I’ve not been doing much gaming lately, as the family and I are on vacation in the north lakes. We stay with my parents at their summer place, and this year my sister also made the trip with her family. It’s been one big weeklong family get-together! Typically, though, we take one day to go off on our own, just myself, Mrs. Brax and the kids, and do something besides the normal fishing, swimming, and eating that normally comprises our vacation days.
Today we decided to go biking, and on a whim, geocaching. In past years, we’ve biked in Itasca State Park, which is a beautiful area but very busy (people and cars), and also pretty hilly, which can make both the downhill control and the uphill climb a challenge for the smallest among us. This year, we decided to stay a little closer to camp and try out the Heartland State trail. This is a fantastic trail, paved over 50 miles of abandoned railroad routes. The grade was perfect and the scenery (mixture of deciduous and evergreen trees bordering sparkling lakes and bays) was incredible. Plus, the bike rental place is only about a 20 minute drive from camp, as opposed to the hour or more trek to Itasca. We’re certainly going to try to make biking on this trail an annual occurrence.
Something Mrs. Brax has always wanted to try is geocaching. I’m sure most people reading this post are already familiar with geocaching, but in case you’re fuzzy on the details, geocaching is kind of a cross between hide-and-seek and opening a time capsule. You use an app that helps to pinpoint approximately where the “cache” is, and you have to figure out where it’s hidden in the world. Once you find it, you can log your find (either in the app or on a physical sheet of paper in the cache, or both) and perhaps add to the cache if you wish. It’s a really cool concept that’s been around for quite a few years, now.
So, off we went, armed only with our rented bikes, a Samsung Galaxy S6 and enough ignorance to make us dangerous.
The first cache stop was just prior to going through a bridge that went under the highway. The clues were pretty specific, and we learned that the cache would be tough to find in the summer due to the brush growth. At first, Brodkil inspected a conspicuous rock, but to no avail. We also learned that the cache was stashed in an old Peter Pan peanut butter jar. It supposedly contained several clocks representing different timezones, and spare batteries. It was originally placed in 2010. After spreading out and searching for about five minutes, Brodkil uncovered an old, de-lidded peanut butter jar which was empty besides a piece of paper that was too wet to read. We’re assuming that this was the remnant of a six year-old cache, but it’s also possible that it was just highway litter. A little disappointing, but at least it was something
The 2nd cache we hunted for was actually back up the trail a little ways. We accidentally passed it the first time and had to circle back. It was described as a set of “micro caches” that were “winter friendly”. We had to think about it for a bit, but eventually realized that “winter friendly” is code for hanging up in a tree somewhere. Too close to the ground, and the cache would be covered by the several inches of snow that are common during the Minnesota winter months. However, this realization had not yet hit us while we were hunting for cache #2. “What’s micro mean?” asked Tiny Brax. “Small”, I answered. “How small are they?” he quite reasonably followed up. “Smaller than a peanut butter jar”, I supposed, being that this was my only frame of reference to this point. Other hunters had commented in the log that the cache was surrounded by poison ivy, so we were scouring the ground. Eventually, we decided that the micro must be too micro for us, and we continued on.
The hints for this cache were amazing. The last person to find it had logged only a month ago, so the information was fresh. It also said “no longer winter friendly” which we figured out meant that it was on a tree that had fallen and was now on the ground. We found two trees in the area that were on the ground, but they were both completely surrounded by poison ivy so I was deterred from getting too close. I peered at the tree for a very long time from the safety of the paved trail, paying particular attention to the branches, but just couldn’t come up with anything. This was a particularly frustrating one to leave because I’m just sure we were only a few feet from that silly cache, but it was obscured from sight by the cursed weed. Eventually, though, we had to carry on.
This clue had us stopping on a section of the trail that had a ledge going up on the right-hand side. The clue indicated that we had to climb the ledge in order to see the cache. The kids had ridden ahead, so I climbed up while we were waiting for them to come back, and lo and behold as I looked to my left I saw an out-of-place coffee container hanging from a tree. “I see it!” I yelled, and the kids came scampering up. Tiny Brax was the first to reach it, and popped open the lid. Sure enough, the inside of the lid said “Official geocache, please do not remove”. It contained some unsharpened pencils, a beverage cozy from a local business, some silly bands and a notepad log. Unfortunately, we didn’t think to bring a pencil, so we couldn’t physically log our find, but we did indicate that we found the cache in the app. I thought this cache was a fairly obvious one, and was surprised to learn that it was last uncovered back in March, a good four/five months ago. We capped it back up and continued on our way.
Armed with a newfound sense of false confidence, we stopped one last time to try and find another treasure. By this time, though, the complaints about bug bites and thirst were starting to get rather loud, so we only spent a few minutes gazing into the trees before conceding that it was time to turn back for ice cream and water. I’m not sure if we were very close to #5, but whatever voice it was trying to muster to call out to us was drowned out by the sound of a thirsty eleven year old.
There you have it, the inaugural Braxclan geocache hunt summary. I really would like to try again. It sure beats the heck out of imaginary Pokemon!