As you may or may not know, I went to this writing retreat in the middle of a geocaching streak: at least one cache find per day for every day of the calendar year. You can read more about my streak here. (Not to be a spoiler or anything, but as of this writing, I’m on day 227).
I didn’t have any trouble finding caches during my time touring around before the retreat actually started. There are a few at and around Mount Rushmore, several in and around Keystone, and one at the Dinosaur Park. Geocaches accumulate in tourist areas. But as you get away into Hermosa and then south, they become few and far between. And while I wanted a break from the computer, I didn’t want to spend too much of my precious writing time looking for caches.
Linda had never heard of geocaching before she met me. She was concerned about proper land stewardship and wasn’t sure what to think about having these things hidden around historic sites. There was also a geocache in the vicinity of a local graveyard, and that potentially seemed problematic to her. “My relatives are buried there,” she pointed out. But on closer reading of the cache description, it became clear that this cache was hidden near the cemetery’s entrance, and was intended to draw attention to some Civil War cannons that stood there. It was not on a grave. I told her that highlighting local historic sites that tourists wouldn’t normally know about is often a purpose served by geocaches.
She met me at my room at 4 pm, in her truck. As I expected, I was happy to get away. I was the only writer in the house that week, and while on one hand I’d wanted to be, on the other hand, I was feeling a little stir crazy. She agreed to drive, and I loaded the cache coordinates into the app on my phone.
The cemetery, called Highland Park Cemetery, is bigger than it looks from a distance, is on top of a hill, and is divided into Catholic and Protestant sections. Linda’s grandparents, her parents, and her late husband are all buried there in the Protestant section. She writes about working in the cemetery after the death of a friend here in her Windbreak House blog.
We got out of the truck near the entrance. The GPS pointed roughly to the cattle guard, a depression in the road covered by a transverse grid of metal bars. I went over and showed Linda the decreasing numbers on the phone’s screen as we approached the cattle guard: 32 ft, 15 ft, 8 ft . . .
“We’re getting close. I think it’s in here somewhere.”
“Don’t stick your hand anywhere you can’t see!” she admonished me. “There are rattlesnakes around here.”
I remembered the time I got stung after disrupting a wasp nest when caching in Massachusetts. That had happened to my husband too, at a different cache with a different set of wasps. That time it was unpleasant, but not deadly. I looked under the bars and between them. I saw no snakes, and no cache. Finally I put my left hand underneath a bar that looked clear, and I touched a magnetic container. It was the cache, just where the hint said. No rattlesnakes. I showed it to Linda and signed the log as we read about the Civil War cannons. At one point, they stood in front of the cell of Dr. Mudd, who was imprisoned for helping John Wilkes Booth escape. The last people to sign this log found it on their way to Geowoodstock in Denver less than a month ago.
I’m glad we found this one. It occurred to me that I don’t know where I’m going to be buried when my time comes.
Linda seemed like she was now on board with geocaching. We went looking for a couple more caches, not to find right then but so I knew where they are the next two days and could get them quickly. There was one next to the only pizza place in Hermosa. There were also several in guard rails along the highway in a series called “Holy G’rails.” Linda caught on to the pun quickly. She wondered who hid them, since she knows everyone in Hermosa.
It was time to make dinner. Omelettes from fresh eggs.
“Little Writing Retreat on the Prairie” – The Set
–A series of blogs describing my experiences at Windbreak House, a women’s writing retreat in South Dakota run by Linda Hasselstrom