Sacramento geocaching: Congratulations, you found it
Geocaching obsessives pore over Sacramento’s topography for the tiniest of ‘rewards’
El Dorado Bob likes to hide things, even his true identity.
“Bob” is the alias of one of the region’s most enthusiastic practitioners of geocaching, a treasure-hunting game where cachers (pronounced “cashers”) post GPS coordinates, along with clues cloaked in puns, on the Internet to guide others to their hidden troves.
So why the alias?
“I don’t want to bring a lot of attention to myself,” Bob says, with a soft growl that sounds a lot like actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. This is clearly meant to throw us off track. And, as he admits later, he is always thinking of ways to make the treasure hunt more challenging.
Standing before a red metal sculpture of a bull, Bob feels around where the bull’s unmentionables should be and produces a capsule half the size of a double-A battery. A magnet has kept it in place. He unscrews its cap, and inside is a tiny scroll printed with GPS coordinates. This was part one of a multistage cache aptly titled “Toro Rojo.”
Bob glances furtively around the posh strip mall, where the bull is located, before replacing the capsule. In an urban setting, you always have to be on the lookout for “muggles,” or nosy bystanders who are liable to disturb the cache—or call the police on suspicious men poking around corporate art.
Geocaching is divided into two categories, urban and rural. The charm of rural geocaching is simple: You get to hike in beautiful landscapes. The Auburn State Recreation Area, for instance, offers a lifetime of caches. People often place them in scenic locations they want to share with others, a sort of communication between hider and seeker that makes the seemingly vapid activity of searching for Tupperware or ammo cans filled with trinkets meaningful.
The beauty of urban geocaching is more devious. It’s a cerebral sport; how do you hide something that will be in the daily vicinity of hundreds of people? This can be done in an obvious way: Conceal a pill bottle in some spider-infested ivy. Or it can be done for “evil,” a term Bob uses for hiding spots so clever that you don’t regret the hours—or days—it takes to find them.
Sometimes “evil” shades into “just plain mean.” Bob describes a cache so wicked he finally gave up on it: Someone had glued a very tiny cache, called a nano, onto a leaf and tossed it into a field.
“I stopped looking because I was getting obsessive. I brought a rake out there,” he says.
In most cases, however, geocaching rewards obsession—and this is the key to understanding Bob. Not content to become the face of River City geocaching, Bob asks instead to use this article as the solution to a difficult cache he created, called “Underground Newspaper.”
For Bob, it’s only the game matters.
For instance, as you read this story, it is likely Bob’s fellow obsessives are Googling the clues “Reno, Chico and Sacramento,” which he posted on his Web page. Hopefully, Google will send them to SN&R’s site. And then to this story.
Because to find Bob’s latest cache, those on the hunt will need to know to follow a bearing of zero degrees for one-tenth of a mile.