Thursday, February 21, 2013

Geocaching Safety

The View from the GZ (Ground Zero of the cache)

My heart is pumping.  I’m thrilled to be caching here…gazing at the mountains in the distance and listening to the roar of Yellowstone just a couple of hundred yards away.  I’m near the GZ of Electric Rock (GC1K5FJ) north of Yellowstone Park and there are wild buffalo, elk and bear in the area.  I’m quite aware of this and have taken the appropriate safety precautions.  Yep, got my bear bell on my walking stick, I’m making lots of noise as I walk and I’m approaching this huge rock with care…knowing that a buffalo could easily be hidden behind it. 
I was within fifteen feet of the GZ, but I wanted to make sure I was safe before I went for the find.  I decided I needed to peek over the truck-sized rock to see if there were any man-eating critters hiding behind it.  You know, just in case.  Just as I leaned over my tennis shoes lost their grip on the slippery rocks and I fell.  Hard!
As I lay there, gasping for breath, I had some extra time on my hands and thought it would be a good time to review the safety precautions published on and how well I had prepared.
Precaution #1:  Tell someone where you are going.  I had left our hotel room early in the morning leaving Mrs. M. sleeping peacefully.  I had not left a note as I planned only to be caching near the hotel.  As a bare minimum I should have left a note.  But even more so, this is an area where you shouldn’t cache alone.   Grade on this one: FAIL 
Precaution #2: Focus on your surroundings.  Yes, I was watching out for “lions, tigers and bears”, but I had paid no attention to the slippery rocks I was standing on.  Moreover, why was I wearing tennis shoes in this environment?   My hiking boots were in the car and I hadn’t taken the time to put them on.  Duh!  You need to be properly geared-up for your surroundings and you need to be aware of all the dangers.  Focus! Grade on this one:  FAIL

Precaution #3: Bring the right gear including extra water, batteries, etc.  I actually didn’t do too badly on this one.  My car was only a few hundred feet away and all the right stuff was in it, including a first-aid kit.  However, laying there on the rocks I could have used a drink of water.  Grade: Passed, but barely.

Precaution #4: Be mindful of where you are.  Be aware of local dangers such as poison plants or dangerous animals.  In my case, I was very aware of dangerous animals in the vicinity and I had brought my walking stick and bear bell for safety.  But really?  Would either of these have provided adequate protection had I encountered a buffalo or a grizzly bear.  I think not.  Grade: FAIL

Yes, laying there on the rocks I had plenty of time to reflect on my failure to take properly safety precautions.   I vowed to myself that I’d do better next time! 
About this time the shock of my hard fall was beginning to wear off and I was starting to feel another sensation.  Kind of prickly.  Made me think of an addendum to Precaution #4…something to do with plants….yes, plants, prickly….YEOW!!!!  I had fallen into a bed of cactus plants and my entire left side was covered with sharp, painful spines!  I jumped up and started using another piece of my geocaching gear…tweezers!

In the end, I got lucky.  I escaped with just bruises and “friendly” reminders from the cactus that I continued to pull out over the next four weeks.  But, it could have been much worse considering that I failed to follow so many safety precautions.  I’ve learned my lesson and I hope you will learn from my experience as well.  Geocaching is fun for everyone, but it can also be dangerous unless you practice safe caching.

Have fun and be safe!!!

(Note:  In the cache description the CO of Electric Rock warns of wildlife and cactus in the area.  Perhaps, Precaution #5 should be added:  Read the cache description and make note of any precautions listed!)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

48 in 12

We retired on 1/1/12 and quickly set a goal for our first year; to geocache in all of the 48 contiguous states.  When we set the goal we were both skeptical…after all, that’s a lot of miles to cover in one year.

We began our quest in late February by driving from Illinois to California.  Our first new state was Oklahoma where we found Sleepytime In the Western World (GC2YFR9).  We were on our way!   On this trip we picked up nine states and saw some incredible sights including the Grand Canyon, cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde and alien exhibits in Roswell.  We even got to see our first Major League spring training ballgame!

That first trip was followed by five more driving trips and flights to Vegas and San Francisco.  In all, we traveled over 35,000 miles in 2012 finding over 1200 caches in 48 states and two Canadian provinces.  We saw many more sights, including Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone, Atlantic City and incredible New England fall foliage.

As always, geocaching took us to places we might have otherwise missed.  Just like Oregon Trail One (GC1DPYY) which took us to see the wagon wheel tracks from the 1800s. Another good example was  It’s a Long Reach Down (GC1R76F) which not only gave us a spectacular view of the Long Reach, but also took us along an enchanted trail with hundreds of tiny little fairy houses scattered throughout the forest.

And of course, Earthcaches really helped us learn more about the world around us.  One of our favorites was Hell’s Half Acre (GC15FHV) where we learned about Idaho’s volcanic past.  Another was Buffalo Pie – Badlands National Park (GC10RRP) which taught us how The Badlands were formed.  Not only that, but shortly after finding the cache we came across a prairie dog village and a herd of wild buffalo!

Another of our favorite caches was in Key West, Florida.  USA, all the way South (GC2C32) is located very near the southern-most point in the continental United States.  It is one of several caches that you can find while walking around Key West.  If you cache here you have to watch out for the chickens that roam the streets!

New York proved to be our toughest state to get.  Our first visit was brief and all we got was a DNF in Queens before we ran out of time.  After a few days in Maine and in Vermont we swung back through New York to see Ft. Ticonderoga.  Near there we found You Deserve a Break Today (GC2WJ3B) and accomplished our goal of 48 in 12!   

Of course we didn’t stop geocaching just because we hit our goal.  We kept traveling and caching, seeing more sights and making more friends.  Now, it’s 2013 and we can’t wait to see where geocaching takes us this year!