(I wrote this with non-geeks in mind, so I had to explain a bit about GPS...)
First, I will give an introduction to GPS and Geocaching in case you don't know what those are.
A GPS receiver is a handheld device that receives radio signals
from special satellites.
The GPS receiver can tell you where you are on the Earth with an accuracy of about 20 feet.
For instance, my trusty Garmin eTrex GPS tells me that my house is located here:
Latitude: 37.7195 degrees North
Longitude: 122.4345 degrees West
...always good to know when asking for directions...
Geocaching is a treasure hunt where you use a GPS receiver to
find caches hidden around the world.
The Latitude and Longitude coordinates of thousands of cache sites are published on this web site:
People publish the coordinates to caches they have hidden. The caches a usually little boxes or jars hidden in parks and woods. Other people search for them with their GPS receivers and when they find the cache they write their name in a little book inside the cache... It's hiking for nerds.
I went geocaching with my friend, Kevin, in Boulder Creek, CA. On the Geocaching web site we found the coordinates of a geocache that was about 5 miles from his house. The description of the cache said that it was hidden in a burned-out, hollow redwood tree. We programmed the coordinates into my Garmin eTrex GPS receiver and set out late in the afternoon to find the cache. We ended up in Big Basin Redwoods State Park. We followed the main road and found a turn-out that was within 200 feet of our destination. The tall redwood trees blocked much of the satellite radio signals, so my GPS receiver could not get a very accurate reading of our location. The coordinates on the GPS were jumping around so at best we knew we were within a 100 foot radius of the destination. Now all we had to do was find the burned-out, hollow tree. It turned out that nearly every other redwood in the area was burned-out and hollow... This is common in redwood forests where trees often survive fire that burns out the inner trunk and leaves the outer living wood unharmed resulting in a living, hollow tree... At any rate, the clue of a burned-out redwood did not help us narrow our search. There were a lot of trees in the 100 foot radius and it was starting to get dark. Searching by flashlight we eventually found a big tree that had a welcoming opening at its base. It opened into a small, cozy den that I could have stretched out and slept in. I crawled inside and far in the back I saw a small, brown plastic box lying neatly on the ground. "Ah ha! The cache!". I grabbed the box and brought it outside. Geocache boxes are usually labeled "Geocache", but this one only had a label with a some faded printing and some handwriting on it. It was late, the label was hard to read, and I was tired -- I just wanted to get the damn thing open, so I didn't pay much attention to the label. The box did not have an obvious opening or hinge, so I started knocking on the sides and found that one panel was sort of loose. I pounded on it until I forced it into the box. I didn't break it, but I don't think it was meant to be opened this way. Something in the back of my mind was saying "Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!", but my hands raced ahead and before I could think about what I was doing I was digging out some crumpled white tissue paper. Suddenly I thought, "Oh shit! This isn't a Geocache. This is someone's dead pet!" I sniffed the box -- well, it smelled clean enough -- no odor of rotting pet hamster, parakeet, or frog. I took another look inside and found a plastic bag that had a white powder in it. Then it really hit me, "Oh shit! This is someone!". It was then that I decided I should take another crack at deciphering the label. I could make out faded print, "Diana So-and-so / Cremated 1996 / Rose Crematoria Services". -- My final thought as I replaced the box where we had found it was:
Why the hell don't people take better care to hide their dead?!
This tree was right next to a turn-out off the main road after all... We never did find the geocache that night.
Noah: Finders, keepers!
Kevin: He's so happy.
"This is the greatest Geocache I've ever found."
Maybe he's too happy.
What's it say?
The Truth Shall Make You Free.