There's no secret as to what I consider the most important key to my introduction to a love for the outdoors. If you've read any of the posts on my site, you'll quickly realize that geocaching is that key component. And while our time spent geocaching has waned over the past few months, our love for hiking, camping, and photography has flourished. Even so, I can honestly say that geocaching is on our mind each time we step foot into another outdoor adventure, whether it be hiking or camping. We have even been instrumental in introducing a few of our acquaintances to our favorite outdoor hobby, though we ourselves have not taken in the pleasure as of late. With a trip to one of Florida's beautiful state parks on Saturday, it was time for my wife and I to get our geocache on (forgive my feeble attempt at sounding hip).
Located about 80 miles to our Southwest is Tallahasse, Florida and the Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park. I've spent many hours in Tallahassee, but it was only recently that a co-worker of mine mentioned to me that if I like to hike, this park had over five miles of trails and it was definitely worth the time. Having spent countless hours in our Georgia State Parks, we have been known to visit the occasional Florida State Park, most notably, Little Talbot Island State Park (Jacksonville). We've also visited Ravine Gardens (Palatka), Gold Head Branch (Keystone Heights), and our other co-favorite to Little Talbot, Blue Spring State Park (Orange City). Blue Spring is a manatee refuge and to see these gentle giants come up into the springs is time well spent! For more about manatees, check out this cool site: Manatee. As previously stated, today's adventure, however, would be spent at Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park.
Upon arriving, we noticed that the entrance was beautifully landscaped and attractive. Once we paid the $6.00 admission and received a park map, we made our way down to our first trail, the Big Pine Trail. The narrative for this particular trail is that it is a 20 minute stroll around Lake Hall. Additionally, we knew that there was a geocache also located on it, so we set out to find and conquer! While making our way to the cache, we took time to observe the beauty of our surroundings. Around us was the typical habitat of the deep south, moss, saw palmetto, and an ample amount of longleaf pines. Also in the mix could be found a few grand Live Oak trees...very majestic. Many of these trees provided a canopy to the trail, and with temperatures in the high 50's, it remained quite brisk for the better part of the morning hours. We were happy to see that there were others, both young and old, enjoying themselves on the trail with us. All had smiles on their faces as we offered pleasantries upon passing. Most, if not all, were completely oblivious to our ulterior motive for being there...I was sure. We had secretly transformed into Team DAWGTRAX and we were gonna find that cache!
If you've spent any time geocaching, then you know that saying that you're gonna find a cache and actually doing it are two different things. No one likes to log a DNF ("did not find"- in case any newbies are reading) as much as me, however, blame it on rust, or blame it on the fact that we couldn't get a consistent reading on our GPS (it was all over the place), or just say that the cache was probably missing (my preferred option), but after searching near and far and high and low for about 20 minutes, we ultimately gave up the DNF! Oh no! What a poor way to start!! Hopefully things would get better.
In case you're wondering what type of GPS we use, it is a Magellan eXplorist GC. It must be pre-loaded prior to going out, and then plugged in to log the finds to the geocaching.com website. In addition to the GPS, my most preferred choice, however, is the geocaching app for my iPhone. I find that it is just as accurate as my GPS, and I especially like the fact that I can search, log, and send finds from any spot where I have a tower signal. The "find nearby geocaches" is a great help too!
After failing to capture the prize on the Big Pine Trail, we made our way over to the short Nature Trail for attempt number two. It was here that we started our string of five successful finds in a row, but like most of our finds for the day, it wasn't as easy as the description stated. Again, perhaps it was the fact that we were a bit rusty. Nevertheless, after spending quite an extended amount of time searching, we located the cache and gladly logged our first find in quite some time. We were happy, happy, happy! In fact, we were so happy that we decided to stop for a while and enjoy our picnic lunch. So we did.