Jefferson City, Missouri; the site of my first Strategic Planning Session with the SMVF TA Center and surprisingly, the site of my first Geocaching expedition.

After a long day of note taking as the state team assessed their behavioral health services for service members, veterans, and their families, our team retired to Arris Bistro for a little relaxation. Munching on Greek pizza, Donna, the SMVF TA Center Director; Bob, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel and current consultant for the SMVF TA Center talked about our previous travel, sharing funny anecdotes of the colorful characters we had meet and the unbelievable situations we had gotten ourselves into.

Donna told us a story about the last trip she had taken to Jefferson City, where she had worked with a gentleman who taught her about Manga (Japanese cartoons), online gaming, and Geocaching. She and Bob had never heard of Geocaching, so I explained the concept and changed the direction of our entire trip.

What is a Geocaching? It is, in its simplest form, a scavenger hunt for adults. You use a GPS or your phone to find hidden caches, boxes that hold any number of surprises, and then share your experiences finding them with others online. There are currently over two million active Geocaches worldwide. There are millions of caches that are hidden in plain sight; under a street sign, in a broken mailbox, or behind a funny shaped rock there could be a treasure waiting for you to find.

With nothing to do and the night still ahead of us, we decided to try our luck and find a Geocache. I downloaded an app and did a quick search to see where the closest cache. Low and behold the nearest Geocache was a mere .1 miles away from where we were sitting!

Bob, ever the pragmatist, did not believe that we would find anything and instead of walking with us to find the cache, got the car under the pretext of giving us a little light to help find the cache.

photo of PRA staff person holding Geocache - author provided image

Donna, posing with our first Geocache in Jefferson City

Donna and I walked down to the end of the deserted block, night falling quickly behind us. Using my phone to guide us (“left;” “right;” “more right”), I guided us to the edge of the corner and after thirty seconds of rooting around, we found our cache; a little box, no larger than a pack of playing cards. We ran to the car and jumped in to explore our treasure: a pink Gumby doll, skiing stickers, a quarter, and a notebook to record the date of our discovery. After admiring our treasure we added our own gifts for the next Geocacher to find: a Shout wipe and a cough drop.

The rest of our trip (outside of work hours) we devoted ourselves to finding more Geocaches and we did; one under a lamppost in Saint Louis and another in a park near the St. Louis Arch. I had never pictured myself Geocaching in Missouri, but it was a really fun way to pass time and to explore different parts of the city. It certainly has taught me to not judge anything at face value – you never know what treasure could be lurking beneath the surface!