December 13, 2010


Looking for volcanoes in Georgia

One of my favorite things so far on this trip has been learning what it is my friends do for fun. It’s something you might get an idea of from people’s Facebook pages but clearly it’s never going to be the same as actually being there to row the boat in the race your friend has organized or to sip the beer that your other friend is going to be reviewing on his blog. And anyhow, not everyone updates their pages that often.

My friend, Adam, confessed so much, after I asked him about having so few status bars on his page. When I got to Dahlonega, I knew little more than the fact he was in a band, as I had been able to tell that much from his Info box on Facebook. Turns out he’s in two and a half bands and I got to go to band practice for one of them the night that I got there, after we swung by the local Christmas light show downtown. As it was, it seemed like a pretty good glimpse into his life: a taste of his homemade chicken chili, a sample of the seasonal night life and the chance to hear him and his bandmates do a few numbers. But the next morning, after he had made a mean pancake & egg breakfast, he was still hung up on something: he hadn’t been able to introduce me to geocaching.

Now that’s something he had definitely not written up on Facebook. A recent convert himself to what has been called by others “a high-tech treasure hunting game,” it definitely sounded like something that would be right up my alley. Hunting for hidden hoards with nothing more than a few GPS coordinates to lead the way? The chance to see other people’s handwriting and to read whatever message they have left for you to find? Count me in. Furthermore, I was in Dahlonega, where a great gold rush happened in 1829. It was, like, the perfect place to learn to pan for modern day gold.

We arranged to go that afternoon, before I moved on to my next stop, but first, I had to have an idea of what we were doing. I had heard of geocaching, sometime after it became a big deal about 10 years ago, but I did not know much more than the fact that it required a GPS device to do it, so after lunch, Adam showed me, which is free to join, where there are more than a million locations plotted worldwide. He showed me how you can search the area where you are located, and on the map for the area near his house, there were at least two dozen little markers. Three of them had been labeled to show that he had found them already.

After deciding to take me to Lake Zwerner outside downtown, he wrote out the coordinates for a few different caches and we looked at the write-up for the first one we would try to find, Little Zwerner.

“The cache is very easy to find,” it said. “It is in the most obvious place. Perfect for kids to find. Cache is filled with goodies for children.”

Sounded good. I mean, if kids could do it, well— pshaw, ya’ll.

Of course, kids probably know how to read GPS. I didn’t.

“The map is— it’s giving us a series of numbers,” I said. “I don’t understand the three different numbers.”

Basically, I said a variation of that statement for the next 30 to 40 minutes. In my defense, we were using iPhone apps, which are apparently extremely inferior to real GPS systems, and rather than give me just the three coordinates we needed, it was giving me three LINES of numbers, some of them with degree marks on them, others without. We wandered around a good bit, tromping through lots of leaves and looking for something, anything— though what, we did not know. The cache could be hidden in basically whatever is hollow, Adam explained: an empty film canister, an old ammo box, a flashlight that has been emptied of its batteries. So we had no idea what size or color item we were seeking and naturally, we stumbled across more than a few false alarms— a plastic baggie with letters written on it; a Huggies Deluxe diaper and a whole bunch of empty booze bottles.

We also got distracted by some icicles, which had seemed to defy gravity to grow vertically next to an almost dried-up creek bed.

“See? It really is that cold,” I said for no reason other than my own sensitivity to the fact that I may or may not be overreacting to the recent temperature drop. “I’m not just being a baby.”

I have to hand it to us, though: we did not give up. Not that we had great reason to do so.

“I think the difficulty was a 1.5,” Adam said at one point.

“Out of what?”

“Out of five stars.”

“Out of five? Okay, so we should totally be able to do this.”

Except there was that pesky problem that I was having a devil of a time reading my GPS and Adam did not seem to be getting very accurate readings on his, either.

“It’s not giving me— ” he said, pausing to stare at his screen. “It doesn’t even know where we are.”

My mind wandered back to that description we had read back in Adam’s living room. “Wasn’t there something about a bench?” I asked. “I remember something about a bench.”

“I think it mentioned a bench. You’re right,” Adam said.

“And there’s that bench right there.”

In the end, it was nowhere near the bench. It was the hint “used to be a big live one” that led us to the empty Folgers coffee canister in which the stash had been hidden. While my initial guess had been that we should look for a dormant volcano, I remembered that we were in Georgia and that a dead tree probably made more sense.

“This is for kids?” I asked, as I nearly rolled backwards down the mountain again, approaching the fallen tree where the booty was hidden.

But it totally was for kids. Inside the can, there were Joey Logano playing cards, Paw Pride, silly bands and a wind-up crocodile, to name a few toys. The rule is: if you take something from the cache, you have to leave something of equal or greater value.

“Oh, man,” I said, looking down with dismay as Adam pulled out each item. “We didn’t bring anything.”

Adam flipped through his wallet, past an expired McDonalds’ coupon, to see if there was anything we could leave.

“Two dollar bill,” he said.

“Isn’t that lucky?” I asked.

“And valuable. We could take everything in there and leave the two-dollar bill,” Adam said.

Apparently, if we had folded it origami-style, that would have been just fine.

“I could leave my crappy iPhone case, which I need to replace anyway,” I said.

But we did not leave anything, except our signatures, which I reasoned would one day be valuable. Adam read from the log, where names like Jazzmaster and Geotracker had also signed their names and left comments.

“Found after the rainstorm,” said one. “Took smiley hacky sack. Left Flarp.”

“Great spot but man, it’s hot,” said another. “Took green bike but left yo-yo. TFTC.”

That’s “Thanks for the cache,” to you.

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3 Comments Post a comment
  1. hillary
    Dec 14 2010

    I learned so much from this blog! Most importantly what is Flarp.

  2. Gentjack and Alansgal )Geocaching
    Dec 14 2010

    Nice blog about Geocaching!!!


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