I’m pleased to say that I have taken up the sport of geocaching.
Well, at least, I’ve done it once. And I actually found what I was looking for … across a quiet country lane from an old cemetery near St. Helens, Oregon.
The idea was not mine. It belonged to my friend Amber. She convinced me that a little open-air treasure hunt might be a fun activity in this quiet Columbia River town.
We set out from the Scappoose Creek Inn, a renovated dairy farm (and Prohibition-era distillery) whose owners actively promote geocaching.
First, they showed us the small container they had hidden in their apple orchard, beyond the llama enclosure. Then they gave us a website link — http://www.geocaching.com — where we could research the locations (in exact latitude and longitude) of caches in the St. Helens area.
We chose a “quick and easy” cache at North Latitude 45 degrees, 52.058 minutes; West Longitude 122 degrees, 52.622 minutes. And even though the only GPS devices that either of us carried were cell phones, we ventured out Pittsburgh Road into the hills west of town.
The website told us to look for an old graveyard. We found it on a hillcrest opposite the historic Yankton church. We parked our car by the side of the road and set out on foot, wandering down the narrow gravel lane, not at all certain of what we were looking for.
We looked behind gravestones, beneath rocks, in holes in giant cottonwoods, in hopes of finding something out of the ordinary. Stumped, we returned to the website and decoded a puzzle that lent us a clue: “Look on a post, a little more than waist-high.”
I followed Amber down the lane, which was hemmed in on both sides by small trees and shrubs. An overgrown field sprawled to the west, behind a wire fence held together by rotting posts. Nothing there.
On the east side of the lane, I spied a styrofoam soup carton atop another fencepost, just about waist-high. Could this hold the treasure we were seeking?
I tried to dislodge it. The carton was stuck tight to the post. I yanked a little harder. Several angry yellow jackets zoomed out.
Yowzers! Clearly, this was not it. We skedaddled back down the road toward the cars, ready to give up.
“Do you suppose there’s someone in the cemetery named Post?” Amber ventured, tongue in cheek.
On a final hunch, I looked behind a set of newer fence posts directly opposite the graveyard, not 15 yards off Pittsburg Road. There I spotted a small plastic pillbox.
Removing it from its niche, I opened the container and found a piece of paper rolled up inside, inscribed with names and dates of its previous discoverers.
We added our own names, tossed in a couple of tokens to reward future visitors, and congratulated ourselves for having passed our first geocaching test.
To read more about my visit to St. Helens, you can check out my story in the Bend Bulletin: