Geocaching!

I’d been meaning to try Geocaching for a while… the combination of exploring places close to home that you wouldn’t normally go and messing around with technology in the process really appealed to me right from when I first heard about it. So when, during a late-night discussion of what we were going to do the next day, Gavin suggested we try geocaching, I was very excited.

Big sticks are essential geocaching equipment.

We decided to meet at Tesco at 1pm to buy supplies, then head off to Cammo for a walk and see if there were any caches near there. I think we all assumed someone else would take care of signing up for an account on geocaching.com and looking for caches in the right area and finding the GPS co-ordinates and all that stuff. But when we met up no-one actually had. One smart phone to the rescue, and soon we were on our way.

Gavin thought the geocache might be in there. It wasn't.

After getting parked and eating my sandwiches, I fired up the phone again and checked for caches nearby. There were several, more than we’d expected. Initially we were going to go for one at a nearby bridge as I knew roughly where it was, but we were tempted by a slightly further away one that was apparently full of CDs and DVDs instead. (Gavin was excited by the prospect of possibly finding a Nutty Professor DVD so we had to give him that chance).

First part of the route was straightforward enough… just down to the river and along. I hadn’t been that way in a long time so it was nice just to see it again. As we walked I messed around with my phone trying to find a good way of downloading the geocache’s co-ordinates. In the end I settled for just memorising them and then staring at the GPS app as our location gradually closed in on the cache’s. There’s probably a more high tech way of doing it but this way was quite fun.

Past Cramond Brig we took a wrong turn or two and the geocache web page decided to choose the worst moment to stop responding so we couldn’t check where we were supposed to have gone. But after retracing our steps and walking another few minutes we were looking at exactly the view in the photo on the web page. We knew we were close! I charged off into the trees, watching the GPS intently as the numbers counted down to the ones fixed in my head. Once again I made the mistake of paying too much attention to my phone and not enough to the real world, and walked straight past the cache without seeing it. But Alex had no phone to distract him… and he found it!

Alex finds the cache!

It was a big metal ammunition box. It reminded me slightly of the ammo dumps in an old board game I used to like (“Lost Valley of the Dinosaurs”), except those didn’t have “Geocache” written on the side in big white letters. Excitedly we pulled it open as Laura and Gavin, who’d been waiting to see if we were actually in the right place before getting too muddy, joined us. Sure enough, there was a big stack of CDs in there! We wrote our names in the log book and had a flick through the previous entries. This cache has been there quite a while, with log entries going back nearly 3 years. No Nutty Professor DVD sadly, but Gavin did pick out a CD (“This can be our geocaching CD!”) and we rummaged through our pockets and bags for something suitable to leave in exchange, but couldn’t find anything. (The general rules say you’re supposed to leave something of equal or better value, but this cache specifically said there was no need to because it’s usually so full of discs anyway, so we didn’t feel too bad. Though I still intend to go back and put something in there at some point).

What's inside?

We packed away the cache and put it back where we found it. All in all this was a pretty successful and fun start to the world of geocaching… I think I could easily get hooked on this, especially as everywhere I search there seem to be loads nearby! We were tempted to go and look for another one straight away but we were running out of daylight and out of time. We had to go and help Gavin’s Dad move his pool table instead, which is a long story (involving brittle slate tops that weigh as much as 3 people, one lift that the table would fit into with less than an inch to spare, a second lift that we discovered too late was an inch smaller than the first one, a garage door that stubbornly refused to open when we needed it most, and a long diversion route around the streets and up fifteen flights of stairs. Yes, fifteen… in fact, thirty if you count the little half-flights individually). On the plus side I did get some amazing pictures from his balcony, if I can manage to get them together into a panorama I might post it.

MoleThrower records his visit for posterity

Update: went again today (11/2/2012), found 4 this time, around north east Edinburgh, and found lots of little corners of the city we never knew existed. Also found a very nice Android app (c:geo) that helped for finding them.