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1915 - Pioneer Juan Batista Suraco buried in a family graveyard, currently unmarked, in Bouquet Canyon near Benz Road [story]
Suraco family


Commentary by Mari Carbajal
| Thursday, Feb 18, 2016

maricarbajalNature enthusiasts love to hike. There’s no doubt about that, and there are many places in the Santa Clarita Valley to satisfy all of your cravings. Enjoying a leisurely stroll on a mountain path to commune with nature – the trees, the variety of fragrant vegetation, and if you’re lucky, a brief glimpse of some of our treasured wildlife.

But are those truly the only “treasures” out there? Try a real treasure hunt to break up your regular routine and still be one with nature.

If you’ve never heard of geocaching, or heard of it but haven’t tried it, Geocaching is one of the most fun activities for all ages. All you need is a GPS device, a few items to trade, and a great sense of adventure. (Cellphone apps are available that can be used instead of a GPS device, but they don’t work well if you’re in a canyon or anywhere that reception is weak or nonexistent). If you aren’t a nature person, there are plenty of caches in cities, as well.

geocachingsitesThere are more than 2 million cache sites around the world and almost as many geocaching participants. The name comes from “geo,” meaning geography, and “cache,” meaning a place to store or hide something. As an example, the map shows geocaching sites here in Southern California and the Central Coast, and there are lots more.

First, go to the geocaching website (www.geocaching.com) and sign up. It’s free, but if you become addicted – and you might – you can always upgrade your membership. That will give you much more than what’s available for free – more hints, etc. The site will provide you with everything you need to know about geocaching and then some.

Official container

Official container

What does a cache look like? A cache is basically a container that holds “stuff.” A cache container will vary from ammo cans to plastic containers to nothing more than a plastic bag or a box or even a tube tied and hidden in a tree branch high above your head. Most containers are waterproof to protect the contents.

Small Cache Container

Small Cache Container

Inside, you might find a nickel, a wine bottle opener or a variety of small toys. Don’t expect too much when you start. The fun is all in the hunt, and you never know what you’ll find.

Ammo cans and other containers

Ammo cans and other containers

You will learn about other tractable treasures that are far more interesting. Usually you’ll find a logbook and a pencil for you to sign your name and the date you were there.

From the website, obtain the latitude and longitude of the cache(s) that interest you, and then search for the location. Some are easily found, and others are far more difficult.

Hidden cache

Hidden cache

You can drive or ride an ATV to its closest location, then use your GPS to locate and zone-in on the coordinates. Once you locate a cache, you can investigate its contents, take something from it, and trade it for an item you’ve brought with you to replace what you’ve taken. If you choose, you can sign and date the logbook, if one exists, and add any comment you like.

Diabetes coinOther fun treasures you might come across are tractable items like geocoins or Travel Bugs that can be purchased through the website. These items are searched and identified on the website. You are able to trace its point of origin, where it’s been on its journey, and where the owner has requested it to go.

As an example, I found a geocoin that sponsored diabetes. When I searched for it on the geocaching website, I found it had originated from Brazil, and I could see each step of its travel, clear to the cache where I found it in Angeles National Forest. This particular coin was meant just to travel to spread awareness of diabetes.

Travel Bug

Travel Bug

Travel Bugs are the same but more like a dog tag that you attach to an item of some sort and specify where you want it to travel. I bought this ridiculous doll of Buffalo Bill (plastic head and cloth body and ugly as all get-out) and ordered a Travel Bug. When I got the Travel Bug tag, I registered it to visit every state in the continental United States. I then placed it in an existing local cache. Unfortunately, it only got to some desert location in Lancaster when someone who was apparently oblivious to geocaching came upon the cache and took it (one danger of caches), never to be seen again. Poor Bill.

Adrian learned how to navigate with the GPS device and followed the latitude and longitude coordinates to the cache.

Adrian learned how to navigate with the GPS device and followed the latitude and longitude coordinates to the cache.

Kids love geocaching, too. I took my grandson Adrian on his first “geo-hunt” not too long ago. The first cache we were looking for had disappeared, which was disappointing, but this happens. People run across caches and don’t know what they are, so they take them. After that, we searched for another cache with success. Adrian found a plastic apple and replaced it with a heart-shaped pin.

Adrian is getting closer but can’t seem to pinpoint the location of the cache.

Adrian is getting closer but can’t seem to pinpoint the location of the cache.

We then found another cache in Santa Clarita off of Sierra Highway that was on private property. (You can plant caches where you like, provided you get the property owner’s permission.) Adrian searched through the goodies and found a toy dinosaur, a spider web pin, a Halloween pencil and a pair of headphones. Of course, he replaced each item with something different and closed the cache back up. He had a wonderful time discovering the caches and was happy with the treasures he found.

After inspecting the contents of the plastic bag, Adrian chose to take a plastic red apple. He replaced his find with an item he brought. There was no paper or pencil to log in the find, but that was okay. Not all caches have logs.

After inspecting the contents of the plastic bag, Adrian chose to take a plastic red apple. He replaced his find with an item he brought. There was no paper or pencil to log in the find, but that was okay. Not all caches have logs.

When I first started to geocache, and before I realized how intricate the hunts could be, I found a Travel Bug in a local cache. I went to South Dakota on business and thought it would be a good idea to take the Travel Bug with me and find a cache in South Dakota to leave it in. I placed the bug in a cache close to Sioux Falls. When I returned home, I looked it up to see if it had traveled anywhere and discovered that the person who initiated the Travel Bug said they wanted it to go either to Disneyland or Disney World. Great. I had no idea at the time that “destinations” were required. I felt really bad until I followed the trace on it and saw a post from a woman who was on business in South Dakota but lived in Florida. She found the Travel Bug in the cache and said she would take it to Disney World. Whew. I felt so much better. Who knew so many people did business in South Dakota?

I highly recommend that if you haven’t tried this and you’re an adventurous, analytical and logical person who loves to solve mysteries, go for it. It’s a fun thing for anyone to try, including kids. It’s educational, and you get your exercise while you’re at it.

However, I have to warn you that this can become addicting. It’s so much fun to get out in there and find treasures even though what you find might not be $1,000. It’s still fun.

As always, keep your eyes open, because you’ll never know what you might find.

 

 

Mari Carbajal is a docent-naturalist at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center.

 

 

Comment On This Story
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11 Comments

  1. My husband discovered geocaching a few years ago, and he has become addicted to it. Hey, there are much worse things he could be doing with his free time. He enjoys creating new caches, and he brings lots of joy to other geocachers.
    Thanks for spreading the word with your article.

  2. Debbie Erven maybe we should try this again .

  3. Emily Egan says:

    Melanie Fessinger Adam Shane Fessinger maybe people will finally start to understand and they can stop stealing your caches

  4. Heidi Webber says:

    What fun! I was aware of geocaching but ignorant of the specifics.

  5. I found one in an abandoned mine a mile up a canyon by Calico.

  6. Gabriella Latade omgggg I remember you telling me about this

  7. My husband has hidden a few. Such a great activity for families to get out and hike or walk together!

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