Posted by: Juniper Road | March 15, 2013

Finding Cache Rewards

I’m scrambling up the side of a rocky outcrop in the Robledo Mountain Range with my sweet wife trailing behind me maybe by as little two minutes. The horizon is tanned desert hills, with the occasional chunk of bossy mountain, and the sky is a magnificent blue. I’m convinced the trail we’re following has been used recently by human, but the further we climb it seems more adequate for a four legged creature. Hugging the side of the cliff for safety as I crouch along, I bang my shoulder blade into the hillside so hard it feels like a mini attack. Gravel begins to bounce and tumble away with each step. The incline is such that I’m now on all fours squeaking between rock wall and scratchy shrubs that demonstrate pure survival. Contemplating as I go that it’s much easier to climb than descend, my risk assessment is bad news. There is no place to bail to if I begin to slide. If I start to slide, the party is over due to some vertical drop of maybe four body lengths onto steeply sloped talus. I’m frozen for a moment and cannot climb. I cannot descend for a moment either. Immediately I yell for Cassie! Her response comes from a fair distance away and I’m calmed knowing the trail she is still occupying harbors sturdiness. Making a conscious effort to contain my mini panic, I yell for her to “turn around and go back down”!

After ninety long seconds of mind over matter I negotiated the tough spot and was soon at lower elevation where we both begin flanking this bossy mini mountain in search of top, and the cache. We are at a place called Outlaw Rock searching for a series of northerly and westerly numbers that will bring us to our sought after geocache prize. And we are having a blast. The history with this area revealed 1800’s cattle rustlers who would steal cattle in Texas, drive them into the Mesilla Valley of New Mexico, sell them to the soldiers at Fort Seldon, wait for the Cavalry to leave, then steal the cattle back, and return to Texas with who knows what type of story. No doubt if the story had anything to do with Texans or their beloved state, it was big and fat.

We have been Geocaching, thanks to Watsons Wander and Aluminarium, who were the original driving force that got us interested. It seemed cool, and we wanted to be cool too. Clearly the process provides a list of activity and entertainment. First and foremost we are exploring the back country, usually off trail. This has been one of my favorite activities for a long time. The hiking and rock scrambling (as long as you never bump your head) (knock on wood) provides good exercise, and we happen to find out some otherwise overlooked history along the way while searching for our grid point as well. When your geocache destination has been reached, there could be a variety of things to be found.

Sometimes, according to my newbie take on the game, you will find yourself with a type of landmark cache. Once standing in the prescribed point on the map you may not be looking for a thing, but at a geological or geographical reward of sorts. This could be a fault line, mineral spring, cemetery, or the meeting of two very different rock compositions. That’s also part of the fun to be exercising the mind. Other times, it may be what is called a “mini-cache” and you end up searching the area for cigar sized container that may simply have a scrolled up log. You sign it with your club name, and date. It’s fun for us to see when the last time someone was at the same spot. We’ve hit a few targets whereas a whole year passed since the cache was last found. The best type of cache, for me, it the ammo box filled with treasure. In addition to a log book, you may find; stickers, fancy coins, pretty rocks, matchbox cars, mini labyrinth puzzles, first aid items, wind-up toys, plastic insects, crayons, or… just a clue to the next/real grid point.

The best yet geocache was the multi stage in Deer Canyon. We parked on the east side of the Rio Grande River, and simply walked across the sandbox. Water issues could be, and should be, a topic of focus on daily news everywhere and a completely separate blog. (To sum that up; whiskey is for drinking, and water is for fighting). Much of the desert precipitation is seasonal, and a major part of the landscapes history that cannot be overlooked due to the geologic clues that are in your face without topsoil. The mountains here were mostly built underwater, and the wind and water is what is tearing them down. A canyon is basically a section of potential flash flood architecture that is essentially skinny and chamber-like up top, but wide and open at the bottom where it would pour into the river. We crossed the river of sand, and began our ascent upwards in a giant alluvial plain. Constantly moving upwards and towards our first set of coordinates, the rocks get bigger, and the walls of the canyon slowly close in on us.

Like most geocache spots, the booty is hidden. It’s typical to bury or conceal the cache box into the environment to discourage tampering by non game players. I call these people “cache-buggers”. A I previously stated, we are new to this sport, and I may not be using the proper terminology. Those people suck, and they usually leave a zillion shell casings all over the ground as well. ( We’ve been stymied more than once by this activity) Once on target, with our smart phone accuracy being about 50ft, a search of the area is conducted. It usually looks a tad out of place, like rocks from the localized area placed in a semi-unnatural manner. It’s always a thrill to invest the time and energy into getting “out there” and actually find something.

Stage one was an ammo can filled with pill bottles. Most of the containers has a small amount of change in them. I was focused on the inside, but the credit of seeing the letters on the outside goes to my brilliant wife. There were 14 containers with letters that corresponded to the first 14 letters on the alphabet. Lined up in sequence, the small change value within the bottles provided a sequence of numbers. That sequence of numbers broken down into a familiar pattern gave us the next grid coordinate, and the subsequent location to stage two. Boom! The hunt continues upward higher/deeper into the canyon. We climbed over and around several “dry” waterfalls, the whole time while walking on a trail of minerals. The sun was hot and the shade refreshing. In one location I pointed to the giant slab of rock and said “hey, that looks like animal footprints imbedded into the rock, I know it’s not, but it kinda looks that way”. Cool. A day later we realized we were just outside the boundary of Prehistoric Trackway National Monument, where a big discovery was made/acknowledged 30 years earlier.

Of course we found the second stage cache, and marveled at the various toys inside, but only part of the pleasure is the treasure. It’s the journey and process of the hunt that we find most rewarding. Let’s count the days until we set up our own points on a quad for you to find goodies. I’m leaving a can of beer inside our Juniper Road Cache;)



  1. I’m so glad you guys are geocaching!! We’ve only done a few since we were together.

    • It’s been great – brought us on several fantastic hikes we wouldn’t have known about otherwise. Thanks for getting us started!

  2. I am a little late in reading this. Now that I have, I am smiling big time. Only having done one geocache with my grandsons, I know how much fun it is:). Although the only cache we ever found together was in the local park near my home, the thrill of discovery and the journey to find it, was awesome!!!:)
    Perhaps one day we will discover a “Juniper” cache here on the East coast!!
    Love you both –
    Aunt Sue

    • I LOVE the idea of a Juniper cache near you! Maybe we can create it together one day. Hope spring comes your way soon. Xoxox

      • It was a beautifully sunny day today, although a tad chilly, for the first day of spring! My daffodils are starting to open and I look forward to green again!

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