When I began writing my novel (a young adult adventure set in Italy, with mythological themes; I promise I will give more details when it's complete... which will hopefully be sooner than later!), I created a character who loves geocaching.
Had I gone geocaching before? Heavens, no.
And so I wrote this character and I imagined what geocaching would be like... and for the most part, I think I got it right. Geocaching is an elaborate game of hide and seek, in which 'cachers hide tiny treasures and logbooks in plain sight and list their locations by longitude and latitude so that other 'cachers can find them.
But still I wondered... what's it like?
Finally, I got my chance to try it out with an experienced geocaching guide in Ojai in December. Jimmy Harvey (whose Geocaching.com handle is badfeet) is a longtime geocacher who offers customized geocaching adventures in the Ojai Valley through the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. Jimmy is an affable, easy-to-like guy who proves the old adage You're only as young as you feel. And with his youthful spirit and enthusiasm for nature, Jimmy could easily be an adventurous 8-year-old trapped in a gray-haired guy's body. Not only that, but Jimmy is a former Navy SeaBee and was stationed in Bermuda in the 80s - which is only one of the things we had in common (my dad was NAS Bermuda's crash captain in the mid-80s). I won't digress, but it was truly a joy to reminisce about Bermuda as well as learn a new hobby.
Geocaching can be done anywhere in the world - I can imagine that clever 'cachers can find niches and hiding spots in urban areas as easily as in the woods - but I loved being in nature and hiking among the ancient oaks and citrus trees of Ojai. Using Jimmy's sophisticated GPS to find geocaches along our hike, we found dozens of tiny and not-so-tiny caches hidden on the trail. They were in trees and bushes and under rocks and hanging from trees! Some merely required standing still and looking at a usual sight with a new perspective. Jimmy kept saying, "Okay, Erin, now stop thinking and use your geocacher's instinct." Which meant, "If you were going to hide something cleverly, where would you hide it?" Often, it meant hiding the geocache in plain sight. Several times, I was STARING AT IT and couldn't see it.
(And wow, isn't that a great metaphor for life??)
I won't divulge the secret spots - it's too much fun to find them on your own and this is a fabulous activity for kids and families - but now that I've finally tried it, I'm hooked. I cannot wait to hide a few items on my trip to Europe this summer and maybe find a few surprises, too.
On Jimmy Harvey's business card, his official title is "Retired Guy" and it says, "Nothing to do and all day to do it..." Don't ya love him already? To reach him: firstname.lastname@example.org .