I imagine that Indiana Jones would have started out this way had he been real and around in this technologically-advanced day and age.
Armed with my phone and a water bottle, I set out into South Mountain on Sunday afternoon looking for treasure. The sun beat down on me but the temperature hovered below 100 degrees, cool for what we have been experiencing. A slight breeze kept my spirits high as I started my trek into the desert.
It was my first time geocaching and a rush of excitement swept over me as I thought about how somewhere in the desert landscape in front of me, there was hidden cache of treasure.
I can't remember where I heard about the hobby that people are ultra-passionate about, but when I did, I knew I would have to give it a shot.
The first step I did was I got on my computer and headed over to www.geocaching.com. There, after registering for free, I searched an Ahwatukee Foothills ZIP code, 85044, which yielded dozens of results. I picked one in South Mountain because it was a physically larger "cache" (sizes of geocaches vary) and about medium difficulty.
Looking back on it now, I should have chosen an easier one for my first attempt, or better time to go, as my initial confidence dwindled as the sun climbed higher in the sky during my adventure.
The website gives longitude/latitude coordinates for each geocache that you plug into your GPS device, or, like me, a program on your phone. I started walking into South Mountain off of 44th Street and San Gabriel Avenue as I watched the screen, which told me my distance to the object. I didn't know what to expect to find, but the fun of geocaching is the search for the object, not necessarily the object itself.
After traveling northwest for about 15 minutes, I run out of trail and before me sits a climb of about 45 degrees. I check the map and realize I could backtrack and take another route that might make it a bit easier. But the object is supposedly less than 50 yards northwest of my current location and I came for the thrill of adventure so I pocket my phone and begin to climb upwards.
This is where it gets interesting. As I reach the top and look around at the beautifully scenery, I check my phone and it tells me I am now farther away from my target than I was at the start of the climb.
My one bar of service indicates that could be the cause of it. I try turning my phone on and off and, luckily, at least for the time being, it readjusts my position on the GPS and puts me within 20 yards of the object. I climb back down a way and look for a Tupperware container described on the website.
I recheck my position in relationship to the object and, again, my phone thwarts my attempt with little to no reception. I put the phone away and spend 15 minutes searching the area in an outward spiral before I locate the Tupperware container. It is stashed under a bush and I marvel at the sight of it. A breeze cools me off a bit and I just sit there for a moment and appreciate the nature around me and revel in the satisfaction of discovering my first geocache.
I open it up and inside are several small trinkets that other people have placed and a log book to sign my name. I don't take any of the items because I didn't have anything to replace them with. I make a mental note to bring something along for next time.
I recover the Tupperware, put the container back in its original spot and start my climb back. This time I take the easier route as my legs have grown weak and the climb down a mountain is a lot tougher than the way up.
It's a hobby I definitely recommend if you enjoy the outdoors, a little adventure and just a touch of mental activity.
Just make sure you have a working GPS or a phone that gets good reception.
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