Seven miles and fifteen Geocaches – Saturday 26th August

Pics and text contributed by new member, Jenny Davidson; additional pics by Pete.

We’re sitting in our garden on a warm August evening, talking to Peter on the phone. His welcome to our enquiries about joining the group’s coming Saturday geocaching adventure is as kindly as the weather. The conversation strays through walking, cycling and of course geocaching, which we feel that we are competent at, though the scale of what we still have to learn will soon be revealed in the company of veterans. Peter emails instructions and an invitation to the event, which we confirm the next morning.

For anyone who doesn’t know about geocaching, it’s a framework for a nice walk, through unfamiliar places, while in search of amusing treasure, guided by a GPS-enabled smart phone or dedicated handset. This week’s adventure has the added bonus of a cave game, the sort where you see a dragon and a lamp in the corner and choose a strategy for accessing the tunnel behind. It’s a format which will be familiar to people who were using computers before the days of sophisticated graphics. With the aid of an application called Werigo, your handset triggers text descriptions of your cave location when you have arrived at predetermined places back on the safe surface of our less hazardous world.

We met the group at a car park in Thetford forest. They are interesting, lively and fitter than I would claim to be, with coast-to-coast walks scheduled for some and trips as far away as Aran already under way for others. One veteran geocacher plans an 18 mile walk with IOG friends as a birthday treat on Monday, followed by the 13-day, 192 mile coast-to-coast in a week.

Our hand-held technology set for the task, we are soon under way and happily chatting to strangers. Rachel, it emerges is a master craftswoman of geocaching, having conceived many caches and hidden them with great creativity. She has achieved an amassed score of finds of uncountable magnitude. Apparently it’s not unknown for her and friends to carry on caching in the twilight after a pub meal. In our household, the epilogue to a good meal has refined to a less strenuous whisky and a good night’s sleep.

Peter, our original contact with the group, is a familiar geocacher and chair of IOG. He patiently explains the workings of Werigo which we have already loaded onto our iPhones. The cached treasure of simple toys and trinkets is hidden in waterproof containers, often concealed within natural disguises, such as trees, hollows and logs decorated with larger than life insects, the latter sometimes holding a clue to our ongoing adventure. And as we move from cache to cache Rachel makes field repairs with the aid of her travelling arsenal of glue, tape and paint. But the day isn’t  just for veterans. One member of the party, with no geocaching history, shows an expert, though untutored, talent for spotting well hidden caches. By the end of our long day he’s smiling broadly at other people’s teasing and hopeless efforts to distract him from the next find.

Later than expected, our hosts guide us back to the car park. We are invited to join the group for a pub meal, which we decline with some reluctance, because our cat is ill and I have some urgent and essential shopping to do. Finally home, over a well deserved meal, we recount the day. It been good fun, and I’ll sort out membership applications tomorrow. Not much later, we tumble into bed, age competing badly with our sprightly companions of the day. Sleep Cycle, another phone App, records several hours of deep sleep overnight. A sure sign of a well spent day.

With many thanks to the organisers and participants alike.