Sunday, February 14, 2010

I Got My New GPS!

In an earlier post I wrote about why I needed a new GPS. Well, Santa dug into his toy bag and brought me a new one for Christmas. Oh, yessssss! This baby will do practically everything except maybe tie your hiking boots. Speaking of hiking boots, maybe I should get a new pair to go with the upgraded GPS?..... Anyway, my hiking buddy from Oregon and I gave the new, TOOL, a good test last week, and I'm happy to report it passed with flying colors.

My friend and I are both the same age, which is the time of life when men still have the drive to do stupid risky things but have bodies that can no longer get them out of trouble when they do. For the past couple of years we have been exploring old lava flows here in Hawai'i. This is tough hiking, because lava cools to become razor sharp rock which will shred skin at a touch, particularly skin that now seems to bruise or bleed in a strong breeze. It is also often loose, jumbly, and uneven -- a particular challenge for those with a less than perfect sense of balance.

However, it also cools in some of the most fascinating patterns you can imagine. Like stone browny batter, with drips and drops, tangles and splatters. The patterns are endless, and each flow seems to have different characteristics that make them always fascinating to explore.

One of the features of lava flows here on the island of Hawai'i is that they often form tubes -- channels of lava that are completely enclosed and can be miles long. In fact, this is how lava can travel so far from the source -- the walls of the tubes insulate the molten magma so that it stays fluid. As an eruption dies down, these tubes empty out and leave tunnels that can be a real thrill to poke around in. Of course, it is also a teensy bit dangerous, which can make it all the more attractive!

Now, back to my GPS. When I got my new model I noticed one of its features is called "geocaching." I then learned that geocaching has been around for about 10 years, and according to Wikipedia, it is " outdoor activity in which the participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers (called "geocaches" or "caches") anywhere in the world. A typical cache is a small waterproof container (usually a tupperware or ammo box) containing a logbook. Larger containers can also contain items for trading, usually toys or trinkets of little value. Geocaching is most often described as a "game of high-tech hide and seek", sharing many aspects with orienteering, treasure-hunting, and waymarking .... Geocaches are currently placed in over 100 countries around the world and on all seven continents, including Antarctica.[1] As of February 8, 2010, there are over 984,900 active geocaches over the world.[2]"

It turns out that somebody hid a geocache near an unmapped lava tub about 30 miles from where I live and published the coordinates on Geocache.Com, I downloaded the position into my new GPS and my friend and I set out to find it. Yup, the new toy guided us right to the spot, requiring a hike across open lava, of course, and in an area that we would never have thought to look for a tube. When I say it guided us to the spot, I actually mean to the coordinates. As anyone who has had a senior (or junior) moment can attest, just because you're within 15-20 feet of something doesn't mean you can see it. I must admit there was a tad bit of luck in finding the actual box containing the cache -- if we had approached from a different angle we might have stood right over it and not seen it.

We then proceeded to hike through the tube, which required flashlights (next time we have to take extra batteries!) and a smidge of stupidity. Oh yes, and just a little bit of blood.

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