Location, Location, Location!

My favorite 4-legged buddy
This big old world is full of many wonderful locations to tempt all the senses.  Sometimes you just need the motivation to get out there and get to them.  And do you know the next best thing to BEING there?  It's GETTING there.  Take your best buddy - two or four legged - and step away from the TV.  I love being outdoors and I like finding hidden things or places that very few people will have the privilege of visiting. One of my favorite things is hooking up the camper and hitting road with my son and my dog for a weekend of spending time in God's creation and making a few finds of man's (or woman's) creation.

I like getting out and hitting the trails in a state park or private park that has some good size to it. It's great if there's some water around because it's nice to hear the rhythmic sounds of waves lapping on a shore or the trickle of a small creek as it makes its way over rocks and drop-offs.  Where there's water, there's critters. Feathered ones, furry one, slimy ones (hey...some of them are cool) and even a few creepy crawlies.  OK...there are some that I hope to NEVER see!  You could go to the same park over and over and take the same trails and it will be different every time.  Spring flowers, fall leaves, gnarly, twisted bark of leafless trees in winter.  All have their own appeal.

Why do I go back again and again?  Other than just the views that nature set out for me, is the thrill of a scavenger hunt activity that some woman or man or family has put out to show me something new.  Geocaching, letterboxing, Munzee hunting, Ingress and other location-based games.  Millions of little reasons and lots of locations to explore. Adventures in the waiting. Some are quick "park and grabs" and some will make you pull your hair out and take hours. Somewhere in the middle are the ones I enjoy most.

Geocaching will lead you to a very specific spot. Just follow the GPS (or your smartphone) and a set of clues and hints and you might round a corner and find an ammo can in the woods.  Or...you might find a container hidden under a lamp skirt at the closest shopping mall. Don't knock these. A couple quick finds like these are great to keep you outside a couple of extra minutes and that might be all you need to help you get through the day.  Finding these hidden containers and signing the log feels like being in a very elite, ninja secret society of scavenger hunters.  I don't know how many times I've driven by little pocket parks and point out to a friend "There's a geocache in that park" only to hear them exclaim "What park?" Some of these have been hidden right under your nose for YEARS.  I know something you don't know. He he he! Most of the containers that are bigger than a thimble may also hold "swag". Inexpensive little trinkets or signature items that people leave to swap with each other. Swag is a favorite of young children - so keep this in mind when you decide WHAT you place in a cache. Search these out on opencaching.US, geocaching.com, terracaching.com and others.  To add to the flip side of the fun, hide your own.

I'd Rather Be Camping
Letterboxing is much the same, but you don't use a GPS. You use a set of clues. Some are straight-forward and involve the "turn left at the dead cow" type clues.  Others can be more cryptic and use a few more brain cells.  As I mentioned before...bring a friend!  Sometimes 2 or more heads are required to figure out a puzzle or reading between the lines.  The BIG difference in geocaching and letterboxing is that letterboxes use rubber stamps.  A vast majority of the stamps in a letterbox are hand-carved individual works of art. When you hunt a letterbox, you should bring your own stamp and stamp pad/markers as well. When you find the box, you don't just sign your name and date the log and leave. Take your time, take in the scenery and the sounds of nature.  Ink/mark up your stamp and leave your impression in the log book in the box.  Bring your own personal journal or bring index cards to gather another record of your adventures. Use the stamp in the box to stamp your journal or cards. Then you have something to look at on cold, rainy (or EXTREMELY  hot days here in Texas) when you just don't feel like getting out. Try your hand a carving a stamp. You can make relatively simple designs that are easy to carve. Clues to these boxes can be found on atlasquest.com and letterboxing.org.

Letterbox "Hybrids" can also be listed on the geocaching listing sites, but they must use GPS use for at least a part of the hunt. Most point to trailheads or nearby parking areas. Many cachers get in the habit of not carrying anything but a pen and just quickly sign the log and date it. Where's the fun in that?  If you don't have a stamp, draw a picture.  Or use a pen (or ink pad if one is supplied) and make a fingerprint. Then make a cute drawing out of it. If a person takes the time to carve their own stamp and maybe even make their own logbooks, it won't kill anyone to take an extra minute to leave a little something to reward their efforts.  I love seeing the logs of stamps and drawings that others have left in my logs.

Munzees are litle hidden (or right out in plain sight) little QR codes - either on a sticker, a dog tag or plastic piece. Each one you find or place gets you points. The map of these can only be found at munzee.com.  Again...they might be right under your nose...or maybe your butt.  The next time you sit on a bench in a public area.  Look around. You might be surprised what is lurking about. Some people are quite clever in how these are disguised. Or, they might be large and in the window of your favorite business.

So...what would be my idea of a perfect weekend?  It would involve grabbing my son, my dog and the camper after work on Friday and heading out to a Texas State Park with good views and good trails. Oh look...there's a Munzee in the window of the park headquarters! I need to get a picture with one of the park rangers to complete that locationless Terracache. Yeah! They have Pathtags here! Maybe we'll check-in on Google+. There would be time to sit and talk and relax and maybe add a few birds to our life lists. Build a fire...gotta have a campfire.  Maybe make s'mores...or maybe just roast marshmallows and eat the chocolate off my fingers. Hot chocolate anyone? Let's go find that night cache that's only marked with fire tacks and glow-in-the-dark stars. A shower and then good nigh's sleep with the sound of crickets, frogs and owls in the background. Wake up to the Cardinals - man, they are early risers!  MMMM!  There's nothing like campfire coffee and the smell of bacon cooking. Hey, it's a good way to meet the neighbors. Later, we'd hit the trails and find caches on at least 3 listing sites. One of them would be an Earthcache and one would be a little evil bugger that my son would take pride in finding. He's the Evil-Cache Miester in the family.  I'd have my markers, journal/cards and stamp in tow for those letterboxes. Were we supposed to turn left at the first trail junction or the second? Wow! Look at that stamp. I though only a machine could make an image that good! Isn't that a cool hidden pocket of boulders? I didn't know all of this was back here. There's a rare sighting for the bird list. If this is a warm enough day, we'd probably end up in the lake to cool off.  Then there would be a repeat for another night and the morning on the trails.  Then we'd take down the camper and remove all traces as if we had never been there. Maybe on the way home, we'll cruise by the nearest Post Office and capture a portal and add a few resonators, link it with a couple others and create a control field. (Ingress). Don't you feel Enlightened?  And, being that this was the perfect weekend, all of the camping gear, laundry and food would magically get put away all on its own.

Hey...what the heck am I doing sitting here typing on this computer?!  I should be out on location, location, location!!!