My sons and I started geocaching in February 2008. Of course being from New Jersey this was probably not the best time to start.
I first heard about geocaching from my brother. He and his kids had tried it and he told me how much they all enjoyed it. It sounded like fun and since I was looking for a way my sons and I could spend more quality time together, I started doing more research on it.
I spent quite awhile researching geocaching gps units and finally decided on the Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx. At the time (and still is) it was rated one of the best gps units for geocaching and I liked the fact that it could keep track of cache locations and finds and could also be used in my car and boat.
So after talking it over with my sons, I ordered our new geocaching gps and when it arrived I played with it and thought I knew everything I needed to know about it. (boy way I wrong…LOL)
I joined as a premium member at Geocaching.com and found some caches that were close to home and entered them into the gps. I printed out the descriptions and hints just in case we needed them and we decided we would head out the next morning and try it out.
Well, as luck would have it we got about 6 inches of snow that night. Undaunted, and excited about finding our first geocache treasure, we decided that since it was close to home we would give it a try. I drove to the park where the geocache was hidden and we got out and turned on the gps.
For anyone not familiar with the Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx, it comes with an electronic compass and you have to calibrate the compass before you use it. Which leads us to the next part of our first geocaching adventure. I looked at the map on the gps and then put it in compass mode. The compass is very nice, it has a nice big display and an arrow that points you in the right direction.
So off went blindly following the compass to the far side of the parking lot. Eager to try all the functions on our new gps, I switched back to map view and noticed we were actually getting farther away from the geocache! What the heck was wrong with this thing, the compass is saying go this way and the map was saying go the other way! Looking at the compass something didn’t seem right. It said we were going North but looking at the sun it seemed like we were headed East. Right about that time I remembered reading something about calibrating the compass.
Luckily I had brought the manual along (hey Dad isn’t a total dummy) and found the page about calibrating the compass. All I had to do was hold the gps level and spin slowly in a circle 2 times which wasn’t a big deal, but you should have seen the strange looks I was getting from people wondering why this big dummy was turning around in circles in the parking lot!
Finally the compass and the gps map were agreeing and off we trekked across the field which was covered in 6″ of new snow. So far, so good until we came to the brook that we needed to cross. It was fairly deep and hadn’t frozen over so we needed to find a shallow spot where we could cross. At this point I should probably note that we drove across the bridge that goes over this brook on our way into the park.
We continued on with our geocaching quest and soon came upon a nice little parking area. The same one we had passed on the way into the park…lol and finally ended up in the woods, the compass and gps still agreeing we were headed the right way. A little more walking and we were at ground zero. (finally) I told the boys to start looking for hiding areas and things that might give us a clue to the location of our awaiting treasure.
There we were in was heavily wooded and with the trees still covered in fresh snow we were getting some gps bounce. So I tried walking back and forth from different directions to get a good average reading. Of course by now my youngest son was getting tired and cold and wanted to give up.
So in a last ditch effort to find the cache I pulled out the cache description and we decrypted the hint. It said the cache was located at the base of a fallen tree. So we went to the nearest one and started brushing the snow away. My oldest son found a small hole and reached inside and had his hand on our bounty! Just one problem, it was frozen in place. Luckily I had brought a knife along so we were able to free the geocache from it’s location.
We signed the log, exchanged some swag and re-hid the cache. Of course if anyone else was looking for it that weekend that would have an easier time finding than we did, thanks to our tracks leading right to it.
We headed back to the parking lot, which was 1/2 mile away from the nice parking lot where we should have parked and headed home to log our first find.
I’m happy to report that we haven’t had any similar problems with the compass, because now Dad always makes sure it’s calibrated before we head out
If you would like to share your first geocaching adventure please feel welcome!