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How to Be a Wizard

Russ Pitts | 22 Jan 2008 12:56
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The "geo" in geocaching stands for geography and "cache" refers to the traditional practice of hiding containers filled with provisions and supplies in the wilderness. Hiding provisions in geocaches is heavily discouraged, however, lest your cache get eaten by a hungry bear. Animals, apparently, don't respect the rules.

From geocaching.com:

The location of a cache demonstrates the founder's skill and possibly even daring. A cache located on the side of a rocky cliff accessible only by rock climbing equipment may be hard to find. An underwater cache may only be accessed by scuba. Other caches may require long difficult hiking, orienteering, and special equipment to get to. Caches may be located in cities both above and below ground, inside and outside buildings.

The skillful placement of a small logbook in an urban environment may be quite challenging to find even with the accuracy of a GPS. That little logbook may have a hundred dollar bill in it or a map to greater treasure. It could even contain clues or riddles to solve that may lead to other caches. Rich people could have fun with their money by making lucrative caches that could be better than winning the lottery when you find it. Just hope that the person that found the cache just before you left a real big prize!

Prizes can be metaphorical, as in the thrill of finding the cache and signing the log, or tangible, like money. Some caches are smaller than pill bottles, containing only a piece of paper on which to put your name, telling the world you're wizardly enough to find it. Others are big boxes full of toys. Take something, leave something. If you're lucky, there's money.

Often the thrill of caching boils down to finding a cleverly placed cache in a place you would have never expected to look and realizing someone has been there before you, was thinking about you and left something. Like finding a note in a bottle, or a message from Boo Radley in the old tree. When you look at the log and realize someone else found the cache before you, last month, last week or yesterday, you feel as if you're not alone. You see the invisible threads.

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Take something, leave something. Sometimes, all you take is a warm lump in your throat and what you leave is your mark.

"X" Marks The Spot
The cats continue their meal, but keep half an ear cocked in my direction - in case I do expire. My companion helps me to my feet, and we move on. After another dead end, I track the coordinates to an open space and start looking around for the cache. It's not there. Nothing's there, in fact. I ponder going home. Being a wizard might be too hard for me.

When I say "open space," I mean "open space." I'm standing in the middle of an empty parking lot, and as far as I can tell, there's nowhere a cache could be hidden. Just a few metal lampposts and an old cargo truck. I check the truck, even though it's silly. (Cars make bad hiding spots. Cars move.) My companion thrashes the shrubbery around the lot, even though the GPS says they're 100 feet off the mark. She finds nothing. I check the coordinates again, but they're right, I'm reading them right and we're right where we need to be. But the cache isn't. I'm tired, dirty, hobbled and frustrated, I decide to call it quits and walk back to the car.

My companion urges me on. She asks me where the GPS says we should be, and I point her to the exact parking space where it zeros out, right next to a lamppost. She walks, and, shamed, I follow. But still, there's nothing there. I lean against the lamp post and something moves. Something's loose in the base of the seemingly solid piece of metal. I pull at it and it lifts up, revealing the cache. Whoever hid it there was a mad genius.

When I return to the website I find that half a dozen people tried to find this cache and failed. I am not among them. I'm now a wizard.

Russ Pitts is an Associate Editor for The Escapist. His blog can be found at www.falsegravity.com.

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