Geocaching 101: If You Hide It, We Will Hunt!

By Cammi Woodall

I hunt for Tupperware in the woods. How do you spend your weekends?

No, I am not careless or forgetful of where I put my belongings. My family and I are part of a growing group of ‘treasure hunters’ who participate in an exciting hobby called geocaching.

So what is geocaching? Well, it is basically what happens when nerds go outside to play. A person takes a container, hides it somewhere outside such as in the woods or in a city, marks the coordinates with their GPS, and logs that information onto a website. Our favorite is the free site geocaching.com. Indiana Jones wanna-be’s then log those coordinates into their GPS systems and head out to search. When you get to the correct coordinates, put your GPS on Pedestrian Mode and start to hunt! Once you find the cache, you sign a log book provided, and register your find on the website. Caches can be anywhere – city streets, local parks, scenic byways, bridges, cemeteries, even underwater! They can be tucked under rocks, in hollow logs, in magnetic holders on anything metal (like a tank – no joke!), or hanging from a tree branch. Harder caches can even require scuba gear or rappelling equipment.

Geocaching got its start in 2000 in Beaver Creek, Oregon. To test the accuracy of his GPS unit, a man named David Ulmer took a small plastic box and filled it with goodies like books and CD’s. He hid it alongside a popular nature trail and logged the plotted coordinates on his website. He invited readers to try and find his hidden stash to test the accuracy of their own units and his.

Within three days, two people had found it and responded back. They loved it! Slowly the activity caught on and was featured on an online tech magazine, in the New York Post, and on CNN. This media attention drew seekers from around the world. The website geocaching.com was born and the hunt was on!

But there were only 75 known caches in the world. Chances were a caching newbie was not close to one. So if you couldn’t find caches, why not hide one for someone else to find? Thus started the geo version of “Field of Dreams” – if you hide it, they will hunt. So they hid it and we hunted. We are still hunting. From its humble beginnings, geocaching.com has grown to over two million caches sought after by more than five million seekers. Caches have been placed on every continent, even Antarctica (my bucket list geocaching destination)! There is a good chance you are within walking distance of a cache right now, or at least a short drive.

You are in nature so be aware of dangers. So far we haven’t been chased by a large boulder “Temple of Doom” style, but we have encountered several snakes, dogs, ticks, and stinging bugs. My sister was chased by a buffalo once! Well, the buffalo was safely behind a fence a long distance away from her and she was never in any danger, but we still laugh about that. (My parents and I do, my sister not so much.)

Why Tupperware? Because it lives up to its reputation for keeping contents fresh! All caches are not stored in the iconic containers, but it is certainly popular. Caches are susceptible to weather, so you need good containers that will protect the contents. They can range in size from micro (a small metal tube half the size of your pinkie finger) to large (about the size of a five-gallon bucket). There are even a few caches the size of telephone booths.

I’ve had several people ask, “But what do you get?” Many people hear ‘cache’ and thinks ‘cash’. This is not a get-rich-quick scheme. The treasure you find will be stickers, small toys, beads, pencils… anything that will fit in your cache container. The smallest containers will only have the logbook.

So what do you get? Well, you get the rush of searching for a lost container, the satisfaction of finding the capsule and signing your name with the others who came before you. You get the thrill of discovery as you visit new places. You get a sense of community when you meet fellow cachers also out for that elusive treasure. You get that thrill of competition when you find the cache before the people with you. You get time spent with family and friends.

My hearty recommendation is to try it at least once. Grab some bug spray, pack a picnic, pick some easy caches nearby, and start hunting! I just checked geocaching.com and there are 22 caches within ten miles of me. There were only 18 the last time I checked. Excuse me, but I need to grab my GPS and start looking for some Tupperware! Hope to see you out there!

Click to tweet: Geocaching 101: If You Hide It, We Will Hunt! Article at the Inspired Prompt blog. Have you tried geocaching? #geocache #amwriting

Writing prompt: Darla drew near the large oak that stood in the middle of the park. Had she finally found…

What I Wanted to be When I Grew Up

by Betty Thomason Owens

10171180_10203041015340695_307067443322518168_nA long, long time ago…about the time this picture was taken, I imagined a life filled with my favorite things (I’m the one on the right, by the way). I loved flowers and animals. I frequently invaded prize-winning flower gardens and brought bouquets home to Mom. She was not happy when an angry gardener showed up at her door. I was a sweet, girly version of Dennis the Menace, apparently.

So I dreamed of growing my own beautiful beds of flowers. I’d imagine myself sitting in my porch swing surrounded by cats and dogs who could understand every word I said. Birds sang in the trees. A peacock prowled the yard. All in my fanciful world, of course.

At the time, I lived in a magical place called San Diego. Where flowers bloomed all year round. Tangerines ripened on a tree outside our back door. We climbed date palms and ate cherries from a hedge. Not sure about that last one. I remember eating cherries, but not sure why it was a hedge.

Just blocks away, the beautiful mission of Balboa rang its bells during the day. Not far away, lions roared and elephants trumpeted from their environs at the San Diego Zoo.

Sounds lovely, I know. It was my reality at the time. So I imagined myself in whatever walk of life included beautiful flowers and taking care of cute and cuddly things. My destiny.

51hUtA3M-cLFast-forward a few years and I’m eleven years old and living in a small town in West Tennessee. A far cry (in so many ways) from San Diego. I visited the school library and found a red-and-white book, one of a series of books about Cherry Ames. Cherry was a nurse. The series followed her from candystriper to head nurse and beyond. I vaguely remember romance and intrigue. I determined to follow in her footsteps and earn the white cap.

I made it as far as nurses’ aide in a retirement home during my high school years. I was accepted to a prestigious nursing school, but never went. Life intervened. Dad lost his job a few weeks before I was set to enter. I couldn’t pay for the school, and he wouldn’t let me get a loan. I didn’t have the confidence to do it on my own.

Dreams derailed, I went to work in an office. I married, raised three sons, developed a sense of humor while raising three sons. Hey, you do what you have to do to survive.

Years later, I’ve retired from full-time work as an office manager. I didn’t have much choice, the company I worked for closed. I still love flowers. I love animals. I long to visit San Diego again. Life didn’t turn out the way I imagined way back then. It might actually be better than my dreams.

crocus-673477_1280Fast-forward to 2015. I watch the seasons pass outside my window, waiting for the first signs of spring so I can get out in the yard and dig in my flower bed. I write books and stories and blog posts. I talk to friends all over the world on Facebook and Twitter. I welcome my grandchildren and enjoy spending time with them. Dreaming with them, about what they’ll be when they grow up.

 

Here’s your Writing Prompt: 

Lois Maxwell smiled as she watched her six-year-old roll out cookie dough. “You’re doing a great job, Lily. Maybe you’ll grow up to be a baker, or a chef.”

Lily laughed as she popped a bite of cookie dough into her mouth. “Tell me the story again, Mommy. What did you want to be when you grew up?”

Complete the prompt for an extra entry in our quarterly drawings! Submit your completed writing prompt via Comments.

Natural Disasters – Hurricane Ike – In an Unlikely Place

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By Betty Thomason Owens

Here in the Louisville, Kentucky area, we see a lot of weather-related natural disasters. We are smack in the middle of the Eastern United States, 660+ miles from the Atlantic, 610+ miles from the Gulf. The mighty Ohio River is our northern boundary. Kentucky’s western boundary is the Mississippi River. We’re in the area of the New Madrid fault where 200 years ago, a powerful earthquake left a lasting imprint.

Most of our weather related disasters involve tornadoes and floods. This year, we note the passage of forty years since the outbreak of a “super storm” when a huge number of tornadoes swept across the nation’s midsection and decimated some of our city’s most beautiful homes.

Hurricane_Ike_off_the_Lesser_Antilles

Hurricane Ike

The Ohio is prone to flooding, especially after a winter of heavy snow, such as the one we’ve had this year. And then there’s the other extreme–droughts that a few years back killed off the famous Bluegrass so many of us used for our lawns. But the event I remember most as I write this, was Hurricane Ike. We don’t often have a hurricane this far inland. But Ike was determined and full of pep.

I was sitting in church on a Sunday morning when Ike blew through, hard and fast with sustained winds of seventy-five miles per hour. Not just a quick pass-through you might expect with straight-winds, but high winds for an extended time. I watched out the window of our sanctuary as the shingles on the building next door flapped like flags in the wind.

By the time the service ended, the damage was done. Trees blocked our progress on the way home and the power was off. Other than roof damage, our home was safe. Over 300,000 in Louisville were without power. Over 600,000 statewide. Utility workers traveled to Kentucky from as far away as Mississippi to help us get the power back on. We were among the more fortunate. We were only without power for three days.

We were in a state of emergency. The Louisville International Airport closed, as well as Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport. I remember how quiet it was as we lived through those days with our house opened up. No refrigerator humming. No washer or dryer or dishwasher drumming. You could hear the neighbors as they talked and laughed. We visited with one another over the fence or on our porches. There was no television, no music blaring. Just people interacting, kind of like they used to, before we became so dependent on the media.

Some residents were without power for nearly a month. For the next few months, the area was filled with the sounds of the hammer as many of us received new shingles on our homes. We lost many of our beautiful trees, suffered flood and wind damage. In the aftermath, insurance rates sky-rocketed. But we had lived through something a little bit amazing. If you live near the coast, you expect storms off the sea. You have a warning and usually have time to prepare for them. In Kentucky, we often get the remnants of a big storm as it begins to break up. But this time, we got a full-on frontal attack and it was not expected.

So, think about it:

  • What natural disasters occur where you live?
  • What type of natural disaster would be most unusual in your area of the country?

Life-changing events in the form of natural disasters make good fodder for writing. You can use personal experience for your writing, or research a more exotic disaster. There is plenty of information out there. Just be sure you stay true to your setting and choose an event that would actually occur in that region. But don’t overlook the occasional hurricane in Kentucky.

The Roars and Rumblings

By Don White

It was a massive explosion that was felt for miles around, flattening thousands of acres of trees like toothpicks, forever changing the looks of the beautiful peak that many of us called the “ice cream mountain.”

Mount St. Helens, May 18, 1980

Mount St. Helens, May 18, 1980

Mount St. Helens looked so peaceful, so idyllic with it’s rounded snow-covered top, like a heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream reigning so royally above a lush green carpet of Ponderosa Pines. On a clear day Spirit Lake, resting below the mountain, was as blue as the sky above and held a mirror image of Mount St. Helens within the frame of it’s grassy banks.

My family often traveled nearby to pick huckleberries, filling our buckets and coffee cans with all the juicy purplish marbles that we could refrain from eating on the spot. In the distance the beautiful mountain smiled at us, welcoming us to that piece of heaven. We never would have guessed that deep beneath the surface there were movements and friction stirring that would violently erupt, taking the lives of nearly sixty people and untold wildlife.

1980 was the year my Grandpa Ray died from lung cancer. Sitting in his tiny home near the Columbia River, oxygen tubes beneath his nose and a hospice nurse knitting across the room, many of our last conversations were about the rumblings and puffs of smoke that came from St. Helens, warnings of what would soon occur just forty miles north.

As students attending Columbia Christian College in Portland, Oregon, we could often see the white puffs in the distance, a welcome distraction from our Spring quarter studies. No one knew when the big event would occur, but the mountain kept warning us as the weeks wore on.

On Sunday, May 18, 1980, at 8:30 in the morning, my mother and sister were drinking their coffee when a frightening rumble moved throughout the house. The large picture windows in our living room wobbled in and out, rippling like cellophane in a breeze. They knew immediately what it was.

Approaching ash cloud from Mount St. Helens.

Five cubic miles of earth spewed into the sky, mainly to the East. My wife and her family lived in Eastern Washington where countless people were horrified at the sight of a boiling black blanket of smoke creeping across the sky, blocking out the sun, raining down pebbles and ash. People ran to their cars to find loved ones. They huddled in their homes or fearfully stayed in stores and workplaces, unsure if it was safe to go out.

Cars and trucks stalled out on every road and highway as volcanic ash choked the engines of all running vehicles, even emergency vehicles. Drivers and passengers sat helpless, praying and panicking, wondering if this was the end.

Decades later the land around Mount St. Helens is green again. A crater nearly two miles wide is all that is left of the once beautifully snowcapped mountain that had resembled an ice cream cone.

Forever buried beneath the layers of volcanic ash is Harry Truman. Not the president, but a feisty old local who refused to heed the warnings, fully believing that he and his many cats were safe from harm. He would stare at his beautiful mountain outside his window, calculating how the blast would impact the area, if it ever occurred at all, and he decided everything would be fine. No one, no geologist or forest ranger, no sheriff, friend or family member, could convince him otherwise.

There are now more serious rumblings in Southern California, and days ago the coastal nation of Chile was hit with a major earthquake (8.2 on the Richter scale), with huge aftershocks and tsunami waves.

Nature’s roars and rumblings couldn’t be more perfectly timed for a current movie blockbuster. The film Noah is playing to packed houses across the nation, proving that there is something about the unpredictable force of nature that draws us. Perhaps it’s because, despite all our technological advances, we long to be reminded that this world is bigger than us. There is a power we cannot tame nor fully understand.

We are but tiny creatures living in a big world that has plans of its own, dictated by the One who began it all so long ago. It’s a beautiful, yet terrifying place we live in. But it’s not our permanent home. I recall the words of a church hymn I learned as a boy: “This world is not my home. I’m just a-passin’ through.”

Just as Judy Garland sings in The Wizard of Oz about that place “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” we also sense a place that is far beyond what we can see and feel, beyond the here and now. The beauty of this world gives life meaning, but the roars and rumblings of this world remind us that we cannot stay here, that we should all prepare for that final move to our permanent home.

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For those of you who have the urge to write, when have you been reminded that this world is far bigger than you? What stories can you tell about how this world reminds you that another one awaits?