Geocaching in Florida
Last week I traveled to Florida to participate in the Amelia Island Geocaching Challenge. Because school is back in session, I took the opportunity to travel solo with my almost four-year-old son Owen. Sandwiching a three day stay on Amelia Island, we flew into Pensacola and visited family on either side of the trip. Primarily geocaching on the island and in the town of Fernandina Beach, we broke up our visit by caching all across the Florida panhandle.
Below is a four minute video I assembled using clips from the road trip. In general, though, here are some pointers for geocaching in the south. Note: All opinions expressed from here on out are made from the viewpoint of a Yankee mom traveling alone with a preschooler. Because many geocaches are off the beaten path, in the woods, and even cleverly camouflaged in urban jungles, take minute to consider what you may encounter south of the Mason-Dixon line.
The distance between Pensacola and Jacksonville on I-10 is slightly over 350 miles. Along this drive, you’ll find a rest stop approximately every 30 minutes. At these rest stops are informational kiosks with maps, travel tips, and the “Snakes of Florida” poster. Read this poster; you’ll be surprised to learn that cottonmouths can be aggressive when provoked. I “heart” aggressive, venomous snakes, don’t you?
You may also want to know what a banana spider looks like. While not venomous to humans, a banana spider bite can be painful if not traumatic for the arachnophobe in us all. Having personally walked face first into a banana spider web, my first thought was to find the spider and then to wipe massive stands of thick silk away from my mouth. I think my hyenia-like scream may have successfully scared us both. (I’m actually home cuddling with a daddy longlegs right now. Aren’t they cute?)
Let’s talk about heat and kids, shall we? Even in mid-September, temperatures in Florida were still pushing the mid-nineties. Having already carved pumpkins and stocked up on apple cider, reverting back to summer heat was a shock to our pale-white bodies. Here’s how the toddler tantrum went down: 1. Florida is hot. 2. Out hotel has a lovely swimming pool. 3. Kid sees swimming pool. 4. Mom has paid $622 in airplane tickets to geocache in Florida (We’re geocaching and you WILL like it.). 5. Kid doesn’t care. 6. Mom drags kid into aggressive snake- and fist-sized spider territory. 7. Mom and kid both get crabby. 8. Water bottle runs dry. 9. Banana spider incident. Cache abandoned – DNF! 10. Kid learns new four-letter word. 11. Mom stomps back to swimming pool. 12. Pool is really nice. 13. Kid smirks.
On our trip, we did have the opportunity to introduce my sister and her family to geocaching and we all had a blast. As my brother-in-law (an Alabama native who makes the best grits in the South) reminded me, snake-attacks are rare and it is miserable to stomp around in deep snow. Geocaches were plentiful wherever we went. Use common sense, and if your gut is telling you not to walk along the bank where another cacher has uploaded a photo of an aligator with the caption, “Watch out!,” try somewhere else.
With that, here’s the four minute video (Sorry, the sound quality is poor for part of our urban cache in downtown Pensacola):