Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Geocaching Around Town

Geocaching Around Town
Warwick Township , Pennsylvania

Our First Successful Discovery
Last year I was introduced to the activity of Geocaching by my friend and fellow middle school teaching colleague Ruth Gallagher.  This past summer in the middle of a July heatwave, we decided to meet to go and and see what we could find within a a two mile radius of my house.  She went on the website and printed out a list of over a dozen GPS coordinates with accompanying description and clues.  With the help of her hand-held Geocaching device, we began our adventure and pulled out of my driveway to see what local hidden treasures we could find.  A lot of the clues and descriptions are more like a riddle that you have to decode.  Not one of our destinations gave clear and direct instructions but that is part of the fun.   It was often a brain-teaser for us to try and unravel the true meaning of twisted words within given hint phrases.  It's an outdoor thinking game.

Concealed Cache / Roadside Guardrail
Our first target was less than a mile from my house; the designated site described the location of the Scottish Highlands.  A descriptive paragraph, with a complete history of the region in Europe accompanied the coordinates.  The hand-held device's arrow pointed the way and my knowledge of the local roads made it easier for us to find our way from Point "A" to Point "B".  This was a real challenge for us at times while Geocaching last summer because we could see where we needed to go but had no idea how to get there.  At one point searching for a target around Harrisburg, there was a six lane highway between our car and the direction we needed to drive.  We discussed theories of the hint's meaning as we traveled ever closer to the cache location with the hand-held device slowly counting down the distance to get to the target.  We headed in the direction of the Highlands Apartment Complex on top of a hill south of Lititz.  This revealed the connection to Highlands in the cache title and the Scottish half described the heritage of the person who created the Geocache. 

 Heart of Lancaster Hospital Campus
We parked the car when the GPS device began to count down the distance to the cache in feet.  We were not at the Highlands yet and our device pointed to the woods off the road.  Where could it be?    Ruth's experience made it an easy find for her because she knows where to look and what places have been used in previous finds to conceal a cache.  It was found in the metal roll of the backside of the guardrail along the road, which was called Highland Drive.  Inside a small round black film case container was a paper scroll for Ruth to log her username and today's date to register she successfully found the Geocache.  There were over a dozen signatures and matching dates already logged on the tiny roll of paper.  Later, Ruth would go on the website at home to record her findings to update the Geocaching data base.  Each description Ruth printed out listed the last time the Geocache was discovered.  We replaced the scroll back in the waterproof container and returned it to its hiding spot for the next person to discover. 

 Rock Formation Hiding Spot
All Geocaches are rated on a D/T scale of difficulty with one being easy and five very difficult.  The "D" half of the scale represents the mental challenge of finding the cache and the "T" scale designating the difficulty of the terrain involved getting to the target.  After descending the Highlands, there were several to find along the popular walking path on the Heart of Lancaster Hospital campus.  I was trying to figure out how you could hide something on the hospital campus that would not be found by maintenance or landscape workers.  We came to the conclusion that several of the Geocache containers were placed on the property by hospital staff members, based on the names and descriptions of the cache boxes.  Ruth taught me to look within the target area for something that did not look natural or was slightly out of place, such as a rock that might be covering something, which was the case on several of our quests.  It was fun to see who could find the cleverly concealed cache box first, kind of like an Easter egg hunt for competitive adults!  

Geocache up a Tree
Sometimes Ruth would find the location first and then let me discover it for myself.  On more than one occasion, I found the item first but let my excitement get the better of me by blurting it out.  However, it is much more fun to have a partner when Geocaching, so one person can concentrate on the road and the other on the GPS hand-held device.  On the health campus we found two hidden within rock formations of the landscaping along the walking trail and a third in a strip of woods between the walking trail and the cornfields beyond.  A small path zig-zagged through the brush to an open spot within the woods, where we searched over rocks and the knots of nearby trees.  The GPS device does not point directly at the object's location, becoming inaccurate at approximately 12 feet.  This zone is officially known as Ground Zero in Geocaching lingo.  At this point, you have to know what to look for, guided by the riddle-like clues and your intuition.  Eventually, Ruth found the Geocache hidden within the knot of a tree.  She won this round! 

Revealed Geocache / Penn Cinema
Next, we were off to search for a Geocache called Popcorn and a Movie (N 40° 06.807 W 076° 17.500) hidden somewhere on or near the property of Penn Cinema south of Lititz.  It was placed by a couple who are major movie buffs and see a movie every Wednesday when they also likely maintain their Geocache container.  We were guided behind the theater to the deserted back parking-lot and were instructed by the GPS to head to the treeline that borders the back of the property.  We searched the perimeter until a small path came into view that led to a tree and several rocks.  Looking for the possible hiding place, a particular rock stood out that we removed to reveal the largest container yet that advertised itself as a Geocache.  Inside was the paper scroll log paper, a stick of gum (no thanks), a small dog statue, and several other novelty items.  I was hoping for a pair of free movie tickets or a voucher for a free popcorn!  Not today... Onward to our next site!

Caches Hidden Within Rocks
One of our most challenging Geocache quests was located on the Stauffer's of Kissel Hill property.  Kiss my Cache (N 40° 07.699 W 076° 18.340) gave a hint in the form of a crypt word puzzle that needed to be decoded... drill here was the solution to the hint puzzle.  Our GPS was more nonspecific as we came to a tall chain-link fence that seemed to throw off our hand-held device.  We had a hard time trying to figure out if the Geocache was along a long rock-ledge on one side of the fence or hidden within several lush pine tree plantings on the other side.  We started searching through the thick pine trees, which revealed several hidden rock formations but no cache.  We were confused by the decoded hint "drill here" suggesting rock, but which one?  Soon we decided to split up, with Ruth searching on the rock-ledge side of the fence and I continued exploring the pine trees.  I was beginning to think the fence itself between us might contain the cache when Ruth suddenly shouted out that she found it!  It was the most creative hiding spot I have seen yet, a small rock plugged a drill hole within a larger rock that contained the small Geocache inside!  Very cool! 

Fence Post Challenge
The second Geocache hidden on the Stauffer's property was even more difficult, hidden near or within a bus-stop shelter along West Millport Road.  Despite extensive searching and a hint that contained the word "shock" suggesting a connection with electricity, we were unable to locate the cache after fifteen minutes of looking.  A little frustrated, we were beginning to feel the effects of the heat wave with mid-afternoon temperatures in the high 90's with equally high humidity.  However, we always recharged slightly with the AC cranked in the car as we drove the short distance from one location to another.  We decided to push on to finish our list, followed by a late lunch as a reward.  We headed off to the Manheim Township Community Park for our final finds of the day.  This was a trip down Memory Lane for me as I played in this park when I was little and knew exactly where the path was described in the hint provided for Going Nuts 2 (N 40° 06.486 W 076° 18.565)  This one was a little hard to find but the name of the Geocache box revealed a clue in itself when we discovered a walnut tree with nuts laying on the ground around a conspicuous pile of rocks.  The large Ziploc container was found under the rocks and we crossed another Geocache off our list.  
GPS Geocaching Hand-held Device
Our next Geocache was located on the opposite side of the park, where our hand-held device led us to a tall tree.  I was starting to get good at this and looked for less obvious hiding spots nearby.  I was drawn to a series of wooden posts that had several holes drilled into their sides.  The holes went all the way through the wood, where the post may have previously held a chain or cable fence.  One hole appeared plugged and upon closer inspection I found a metal wire barely visible below a wooden plug.  I called Ruth over to see what she thought and she pulled on the wire, which was attached to a small Geocache container concealed within the post hole.   Wow, no two were alike and my developing detective intuition had paid off with a difficult discovery!  We ventured across the street to a sports complex to find our final two cache boxes of the day.  Our final find was a milestone discovery for Ruth as she logged her 100th find of her Geocaching  career.  It was hidden in a small pine tree that contained a plastic container that was wired to the trunk.  Congratulations Ruth!

Congratulations on Find 100!
We celebrated Ruth's achievement with lunch at Issac's Restaurant and Deli back in Lititz, a stone's throw away from our first Geocache find of the day.   We were seated and the waitress could tell there was something on my mind... I had been fighting dehydration for the past two hours... I said "I am really, really thirsty!"  She rushed away and came back with two mugs of ice water for each of us... Ruth sipped... I gulped, and gulped, and gulped!  I don't know how many gallons I put away but it was the best thing on the menu that day!   Overall, the day's searching was a big success with us finding eleven out of the thirteen on our list.  The Geocaching website currently lists the number of active Geocache containers at 1,458,628 worldwide so the fun never ends!  A big thank you to Ruth for accompanying me on this adventure.  We had a lot of fun and make a great team.  In the near future, we may work together on creating a few Geocache locations of our own to monitor.  Stay tuned for the next installment of our Geocaching team effort!  

100 Postings and Counting
Unknown to me at the time, Ruth and I had amazingly shared a centennial benchmark on this trip together.  Her 100th Geocache discovery coincided with my 100th blog posting of Camp Martin Travels!  What are the odds?  As always, thanks for your continued interest and support!     

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