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2010.03.17 Caching through the city

on . Posted in By The Way

By DAVID GREEN

My traveling motto still holds true: Geocaching takes you to the most interesting places.

It never fails. Whenever I remember to bring my GPS receiver on a trip, I’m going to some great sites.

Need a reminder? With geocaching, someone hides a cache of trinkets or maybe just a small container with a roll of paper for signing in. Then other other people go to geocaching.com, learn the coordinates of where the cache is hidden, and try to find it.

I created a rather lengthy list of caches to look for before flying off to New York City with my wife recently. Our hotel was close to Central Park so I started off there after my wife walked off to her conference.

The first one I tried is called Monkey’s Lament. It’s south of Wollman Rink on the bank of the pond by Gapstow Bridge. I couldn’t find it. Was it really near the bank of the pond or back in the rock outcropping?

A dog wearing one of those big funnels around its neck stopped over to help me, but we got nowhere.

I moved on to Gutch’s Cache and found what must have been the large, flat rock that was listed as a hint. Looking through the on-line logbook, I see that hunters from China, Holland, the Czech Republic and Germany have found the cache since I was there. Unfortunately, Morenci is not on the list. I was stumped again.

It’s odd to be doing this with so many people around. The weather was beginning to turn spring-like and the park was filling. And I was feeling conspicuous.

One more try: I went after Snug as a Bug on my way out of the park. It appeared to be up a rock face which I climbed. There are huge rock outcroppings throughout Central Park.

I’m reading about the cache now and see that it’s described as kid-friendly. Not too many parents would allow young children to climb where I did, so no wonder I failed to find it. Hunters from 41 countries have been there in the past.

That was it for the caching day; I went off on other adventures. But the next morning I was prepared to take on the urban caches. Among the skyscrapers and many pedestrians lay some things to find.

First on my list was a cache called LF’s Snack, hidden in a narrow park between two buildings. Nearby is another small opening with a wonderful waterfall wall at the back. The one with the cache contains a large section of the Berlin Wall (the photo on the front of last week’s Observer).

The instructions say: Do Not Attract Attention!! Bend down to read the plaque, then look to the right. Ah, got it! My first find.

The cache at 31 W. 52nd Street is in a plaza between buildings that goes across to 53rd Street. The instructions say to not disturb the gardens. The hint says to reach up into the tree.

There was no hint about the security guard who soon arrived and wondered what I was up to. I climbed up on the concrete planter surrounding the tree and started looking. He told me I was on camera and it was his job to get me out of there.

Six people have found it since I was there. I see by looking at the map that I was at the wrong end of the plaza.

On my way to W. 52nd Street I heard a lot of yelling. Finally I saw a large inflatable rat and dozens of people screaming chants toward the hotel across the street. Union problems.

The cache was in another plaza betwixt big buildings. Here’s the hint: “You can bend down and tie your shoe in order to retrieve this cache.” I did that and found it. I felt like a bombing suspect when I replaced the small metal container underneath the gate.

I knew where the small tube was hidden near the famous LOVE sculpture at 55th and 6th Ave, but I just couldn’t go over and get down on my hands and knees to feel around under the base of the fire hydrant. There was a pretzel stand 10 feet away and people everywhere.

It was a similar situation at the Manhattan Club. “Watch out for the bell staff nearby.” The hint told me it was hidden underneath the fire hose connection, but the bell guy was there to greet guests. I needed to be with some other people to block the view.

I felt confident about finding the cache at 230 W. 55th Street. It was another small lunch area and the hint told me it was at the last bench back on the right. I went to that bench and heard some odd noises. Just a few feet away behind the fence, a homeless fellow was going through the trash. I didn’t want to hunt with him so I left another one unfound.

That was the end of the line for me. There were three others on my list for this area, but I’m always lost and they were many blocks away where I had already been. When I think I’m going west across the avenues, I’m actually going east and out of my way. When I think I’m working my way downtown, I suddenly get a glimpse of Central Park and know it’s the wrong way. I covered a lot of territory, but didn’t get much accomplished.

I took the train to Brooklyn to use the library, check out Grand Army Plaza and make a visit to the Atlas Obscura office. That’s the organization that plans Obscura Day every year where odd sites in a community can be shown off.

After searching and asking directions, I rang the bell at the obscure address listed and there was no answer. I was writing a note when someone came out the door of the apartment building. She told me that she lived in No. 4. The person I wanted in No. 3 has moved away.

I can’t cover the miles like I used to. There were two geocaches in Prospect Park, but it was quite a hike. I really needed a bicycle.

The next day I wanted to go to the Whitney Museum for a free tour during the big Biennial Exhibit, but the line was out the door and down the block. I couldn’t spare the time, so I crossed the street and went back into the park.

Down the Rabbit Hole proved to be a successful find. A little container was hidden inside a hole in a tree, just a few yards from the Alice in Wonderland sculpture with kids crawling all over it.

I also wrote down the coordinates for Ramble On and I think I know where I had to go to find it. It must have been located in the pile of rocks with the little waterfall.

There were people everywhere and I wasn’t going to go over and hang out with the little kids in the water.

That’s how it ended up. A city with dozens and dozens of geocaches and I found only three.

But remembering that last one—Ramble On—made it worthwhile. Look north and there was a babbling creek coming down from the higher rocks. There were trees everywhere and it looked as though I was out in the woods far away from it all. Look south and the creek travels down to The Lake with the NYC skyline standing above. An amazing sight.

Geocaching brought me there.

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