WEST BEND — Geocaching is what happens when nerds go outside.
Found on a t-shirt at West Bend's $1,000 Cache Ba$h earlier this month, it was the most memorable design I saw that day.
I'm new to geocaching (a grand total of nine caches found in my account at geocaching.com), but not new to the realm of nerdom. I missed a lot of the scenery during family trips when I was a kid as my nose was usually stuck in a comic book. And a lot of nice afternoons after school were spent in front of the tv watching 'Star Trek' reruns.
The t-shirt's sentiment sums up my interest in geocaching in many ways, but not all.
The more I thought about the line on the shirt, the more it hit me that what's drawn me to geocaching in recent weeks isn't the merger of technology and the outdoors (you need a smart phone or GPS device to participate), but rather the enthusiasm and adventure that eminates from my kids as we sneak around looking for a new cache.
Geocaching also has the allure of April Fool's Day and baseball cards wrapped together.
Hiding caches, complete with riddles, misdirection and camouflage, is very reminiscent of a good April Fool's Day joke.
And geocaching satisfies the allure that baseball cards had when I was a collector as a kid. Once the compulsion to 'collect' cache locations takes hold (particularly those hidden cleverly that require several searches), you find yourself glancing at your phone while you wait for your order or your ride, checking for a cache hidden somewhere nearby.
And most of all, there's the creativity that is involved in crafting many of the caches. Some are simply plastic bags or magnetic key holders filled with a log to sign. But some are works of art, built to match either natural or industrial surroundings. And some offer creative ways to share interests. There is a cache in Stevens Point filled with Polly Pocket toys waiting to be traded out, can a set of LEGO minifigure caches be far behind for the Otten family?
West Bend's Cache Ba$h
Earlier this summer I decided to plan a family picnic in West Bend, my dad's hometown. I spent at least a week each summer as a kid in West Bend with my grandparents and the town has grown on me over the years.
More recently, West Bend has crowned itself the Geocaching Capital of the Midwest. This title is tough to dispute as the city is peppered with hundreds of caches. The family picnic I organized fell on the same weekend as West Bend's annual Cache Ba$h.
One of West Bend's most notable features is Regner Park. The park has a vintage baseball field and unique swimming pond, but it is the towering trees and streams which criss-cross the park which make it special. The park wasn't home to our picnic on Saturday, August 10 (we set up at Riverside Park, also beautiful), but was home to the Cache Ba$h.
We dropped in to the event on that Saturday afternoon following our picnic. We browsed the various vendors and picked up the little containers that we hope to hide the first of our own caches in. We even snagged a small, fake rock. Participating in the Cache Ba$h as a competitor was out of the question in 2013, but we could shop!
The highlight, along with the t-shirt, was a table along the side that featured a 'most creative cache contest.' The table featured a variety of unique designs, seen in the photos above. One cache was a large PVC tube built as puzzle solved through twisting (some caches are easy to find, but tough to open). One entry was a deer skull hollowed out to contain a cache. Another was a surveillance camera that was activated by motion. All were cool.
View more photos from West Bend's Cache Ba$h.
At one point during our visit to Cache Ba$h, my son pulled a carabiner out of a container, ready to make his purchase. The carabiner my son selected was one emblazoned with '700 caches found.' I encouraged him to grab one without writing and wait to buy that one until we reach the milestone.
It's going to take a while, but it'll be a fun trip.
Brian Otten blogs about his experiences in the outdoors. Brian is the content manager of www.wisconsinoutdoorfun.com. If you have questions about the site, you can reach Brian at email@example.com or (715) 845-0702.