Tangled and geocaching

November 19th, 2011

Last Thursday night (actually Thursday night of last week) the boys were both spending the night at Ruth’s Aunt Ruth’s house since they didn’t have school on Friday. This, of course meant that it was just Ruth , Elsie, and I. This is uncommon, but not necessarily out of the ordinary. This evening, however, I had the idea to make it special.

I thought it would be very neat to put a movie on TV just for Elsie. She gets stuck watching a /lot/ of boy stuff. I think frequently she doesn’t realize she’s watching boy stuff, just because it’s what’s on. Mind you, she gets her times to watch Strawberry Shortcake and Hello Kitty so it’s not like she only ever watches Star Wars stuff, but there are two loudmouth brothers yelling for what they want and only one loudmouth Elsie.

Although she had some of the toys and talked about it constantly when the movie came out, she’s never seen Tangled. I figured tonight would be the perfect opportunity for this to change. We were eating pizza in the living room when I loaded up the movie on Netflix and started it playing. It didn’t take her long to figure out what it was and once she did– she was mesmerized. I think she sat with a slice of pizza an inch from her mouth for five minutes before remembering to take a bite.

When we were done eating, she and I moved to the couch and she climbed on my lap. When I turned off the light it was almost like being at a movie theater only better. She barely moved through the whole movie and said maybe five words. I was very surprised at how much I enjoyed the movie. It was pretty good and there was more “boy stuff” in it than I ever would have imagined. If you’ve seen it, you’ll understand when I say “The Snugly Duckling seems like my kind of place”. I don’t think I enjoyed the movie itself as much as Elsie did, but I’m sure I enjoyed watching it with her as much as she did. Hopefully it’ll be one of those happy childhood memories that she’ll remember fondly in the distant future.

The subsequent Saturday the boys and I experienced something together for the first time that I hope formed similar memories to be held onto for many years. We took a new hobby: geocaching.

I’d heard of geocaching back in the nineties when it was first invented with the advent of portable GPS units. I’d been interested and wanted to get involved, but never could justify the expenditure required for a GPS receiver. I’d idly followed it as a topic on the Internet and knew someday it would be very cool to get involved with the boys. I don’t know why it’s taken me more than a year after getting a smart phone that is completely suitable to the task, but at least we finally did.

The idea hit me Friday night and I decided Saturday would be the day we began our geocaching journey. However, the day got off to a less than stellar start. I was going to get up early and ride my bike, but it was colder than I thought it would be. Later in the day on the way to the library, we’d somehow all gotten into ticked off moods. Some at each other, some just in general. I didn’t know if I still felt like trying something new, or not, but I just decided we’d give it a try anyway.

Coming in the house with our books I mentioned that I thought it would be fun to try find some geocaches and asked if the boys wanted to go along. They were aware of what it is from an abortive attempt we’d made one day previously when we’d misjudged the time and had to give up and almost were late for something else from it. Isaiah asked if we were going to try that one again, but we weren’t. I’d planned out a few pretty close that were rated as pretty easy and we headed out.

I have an app on my phone that gets us right to the coordinates pretty well, but that’s only half the challenge. Finding the location of a geocache is one thing– finding it is another. Some of them are deviously hidden with the challenge being to figure out an ingenious gimmick, trick, or puzzle to locate the actual cache which might contain small trade trinkets (take one, leave one) or just a small logbook (or log scrap of paper in the very small ones called micros).

We weren’t looking for any of the hard ones. We were beginners. I’d read enough about it to know that you just have to look around for things that seem a bit out of place, but which you normally wouldn’t notice. Say, a pile of rocks that your eye would flow right over unless you were thinking “Hey, are those rocks really in a natural pile or are they perhaps /stacked/ like that?”

We’d been looking for the first one we tried for about twenty minutes when I began to think we weren’t going to find it. In fact, I was growing a tad bit apprehensive when in the woods the cache was in we discovered what could only be the remains of a hobo camp. I told the boys not to touch any of the junk scattered around and directed our search back in the other direction. It turned out that Gideon spotted it.

“Could it have a red lid,” he asked as he went right to the small Tupperware bowl containing a damp logbook and some small, well-weathered trinkets. It was stashed under just the kind of inconspicuous pile of rocks I mentioned above. We felt great on our first discovery! It may seem cheesy to someone who doesn’t get it, but it was quite a rush to find this dirty old bowl with junk and wet notebook paper in it after a twenty minute search. We high-fived each other as we walked back to the van.

How do you think we celebrated our first find? There’s probably only one /right/ way to celebrate your first geochache find… Go look for another!

We didn’t find the second one. But we did find the second, third and fourth ones we looked for. ;) As new geocachers, the tendency is to think of some kind of watertight container on the ground carefully disguised, but not outright unseeably hidden. However, there are many different kinds of caches. The first one we found fit the stereotypical norm. The second two also fit a stereotypical norm, even though they were also eye openers to the boys. You may or may not be aware that many lamp posts have ‘skirts’ at the bottom of them. Cylindrical enclosures that protect and improve the appearance of the mounting bolts that hold them to the ground. These skirts slide up to provide access to the post’s mounting bolts. They also frequently slide up to provide access to micro geocaches like plastic eggs or film cannisters. In fact, this kind is known as an LPC- Lamp Post Cache. To some the term LPC is derogatory thinking that an LPC is an uncreative run-of-the-mill. That is, just another bleah cache with nothing special about it. While I can see this point of view, having found two LPCs in a row within half an hour, they were still fun for us and the first one was pretty cool to figure out the secret.

The fourth one was especially cool to the boys. I’d read about such things, so when I spotted it I knew exactly what was going on, but it was an eye opener to them. Like I said above, it’s easy to fall into the rut of looking for a Tupperware container in the leave, but there are many kinds of caches. The fourth one we found was magnetic. It was a small black cylindrical container like a campsite waterproof match container with a magnet firmly affixed to the screw-on top. It was hanging from the top rail of a chain link fence where it ran behind a tree. It was veritably invisible unless you were looking in the right place with the right kind of eye.

I found it while the boys were looking in the wrong direction. I mentioned that I had found it over in the area where I was and called Gideon over to look in the direction I vaguely indicated. When he finally spotted it and pulled it off, he thought it was very cool. He’d not had any idea there could be such a thing and it was a blast to find it.

We didn’t find the sixth one we went after that day. It was getting dark and colder and we were getting hungry. We vowed to return on a later date when we had more time. We’d had a great first real geocaching adventure. We’d all had fun working together and had gotten along perfectly for the past 2 hours. I knew the boys were hooked when Isaiah asked if I thought we’d have time to find any the following Sunday afternoon. And you know what? We found two more the next day!

I think we’re going to be spending a lot of time geocaching. In fact, we’ve got some cool ideas for some of our own geocaches…

So, special time with Elsie and special time with the boys– it was a pretty good weekend.