Geocaching’s hidden gems
Rich – As you may already know, Jaspa, Sue and I enjoy a hobby called geocaching. For those of you unfamiliar with the idea, the best way I’ve heard it described is using multi-billion dollar military satellites to find Tupperware hidden in the woods.
In a nutshell, someone hides something (anything) somewhere (anywhere) and then posts the latitude and longitude of where they hid it online. Someone else (anyone) then downloads the coordinates into their handheld GPS receiver, and heads off to find it.
Sue first came across geocaching in a Canadian Geographic magazine a few years ago, and we thought it sounded like fun. Truth be told, our first attempt was a bit of a disaster, but that’s another story. Our second attempt (almost a year later) went much better, and we’ve been hooked ever since.
For me, geocaching started out as a fun way to find new places to take the dogs for a walk. It also gave those walks more of a purpose. (I’m a big kid, and so get bored walking the same paths over and over and over again.) While admittedly some geocaches can be rather mundane, it’s a fun to find unusual caches that have obviously taken a great deal of thought and effort to set up.
But for us, it’s the hidden gems that really keep geocaching interesting. Caches hidden by local people who want to showcase something special, unusual, or beautiful near where they live. Caches that take you to things you might otherwise be unaware of or not make the effort to visit. Like the Big House in Philadelphia where Al Capone was a prisoner. Like the lake in Alaska that you can’t see from the highway. Like the lava cave we explored on our hands and knees in Iceland.
And you don’t have to go halfway around the world to find a hidden gem. Last weekend we found one less than 20 kilometres from our house.
Sunday started out beautiful and sunny, so we decided to take the dogs for a bit of a walk. Our aim was to find one of the oldest geocaches in Ontario, placed back in May 2001 (and given that the first ever cache was only hidden in May 2000, that’s pretty old).
We crunched along a snow-covered converted railway along the banks of the Grand River south of Cambridge. The dogs loved it, sniffing at everything in sight. By the time we’d walked the two and a bit kilometres to our goal, the blue skies were all but gone, and there was a threat of more snow in the air. Fortunately, this did nothing to spoil the impressive sight that awaited us at the cache site.
We rounded a slight curve in the trail and there to our left, down amongst the trees between the old railbed and the river, were the ruins of German’s Mill. I’ve since learned that the three-storey building was constructed as a water-powered woollen mill in 1867. Sadly, today all that remains is the shell of its massive stone walls, although it remains an imposing structure nonetheless.
I’ve lived in this area for eight years. Before that, back in 1999, I investigated a fossil site on the far bank of the river, only about a kilometre north of the mill. Sue has lived in the region her whole life, and we’ve both driven along East River Road, which passes within a hundred metres of the ruins, numerous times. Yet were it not for geocaching, we would likely have remained ignorant of the existence of this remarkable and imposing piece of history right in our backyard.
See Jaspa’s geocaching profile at:
Learn more about Jaspa and his friends at the Jaspa’s Journey website.
Twitter: keep up to date with Jaspa’s continuing Journey’s by following @JaspaJ
Finally, if you’re linking to this blog via Facebook, please subscribe and ‘Like’ it (or even better, post a comment) on the original blog page, too. Thanks.