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  • Izhar Bar-Gad

Orienteering and Geocaching

Over the last few years, two of the road trip members have become avid orienteers. In this little-known sport, which is common particularly in northern and central Europe, the competitors attempt to run as fast as possible through different predetermined locations in the terrain using only a map and a compass while typically running through forests and up mountains. In Israel there is a tight-knit community of members of this strange sport ( who meet and compete weekly, each time someplace else in the country. This community maintains a whole culture surrounding this sport, closely following international competitions, arguing about rules, and mapping the country. We tend to participate almost every week: wake up at 6am on Saturday, run like crazy for an hour or two, finish all bruised and scratched with mixed results, the younger half is far more successful and tends to win medals quite often.

When we started the road trip, we sorely missed our favorite pastime. We tried to do an independent orienteering trail in Portland which was nice but didn’t suffice. By sheer chance we stumbled upon a very different community, geocaching. This is basically equivalent to treasure hunting in which you are given GPS coordinates and using your phone you can navigate to that location (sometimes only given clues and not the full position). In that location, the cache is hidden, usually very well so it takes quite a bit of time to find. The caches vary in size from large ammo-boxes to tiny pill-size capsules. They all contain logs and the larger ones also contains things that people leave and geocoins and other cool staff. We have so far found 37 caches which range in size, complexity, and the terrain we had to cross to get to them.

An example of a short geocaching morning as translated from Yoav’s script: “Following our morning run in Torrey, Utah (population ~300), we went on a short geocaching expedition in the tiny town. We found our first geocache in a hollow log located at the historic place which was the hideout of the notorious Butch Cassidy. It was a relatively easy find since it was a large box. The second geocache was 500 meters away in a native-American teepee (tent) where it was hidden in a hole underneath a pile of logs in the fireplace. In the hole we discovered a huge treasure including dozens of fake coins, toys and multiple geo-trackables, we took one and left a couple of our road trip stickers. The third geocache, yet another 500 meters away was hidden behind the site of the ancient school, an old but beautiful one room wooden building. The geocache itself was a micro-size, smaller than a bullet and contained only the log and was attached magnetically to a pole.”

The most amazing thing is discovering a new community. When we started orienteering, we were amused that we never stumbled across these people and all their activities before. Now, we are shocked by the huge community of geocachers and the (hundreds of) thousands of geocaches lying all around us and the thousands of YouTube videos documenting this bizarre treasure hunting world. I guess that there are many other communities all around us that live in their parallel worlds just waiting to be discovered…

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