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A key element of most survival plans is to bug out to a different location. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your personal choice to get out of dodge, the very act of bugging out could be treacherous and could cover hundreds of miles in some cases. What if you are delayed along the way and run out of supplies? Have you imagined the possibility that you may not be at home when the time comes to actually bug out to your retreat location? What if you are vacationing and are hundreds of miles away from your supplies when something happens?
Hidden survival caches offer you the option of hiding or pre-positioning supplies that you may need along your route to your final location. The idea behind this is to hide, usually bury additional food stores, weapons or ammo, fuel, clothing etc. in the off chance that you will need this before you get to your final location. Sounds great in theory, right? If you don’t have any practice hiding, or more importantly finding this buried treasure, all of your pre-planning may be in vain. Worst case is this can put you in additional danger when you try to reclaim your supplies.
This is where Geocaching comes in. For those who have never heard of Geocaching, I will give you a brief background. Geocaching is a game played all over the world. The game involves hidden “treasure” and the object of the game is to find as many caches as you can. A cache is a container that depending upon its size may have little plastic toys, a visitors log or coins inside. Each location where this treasure is hidden has been entered into a website (geocaching.com) and members can obtain the coordinates for caches anywhere. The coordinates will get you to the vicinity of the cache but you will normally need to do a little looking to find the actual booty. When you find a cache you can either swap out one of the toys with one of your own, or just leave it as is and sign the visitor log. The sizes of the caches vary from big 5 gallon paint buckets, ammo cans down to film canisters and even containers as small as two watch batteries. Yes, those are hard to find! The harder caches usually give you a hint or their name is somewhat of a clue to point you in the right direction.
Geocaching is fun and it is something that can be done with almost any member of your family. The youngest children can participate and most caches are in easy to navigate terrain. I was first drawn to Geocaching as I was researching a good GPS. One of the features of most new handheld GPS units is a Geocaching application. I did a little more digging after I purchased my GPS and went to the Geocaching website to sign up. The membership is free, and allows you to search for any cache anywhere in the world. Pro memberships allow you to actually create and hide your own caches for everyone to find.
The process is simple and you can start out slow. I went onto the site and entered my zip code to find caches near me. I was surprised at how many there were just within walking distance. The website allows you to view the details of each cache such as how many people have found it and how recently. I selected a dozen or so and downloaded them to my Garmin GPS. I did have to download a free plug-in from Garmin first, but once that was installed on my computer sending the coordinates and cache name to my GPS was as simple as one click.
Now that I had my new trusty GPS and a whole bunch of cache locations, I grabbed a couple of members of my family and set out. We spent about 3 hours that first day and found all of the caches except one. With each new find, we were more and more amazed at the creativity of the people who had hidden the caches and the thought that must have gone into choosing the hiding place and camouflaging it so that “muggles” wouldn’t accidentally stumble upon the cache and remove it.
The term “Muggle” comes from Harry Potter and in the Geocaching world refers to people who aren’t playing the game. Some cache descriptions actually say “Beware of muggles around” which you would interpret as the cache is hidden in a very open and public location. In this case, you don’t want to just grab some hidden object out from behind a bush or you may attract unnecessary attention. In fact, this happened to me when one of the caches I was looking for happened to be on a public walking trail. I knew from the coordinates that the cache was somewhere in the bushes right next to the trail, but I was reluctant to dig too far into the bushes for fear that I would scare some woman who may be walking along the trail. If she didn’t know better it would appear that I was hiding in the bushes and that wouldn’t look good at all. I skipped that one and came back later with my children so I wouldn’t look like a creepy deviant.
Another time, we were actually in Paris and believe it or not, the Palace at Versailles has geocaches hidden there also. My wife and I were looking in this park and wouldn’t you know it but about 25 young French students who looked to be in their equivalent of the cub scouts were playing all around the location of the cache. We had to wait on them to leave also. It’s one thing to look odd in your own country, I didn’t want to get caught sneaking around the bushes with a bunch of poor French students, so my wife and I sat there, took photos and laughed. That cache was pretty interesting and I took a souvenir and left something I had picked up in the states.
Getting back to how this “game” can help you with Survival, the website is where you find the caches gives you coordinates. For any caches that aren’t in a parking lot or park within easy reach, it is wise to do a little research before you go exploring. There are some caches that can only be accessed one way and this may not be a direct route. One cache we had to find was in the most inhospitable place I have seen which was in the middle of about 50 acres of forest that had been cleared several years back. The forest had since been taken over by tall and painful briars. I think the name of the cache had the word “hell” in it somewhere and it was hell to get to. We had to choose which path to take to get to the cache as it was in the middle of the land. There were two roads bordering the property and we drove around for a while trying to find the closest (and least conspicuous) place to park and begin our hunt. The GPS has a directional compass built in which will show you the direction of the cache and how far it is away, but that is a straight-line. You may have to go around and backtrack to get to the cache location.
If you are feeling exceptionally adventurous, you could get the coordinates and leave the GPS in the car. Use your topographic map to find the actual spot. In a grid-down scenario we may not have access to GPS or electronics so knowing how to navigate the old fashioned way is a smart skill to have.
I mentioned above that it was pretty amazing to me to see the cache locations themselves. Some are hidden in fairly easy locations. Others are really tricky. After finding about 50 or so, you start to detect a pattern and I was able to walk to a location and look at the area around me and guess where the cache was hidden. You can use this to your advantage in hiding your own caches. Don’t go with the simple route; be more creative with hiding and you will make your own caches harder to find. Also, hiding your cache in the bushes right off an easily accessible path is a sure fire way to make sure someone finds it and when you go to retrieve your cache, it will be gone. If I am going to hide a bucket with guns, knife, water, ammo and food for a couple of days, it is going to be in the middle of that briar patch deep in the woods. I want this to be a giant pain to find, but one I will easily remember.
The smaller caches are usually the most cleverly hidden and that is due to their size. These smaller containers can be magnetized and hidden on almost any metal surface. That won’t really do us too much good, but familiarizing yourself with their methods can give you ideas. One cache I found was in a container that was sunken in the water. The contents were in a waterproof container, but the lid was attached to a piece of camouflaged paracord that was attached to a strong root on the bank. I only had to find the cord and pull to get the container up off the bottom of the creek. Even if I had been looking, that would have easily been missed unless I knew the exact spot where the cord was attached. Another cache was hidden about 30 feet into a huge storm water tunnel. Again, this might not work for everything but it was creative and gave me a lot of ideas.
The best caches to me are the ones hidden in plain sight. Use your best judgment on these, but let the game of Geocaching give you ideas and experience with hiding and finding your own treasure.