If you’re the nose-in-a-book type like me, you know what I mean when I say making friends is hard. When you prefer to stay in on the weekend with a good book, or a knitting project and a cup of tea rather than hitting the bars, making friends is slow going. So how did I do it? What was my master plan for fooling people into becoming my friend? Let me tell you… I asked them if they’d like to join me for a treasure hunt in the forest.
I feel that getting out in nature equalizes people. There are no egos. Fashionable clothes get left at home. All you need is your ability to survive in nature. Also, it was something I knew I was good at. I’d grown up hiking so I know how to dress for outdoor adventure. I know the elements of this climate. And I know enough of the flora and fauna to assess danger levels. So feeling competent enough in my own ability to not look like a fool, and not worrying about my outfit because the mismatched clothes were purely for warmth and comfort, I made the bold move of inviting other girls to join me.
As there is always a danger of taking unprepared people out into nature, and I did not want to be responsible for any mishaps or horrible accidents, I chose a geocache with easy terrain and only a short walk (the cache claimed to be a 10 minute walk from the parking lot. I planned the first outing as only an introduction to caching. We easily chatted as we walked. Nobody was in such good shape that we felt we were slowing anybody down. And all the girls were intrigued enough by our end goal that nobody complained about the walk. I had checked on this cache ahead of time to make sure it was there (further ensuring I would not look silly taking the girls to a “Did Not Find” cache), so when we reached the cache I stood back and let the girls search. When they found it I supplied trinkets so they could “take one, leave one”. I explained how Travel Bugs work (conveniently I had taken them to a Travel Bug Hotel-ensuring we would find Travel Bugs), and then suggested we follow up with a second cache only 10 minutes more down the trail where they could transport a Travel Bug.
A few weeks later when I suggested a half mile hike to a large rock, the weirdest thing happened, girls accepted my invitation again! And this was in the middle of winter mind you. Again we went after two caches. The second of which took us about 15 minutes of kicking at ice to dislodge the cache from under a tree stump.
With interest piqued, I suggested a new caching adventure every few weeks. Due to all of us having busy schedules outside of work, these hikes had to be fairly short, either right after work or at 10am on a weekend morning. This didn’t stop us from having any less fun however. One adventure took us through the creepy ruins of an old mining town.
So far our adventures have not been completely mishap free. There was the small incident of someone grabbing Devil’s Club and getting spikes in the hand. (To be fair, she had been warned about 5 minutes before NOT to grab that plant… luckily it wasn’t bad, so no medical emergency.) Then there was the time one of us decided to test the mud puddle depth… but that’s why we always carry a change of socks!
As I ran out of short hikes to suggest we began to set our sights on some of the farther out caches on the local trails. One trail involved a steep climb up a hillside where, conveniently, someone had placed a rope to aid hikers in the assent.
Another hike involved -unbeknownst to any of us- a bridge that had been washed out for years. And of course we decided to attempt this hike during a high-flood time. Luckily we all had tall water-proof boots on so we were able to traverse the water with only a slight fear of topping our boots. Unfortunately we did not manage to find the cache in question during this hike. We returned rain soaked and disconsolate, but ready to try again in better weather. Of course the next time we attempted this same cache, there was no water to speak of near the bridge remains. And despite the batteries giving out on BOTH my iPhone and GPS, we found the cache anyway!
In conclusion, Geocaching has not only incentivized my stepping out the door, but has also created an outlet for making friends. A couple years ago I invited a few girls to go search for containers in the forest with me, and today we’re good friends! And oh the adventures we’ve had…
[This post is part of my Geocaching series. If you’re unfamiliar with Geocaching, see my previous post]