We went goat-catching and got a skinned elbow– but didn’t get skunked

images[4]“We’re going goat catching.” Hmmm. Blame this on friends who filled our heads with stories of the delightful hours they’ve spent goat catching. Wait a minute; that’s geo-caching — no goats involved.
While we were attending a New Year’s Day pajama party, the host and hostess told us how much they enjoyed geo-caching and gave us a quick beginner’s course.
Geo-caching is a 21st century treasure hunt. Instead of orienteering your way to an X on a map, you use your iPhone to decide on a target, read the clues, and finally, once you’ve closed in, to follow the track that appears on the phone.
The concept sounds relatively simple.
All you need is a phone and some pioneering spirit (and a car to get close enough).
One recent sunny Saturday afternoon we decided to try our hand at goat-catching, er, geo-caching.
We dressed inappropriately, packed some snacks and headed out to find Geo-Cache No. 1. They’re supposed to get more difficult as the numbers rise.
We drove to a local park, and squeezed in a parking spot on the nearby narrow street.
There were still piles of snow we needed to navigate. Of course, we left our winter tromping boots at home and wore our sneakers. It was the first time wearing sneakers outside in months. Turns out we probably should have waited another month or two.
The ground wasn’t all covered by snow and ice. There was a fair portion of water gathered in puddles.
I won the “Who can get their feet wet first” contest.
Our clues directed us to a gazebo, a small pavilion, in the town park.
The five concrete steps leading from ground level to park level had not been cleared. Going up those steps, clutching the iron rail, was an exercise in balance and agility. Clearing those steps must not have been covered in the borough budget.
The pavilion is about 16 feet side to side. There are three benches. The clue was something along the lines of, “look low and it’s dangling from above.”
We scoured that place. Under the park benches hanging off the rails. “Maybe it’s buried under the snow.”
Maybe some young punks found it and figured they’d get a good laugh driving people like me crazy if they swiped it. That can be a genuine problem. It is anytime you’re leaving something out in public, except litter. Nobody picks that up and makes off with it.
As we were admitting defeat — on the first one, no less! — the 6-year-old ran around the side of the pavilion. The walk space into the pavilion was a large, flat slate. Her wet sneakers hit it and she went down. Hard.
She’s one tough cookie, I always remind her. But she had a nasty bruise on her leg and a sore scrape by her elbow.
She wanted to keep going. Still haven’t caught a goat, I’m thinking to myself.
The clues for the second cache lead us to a nearby neighborhood. It didn’t take long for us to hit the jackpot.
Part of finding a cache is taking a small item that’s been cached in the box and replacing it with a small item of your own.
Our daughter goes gaga for prizes. When she opened the small cache box, she was a bit disappointed with the selection. She took a thumbnail size rubber duck eraser. Our prize was a peace sign slap bracelet. It was from the dentist, she reminded us. (How does she remember that stuff?)
It took her a couple of minutes to finesse the bracelet into the small space. The bigger thrill for her was signing her name to the running visitors’ log stashed in the cache.
Enthused by our success, we set out to find Cache No. 3.
We scanned every inch of the area, high and low. The clues told us that this one had to be replaced several times because it’s in such a public place.
We spent 15 minutes before concluding it was beyond our sleuthing skills. In the car on the way home, we congratulated ourselves on finding at least one of the geo-caches. One injury, no broken bones, and slightly bruised pride.
Nonetheless, we still failed to catch any goats.

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