The Corner

Can You Check a Cache?

This weekend my oldest daughter, 13, introduced the family to “geocaching,” a new sport, if that’s the word, or hobby, if that’s the word. Come to think of it, the best word is probably “diversion.”

First you get yourself a hand-held GPS unit, like this. Then you go to www.geocaching.com, type in your zip code, and look for a treasure hunt in a congenial setting. Once you’ve found one, you enter the coordinates into your GPS unit and set merrily off.

We attempted two hunts, both on the Stanford campus. both with our friends, George and Nancy Savage and their two sons. The first was set in a little park, and the prize, a tiny “cache,” was attached by magnet to a children’s play structure. Everyone had fun searching. The kids clambered over and under the play structure, Crusoe the Wonder Dog dug holes in the ground, the two women sat on a park bench chatting during this rare moment of ease when their children and husbands were all happily occupied, and the husbands—well, I gave up and began playing with Crusoe, but George refused to surrender, examining every join and bolt until finally, flat on his back in the dirt, he found the prize. Inside lay coiled a tiny strip of paper that George signed, adding his name to the list of 20 or more who had found the prize in recent months.

Our second hunt proved more elaborate and less successful. The first set of coordinates led us to a black granite fountain designed by Maya Lin. There we were to use the fountain to solve a set of riddles that would provide us with the coordinates for the second and ultimate prize. The riddles ran along the lines of, What number is one less than the product of the last two digits of the year in which the person who donated the fountain graduated from Stanford? We guessed at the answers, but the coordinates we got sent us in what had to have been the wrong direction. But so what? We walked back to the house as merrily as we’d set off, determined to do a little research on the fountain and try again. For the kids, what would have been a couple of dull holiday walks with their parents had been transformed into adventures.

Jonah’s child is sill much, much too young for this, and likewise the Hayward children. But John Miller’s kids? And the junior Derbs? Grab yourselves GPS units, gents, and give geocaching a try. It’s an innocent pleasure, and there are few enough of those.

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