By Tim Klaben
Every three years, my father’s side of the family comes together at Charleston Lake Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada for a week of fun, food, and frivolity. It’s a short drive for most of my family, who live in upstate New York. For me, living in Madison, Wisconsin, it’s a longer journey—but one I look forward to as nearly 50 relatives gather to reconnect our family ties. Boating, swimming, playing cards, and eating are the mainstays of our get together. But this year, I was looking forward to introducing my cousins to something different: a geocaching excursion around the lake.
With several caches under my belt, a new Garmin GPS receiver for my birthday, and a website (this one!) always looking for stories, I was ready to lead a platoon of Klabens through the woods and swamp—and answer the hardest questions an eight-year-old could throw at me!
Finding volunteers was no problem. My cousin's Scott & Jason, his wife Paula, and their kids Mandy, Kevin, Mackenzie, and Emily seemed intrigued—especially since I had a stash of new Caching Now hats and t-shirts to don for the
expedition. After handing out a couple of borrowed Garmins, explaining how they work, and letting everyone have a turn at adding in coordinates, we headed out to the park entrance.
The target geocache
was just off a trail my cousins and I have hiked several times over the years. The terrain was a swampy low-lying section of the park that’s half boardwalk and half muddy trail. The excitement grew as we watched the young ones run ahead of the group following the arrow on the GPS receiver and counting down the distance. They seemed completely undistracted by the mud and mosquitoes. My greatest hope was that we could actually find the cache, as the disappointment of failure wouldn’t have been good for “Cousin Tim’s” reputation!
Once we honed into the location, it took about ten minutes before Paula was the first to find the cache. It was near the park boundary by an old wire fence. After a sigh of relief, I basked in the pure pleasure of the moment, watching my cousins and their kids sign the logbook and look through the swag. Filled with the joy of the journey, we headed back the way we came, stopping to catch (and release!) a frog and pet a baby turtle crossing our path.
With the first cache find successfully notched in our belts, Jason and his family planned a separate excursion without me to see if they could find a cache on their own. In preparation, we researched several caches and chose
one on an island
at the northern end of the lake. I handed over the Garmins as Jason and Kevin raced to see who could put the coordinates in first. The trip was about a four-mile journey by boat, navigating a series of islands and outcroppings with 11-year-old Mandy tubing behind the whole way.
Kevin was the lead navigator, and they reached the island safely—but with no place to dock the boat. They had to throw anchor and swim to the island. Mandy’s tube now served as transport to get the Garmins, Blackberry, and camera to dry land without water damage—which was no easy task, I’m told.
Paula volunteered to stay with the boat as the others walked about 100 yards through thick brush, encountering an armada of mosquitoes and two snakes. Mandy and Kevin were first to find, with Jason, Emily, and Kenzie taking up the rear. The kids looked over the swag that included a fuzzy bear doll and plastic necklace, wrote their names in the logbook, and headed back to the boat before the mosquitoes could carry them away.
It made me happy that my relatives liked geocaching enough to try it on their own. Have I started a lifelong hobby for these kids to connect with the beauty of the great outdoors? Will they be buying the latest Garmin and be active members of the geocaching message boards? Only time will tell. What I do know is that I can’t wait for the next reunion in three years. There’s a geocache on Blue Mountain
waiting for us...
Tim Klaben is the marketing manager for Berntsen International, and the marketing and operations manager for Caching Now. You can read more about him on our About Us page.
Originally published on December 29, 2008