I’m up to 107 found geocaches.
Long way from the girl who got stuck in a bush and trespassed on the Saratoga Springs Country Club, huh?
Of course the part I love the most is the thrill that comes from finding a particularly sneaky cache. The relief and excitement when I catch that first glimpse of the container, when it finally comes into focus and I actually see it for the first time despite having stared right at it for the last ten minutes…it’s an amazing feeling. And forever walking by that spot and knowing that there’s a secret hidden there that the rest of the world passes by gives me the inside wiggles.
But there’s a secondary part to geocaching that I also really dig.
Caches come in all shapes and sizes, from the smaller than my last pinkie knuckle to a 50-caliber ammunition canister. In any caches that’s large enough to accommodate it, cachers are encouraged to leave or exchange swag. Swag can be almost anything that fits inside the cache. McDonald’s toys are popular swag, but I’ve left things like a bent fork, a bottle opener, a bumblebee eraser, a toy compass, a wooden ball, a single rainbow earring, a toy ducky, a weighted ball, a seashell, a barrel knob from a lighting fixture, a plastic horse, and a painted rock. I’ve heard of some people who leave useful swag, like a mini first aid kit or a small compass, and a bigger prize (even gift certificates or money!) is sometimes offered for the first finder. Here’s the current contents of my “swag bag”:
The above contents of my swag bag is all stuff that I picked up when I was first beginning, leaving stuff I picked up from around the house and taking whatever appealed to me. Since then, however, my swag bag has been slowly filled with what I like to think of as my signature swag.
First off, there’s my bracelets.
The original idea was poached from my friend and geocaching partner-in-crime, Christine, but they’ve since taken on a life of their own. Every spare moment I have, whether I’m watching tv or in the car while Kyle drives us to work, my fingers are flying through brightly colored embroidery floss. I started out only making them in Geocaching colors, but have since moved on to whatever makes me smile. I love leaving these bracelets in caches because they’re brightly colored and fun, and they can be rolled up small to fit into all but the smallest cache. I have this fantasy in my head where I’m out somewhere and I see someone wearing a bracelet that I recognize as one I made. And I’ll be all, “Hey, I recognize that, are you a geocacher?” and they’ll be all, “Holy crap, yes, are you MonsteRawr?” and then we’ll be best friends. This will probably never happen, but I’m having fun making bracelets anyway.
And then there’s my guitar picks.
It started with ones I picked up at work, like the one on top. I liked the idea because it’s unique, it perfectly reflects me and my life, and they fit in all but the teensiest caches. But I could never pick them up fast enough. I refuse to ask for them, as that hardcore violates Stagehand Code, and artists who don’t consciously hang on to them tend to chuck them at the audience. So as fast as I collected them, I was dropping them in caches.
Since I first started talking about geocaching my parents have also gotten into it, albeit not as rabidly as I have. I was talking about caching with my dad on the phone one day, and I mentioned the guitar pick conundrum. A week or so later, I was surprised when an envelope appeared at my door containing MonsteRawr guitar picks. I was thrilled. For one, it was super sweet of my parents to have these made for me. My own custom guitar picks! But also, I mean, how cool are those?! They’re look great, and anyone who comes behind me will open the cache and know that I was there. It’s like my own personal badass calling card.
And for all but the teeny-weeniest of caches, I sometimes leave a swatch of color.
I don’t know why I feel compelled to leave something in the tinier caches. No one else does. Most people don’t leave swag in micro (about the size of a film canister) caches at all, and it’s not expected. As far as I know, I’m the only one who bothers. I think it’s because I love that moment when I open a cache, high on the thrill of the find, and I glimpse an unexpected surprise inside. I want to give other cachers that same surprise.
These swatches are of gel for theatrical lighting. They usually come in a little book containing hundreds of these little rectangles of gel, and they’re used by lighting designers to choose colors. I like them because they’re a splash of bright color and have fun names, and they’ll fit into any cache as long as it’s no smaller than the width of a swatch. I try to pick a name or color that somehow represents or reminds me of the cache. Sometimes it’s something that reflects the surroundings, like R12 Straw for a cache next to a field or R89 Moss Green for a cache in the base of a moss-covered tree. Sometimes it’s more reflective of my mood or the day, like R318 Mayan Sun for a 105 degree caching day in St Louis. My favorite so far has been R39 Skelton Exotic Sangria, which I left in a cache next to the Thoroughbred race track because the name reminds me of a horse name.
I like to think that my little tokens sit in those caches, waiting to one day bring a smile to the next finder’s face. I like to think that people enjoy finding after me, because they’re eager to see what splash of fun is waiting for them. Once I heard from another cacher who found one of my Monster guitar picks and loved it, but for the most part my swag travels on silently.
Really, though, I think that’s part of the spirit of caching. At this one point on the Earth, we each come to make our mark. That one point is forever different because we were there. Maybe it’s in a good way, because we left something that will bring a moment of joy to another finder. Maybe it’s in a bad way, because we unknowingly broke or ruined the cache for others. And maybe it’s in a way so small that it’s hardly noticeable except that there is one less empty space on the finder’s log. We can never know how our presence changed that spot and those who find it, only that we leave it different than it ever was before.
I want to leave it a little more colorful.