So, wanting to get outside (but not get lost, as has happened before) I decided to take up a new hobby called geocaching. It's explained really well in this short video, but the short version is that geocaching is like a global treasure hunt. Someone places a container (usually a tupperware-type box) and records its latitude and longitude on geocaching.com. Then, I look up those coordinates, go out to where it's hidden, and find the cache. It's a pretty cool way to explore areas I wouldn't even know about otherwise.
You're supposed to have someone who is experienced with geocaching go with you on your first trip to show you the ropes, but since I didn't know anybody, I had to wing it. Luckily, everything was straightforward enough that I was able to get going (though some things, particularly the acronyms everyone uses, were still pretty difficult to understand). I didn't find anything on my first trip out, but I didn't really know what I was looking for – all of the caches I picked were in walking distance of my house, and thus in the city. It's hard to look for buried tupperware in front of people without feeling a bit peculiar.
The Saturday after my first trip (March 5th), though, I got a little more serious. I looked up the most popular nearby caches, selected the ones that were out in the wilderness, and picked the top five from there. I found three of the five – the others were findable, I think, but I had to cross small rivers to get to them and it was very cold out. Still, I was hooked. I had a blast seeing the outdoors, crossing some (smaller) creeks, walking where there weren't paths, and breathing fresh air. I'm sure I'll write more about geocaching in the future, but until then, enjoy these pictures and if you have any questions let me know!
A couple of weekends ago, when the weather wasn't awful, I decided to go on a nature hike. I found a neat-looking path online, and drove up in the afternoon to walk around it. It's a 4.6 mile path, so I figured it would take an hour and a half, since I walk pretty fast.
Finding the trailhead proved far more difficult than I had planned, though, so I got started sort of late (4.15ish). Once I found it, though, I started my hike. It was through a pretty, if somewhat dense forest — though it had some really neat views. There wasn't much snow on the ground, and the first half of my hike went pretty well.
After an hour and a half, though, it was starting to get dark, and the weather had shifted from cloudy to cloudy and misting. Worse still, the trail appeared to be under considerable constrctuion / maintenance, and I realized that I didn't really know where I was, or how far I had left. I walked past a sign that said "2.5 miles," though it gave no indication of if that was 2.5 miles completed or 2.5 miles left. I could hear the voices of all my old Boy Scout leaders lecturing me about not being prepared as it became increasingly likely I was going to be stuck in the middle of a forest at night (potentially in the rain!) with no equipment.
The trail I was on eventually crossed a road, though, and I decided to take it — even though I was sure the trail was about to finish up and put me back at my car, the chance that it wouldn't was too great. After walking around the road that cuts through the park for another 20-30 minutes, I got my bearings and found my car. There was a map at the trailhead, however it appeared to be outdated, and I couldn't really make heads or tails of where I had hiked, or how much trail I had left before I called it quits and walked back on the road.
As I drove back, I decided there were three "take aways" from my trip:
Don't start hikes on trails you haven't been on two hours before sundown.
Try and get a map of the area ahead of time, and know where you are
Think about getting a hiking GPS unit