Welcome to the addictive, fast-growing sport of Geocaching.
On May 3rd, 2000, a container of goodies was hidden by a someone outside of Portland, Oregon.
By May 6th the treasure, or “cache” in the parlance of the game, was visited twice, and logged in the logbook.
And a whole new global pastime was born.
Today there are 172, 289 active caches in 215 countries.
And thanks to the Inn at Weathersfield Inn in Perkinsville, Vermont, my Geocaching partner and I became two of them.
So, we crossed the wooden Cornish-Windsor Bridge from Vermont into New Hampshire, just over a narrow section of the Connecticut River. It’s the longest covered bridge in the world.
The bright yellow, hand-held Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) said we were there.
But “there” was a dusty shoulder off a winding country road pretty much in the middle of nowhere.
All we knew was that within a few feet of us lay a hidden treasure, and we were determined to find it.
We parked on the shoulder, grabbed our one sheet of clues and looked around.
The GPS only got us within twenty feet. We had to sleuth out the rest, using common sense, always a tricky proposition, and the cryptic clues.
Somewhere tantalizingly nearby, the cache was hidden.
While I’m staring at the GPS trying to line up its mocking arrow with the coordinates, my partner and photographer, always several steps ahead of me, walked toward the river with the instincts of a big game hunter.
Felt around the stones next to the guard rail.
And found it.
“It” was a beaten up plastic container with fantasy trinkets: toy soldiers; colored marbles; a tiny airplane. Mini pens. Stuff like that.
Wendie took a marble and left a ceramic magnet, courtesy of the inn one of the places catering to the increasingly popular Geocaching Weekends.
We signed the log book and looked at each other: We were more than attracted; we were hooked on the sport.
This cache, our first ever, was called Walk Your Horse (waypoint GCMTRW).
I had no idea why until we re-crossed the river and there, on the top of the bridge, next to the date 1866, was the admonition: “Walk Your Horse or Pay $2.00 Fine.”
Then we were off to the second cache hunt of the day.
This one was called Spring Weather (Coordinates N 43 28.379 W 072 23.002).
Actually, the geocaching web site pre-enters the coordinates, so all we had to do was enter the waypoint into our GPS (see box), which led us to the beginning of an obscure nature trail.
We heard a distant brook and the sweet sounds of birds.
We saw early summer flowers and clover-covered valleys.…but had no idea where the cache was.
We puzzled out our coded clue sheet: “Look for the large downed tree with big branches.”
And follow the Blue Trail.
We reentered the woods, followed the trail, and stumbled on to a rustic wooden bridge above a fast flowing, crystal clear stream rambling past lichen covered rocks.
This was treasure enough.
Wendie wisely took off her shoes and dangled her feet in the cold water, while I, testosterone charged, forged ahead, up one trail and down the other.
An hour later, exhausted and laughing at ourselves, we admitted failure.
So, we sat and ate the exotic lunch the inn prepared for us: Lentil and beet salad with melon and ginger. Fresh bread. Fruit accompanied by linen napkins, silverware and a sample of Vermont’s best cheeses.
Defeated but happy, we returned to Weathersfield where David, our innkeeper, took pity on us, and led us back to the site, patiently showing us our mistakes.
A half hour later, Eureka!
We found it.
The Inn at Weathersfield supplies guests with everything they need for a Geocaching Weekend, for free, as part of their stay.
It’s easy. The Geocaching site offers helpful, non-techy, easy to follow information for beginners and experts.
• Players enter the zip code of their destination, and the site provides information on caches in that zip code
• Some caches require kayaking and day long treks; others are more accessible
• The site ranks the caches relative to degree of difficulty, and it spits out the Waypoint, a simple combination that’s easy to follow with the GPS.