Geocaching in Times of Coronavirus

I’ve recently begun geocaching with my younger son, which I think is a perfect activity these days since it’s outside and social distancing is fairly easy to do during this activity. If you haven’t geocached before and have no idea what it’s about, in a nutshell it means to go around searching for hidden “caches” that are often no more than a logbook in a tiny container. If you’re lucky, they’re bigger caches with “swag” – little items that are interesting, usually. If you wanted to take one of the swag, you could, though I prefer to leave behind an object myself.

For full details on how to geocache, along with information about the free app, check out Everything you need to know is there.

I downloaded the app a number of years ago, but I couldn’t find the right time to give it a go, which is kind of silly because honestly the right time pops up quite often. We just don’t tend to think about these things. A random treasure hunt? It’s not on our minds. At least it wasn’t on mine.

Enter 2020 and the dumpster fire that it has been overall. What to do when you want to get out of the house but need to avoid people? I was out one day at a park with my son and it popped into my mind that we never got around to trying the geocache app, though we’ve stumbled across two caches over the years. He was grumpy at the time because the $20 buck foam airplane that I’d thought would be fun to pay with turned out to be a dud. “Sure,” he said.

Half an hour later, while we’re walking away from our first find on our way to the next, he says “Forget Halo. This is my new favorite hobby.” Inside, I was thinking YES! mainly because I can’t stand any toys or games that involve guns. It was a beautiful day. The sun was getting low, the air was cooling, and we were walking alongside a path dotted with painted rocks. Rocks full of colors and cartoon characters and positive messages and unidentifiable cuteness. When we reached the location of the second geocache, he struggled to find it even though the app was showing that we were right there on the spot. Checking the hint in the app and the description, we nearly gave up. But then we spotted the remains of a green bag that the hint mentioned, soaked with drainwater. Lifted up the bag and there was the geocache, this one with a busted open padlock. Inside: a soaked logbook with pages clinging together. We signed it anyway.

On the way back we decided a few things: We’d get ourselves a kit with empty ziplocks so we could replace damaged ones we’d find, extra paper in case we found a soaked logbook, little items to leave behind, and extra pens just in case. We discussed making our own cache.

Hooked, once we got home, we started making the new cache, which has yet to be hidden. The spice jar it’s in is now painted camouflage colors to hide it well. It is very clearly not a pipe bomb, which is advice I’d give to anyone making a geocache: don’t make yours look like something the bomb squad’s going to get called for. Seriously, I’ve heard it’s happened.

Since that day we’ve gone on to find about 30 caches, the best being one that was in its place for 18 years. That’s older than my oldest kid. 18 years it sat there, being found again and again by dedicated geocachers who signed the log and took items and left items. It was right in the middle of a field in a preserve, nestled at the base of a tree. To me, the history is amazing, and that cache was a large and dented military-style box full of all kinds of items from pins to toys to random coasters and coins. 18 years. We left that one smiling.

It’s getting cold; Winter has come. We’ll have to bundle up now when we go out, our fingers freezing as we open the geocaches we’ve yet to find. But it’s a grand year to start geocaching. Probably the best year to start.

Get out there.

By J. Parrish Lewis

J. Parrish Lewis was born and raised in Maryland. In his youth there, he and his brother had many adventures in the dogwood forests near his home. His nostalgia for these adventures has strongly influenced his characters, their relationships, and their perspective on the world they inhabit. He moved to California’s coast to earn his degree in communications and now lives with his family in the San Joaquin Valley. Lewis is profoundly deaf and uses American Sign Language to communicate. He enjoys hazelnut coffee, captioned movies, and walking his dog.

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