Geocaching and a lesson learned

By Alice Williamson - March 1, 2007
We had taken a family trip to the Black Bear Lodge in St. Germain in February of 2007. Taking a look at the weather before we head out we see that there was a chance that we would have to deal with a snow storm, but we had a list of things that we would like to attempt to do while on our family weekend getaway. First on our list was to ice fish, of course, and the second was to try geocaching. For a couple of years we have talked about attempting to find geocache treasures and maybe this would be a good time to give it a try. I searched on the internet for any geocache information and found that there are quite a few treasures to be found in the St Germain area. So I took all the information with us on our trip just in case we had some time to give it a try.

Saturday morning came and we decided to give ice fishing a try since the storm had not yet arrived. Needless to say we did not have such good luck. We decided to head back to Black Bear Lodge and have a little lunch and thought, let's give this geocache thing a try. So I entered all the coordinates into the GPS and away we went. We drove past one, looking around and thinking winter is probably not the best time to try this one as we would have to walk along side a creek. So on to the next one we went which was at a public boat launch. We walked around trying to find the geocache as it started to snow and about 10 minutes later we did actually find it, a little camouflaged film canister with a log to sign inside that proves that we were successful. Now everyone is excited and ready to go on to the next one.

We head off to the second one, which happens to be close to another public boat launch. Again, we follow the GPS and get to the area where we are supposed to be. As some of you may know you can enter the coordinates into your GPS and it will tell you where you are, when in all actuality it tells you approximately where you are within 6-25 feet. After about 45 minutes we decided that maybe it was covered with snow and decided to try this one again another time. So, we decide to move on to the next one.

We follow the GPS to the third site, hoping that we will have better luck this time. This one is actually in a state park that has hiking, biking and cross country ski trails. Now my husband would let us take a look at the GPS so that we could see what it says, but he has more or less been the one leading the way. So we head off on one of the trails from the parking lot. As we are walking he notices that we are actually getting further away from the geocache. I am not too worried since I looked at the map of the trails when we got there, and all the trails are more or less different circles that end up back where we started. So we continue to follow the path. At this point I am very anxious to hold on to the GPS and give it a whirl. After following the longest trail, we find ourselves close to where we started, but there is another trail that goes off to the west which is the direction the GPS is showing us to go. We follow this trail hoping that we can get to where we need to be as we have been walking for quite some time. Finally we get to where the geocache is supposed to be and after looking for about 20 minutes we finally found it. All of us are excited but realize that we should call it a day as it is starting to get dark. It was a long walk to get there, but worth every step since we were successful and found the treasure. Night time was closing in quickly and we decided to head towards the parking lot. So my husband decides to take the GPS back and lead us back to the van but not by following the path we took to get there. We get to one parking lot, of course it is not the one we parked in, and Mike says “It’s this way”. Now being new to this we did not even think to mark where we parked our van on the GPS. So down the road we go. Mike figures, by looking at his trusty GPS, if we follow the road we should get to the parking lot, no problem. So we start walking and continue to keep walking and walking and walking.

After walking for about 30 minutes the road takes a turn, and of course that is not the way we want to be going. I won’t repeat what Mike actually said, but he more or less said that we should be fine if we continue to follow the road. Now the sun is gone for the night, and being in the north woods there are no street lights so we are using what little light we can get from the moon to see, thank God there was snow. We end up at an intersection that looks very familiar to us from when we were driving to this last geocache. I now ask to take a look at the GPS to see where we are. When I looked at the screen, and had to zoom out to see where the waypoints were, I realize that we have not been heading in the right direction. Now after walking for more than an hour, Bailey, who is 7, is not having fun anymore and getting hungry. At this point I figure we have walked well over 3 miles since we parked our van in the parking lot. With it being dark, the only option we have is to follow roads, so off we go.

Now we have walked close to another mile and the tempers are starting to flair. Looking at the GPS, which of course is telling me that the battery is getting low, I realize that we have at least 2 hours worth of walking to go. Bailey says she can’t walk anymore, so Mike puts her up on his shoulders and we continue on our long journey. Now we are just hoping that someone will drive by and let us know if we are heading in the right direction. Finally we see headlights, wave them down and tell them we are lost. I can just imagine what this couple is thinking when we tell them that we are lost because we are out geocaching with our GPS. After we explain where we are trying to get to the couple informs us that we have another 3 miles to go. Now I always tell the kids to never get in the car with strangers, but at this point I welcomed them offering to give us a ride. I can not thank this couple enough for getting us back to our van and putting an end to this journey.

Even though it was not the most pleasant experience during that last geocache, we are hooked and will defiantly do it again. Geocaching is like a maze and an adventure game. It is a great way to get a little exercise and enjoy the outdoor scenery and wildlife. It is one thing to see the geocache marked on the screen, but is a totally different story when it comes time to figure out how to get there and where it is when you get there.

So yet again, I learn a valuable lesson because of our GPS, and that is to make sure that you mark where you park your vehicle before venturing out to find your treasure. And to make sure that if you are in an area that you are not familiar with that you will have enough time to get back before it gets dark.

Author Alice Williamson
Alice Williamson
Alice Williamson aka Farmerswife. I have lived in Wisconsin my whole life and I love the outdoors. I love turkey hunting, camping and fishing (ice fishing being my favorite). My family is the most important thing to me along with my friends. I am going on 12 years of being married to my husband Mike and he has not traded me in yet! My son, Jesse, and our daughter, Bailey, are making life interesting to say the least. And always remember you're unique, just like everyone else.