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Four Years at the Mount

Sophomore year

A pirateís life for me

Lydia Olsen
Class of 2016

Most children grow up entranced by the idea of pirates. Even as we grow up, pirates still enthrall us. They live lives full of adventure and make their own rules. We cheer for them in movies, dress like them for Halloween, and even name our mascots after them. Yet, we all know that pirates were and are very violent and brutal people who didnít exactly earn our admiration. So why are we so memorized by them? Maybe itís for the treasure. That is the reason for pirates after all, isnít it? They fight to the death over a treasure chest once they find where "X" marks the spot. They canít get there without their treasure maps though. What if I presented you with a treasure map right now? How would you react? I would predict that you would have a desire to travel to that "X" and uncover the treasure it promises. Well, what if I told you that instead of one treasure map I was going to present you with 2,140,316 treasure maps? Granted they arenít all in this country. In fact, they are in every country and on every continent. Yes, that includes Antarctica. There are even some in outer space. Naturally, those ones are pretty difficult to get to. However, if I presented you with these maps would you be up for the challenge of finding the ones within your location? I guess I cannot physically give you these maps but I can tell you a single word that will provide you with all the information you need to know: geocaching.

Geocaching is a game played around the world. It is an outdoor adventure where participants seek to uncover hidden containers and the treasures within them. In a sense, it is a worldwide game of hide-and-seek. A geocache is a hidden container which includes, at minimum, a logbook which is signed and dated by everyone who finds it. What is inside a geocache varies from container to container and is, of course, determined by the containerís size. Containers can be any size the hider wants, and any container can be cleaned out to become a geocache as long as it is watertight.

Each geocache has GPS coordinates that allow the seeker to get within the general location of the cache, and the smallest containers, called "nanos," are often magnetic to make them easier to find. The caches are never buried underground and are usually visible depending on oneís angle. Once you find a geocache, itís exciting to see whatís inside. If there are treasures within the cache, each seeker is allowed to take an item to keep as long as they put an item into the cache in return. After a treasure is selected, a replacement is made, the log is signed, and the geocache is returned to its spot, allowing the game to continue.

Anyone can hide a geocache, but it is hidden for a more specific reason than the cache alone. Geocachers are usually trying to share something with other geocachers. The hider may want to show off the local park, a scenic location, or even their favorite stores. Caches are sought for the fun in finding but also for the purpose of discovering even more about oneís surroundings.

The first time I went geocaching I had no idea what I was looking for. The GPS had told me the general location of the cache, but I was still having a rather difficult time finding it. Finally, I found the cache hidden in the trunk of a broken tree. When I first laid eyes on it I was thrilled. I remember jumping up and down with excitement and refraining myself from screaming, "Tharí she blows!" I opened the container and found a few small items. There was a toy racecar, a few coins, a necklace, a button and, of course, a log. I unfolded the log and was shocked at the length of it. There had to have been at least 50 logs already on it! I signed my name and returned the cache to its previous location without even knowing that I had just set loose the geocaching bug within me. I was hooked. After that first experience, I went geocaching every day for a few weeks. I was quickly on nearly every cacheís log within 15 miles in every direction.

I have been truly shocked and amazed in the number of caches that I have found throughout my town. Multiple caches are in areas that I have passed by almost daily without even realizing there was a cache to be found. The geocache that surprised me the most was a middle-sized container attached to the fence of a restaurant only a few miles away from my neighborhood. When I found it I was completely stunned that I had driven past and seen it so many times, yet had never thought anything of it. Now I cannot drive past it without acknowledging it. I often witness people casually walking past it as they approach the restaurant without even realizing the treasure that lies feet from them.

The most difficult geocache I have found to date was actually underwater. Yes, underwater! I convinced my sister, Kelsey, to help me search for it knowing that a team effort was needed. We took a boat out to a sandbar and jumped into the bay. The water was a little less than five feet deep, and at some places we couldnít touch below us, but we kept trying to find the geocache. We used our hands and feet and waved them all around. After nearly an hour of searching I felt something floating near me. I quickly called Kelsey over and told her to feel around for it. By this time I had drifted away from whatever I had felt, but within a few minutes Kelsey found it and grabbed on. Grabbing ahold as well, I realized that I was going to have to dive under the water and detach the container. Seeing through the bay, even with goggles, is rather unreasonable so I had to rely only on my sense of touch. The geocache was a reusable water bottle carabined to rope, which was tied to a rock. Luckily I was able to retrieve the geocache and it floated up to the surface. I swam over to our boat, geocache in hand, and climbed aboard to sign both Kelseyís name and my own to the log. As a treasure, I took a pin that had been aboard the space shuttle. I thought it was so neat that I had found a treasure that had been into space and underwater! In its place I left a rubber toy fish that I thought was fitting for the location. I resealed the container and jumped back into the water to return it to its original place. Kelsey had been waiting in the spot the geocache was located so that we would be able to return it exactly where it came from. Kelsey and I returned to the boat overjoyed with our find.

Travel doesnít have to be far away. It is merely defined by movement from one place to another. My favorite type of traveling is on the hunt for geocaches. It always promises adventure, surprise, and a sense of accomplishment. I guess everyone can live pirate lives after all. I invite you all to become part of the geocaching community that is over five million strong. There are multiple online databases and apps that provide you with the coordinates of caches in your areas. If you havenít traveled recently, what are you waiting for? There are over 10,000 caches only miles from you, just begging to be discovered. Now the only question is, can you log them before I do?

Read other articles by Lydia Olsen