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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Hello Mr. Ranger Smith Sir! This Isn't A Pik-In-Ik-Bas-Kit

When geocaching there is an infinite probability that something interesting is going to happen while on your journey. Today for me the probability became a certainty and the interesting was well, interesting.

It started out quite innocent like it should be. Another 4.5 geocache had showed up on the radar and was on my way home from work. This time instead of a traditional cache it was a Mystery/Puzzle type. I salivated while driving to this geo-site because even though puzzle caches can be torturous they also can be a boat load of fun. Since I was on my way home from work the sun was already on it's daily exit and I would have if I was lucky an hour of light left. No problem I thought to myself after reading my tasks. All I had to do was find a particular tombstone in the middle of a woods in a State Park, solve the puzzle based off of what I found on the tombstone and find the cache that was extremely well hidden somewhere off of the State Park grounds. No problem. At the very worst I would get the information off of the tombstone and come back tomorrow to find the geocache in question. Piece of cake.

When I arrived at the parking area my heart began to quicken as it usually does. This particular find would be clocked as it were with the big ball in the sky as the main time keeper. I pulled out my trusty army over-the-shoulder pouch and loaded it with my GPS unit, BlackBerry and all the assorted geocaching stuff I normally carry. Then it was out the door and into the woods for a tenth of a mile jaunt to the cemetery. There was already a sizable trail to follow and the bushwhacking would be to a minimum. At least to the first stage of the puzzle cache and before I knew it the tombstones in question were in site. I know for many people graveyards are a bit unnerving. I would think being by yourself in the middle of a deep woods and the sun going down might frazzle the weak hearted but it only fascinated me. Being from Michigan you get some historic things to see but down here in North Carolina you are IN history, absorbed by it. There were tombstones there that were dated before Michigan was a state.

So before I began I do what I always do while entering a graveyard down here, don't laugh, I did my customary moment of respect and ask those who would be interested that I meant no disrespect and I would be looking around for a little bit. I am a Yankee you know and back then us northerners were not very well liked. Why take chances?

Looking for about ten minutes I found the tombstone in question and quickly did the mathematical functions to contrive the needed coordinates. Luckily for me it was not deeper into the State Park and yet not a dozen miles down the road either. In fact it was in a spot that I might still have a chance to find it before my time was up and the sun down. So I quickened my pace and found ground zero. Of course with the difficulty the way it was I did not expect the cache to be exactly there but you never know. Five minutes later I must have picked up the caching vibe of the owner and had a pretty good hunch where it would be. A minute later I had the cache in my hand TA-DA! I pulled out my BlackBerry and used Geocache Navigator to log the find. Then I examined the cache itself and signed the log. Only two other people have found it to date until me. I was giddy with excitement and was just putting everything back when I heard distinct footsteps coming up from behind me. I turned and was given privy to the sight of two State Park Rangers coming up to see what I was up to.

"Well Shyte", I think to myself as I check out their authenticity.

To my rather sudden surprise was not of the rangers themselves but the obvious fact that they holstered 45s as side arms. For that spit second I am remembering the countless years of camping with my family all over the upper and lower peninsula of Michigan and Ranger Smith never packed a weapon back then. How changed was now Yogi and Booboo? My thoughts focused when they approached and asked what I was doing.

My father who is a retired cop always told me in these situations, no bullshit and tell the truth. "Geocaching", I replied. "Are you familiar with it"?

The tall fellow in green said yeah he new all about geocaching in general. I asked if he or his lady partner ever saw one before while pointing at the small harmless container. They came over and checked it out and he took the log from me and started reading it.

"You Head Hard Hat?", says he.

"Yep, that would be me", says I and he nods his head a few times.

"So if the geocache was over here. Why were you coming out of the Park over there on the other side of the highway road?". Obviously these two were watching me at least for a little bit. I explained what a puzzle cache was about getting part of the puzzle from the gravestone. I told them that I was very respectful of the area and nothing was moved or even touched for that matter. They seemed to be understanding what I was saying and I was mostly sure that I had done nothing wrong.

That was when my mouth got into the way. "I know that you have to have permission to place geocaches on State Grounds, right?" They nodded in unison.

"... and the boundary of the park is over there so this one is legal to be here, right?"

That was when he asked the question that momentarily jarred me. "Who's land do you suppose this is?", pointing to where we were standing. Now in the back of my brain I flash to a time where my mother had once told me that the swath of grass between the street and the sidewalk was owned not by us but by the city. If the same happens outside the city limits then it would be owned by the county.. or the...

"Ohhhh", says I. "Is this going to be a problem then?"

He stopped for a second and said that it wouldn't but he would have to make sure with his supervisor to be sure. With that I showed them exactly how to hide a geocache and asked if they needed anything else. They said no and wished me well. I returned the statement and went back into my car and left. You know that both of them headed straight back to where the graveyard was. Which I can only assume they were checking to see if anything was disturbed.

It only goes to show that when out geocaching it is in your best interest to have a behavior to be kind to the environment and surrounding landmarks. Because you never know when Ranger Smith may be watching you.


Nancy Heltman said...

We have law enforcement rangers too in Virginia State Parks but if they can afford two people patrols in North Carolina, they must not be hurting for money like we are in Virginia! Back when you were camping in UP our rangers probably had the gun but the bullets were in the safe. Nowadays we have professionally trained law enforcement staff but no staff just dedicated to law enforcement. Every officer has the rest of the ranger job to go with it.

jshults371 said...

mouth got into the way, you said it. Don't offer TOO MUCH info...

P.J. said...

It seems like we'll all have a run in or two with the officials. It happens.

I've always been under the idea of telling them the answers to what they ask and nothing more. Let 'em figure everything else out themselves!

At least they seemed to be cool about it. And you got the find! :)

A 'lil HooHaa

Gary said...

I have had 'conversations' with the police 3 times in my caching forays. All 3 were during night hunts and I am sure I was acting quite suspiciously :)


Erika Jean said...

lol. sometimes I feel like i look like a criminal snooping around looking for caches ;-)