I’ve done some geocaching (Geo-cash-ing)in my life. It’s always been sort of a surface hobby, I’ve found caches in my neighborhood, or around my workplace. Once when I was traveling in Victoria, B.C. I found a couple, and that felt like a big accomplishment. I see the appeal and I can see how someone could really get sucked into it. There is the satisfaction of finding the thing, certainly. There’s also the orderly ticking of boxes that comes from going down a list and checking off the ones you’ve found. For some people, it becomes a super hobby. 

People like Marcellus Cadd, who has made Geocaching a great part of his life. Cadd has created a blog: Geocaching While Black, that lists his “finds” as well as descriptors of towns he’s visited. Cadd also has a love of county courthouses, and enjoys finding and photographing those as well. 

 I had an enjoyable conversation with him about this pastime of his. 

Nikki Jardin (NJ): Okay, Marcellus. How did you get into geocaching? 

Marcellus Cadd (MC): I originally heard of geocaching in 2001, I read an article about this brand new thing people were doing with these new GPS (Global Positioning System) units. And when I read about it I thought, ‘Why on God’s green Earth would I want to spend this much money on this thing that I really can’t use for anything other than to go out into the middle of nowhere to find boxes?’ It made zero sense. I had far more important things to spend money on, like artwork or swords or something. But definitely not a GPS unit. What was I going to use that for? And then of course I’m not naturally an outdoors person, I never really have been. So the idea of going to the middle of some forest or a crazy mountain top, yeah that’s a negative Ghost Rider. 

So, fast forward a decade and a half and my heart was broken and I was looking for something to fill the time. I heard somebody mentioning geocaching and I was like, I know what that is. I guess that could be something to do. And geocaching had very much changed. It had the natural part of it but it had also adapted to an urban environment. So, when I pulled up the app to find my first cache, I was like, wait a minute, there’s a cache right across the street from here. Let’s see if I can find it! I ended up finding that one and then finding another and another and then all of a sudden I realized, man I’ve done this like 100 days in a row!

NJ: And that was four years ago?

Marcellus Cadd poses for a photo after completing the Texas County Challenge

MC: So that’s how I ended up getting into it. There’s two things about it that I really like. Number one – basically every cache in one way or another is a kind of puzzle. And it feels like I’m pitting my Mark One eyeballs and my Mark One brain against the environment to figure out where this thing is. And so, it’s nice to be able to have that little challenge. You know, maybe I’m passing by here, I’m gonna stop and look for this thing. It’s probably in this spot, oh yeah, here it is. Or, sometimes I want to look for some bigger fish — this looks kind of crazy and makes no sense and maybe I don’t find it and oh well. I have 5200 caches to my name which sounds like a lot, but it’s nothing. Even though I have 5200 caches to my name I run into things that I’ve never considered before, things I’ve never thought of. Most of the caches have been usually a scroll of paper, but there’s all kinds of super cool stuff. 

NJ: So what are some of the categories of caches that you like? 

MC: There are actually 20 different types of caches, but only 19 of those are gettable anymore. HQ (The office headquarters of the Geocache developers) had these block parties and if you went to one you got credit for attending that type of event.They don’t put them on anymore. 

But you’ve got the good old fashioned “traditional,” which is basically ‘find a thing and get the log and sign it.’ Maybe there is a place to swap trinkets. You’ve got multi-caches which is you go somewhere and find something that redirects you to another place. At one point I was in Missouri and I went to the grave of Jesse James that way. You went to his childhood home and it had a multicache which would lead you to another redirect that was in a tree by his grave. Or, it could have a vast number more stages. There’s one here in Austin called “Monster,” that has 40 stages. It requires something like 100 miles worth of travel. 

NJ: So this is like a real scavenger hunt. 

MC: Yes. And then there are unknown caches which are similar — but oftentimes they have some kind of puzzle you have to solve and figure out where the thing is. Like, okay, to be able to get the location you have to find this password and it may be hidden and you have to figure it out in the text in the cache description. Or maybe it’s just a piece of information and you have to find the right answer.

NJ: What have been some of your favorite caches?

MC: There was one that I found in the middle of nowhere Missouri. I got to this town in the middle of nowhere. I go to the courthouse and photograph it, and then I look at all the caches in the area. I notice that the most “favorited” cache in the area is about a mile and a half away from me — so, okay, let’s go check it out! I go down to this shop and into the parking lot behind it and get to the treeline and there is a sword sitting in a giant piece of concrete — it’s not a huge sword but its cast iron and it’s obviously a sword. What you have to do is basically pull on it and it turns and you have to find the right positions to turn it into to it follows its path so it keeps going upwards and then once you do it enough times you pull it all the way out and there is a little tube (containing the cache) dangling at the bottom of it. 

"Excaliber" cache in Ozark, MO

Or when I was up in the Pacific Northwest, in Olympia. I went to a parking lot and there was a giant box that looked like a big birdhouse on the side of a tree. I opened it up and there was a fishing game inside. With a little pole and it’s got a magnet on the end and you have to drop it in these holes. It will connect to a magnet on the other end and you’ll pick up a fish that’s on the other end. But there are about 35 fish and some of the fish have numbers on them. You have to look for the fish with the numbers on them which makes up the digits to the combination lock. 

NJ:  Wow, that’s so fun. 

MC: There’s another one here in Austin — it’s the 2nd or 3rd most “favorited” cache in the State. It was placed by Richard Garriott (video game creator). He was the guy that put the cache on the International Space Station and the research station in the Mariana Trench. He built this mystery cache that started in downtown Austin. You go to the first location that leads you further out of town in the hills. You come across these gateways, fake skeletons, you see that this is a fake cemetery. The cache is called the Necropolis of Brittania Manor. In the center of the cemetery is like a 10 foot tall tower. Inside the tower is the cache with log books, trackables, a quarter smashing machine, and a ladder to climb to get a gorgeous view of Austin. There are things like this all over the world. 

NJ: It’s like puzzle people having the most fun ever.

MC: And, if you don’t like puzzles, That’s cool — there are still caches for you! There are caches for any feeling or aesthetic you want to go for. Some people are drawn to caches with high favorites that are really interesting and gadget caches. Some people are drawn to things that are going to take them places. So, a lot of really interesting places are going to have caches — they may be physical caches or virtual caches or Earth caches, or webcams.

NJ: I can certainly see the appeal.

MC:  And, some people like to find all the caches in their counties. But, news ones keep getting added, so some cachers only go for caches of a certain age, the oldest caches in their counties, for instance. 

NJ: Have you hidden caches yourself? 

MC: Sure! I hid one in a parking lot of a shopping center near I-35. I placed it so that anybody who happened to be passing through would have something easy to pick up and grab and just get back on the highway. I’ve put a few other hides in various places. One of them is a challenge cache. For instance, the cache is where you say it is but before you can log it you have to accomplish a certain feat like find X number of caches or X number of a type of cache. 

I have a simple-ish one. It’s to find a cache in all 25 counties of the Hill Country. At one point I had a series of caches — each cache had a number in it, then the final cache was a hidden multicache. If you have found all of the other caches and gotten all the numbers of them then those were the numbers for the 2 locks on the final container. So each of the other caches were relatively small and simple. One of them was just hidden under a suspicious pile of rocks. One was on the back of a sign post. My most “favorited” one was a little 3D puzzle box, where it’s a maze and you turn it and you pull it out. And there’s another one in there. And then there’s a 3rd one in there!

NC: It seems like part of the fun is that it’s community driven yet solo at the same time — bringing people together in a very interesting fashion. 

Geocache Event in Texas

MC: And, that’s actually one of the things I like about it. I’ve mostly been a lone wolf so I have a tendency to go out on my own and do stuff. The pandemic really drove home to me how much I like doing things with people, so it’s really nice to get together with a few friends and maybe go out and work on a cache somewhere. Or, you go to an event and have some dinner and talk about the stuff we’ve just done or been to. Mega Events and Giga Events are great for meeting people you would never ever run into who also are driven by the same thing you do.

And, it is completely international. Like for instance there is an event happening tonight that is being held by a couple of Czechoslovakian cachers that happen to be passing through. Texas is famous for the Texas Challenge (finding a cache in each of Texas’ 254 counties). I met a Norwegian whose goal was to complete the Texas challenge. And, it’s not just meeting people who like geocaching, it’s meeting people who are into these same facets of geocaching that you are. People look for so many different things. Some people focus on getting to every state they can. I know people who focus on caches with high favorite points (caches that people really like to find). Usually a cache with 50 points will be known in an area. 100 points will be known regionally. The one I was talking about, the Necropolis has 800 points. “Mingo” is the oldest active cache in the world. It’s in Kansas and it has something like 3000 favorite points. 

There are a lot of people who focus on very old caches, ones that were placed in 2000-2001. There aren’t many left. The very first cache (in Beavercreek, Oregon), was destroyed by a maintenance crew.  There are only three caches in the US that were placed in August 2000. One in Georgia, Utah, and the other one is in Michigan. 

NJ: Do you have any caches that you would really like to find?

MC: Yeah, there are a few. I would love to get the oldest in Illinois.There’s one in Washington, D.C. that is a virtual cache. “View of an Honest Man” is at the Lincoln Memorial. I really want to get that one sometime. The two caches I really want more than any other are not in this country. One of them is in Niger at a monument to what was once the world’s loneliest tree. The other is an Earth cache (a type of virtual cache that focuses on earth science) in Istanbul at the Hagia Sophia. You have to go inside the Hagia Sophia and see where Earthquakes over the years have created cracks in the buildings. 

NJ: Well, I hope you get there! I’ll be rooting for you!