A short blog this week about a short trip we made last weekend. On Friday we did the 550 km (340 mile) dash up to Ottawa and by Saturday evening we were home again.
Actually, this isn’t the shortest trip we’ve ever made to Canada’s Capital. A couple of years ago we drove up there for a concert. We got there around mid-afternoon, checked into our hotel and went for a walk downtown. That’s when we discovered signs saying the concert had been cancelled! So we returned to the hotel, checked out, and drove back home again. Thinking about it, that was also our shortest hotel stay ever!
So why drive all the way to Ottawa one day and all the way back again the next? At the risk of sounding like a complete lunatic, I have to admit it was all in the name of geocaching. Okay… I’ll come clean: it was all to find a single cache.
As of this precise moment, there are 1,999,971 active geocaches hidden throughout 184 of the world’s 193 countries. Today it will almost certainly pass the 2 million mark, so a blog that is coincidentally (honestly) about geocaching seems spookily well-timed!
For those who don’t know, geocaches are rated between one and five stars (in half star increments) depending on how difficult they are to find and how tough the terrain is. That makes a total of 81 possible difficulty/terrain combinations, which we call The Grid.
Several caches out there require you to have filled the entire Grid before you’re eligible to find them, something we achieved a couple of years ago. The original cache to set this challenge is located near San Francisco, California, which we just happen to be visiting this coming June.
But there’s a catch. In order to qualify for the California challenge cache, you must fill the Grid using only caches that were hidden before the challenge itself. This makes things a bit trickier, especially as many caches are inevitably archived over time.
So there we were with only one difficulty/terrain combination left to complete our California Grid, the nearest example of which is in Ottawa. What’s more, the cache we need is on an island in the middle of the Rideau Canal, and so difficult to access for most of the year. Unless the canal is frozen, like it is right now.
So, who wouldn’t race up to Ottawa for an opportunity like that, right? Okay, most people wouldn’t… but we would!
It turns out that getting to Ottawa was the hardest part. Finding the actual cache was easy, thanks to the fact that during the winter, the Rideau Canal becomes the longest skating rink in the world, at 7.8 km (4.8 miles) in length. Steps are placed at regular intervals to provide skaters access to the ice, including a set less than 100 metres (110 yards) from our island. So after a journey of about six hours to Ottawa, from car to cache to car was less than 15 minutes.
To be fair, we didn’t just do the cache. Since Rich was the only one among us who’d been on the frozen canal before, we went into the heart of Ottawa to where they set up skate hire and food stalls right there on the ice. That evening we had a yummy meal in a local restaurant. And on the way home we stopped in to visit a friend for lunch in Kingston.
However, I confess, the main reason for the trip was the cache. But now we’re all set for our California trip!
Incidentally, as I finish writing this blog, there are now 2,000,147 active geocaches in the world!