Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Geocaching and Dogtown

You know we're all about the geocaching.

But just the other day, birongirl posted a comment in my journalspace journal stating that they had no idea what the hell I was talking about. Sometimes I forget I pick up a new reader once in a while.. so, in case you haven't gone all through my archives back to the beginning of time immemorial to find out what the hell I'm talking about, I'll educate you briefly.

Geocaching is sort of a "treasure hunting game" that one plays with a hand-held GPS receiver (or if they are too smart by half, they use maps and a compass and their own smarty pants intuition).

You get the clues and the global coordinates off of the internet at the Geocaching Website, and you program your GPSr with said coordinates. You go to said coordinates. And usually you'll be successful in finding a little box, or some sort of container, with a log book inside. In addition to the log book, there will be trinkets, toys and perhaps some change. You swap trinkets. Geoff likes matchbox cars. Jessica likes finger puzzles. We leave play-doh, little American Flag pins, anything we come across in the store that is a buck or less. We're cheap that way.

You then go home, get back on the Internet, and you sign the online-log stating that you found the cache.

We have cached in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, New York and Pennsylvania. We have found 216 caches and hidden 9.

And we've been doing this since June of 2002. Doug read about it online on FoxNews.com, and I learned about it in Wil Wheaton's blog. Wil Wheaton geocaches, but I don't think he goes out too much. Thank you Wesley Crusher for telling me about this.

When I read about it, and went to their site to learn more, I thought it was cool but there was no way in hell I was going to spend 300 bucks on a GPSr.

A few days later, Doug comes running into the bedroom and says "Dude! I just read about this cool game online!"

"What, geocaching?" I replied.

He was crestfallen -- "Yeah, how'd you know."

"Wesley Crusher told me."

And then I told him I thought it was hella cool, but didn't see the point in spending the money on a GPSr. Well, he already bought one after doing some research (Magellan SportTrak Pro in case you are wondering, and we swear by it).

Turns out I was mad at him for like a minute. It actually is the best $300 bucks this family has spent.

Without Geocaching, I couldn't walk up a flight of stairs, much less climb huge ass hills that three years ago would have put me in my grave. Geocaching has gotten us out of our seats and into the world, has shown us cool parks and places right near our house that we never knew existed.

Including one today... we've driven past this place a billion times. And I had no idea about it, and it was GORGEOUS.

So, that's what geocaching is. If you're at all curious, go to the geocaching website and in the top right corner, punch in your zip code (if you are in the USA. If you're international, pull up your country and you can search that way). See how far the nearest Geocache is to your front door. Let me know if you want more information on anything, and I'll do my best to educate you.

Saturday we set out minus Jessica, who was invited to a friend's house for the day. She won't see her friend for a full week due to sleep over camp, so we let her off the hook. She hates Geocaching. But Geoff loves it, and it is one of the few activities that he takes great joy in. He has classified himself as "A Professional" and will often say when we get to the tops of very high things "Dude, I'm hardcore. High five." And he gets the high five because really, he's hardcore.

We first visited the Stavros Reservation in Essex to do cache number one. Gorgeous views, quintessentially New England. We were the only people there. The dogs ran all over, enjoying the outside. We caught the cache, a very easy find.

On to the next at Agassiz Rock in Manchester, where we got to do cache number two, see amazing vistas and huge ass rocks. Damn. They were huge. One was so big, I couldn't even take a picture of it, because it didn't fit in the camera screen. Damn. big. rock. This hike was a bitch. Rocky terrain, and the heat was at its highest when we were up in here. I felt sick from it, but by the time I got back to the truck, a cold bottle of water and the AC revived me and it was time we were off to number three.

Rafe's Chasm is a little area in Magnolia, near Hammond Castle where I worked as a tourguide in college. The views were outstanding, and Doug and I both were kicking ourselves for never knowing about this place, even though we've been living in the area for a billion years. Thank you Geocaching for showing us the coolness in the landscape.

We found that cache easily, lingered for a long time, let the dogs wade in the tidepools but didn't let them down to the very rough ocean. The tide was way low, and I want to go back and check it out when it is up high, and makes the thunderous crashings described by the cache hider in his cache description (follow that link if you didn't already, and learn about the area).

We then went to Dogtown in Gloucester. There are dozens and dozens of caches that a person has put out there in the past several months. He kind of went haywire, hiding stuff all over the place. It's kind of overkill, and there are some caches that cachers cannot find... and these are people who have found hundreds of caches.

Dogtown is a once settled but now preserved wilderness area of Gloucester and Rockport. There used to be a settlement here but farmers couldn't make a go of it on the rocky soil, so they returned to the coast and coves to set into fishing instead and Gloucester became a fishing mecca instead of farming Mecca The old roads and trails and foundations of buildings are still there. In the early 1900s Mr. Roger Babson, wealthy philanthropist, commissioned people to carve sayings on the boulders throughout Dogtown with uplifting comments and sentiments.

We tried the first one at the start of Olde Rockport Road off of Dory Street in Gloucester, but couldn't find it at all. I had a sinking feeling we were going to strike out like Nomar over and over again because this guy's caches are either not there or badly hidden... but we proceeded to the next cache and found it, along with some of the uplifting sentiment rocks.

And this is why I love my son. He was upset that the rocks were carved.

"That makes nature cry!" he said.

He was indignant and upset that someone would mess up nature with words. Doug and I both tried to stifle laughter, because hell if it isn't cute that a 7 year old should find graffiti offensive. We explained that Babson intended for the sentiments to uplift, not offend.

So we asked him if nice thoughts carved with good intentions made it acceptable, and for a while he was still angry. It hurts the boulders. What if no one is there to see them wasn't it a waste of time...

...and then he started to come up with ones of his own like "Be nice to people" "Help Friends" "Pick up your room" "eat your supper" and stuff like that. So for the whole rest of the walk he came up with great boulder carving suggestions and it made the time pass with laughter.

We found the next four caches, Get a Job, Old Alewife Mill, Cape Ann School and Pirate Deathmatch.

We returned home sweaty and tired. Inspired by boulders. Slept like the dead.

Sunday, we did not geocache. The kids had to be to camp at 3pm to take their swimming tests and get registered, and we left Jessica there with her cabinmates to spend the week. It has been quiet and peaceful here without her, but I miss that kid.

On Sunday Night, Doug's aunt called from Connecticut. She was driving to Maine and wanted to stop by and visit us. We figured she was 3 hours away tops, so meeting her for dinner on the highway would work out well.

She didn't call again, and at about 9pm we called her to find out she'd gotten out of Connecticut, gotten onto the Mass Pike going the wrong way and was headed to NY State. So she was pissed (she kind of blamed Doug for not giving her the right directions once she got onto the Mass Pike, but, Maine is North and East of Connecticut, so why on earth would ANYONE go west... but I digress) and she was really tired. Can't say as we blame her.

So we ate a quick dinner home, wondering how anyone can go traveling anywhere without a map, and went to bed.

This week I'm teaching.

I'm working at the college with Ole Prof. CM teaching Powerpoint and Web Design with Netscape Composer to graduate students in the Masters of Art in Teaching: History concentration department. Nice. It's going incredibly well, the students are very smart, talented and they know what they want to do with their projects. So much so I have to make them stop and listen to me instead of listening to half of what I say and running with it.

Their enthusiasm is refreshing. Today it was 4pm and we hardly realized it, we had to shut down the lab and kick them out, and it felt as if it was 1pm. A breeze of a day. Tomorrow and Thursday will be the heavy crunch days. The kids who are tech savvy will want to insert video clips and mp3 clips into their presentations. There will be kids who want their webpages to appear more robust than the free tool of Netscape Composer can make them. They will be looking for that one really important picture that will make or break their powerpoint on the French Revolution and Gender. And CM and I will be running around, helping out, making sure they save their files to the right directories and do so often lest the lab PCs crash out and erase all their work before we get them backed up to the network.

I love what I'm doing this week, I wish I did it every week. Every day.

My parents are visiting. I need to go fold out the couch for them. I've avoided for a tad too long this evening. So. More later, if not next week after the kids leave and I get my sanity back.

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