After a Saturday largely spent moving and stack firewood (we have about three winters’ worth of wood stockpiled now, so we’re feeling ready for a little cold spell!) we woke to a grey, drizzly Sunday. We were all in need of a break from our usual work and routines, so we took a rare day off for a road trip. The last time we did this, on an extremely hot day mid-summer, we had gone geocaching for the first time, and all five of us were keen to give it another whirl.
About halfway through the summer my older son and I had a rare day in the ‘big city’ (Ottawa) together, running errands. We made a trip into Canada’s big outdoorsy chain store, Mountain Equipment Co-op, so that he could look over the GPS units and before long he was ready to shell out his hard earned cash. We proceeded to have a long, drawn out discussion about how important the GPS was compared to his other saving and spending priorities, including flying lessons (which are not cheap!). The fellow working the GPS/multi-tool/climbing gear counter is a wonderful person whom we got to know when we still lived in Ottawa, and he very respectfully waded into the debate. He was impressed that our son had saved his own money from his job and related his own experience of falling for cycling and cycling gear when he was young. He also reassured both of us that we could return the unit after a couple of uses if it turned out that it was just too much money spent on a fancy that didn’t pan out. It was one of those great, on-the-fly conversations, and the result was that older son made the purchase and I felt somewhat more relaxed about the whole thing.
I have to say that I was wrong about being wary of this purchase. We affectionately refer to this son as ‘Toad’ at times, as he’s somewhat prone to momentary, all-encompassing passions, just like the flamboyant character in the Wind and the Willows. At the same time, he’s also known for great concentration and dedication to real passions, and my husband and I just weren’t sure where this whole GPS/geocaching thing might fit in. But the minute that unit came out of the box at home, I could see what a great tool it was and how much it fit with this boy’s other interests. He set out mapping coordinates on our land, advising my husband on distances between key points and in elevation; it was obvious that it was a great tool, even without the lure of finding hidden treasure, otherwise known as geocaching.
When we were in England earlier this year we accidentally found a cache on the beach in Eastbourne (on England’s south coast), and shortly thereafter the whole idea of geocaching really caught my son’s fancy. For anyone who doesn’t already know (and I expect you’re in a minority these days), geocachers hide and seek out small caches or packages that have been hidden somewhere in the public domain and whose coordinates are shared via a geocaching website. When you find a cache, you sign and date it and perhaps leave something for others to enjoy (many caches contain small trinkets, so swapping is part of the fun); when you create one, you need to record its existence (GPS coordinates) along with a clue. The whole activity makes going for a walk/hike/bike ride or drive infinitely more interesting and fun.
We broke ourselves in this summer with two caches in a small town near where we live. The first cache was a little tricky, but we found it within about 15 minutes of starting our search; the second cache, though very cleverly concealed, was found quickly (by me!). Our black lab puppy Reggie was a willing participant, though he was pretty droopy by the end of it because of the heat. He spent much of the rest of the day sprawled on the very cool concrete floor of a barn at an antiques market where we went look for treasures of the more obvious kind (we got a second scythe with a wooden handle, which was a great score).
Having decided to head north to the Ottawa River, and across it to a town in the province of Quebec that we like to visit, we decided that we’d create a new cache of our own and seek out one or two. The new cache was earmarked for the little village of Quyon, where the ferry from the Ontario side of the river (our home-side) disembarks. There were no caches recorded for this village on the geocaching site, and we thought it would be a great destination for geocachers, given the awesome ferry-ride built in.
As soon as you exit the ferry there is a park/recreational area with a baseball diamond and lots of open space. We figured this was a good spot to hide our cache, and thanks to the rain holding off, we were able to take our time finding just the right spot. The boys turned their noses up at a couple of potential hiding places that we suggested, but in the end they found a place on which they could both agree. Before we left, we remembered to take a picture of the general area in which the cache was hidden; in the shot below, my younger son is suggesting how I frame the photo.
After hiding our cache, we continued on our way to our main destination, a town with a pretty, historical centre with a coffee shop that we all adore. After fueling up with cakes and hot drinks, we set off on foot for a two-kilometre walk to a cache in a wooded area adjacent to a suburban neighbourhood. The cool, overcast day was perfect for our black puppy, who tends to wilt in the heat, and he happily accompanied us every step of the way. The cache we found was nicely concealed but not too hard to find, and contained several mini vehicles – a completely kid friendly cache! Our youngest was in heaven, getting to choose his favourite to keep, and we deposited our own contribution, plus a loonie (that’s a dollar coin, for anyone not familiar with weird Canadian currency).
Coming home, we were happy to have done a whole lot of not-very-much while resting and getting some fresh air, but also to have seen some familiar places from new angles. We’re definitely converts to geocaching and the neat, extended community it has created.