The little things all around us

It’s the little things. They’re truly all around us.

Years back I heard about Geocaching, which is basically a real-world treasure hunt asking participants to find hidden objects by their GPS coordinates. Someone creates a geocache, uploads its coordinates to the main website — and then participants go find it. When they’ve tracked it down, they “log it” on the website and often write their name on a log inside the object itself.

That was sort of convoluted, but hopefully you get the jist.

I wasn’t totally sold on the idea, to be honest. Spencer has talked about it in the past, going out hunting with friends in New York, but I wasn’t convinced I would enjoy it. The weather in the D.C. area was glorious last weekend, though, and Spence was going to meet Dan, a friend visiting from out of town. Though my legs were screaming from Zumba-related stretching (getting fit is not fun), I reluctantly agreed to go. The plan was to walk around town and find a few geocaches before dinner.

And it was awesome.

The days I don’t plan — indeed, the days I plan to do something entirely different — often wind up being the most fun. We met up with Dan around lunchtime, enjoyed a champagne brunch at Murphy’s in Old Town and then settled into a Geocaching groove. After explaining the premise to me, Dan did a “live demo” — whereby we walked down the street, opened a certain object found on most corners in American towns and discovered . . . a geocache.

Right there. No bigger than my thumbnail. Hidden in plain sight. Tiny, innocuous — and completely cool.

Unscrewing it, Dan revealed a log of other Geocachers who had already tracked down this particular object. He carefully unspooled the log, revealing dozens of handwritten names. We’d tracked down this little cannister using only a few clues in the Geocaching app. (Yes, there’s an app for this — there’s an app for everything, it seems.)

We found two more before the day was out, wandering to a part of Old Town I’d never visited before. Though just blocks from the Torpedo Factory, where we usually wander and get ice cream, the Carlyle House had a beautiful garden with another geocache. That I have walked past this place countless times and never known a hidden black box was there, just waiting to be found, was exhilarating. After a few more finds — one at a cool spot near Gadsby’s Tavern — I can officially say I’m hooked.

I love the idea that these little things are hiding everywhere — real-life “magical” objects in their own way — just waiting to be discovered by those who know where to look. That I could pass a certain place a hundred times — or a thousand — and never know something is buried there.

Ever the practical one, Spencer had declared I would enjoy Geocaching before we’d even begun our hunt. I’d scoffed — but he was right, of course. “I feel like I’m in ‘National Treasure!'” I said at one point, running a hand along a slightly protruding fence as Dan read us a cache’s clue again. And since I had my camera with me, I snapped photos of places slightly off the regularly beaten path. Places I never would have seen without Geocaching’s guidance.

And now I need to go find some more.