I’m always looking for an excuse to get on horse, and when I heard that wrangler Leah was taking out a ‘geocaching’ ride yesterday, I was intrigued and demanded that I join in.
For the uninitiated (like me, until yesterday!) geocaching is a type of scavenger hunt, organised through the internet but conducted in the real world. Basically, you use GPS coordinates and clues left online to try to find hidden boxes, or caches, which contain small treasures of varying description. You then register your find online and share your experiences.
Three of the guests staying at Paradise Ranch this week - Katie, Sami and Mark Sanderson from Florida - are geocaching experts, playing wherever they go. They say it adds another dimension to their travels, gives them something to do and a focus, and has bonded this father/daughters trio. En route to Paradise Ranch, they found 27 caches, with four out of five searches reaping rewards.
Apparently there are 1,821,289 caches placed all over the world. If you search the geocache website (www.geocaching.com), you’ll find there are 901 caches hidden in the Buffalo area alone. For instance, there’s one hidden outside the Busy Bee Cafe in town; another near the Pamida store.
Katie and Sami had discovered that there are even two caches hidden along the trails near Paradise Ranch. And it was with the intent of discovering those treasures that Leah, Kelleyanne, Katie, Sami, Mark and I headed out yesterday afternoon on the Schoolhouse Trail.
(heading down Roller Coaster towards Schoolhouse Park)
Katie and Sami had printed out the clues and directions; while they also carried a GPS which gave directions and distances. One cache was hidden in a red Folgers coffee container, buried near a rocky outcrop near the entrance of Schoolhouse Park; the other further up Schoolhouse Trail, hidden in a camouflaged army tin “three miles from the green gate”.
(Mark checking the GPS coordinates)
It all sounded relatively easy, and lots of fun - and Katie and Sami were excited to be geocaching for the first time on horseback. En route we discussed all sorts of geocaching trivia... for instance, it started when GPSs were invented, to market the new device; and that sometimes the treasures in the boxes are actually valuable, with furious races to be the first to discover them. We also uncovered interesting facts such as a horse walks downhill at 2.7 miles per hour, and lopes at 14 miles an hour. (Mind you, that's a really slow lope, since leader Leah's horse was a lard-ass...)
Unfortunately, what we didn’t factor is was time. Setting out just before 3pm, we had to be back at the barn by 5pm ... and it wasn’t until we were an hour into the ride that we realised it was an impossible undertaking given our restrictions. We’d already worked our horses hard; they were sweating and puffing after some not-so-vigorous loping; so we decided to head back and leave the search for a full-day ride.
Calling our failed undertaking a “reconnaissance mission”, we headed back to the barn empty handed, but enthused for part two of the adventure. Stay tuned...