The clouds begin to part and the sun shines down through the leaves, creating a brilliant green ambiance in the woods. The humidity is unrelenting and I begin to sweat as we veer off the Orange Trail at , walking over ferns and moss-covered rocks.
Nathan holds up his phone, a digital compass swaying and recalibrating on the screen as we move. "It's this way," he says, and he begins to move gingerly, leaning on his walking stick to take pressure off his injured foot.
I take the phone from him and switch to map mode, our little band of explorers a mere blue arrow pulsing across the screen. Josiah has run up ahead to see where the trail leads and if there is a more direct way to get to our destination, but as I look at the map I see that we are almost there.
Finally, as the blue arrow is overlapping the target symbol, and the distance we have to travel has shrunk to only a few meters, we take into account the hint we were given and find the cache.
"Here it is, guys!" I say, holding up a green bottle filled with various knick-knacks: a pen, a toy lizard, some stickers. Wiping sweat from my brow, I take out the pen and sign the log book. Then we place it back carefully, and look for our next cache site.
Geocaching is a fun and thrilling modern day treasure hunt that encourages outdoor exploration and environmental responsibility. According to the official geocaching site, there are more than five million geocachers and 1,427,132 active geocaches worldwide.
My first experience with geocaching was last year, and I was surprised at how many geocaches were just in Bel Air. Their locations were also amazing. Many of the cache sites we discovered were in locations and areas I often frequented, but I had no idea there were hidden containers and clues right under my nose.
Rock State Park, and other Maryland State parks for that matter, are wonderful locations to enjoy nature and learn a bit about its history at the same time. Many cache sites often share the history or significance of the location to which one has traveled.
At the Rocks, we swam in Deer Creek and scrabbled up the rocks to reach the King and Queen Seat, a 190-foot outcrop with a beautiful view. From one cache description, we learned that the location was a ceremonial meeting place for the Susquehannock Nation of Native Americans.
Perhaps most amazing is the wide variety of cache types. They can be as small as 'micro' caches, or large natural formations called EarthCahes. They also have Multi-Caches, Puzzle Caches and Event Caches, among others.
Cache In Trash Out (CITO) is another type of activity in which geocachers participate in "litter clean-up, removal of invasive species, revegetation efforts or trail-building" while out searching for caches.
After my day at the Rocks, I decided to hide my own cache. I began by selecting a location that was important to me, and then contacted the land manager for permission. I was also careful to place it some distance away from "muggle" activity (muggles are people who do not geocache).
To top off an exciting weekend of geocaching, I drove to R.E.I. in Timonium and picked up a TravelBug, a trackable that can be attached to an item and travel around the globe. Those who come across it can carry it to its next site, and share their adventures on its web page. Maybe someday I'll even stumble across it in some excotic locale on the other side of the world.