating urban caches, which tend to be small, micro, or nano. If the cache has a helpful hint, it can make them much easier to find, and in my experience, a useful hint makes a smartphone just accurate enough to find caches of one- and two-star difficulty. Knowing what type of items you’re looking for can be immensely helpful in finding these.

You develop a sense for the types of places caches are hidden after a while, Kennedy said.

Firefighter Skippy, who helped me find an urban cache I missed my first week out, said that it can sometimes be helpful to run fingers underneath surfaces, poking around for something that feels like it doesn’t belong. He found the cache in almost less than a minute, pulling a hide-a-key box seemingly from thin air.

After tutelage from our own Yodas, HisGirlFriday and I (YFNReporter) headed to Plainville, bringing my younger siblings, age 12 and 13, along for the adventure.

This was my first time back in Plainville since I filled in with stories about the town’s annual budget process earlier this year.

We had our most successful caching day thus far, with four finds, including many in Paderewski Park, which has sports fields, a great playground featuring a splash pad and a beautiful stretch of woods around a pond stocked for fishing.

My sister in particular really took to caching. With four sets of eyes, I sometimes hardly had a chance to really look for a cache before one of them found it. Although Paderewski Park had only small-sized Geocache, with their help we found the largest cache we’ve ever looked for off of a hiking trail just south of Plainville.

The swag in caches like these is one of the biggest sources of appeal to kid cachers – though, as my sister pointedly pointed out, she is, in fact, a teenager.

For families considering trying out caching for the first time, I’d definitely recommend seeking out a medium-size cache and bringing along a couple of toys that your children aren’t so keen about anymore. The thrill of trading an old toy for, say, the batman figurine or the Pokémon cards we found in this cache, will certainly be exciting for children. Make sure the kids have experience hiking safely and that you take all the necessary precautions before you take them out. It may be good to know that caches with a terrain difficulty of one-star usually don’t require leaving the beaten path, but two stars and above may require you to bushwhack your way to your quarry. This is often where the largest caches with the best swag are hidden, as placing them too close to the trail increased the likelihood they will be messed with by Geocaching “muggles,” as many call non-cachers who may interfere with or throw away caches.



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