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Hitting a geocaching milestone on my birthday

January 15, 2016 @ 23:59 By: gordon Category: Geocaching

I recently hit a geocaching milestone that I’ll tell you about in a bit. First, some history.

I’ve had a geocaching.com account since June 9th, 2001, but I only logged my first cache in April 2004. My friend, Markus, placed some of the very first geocaches in Ottawa back in 2000 and 2001 and he basically told me to go to some website and enter the coordinates in my GPS and follow its directions. So I did, but unfortunately I didn’t find the cache because one of the intermediate spots where there were supposed to be some numbers for the next spot was missing the numbers. I put a pin into it, so to speak, and got around to geocaching more seriously when another friend told me about it.

Fast forward to today and there’s now 2.7 million active geocaches in the world and something like 15 million geocachers. The curious little hobby has grown into a full-blown Thing with caches all over the world. If you’re in Ottawa, chances are good that there’s a geocache within a couple of hundred metres of your current location.

Personally, I’ve gone geocaching in 5 provinces in Canada, 8 states in the US, 11 counties in the UK, and 5 countries in total, including 3 in Europe (UK, Germany and Greece). I’ve taken trips to both the US and Scotland where the primary goal was geocaching.

Many of my geocaching friends started caching after me, but have thousands of more finds than I do, which I’m fine with. They are able to go geocaching more often than I can, so it’s not surprising that I’ve been creeping towards finding my 1000th cache for quite some time. Quality before quantity — it’s not about the numbers.

Well, I made a decision that it was time to fix that, so I texted one of my geocaching friends, Brad, who goes by the caching name Blackrose67 and said…

21 caches in one evening. Doable?

to which he responded

Depending on the target area, yes.

So, the die was cast and we made plans and headed out after work this past Wednesday, which just happened to be my birthday.

Wednesday was cold. It got down to -17C while we were out, but fortunately it wasn’t terribly windy so the windchill was only -24.

We met up in Barrhaven and headed to the south end of the city and did a couple of caches in Greely just before 7pm before ramping things up and getting more serious about it. Usually, I like quality over quantity when geocaching, but it was time to go for quantity over quality.

Fortunately, there are geocaches every couple of hundred metres along the Osgoode Link Pathway and the pathway has many access points as it goes from Leitrim Road to Osgoode and points south on an old railbed. So, we identified bunch of geocaches that neither he nor I had found that were flagged as being “winter friendly” and spent the next few hours finding geocaches.

Around 11:30pm, I was just 3 caches shy of the goal when we had a bit of problem: We were running out of winter-friendly caches along the O/L Pathway that weren’t a long walk from the access points. Uh oh.

Fortunately, Brad knew of three caches relatively nearby to where we were that he’d found in the past that should be fairly easy to find. So, we made our way to the general vicinity and used the geocaching app on my iPhone to find them.

The first one was a conventional geocache in a tree at the side of the road. I logged it as #998 around 11:45pm.

#999 was a trickier cache as it involved removing a screw holding a small metal sign on a wooden post and then retrieving the cache container from a small hole. That’s when I encountered a problem (or two).

First, undoing the screw took a couple of precious minutes in the cold wind with a tiny pair of pliers. But that obstacle was overcome. All that remained was to retrieve the container and sign the log. That’s when I encountered the second problem: The container was frozen in place thanks to some ice.

After making a valiant effort to retrieve the container, I came to the conclusion that it would be best to virtually sign it as forcing the container out was going to damage it. So, that meant putting the sign back in place and replacing the screw, being careful not to drop it in the snow.

Oops.

Fortunately, I was able to find the screw after a minute or so and it screwed back in fairly quickly.

With only a couple of minutes to go, we made our way to the last cache. I retrieved the log from the container and looked at my watch to see it read 23:59 and then a second later change to 00:00. Talk about cutting it close. Had it taken any longer to find the screw in the snow, I wouldn’t have found #1000 on my birthday!

I signed the log for my 1000th find and we posed for the OCP (obligatory cache photo) before replacing the container and beating a hasty retreat to the warmth of the car. Heated seats and a heated steering wheel have rarely been as welcome as they were then.

The program I use to track my finds is predicting that I will reach 1100 finds on 13 Aug 2017, 1500 finds on 08 Dec 2023
and 2000 finds 01 Nov 2031 after 443 outings. My retirement date is something like August 30th, 2028, so I’ll probably find #2000 before then because I’ll have all sorts of free time on my hands for geocaching once I retire. 🙂

A big thanks to Brad for helping me achieve this goal on a cold winter’s night!

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