Geocached up


So, I have landed a new job.

As soon as my work visa is sorted, I will be working for Groundspeak, who run among many other things.

Geocaching, as a recreation, was new to me when I applied for the job.  I researched it, and decided that not only did I want to work with the people at Groundspeak, but that I wanted to become a geocacher.  And so I have.

Ben and I signed up right away – when I was mid interviews.  He has one of the fancy schmancy phones that does everything – including answer the phone – so we were all geared up with GPS technology.  We created an online profile, and searched for caches based on our zip code.

Voila!  Over 500 caches popped up within a 5 miles radius.  Um, yeah, let’s narrow that down a bit.

We chose one and headed out from our apartment towards the Seattle Center.  Unbeknown to us, we had picked the day of a huge festival to find our first cache.  Our first task was to navigate our way through the throngs of people all desperate to get their hands on freebies, corn on the cob, or beer in plastic cups.

We rounded a corner and headed down a ramp, finally easing away from the crowd.  You see, when you participate in geocaching, you want to keep a low profile.  No one wants their cache raided or stolen by ‘muggles’ (they have appropriated the term from the Harry Potter series), so you have to ensure that you are discreet.

Down the end of the ramp, and around the corner, the GPS assessed that we were ‘there’.  Now it was our job to find the cache within a 15-25 foot radius, not knowing exactly what we were looking for, and all the while trying to appear like we weren’t looking for anything at all.

It didn’t take long.  Ben took a chance on venturing a little way into the garden bed and it paid off.  The cache was a sealed Tupperware container, and enclosed was a log book, which we signed, and a few trinkets.  We took nothing, but left a coupon for free yogurt.


We were quite pleased with ourselves, despite the fact that the ratings for difficulty and terrain were both 1/5.  Still, we were no longer non-geocachers.  We went to a film that afternoon, and when we got home, logged onto our profile and shared our success.

Since then we have sought three other caches, two of which were successful.  The third is located in a small nature reserve in West Seattle.  We chose it because we had yet to get out to West Seattle, and it was deemed a 2.5/5 for both difficulty and terrain.  We wanted to kick it up a notch.

We discovered a few things that day.

Firstly, geocaching gets you out of the house, which is a particularly good thing when you realize that you are still in your pajamas at noon on a Sunday.

Secondly, if you choose caches in places you haven’t been to before, then you get to go somewhere new!  This may seem obvious, but it is delightful, nevertheless, to go somewhere  you haven’t been before.

West Seattle gave us this view of our neighborhood.

Queen Anne from West Seattle
Queen Anne from West Seattle

We also discovered the joy of finding a cache that someone else cannot find.  While we were looking for a Rating 1/1 cache close to where I took this photo, we saw other people looking for the same cache.  They were following the readings on their GPS, trying to be surreptitious, and left after they had looked in all the same places we had.  Only we decided to keep trying after they left.

At that moment I looked down and saw a small piece of paper next to my foot.  I picked it up; it was a fortune from a cookie.  It said “Your short-term goal will be realized soon.”  I showed it to Ben, just as he put his hand on the cache.  Cool!

The last thing we discovered that day was that you can try too hard.

We went in search of the 2.5/2.5 cache (that is 2.5/5 for difficulty and terrain).  We had some notes from the previous finders, and we had the location in our GPS, but under the dense canopy of trees, the GPS was rendered next to useless.

It got us in the general vicinity, but we could never seem to get close to the cache, no matter how deep we went into the woods.

At one point I had climbed down a steep incline, fought my way through giant ferns, knocked down about 5o spider webs, and traversed a fallen log that was 8  feet off the ground on its far side.  Nothing.  And the only way out was to repeat all of that in reverse.

After more than an hour we were both dirty, sweaty and a little baffled.  We went back to the main path, and even tried a couple of other small paths.  None of them could get us any closer to the location marked by the GPS.

Ben emerging from a path

We called it a day.

We walked back to the car, drove back across town and when we got home looked up the cache.  One note said, “The position of the cache is visible from the main path.”  We had tried too hard.  We had been searching for a cache that would have been rated much higher than 2.5/5 for either terrain or difficulty.  We had dug holes, looked in trees, and gone WAAAYYYYY off the path.

But we’ll go back.  I want that cache!

So, as I wait for the visa thing to be sorted, I am learning many wonderful and interesting things about all aspects of the geocaching world.

I have learned that in Western Australia there are  1818 caches.  I have learned that most people I know in North America are geocachers themselves, or know someone who is.

I have also activated the Geocoin given to me by one of the founders of Groundspeak during my final interview.  (Thank you Brian).  I have set its course for the UK, and then Australia in the hopes that it will find its way back to me here.  Isn’t that cool?

And, courtesy of my new boss, Jenn, I have my own geocaching profile now under the profile name, Sandy (for those who have accounts too – they’re FREE!) .  At the moment I share all my caching information with Ben and our joint profile.  Perhaps we will always cache together, as we are loving our mini adventures, but this gives us the chance to broaden our individual horizons too.

So, this is a little insight into my new world.  I hope to see you out in it.