Adirondack couple find each other through geocaching.
Whistling air whips around her as she trudges up the side of a small mountain only 15 minutes from her home. The summit is an open rocky surface that overlooks the area. She spots a box that is uncovered and disheveled. She has never seen anything like it, and her curiosity draws her closer. What’s in the box?
Inside there was the sheet that changed her life. Geocaching is a modern day treasure hunt that uses navigation techniques to help people find geocaches or “caches” all over the world. From the United States, Germany and the Czech Republic to Canada and the United Kingdom, more than 1.4 million geocaches have been hidden and found by over 4 million people worldwide. These people seem to know a secret layout of the world that is full of unseen treasures and amazing views.
As a newcomer or a muggle as they are called in the geocaching community, Doreen Alessi-Holmes grew attached to the activity and delved into the world of geocaching. Each cache contains trinkets and items that people have left behind and, a logbook to leave their names. They also contain trackable items with codes that people can enter in the geocaching website that follow the items’ real-world travels. The box on the mountain was the first of 2,500 plus geocaches that Alessi-Holmes has found since 2003.
Alessi-Holmes never thought that she would find that many, but she couldn’t stop. “It was very easy to keep doing it, there was so much reward,” Alessi-Holmes said.
Through geocaching, Alessi-Holmes had found a community and love. She met her husband, Shane Holmes in April of 2005 at a town park in the Adirondacks at a Cache In, Trash Out event, where local geocachers hike and clean up the litter left in parks. The park itself was an hour out of their hometowns. “I was impressed that a single man would spend his Saturday cleaning up a town park that wasn’t in his own town,” Alessi-Holmes said. They continued to geocache together on weekends for a couple of months before they went on their first date.
In the beginning of their relationship, Alessi-Holmes and Holmes took a two-day trip geocaching in the Saranac Lake Wild Forest, the Adirondack Murder Mystery. An intricate and well thought out multi-cache with 21 different parts throughout the forest. They had a list of suspects, witnesses, possible murder weapons and crime scenes. The trip included hiking for miles in the backcountry, climbing mountains and facing steep terrain, paddling/portaging to remote locations, diving over 10 feet underwater, hunting for clues after dark, talking with locals, visiting a graveyard, and much more.
“It took us to almost every kind of geocache situation that we could get through.” Alessi- Holmes said.
Alessi-Holmes would never have gone on this geocache if it was not for Holmes. He had more experience, good instincts and made her feel safe like she had nothing to worry about.
“It was a really great way to know the person that I would eventually decide to marry,” Alessi-Holmes said. “Because I could see them problem-solving and got to see how they reacted to not finding something right away, a challenge.”
They are both very fond of challenges, and from that long 36-hour trip they learned more about each other that they could of on any regular date.
Holmes started geocaching as a way to do physical therapy after being injured by a roadside IED while he was in Iraq in 2004 with the National Guard. During rehabilitation, Holmes was recommended by a therapist from a sports orthopedic in Plattsburgh to go geocaching. Holmes began taking very short and then gradually longer walks to geocaches, “I got braver,” Holmes said.
It wasn’t long before he was venturing out farther and more consistently. The distance required maneuvering through multiple obstacles or more elevation. After Holmes completed his therapy the doctor said that he recovered quicker than a person with his injuries and age usually does.
He also liked the appeal of using technology to find the caches. The use of the Global Positioning System, GPS, helps him use his navigational skills. Because Holmes’ military background, he appreciated the new technology.
“These geocaches bring this lucky segment of the population to a place they wouldn’t know very much about,” Alessi-Holmes said.
Alessi-Holmes and her husband hide geocaches in the Adirondacks. She wants people to find that random, historical and meaningful part of the Adirondacks that people would not usually see. This is one of the main reasons people create geocaches. The local color of small towns to huge mountain ranges is the spirit of the area’s personality and thanks to geocaches people can explore what it means to be in a certain town.
Alessi-Holmes hid her first geocache in a spot that has been photographed and painted by a lot of artists throughout the past 100 years that has been all but forgotten called Prentice Falls. The geocache is hidden on the south bank of the river, “in the roots of a very old yellow birch standing next to a mossy glacial erratic.” The bank is under a waterfall that hits a gigantic boulder. The water ricochets from the boulder and spreads out creating the illusion of a princess’s gown.
Together Alessi-Holmes and Holmes often made plans to meet up with groups of people in new parts of the Adirondacks that they haven’t explored. They would spend entire days together looking for geocaches. They have gone hiking, cross-country skiing, swimming, and kayaking and have come out with a cache in their hands. These trips are more memories to add to a long list of explorations.
“You will not believe the things you will find in them, and you won’t believe the places that they will take you,” Holmes said.
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