Last August, I hid a box in the woods of Bangor, and in it, I placed a small treasure. But it didn’t stay there long. Today, that “treasure” is hidden in a residential area in Killeen, Texas.
It got there in the hands of strangers, people who probably will never meet, yet they all have at least one thing in common — they’re geocachers.
“Geocaching is a real-world treasure hunt that’s happening right now, all around you,” states geocaching.com, the world’s largest geocaching website.
Using GPS-enabled devices, participants navigate to specific sets of GPS coordinates to find geocaches — containers hidden at specific locations. From my experience of the activity so far, geocaching is more about the “hunt” part — the act of exploration — than the actual “treasure” found at the end. After all, geocaches usually contain a logbook, pencil and a few mementos; and you can only take a memento if you replace it with something of equal value. That’s one of the few geocaching rules.
Yet some geocache treasures are a bit special.
The “small treasure” I sent out into the geocaching world was a Groundspeak Travel Bug, a trackable metal tag that geocachers are supposed to move from cache to cache. Its purpose is to travel, collecting stories along the way.
I named it “BDN Bug,” in honor of my place of employment, and registered it on geocaching.com. And with a chain, I attached the trackable tag to it a small white seashell from the Maine coast.
To start it on it’s journey, I also created my own geocache, which I registered as “Crazy Camo” and hid in the Bangor Rolland F. Perry City Forest, a public place that permits geocaching.
Here’s how BDN Bug traveled from Maine to Texas, traveling more than 4,000 miles in between:
— BDN Bug was taken from “Crazy Camo” on Aug. 10, 2013, by a person with the geocaching name Geniecache, who carried it to a number of caches throughout Maine before dropping it off in a cache called “Fishing Point” near Mud Pond in Old Town.
— Geocacher Maine to Massachusetts took it from “Fishing Point” and carried it to the 2013 Granite State Geocachers Community Cookout in New Hampshire on Oct 12, where it landed in the hands of Snowsunflowers.
— Snowsunflowers brought it to a geocaching social event called Mountainside Meet and Greet III in New Hampshire a few days later and passed it on to Mainiac1957, who carried it back to Maine and placed it in “Cooper Spring,” a cache near Mount Mica.
— On the day after Christmas, BDN Bug was discovered by 1784kasimar, who wrote in the travel bug’s online log: “Being from Bangor up until 6 months ago, we wanted to grab this travel bug to help it along its journey ever since reading the article about it. We were in the area for xmas, so even though the cache it was in was not winter friendly, we decided to go for it anyway on our way home to N.H., in a snow storm no less. The cache was really pretty easy to find even with all the ice-covered snow in the area thanks to the hint. Left a bug we picked here a few weeks ago (Banana Splits). Have posted to the cache page a picture showing both summertime bugs together. So now the BDN bug has made it to Northfield, NH. We hope to get it to a winter-friendly cache closer to VT or MA in the coming weeks.”
— 1748kasimar carried BDN Bug to many caches throughout Maine and New Hampshire, but held onto it until traveling to Texas, where the thoughtful geocacher placed it in a cache called “Big Green Box” on May 26. It’s still there, waiting for the next geocacher to come along and take it for a ride.
Currently, there are more than 6 million geocachers worldwide, according to geocaching.com, and more than 2.4 million active geocaches.
I found the simplest way to go geocaching is by using the $9.99 mobile app by geocaching.com, which acts as a GPS, shows you nearby geocaches and access to their online logs and descriptions, and enables you to log your finds instantly online.
Using the app, my friend Kim and I went geocaching in Bangor’s Essex Woods last week and found four geocaches, including “Grady’s Cache.” In the cache’s online log, we wrote:
“Chickadees singing to us. Cool container. Something sticky in bag. Kim added emergency whistle prize. :)”
Since I chose to create a cache, “Crazy Camo,” I’m responsible for keeping it dry and hidden in the correct location. Since placing it in the Bangor City Forest last August, it’s been visited more than 40 times.
This spring, after a long winter under the snow, Crazy Camo was discovered by geocacher Yotey, who wrote in the online logbook: “I went up the East-West trail for another hide and ended up bushwhacking across to this one. I would not recommend that course, this one is on a trail. That said, I saw a grouse, then later a woodcock dance. Found my first ever TB [travel bug] and will move it along. Left some goodies, loved this one! Previous logs were a big help when I was wandering in evergreens.”
Yotey then posted a photo of his or her soaked jeans and L.L.Bean boots.
On June 28, geocacher Zodokai found Crazy Camo and wrote: “I found this one on the way back from grabbing my last two Great Bangor Adventure caches. Spotted the hiding spot very quickly and made the find easily. The outer cache container was full of water, but the interior container holding the logbook was dry. I dumped out the water from the outer container and then left one of my signature wooden nickels. TFTC!”
TFTC is a common acronym used by geocachers meaning “thanks for the cache.”