Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Just When It Was Safe to Go Into the Woods...

For your first experience at Geocaching, I suggest you steer clear of timing your trek to coincide with a July mid-afternoon in New Mexico. This cautionary tale is based on sweat, exhaustion, and frustration, all of which could have been avoided with a bit of common sense.

For husband Dick’s recent birthday, our children decided to present their dad with the latest in electronic gadgetry, a Global Positioning System (GPS) unit. After a few auto jaunts with our in-car navigator, we figured we’d give the popular new sport of Geocaching a try.

For those not keeping up with the trends, Geocaching is a seek and find game where participants use a GPS to unearth hidden containers or caches. Locally we have hundreds. A typical cache is a waterproof container, frequently an old Army ammo can, filled with a logbook and “treasure,” usually trinkets or toys. Geocaches are registered on various websites. We downloaded our selected cache’s coordinates from http://www.geocaching.com/.

To make our search easier, we selected to find our cache in the Rio Grande Nature Center, a nearby state park. This year New Mexico Geocachers in cooperation with New Mexico State Parks are celebrating the parks’ 75th Anniversary by placing a cache in each of the 34 state parks. A prize is awarded for cachers completing the entire series by December 31, 2008.

The Rio Grande Nature Center is a serene oasis along the river bosque in Albuquerque. Included on the riverine site are interpretive nature trails, demonstration gardens, a visitors center with numerous exhibits, and a wetland blind overlooking a pond filled with Canada geese, native and migrating waterfowl, a brace of lazy turtles, and in summer a swarm of hummingbirds.

Having worked as a volunteer at the Center, I figured finding this cache would be easy and quick. Experienced cachers would probably have found the exercise easy. We made several mistakes. Not fully understanding the workings of our GPS unit was the first; not taking a supply of water, the second; and walking the trails at noon was the third. We hiked and hiked. Every time we got close to one coordinate, the other was wrong. Finally we stopped and asked a park ranger. He laughed and pointed to the spot where I stood. It was within three feet.

Now we have 1/34th of our list complete. It was fun, but the next time we go Geocaching, we will be sure of our equipment, try to find the place in early morning or evening if in summer, and carry plenty of water.

To round off the day, we drove downtown for lunch at one of the Burq’s top boutique pizza places, Il Vincino. Our shared 12-inch wood-oven-fired Testarosa featured marinara sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, roasted red peppers, calamata olives, caramelized onions, mushrooms, and fresh oregano, all washed down with big glasses of their in-house brewed root beer.

For a cooling dessert, we walked a couple doors down to Ecco Gelato for a cup of one of their daily 22 flavors. I tried a sample of the strawberry habaƱero. What a flavor explosion! It starts out smooth and sweet, ending at the back of the palate with a pepper blast. Perhaps the next time I’ll go for the full cup, but that afternoon I settled on fig and orange paired with the honey apricot, an agreeable reward for a day of bushwhacking.

Rio Grande Nature Center, 2901 Candelaria NW, Albuquerque, 87107. Hours: Gate opens, Monday-Sunday, 8 AM to 5 PM; Visitors Center, 10 AM to 5 PM. Admission $3 per vehicle. Leashed dogs allowed only on the path bordered by a fence that extends west from Candelaria NW (guide dogs excepted).

Geocache web site: http://www.geocaching.com/

Il Vicino, 3403 Central Ave. NE, Albuquerque 87106. 505-266-7855. Hours, Sunday-Thursday, 11 AM to 11 PM; Friday and Saturday, 11 AM to midnight.

Ecco Gelato, 3409 Central Ave., Albuquerque 87106. 505-660-4721. Hours, Monday-Thursday, 7 AM to 10 PM; Friday and Saturday, 7 AM to 11 PM; Sunday, 8 AM to 10 PM.

1 comment:

  1. It's time to go, I hate to leave, I have to, though.
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