By Meghan Leach and Stephanie Sunata
Fluffy white clouds and a bright blue sky greeted Stephanie and me as we left for our geocache treasure hunt. We joined the ranks of a community that searches for hidden treasure boxes all around the world.
In fact, there are treasure boxes, or caches, on all seven continents. While traditional caches involve finding a box, sometimes filled with trinkets, we decided on an Earthcache. That would take us to a place where a geological process had shaped a portion of the Earth. In this case, we picked the Bourbonnais Indian Caves by the Kankakee River.
We climbed into Stephanie’s beat up car and got on the road. Our first stop: pick up our geocache guide, Paul Frizzell, at his house in Blue Island.
As we accelerated along the merge lane to get on the freeway, Stephanie urged her car on, “Little car go! Little car go!”
This made me seriously rethink letting Stephanie drive.
Luckily, we made it to Frizzell’s house in south suburban Blue Island in one piece.
While I had on three layers of clothes and a hood (wishing that I had brought gloves), Frizzell dared the weather in shorts, a T-shirt, and a windbreaker. But he's always prepared and lent me some gloves.
When we got to the Perry Farm Park in Bourbonnais, the trees dazzled me. They sparkled with reds, yellows and oranges. I had to take a picture of a completely red tree because down south we don’t see trees like that too often.
As we walked along the paved path, Frizzell asked if we wanted to find a traditional cache before we reach our Earth cache. Stephanie and I agreed, and before I knew it, we were struggling through tall grass and tree branches that snatched at my arms and face.
Frizzell was a little disappointed because the cache should have been hidden, but its hiding place had been disturbed by either another geocacher or by an animal.
Inside the container, we found our treasure: a logbook, gum, a toothbrush and a toy soldier. Some geocachers leave momentos and signature items; for example, one group of cachers leaves button pins.
Frizzell took the gum because one of the guidelines of geocaching is: Don’t leave any food or liquids. They can attract animals or mess up the logbook - especially liquids, which can freeze and crack their plastic casings.
We were a little stunned by seeing and holding an actual geocache. We had always imagined them as virtual because the idea that people randomly hide plastic containers around the world seemed beyond belief.
The Bourbonnais cave was next. Meghan found a half shell of a mussel that Frizzell said lives in rivers as well as oceans. The cave walls seemed almost porous, and luckily, the ravine had very little water running through it, so we could cross over to the cave without getting our feet wet!
Moss and spider webs covered the walls of the cave, and trees and plants grew up and out of the ravine walls. The cave didn’t go in very far—I could still see the sunlight at the entrance from the back of the cave.
I also saw little fish in the small amount of water at the mouth of the ravine, but they were camera shy and swam away when I tried to take a picture.
Frizzell found a sequined tank top on the ground, and he told us how geocachers pick up trash while out and about. They also hold outings specifically to clean up particular areas. I helped with the effort collecting a flip flop, candy wrappers and broken glass.
Frizzell made a bag out of the tank top, and we put the trash in there to dispose of it later.
As we made our way back to the car, the sun clouded over, and the wind picked up.
Before returning to Frizzell’s house, he showed us one of the caches he had packed and hidden in a lamp post in Blue Island. He lifted the base of the lamp post and nestled between two bolts was a test tube-like container.
As fascinating as finding a cache is, I hurriedly got back in the car because the wind kept gusting and the sky was a molten grey.
The biggest surprise, though: Stephanie’s car got me home without falling apart.