It is no secret that real estate in Carmel-by-the-Sea is valuable and highly desirable. Surprisingly, some of the most sought after pieces of property are not only as small as a sardine can – they are free for the finding. But here’s the cache.
These little gems of property are all part of an international scavenger hunt called Geocaching, where “geocachers” use GPS devices, or smart phones, to hide and seek containers called “geocaches” anywhere on Planet Earth. There are more than five million geocachers looking for 2,069,529 geocaches around the world. There are enough geocaches in Carmel and on the rest of the Peninsula to keep you hunting for a long time.
A usual cache is a small waterproof container, such as a Tupperware piece, or something as small as a tin Altoid ® box. Inside is a “log book” where the geocacher enters the date they found it and signs it with their established code name. After signing into the log, the cache must be placed back exactly where the person found it. Leave no trace is a guiding principle of geocachers who take great care not to disturb the environment.
Many caches contain insignificant trinkets such as a golf tee, or buttons, or paperclips. The finder may remove a trinket but must replace it with something as equally inconsequential.
I went on a hunt, not for a geocache, but for a geocacher. “Ynots4,” asked me to use her code name.
“Any geocacher who sees my code name will know who I am,” she said. Y, my nickname for her, told me she has been geocaching for 10 years. She has located 1,068 caches and hidden another 62. She said the activity is great fun for kids. Her son, a Boy Scout, just earned a Geocaching Merit Badge.
Most caches are single site locations. Others are multi-sites where finding one gives you clues leading to another location. “Y” said there are multi-site hunts that cover multi-states.
Geocachers get together to swap stories and trinkets. Rarely do they complain about caches being too difficult to find. ( no geo-kvetching) They sponsor an event called CITO (cache in, trash out) where the group cleans up the entire meeting area as a public service.
How better to understand the activity than by trying it out. Off I virtually went to my smart phone’s App Store to download a Geocaching App. There were several there so I downloaded the one that is free. Geocaches are rated by degree of difficulty. It is mandatory the seeker not need a tool such as a trowel or shovel to find the cache – remember the leave no trace principle. Once you select a cache, you are presented with a screen that identifies your location, tells you how far away the cache is, provides you with a description and a compass, pointing you in the right direction. As you approach the cache, the distance is reduced to feet (327 more feet, 159 more feet, etc.) until you are within two feet of the cache. Then you have to use your eyes. If you still have trouble you can check a “hint” that just about gives it away.
The name of my first cache was “In the Garden.” Since I recently wrote about the garden at the Church of the Wayfarer, I figured that would be a good start. I found it, but I won’t give away where the cache is.
My next one was easy, too. It is called “The Valentine,” which I know is the name of the bronze sculpture of a couple seated on a park bench, at Lincoln and Sixth. A history lesson was included along with a biography of the sculptor, George Lundeen.
The third one was more difficult since it was in an area of Carmel I don’t get to, often. Its name is “The Jane Powers Walkway.” Again, history was provided. This walkway honors Jane Gallatin Powers (1868-1944) who was one the original artists who founded Carmel. I learned from the clue that Jane Powers was the daughter of Albert Gallatin who became rich during the California Gold Rush and built the Governor’s Mansion at 16th and H Street in Sacramento.
Their website is www.geocaching.com. Once you register with a user name and password you can log your successful hunts and look for geocaches anywhere in the world, not at sea, so there is no geo-ketching. Geocaching is a great way to have some inexpensive fun, good clean exercise, and learn things about your own town that you may not know. Not only is it free, there’s no catch to it.