Searching for Hidden Treasure in Gloucester

This past Saturday, I visited Gloucester, Massachusetts. While there, I didn’t duck into the Cape Ann Historical museum, didn’t check out the docks where the fishermen hang or any quant little art galleries. Instead, I searched with my friend for about 2.5 hours in the cold, armed with a little yellow and black GPS device, for a hidden treasure.

The activity, for the unfamiliar, is called geocaching and it’s worth experiencing for yourself. The short of how it works is this: 1. before doing anything, you must purchase a GPS unit for some obscene amount of money 2. upon receiving said device, sign up for the official geocaching website on which you can search for caches in your neck of the woods or elsewhere (These caches, created by fellow geocachers, are located all over the world. Seriously, have a look) 3. once you’ve decided on one in particular, set off on your journey 4. upon locating the cache — which usually is composed of trinkets (think Tupperware, playing cards, stuffed animal, perhaps) —the website advises you to both add something and take something for yourself.

So there we were in Gloucester, passing by all that city had to offer to go find — well, what we were going to find, we didn’t know for sure. The GPS device was directing us away from the city’s center and soon we were rummaging through sleepy neighborhoods. A few times, the trail seemed to call for us to cut through people’s backyards. But we quickly figured out that a good geocacher discovers creative ways of getting around such obstacles and avoiding muggles (as our host geocacher had put it online), such as walking a street up and then cutting back. About halfway through our journey, my friend and I came to a giant rock which provided an expansive view of the city and water below. Standing atop this rock, the thought crossed my mind that the folks who were responsible for this cache may have envisioned their cache-hunt as something of a romantic hike. By contrast, they also could have planned it with the intention of leading their hunters right into a mugger’s trap. Personally, I was rooting for the former in our case.

At some point, I realized the two of us had wandered pretty far from the city’s center — neither she nor I, I should say, has had much experience with Gloucester. Luckily, there finally came a clue of sorts. Cut into the brush up ahead was what looked like a seldom taken path. After studying the GPS, we decided this path was going to lead us to our final destination.

Entering the woods, we eventually found ourselves in some sort of magnificent quarry. Its beauty came from its solitariness. No tourist, my friend declared, would ever venture to this place. How could he/she know it was here, she reasoned. We continued to pat ourselves on the back for taking the path less traveled for a few more minutes; that is, until, we spotted a car on a HIGHWAY up ahead. Off the beaten path, my ass. 

Looking down at the GPS, it was clear that our cache was somewhere beyond the road in the brush behind and that this highway would have to be traversed. The trouble was that there was a tall fence to be scaled and oh yes, the bloody road, which was buzzing and whirring with passing cars. It was also getting dark. Venturing off the path to get a better look, my friend suddenly turned to me and said it might be a good idea to abandon our search and perhaps, come back another time. I was in the adventurous spirit, though. Staring off into the distance — imagining myself Vasco da Gama or something — I took my time with the response. It was after 30 seconds of silence had passed between us that I realized I was both hungry and cold. With a dramatic sigh, I turned to go back toward civilization. Somewhere back in town was a Miller Light and a plate full of food with my name on it.

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