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Tying shoes outside Sidney Harman Hall

by Austin Auclair

On the corner down the street, someone has tied his shoe for the fourth time. The sidewalk clear of prying pedestrians, he kneels once more, but instead of tightening his shoelaces he surreptitiously runs his fingertips underneath a nearby bench. His hand settles on something.  He pulls it free, looking around as he unscrews the lid of a small container.

Before you call the authorities (or the Spy Museum) to report this ne’er-do-well, know that this type of secretive figure is far more common than you realize: he’s a geocacher.

Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunt of sorts where players seek hidden containers, “geocaches,” using GPS coordinates posted online. There are a few rules and some etiquette about geocaches (they’re never buried, for instance) but the key rule is that the container must be big enough to hold at least a piece of paper. Geocachers sign the paper, and then log their find online.

Geocaches are everywhere, anchored deep on the ocean floor, tucked away on mountaintops, and likely just down the street from where you are at this very moment. Recently celebrating its 15th anniversary, geocaching is bigger than ever (there are currently 2,747,901 active geocaches worldwide). Geocaching owes its popularity largely to smartphones. Once upon a time, geocaching was limited to those who invested in a GPS receiver, but now that smartphones, and smartphones’ built in GPS systems, are commonplace, geocaching is just an app download away.

I maintain a geocache right outside of Sidney Harman Hall, which does a great job of luring tourist geocachers, and I get an email every time someone logs it. Recently I received an email from a geocacher who went for my geocache specifically because he wanted to visit the venue where he’d soon be performing.

One of the incoming Kiss Me, Kate cast members was a fellow geocacher?!

I had to know more, so I immediately reached out. It turned out to be Patrick Ryan Sullivan who is playing Harrison.

Patrick Ryan Sullivan as Harrison in the Shakespeare Theatre Company's production of KISS ME, KATE. Photo by Scott Suchman.

(Patrick Ryan Sullivan as Harrison in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of KISS ME, KATE. Photo by Scott Suchman.)

I had so many questions for him and he was kind enough to answer a few:

How did you become involved in geocaching?

In 2006 I was home [Titusville, Florida] and ran into my best friend from school. He explained it to me, and I was a little nonplussed. So, he took me to a baseball park I was raised on and showed me a geocache that was in a coquina rock cave 20 yards from center field. I was hooked!

How many geocaches have you found?

I have 679 finds, in 10 countries and 34 states.

When you find yourself with an opportunity to look for a geocache, is there a particular kind or location that you gravitate toward?

I like historic caches, puzzle caches, and caches with a lot of favorite points. When I first started in 2006 you couldn’t be that picky. There might have been 30 miles between caches, but now that they are like Starbucks, you can afford to be choosy.

What’s your favorite geocache of all time?

My favorite was hard to choose. Thank you for the question, because I got to go back and look at my caches and was flooded with memories. Castell de St. Pere in Northern Spain is my favorite today. The only reason we stopped was because we were tired and on a road trip to Andorra, but this is what I love about geocaching. We stopped in a town of about 40 people and had the best paella I have ever eaten. We tried our Spanish on the owners of the restaurant and were greeted like old family. We told them of the cache at the castle on the hill, and he said it was closed but Abuela (grandmother) would take us the back route. We were escorted through the streets by a 90-year-old woman telling us stories, in Spanish, about her life and the town. Then we climbed to the top of the mountain castell and had the view of our lives!

Geocaching_Sully2

Patrick Ryan Sullivan

Where’s the most unusual place you’ve found a geocache?

In Arizona just outside of Las Vegas, I parked in the desert, hiked a mile and found a bridge that was in the middle of the desert with no roads attached.

Any particularly memorable caching-related story?

I was caching in Colorado on a tiny road from Creede to Silverton called Stony Pass. I traveled over the Continental Divide at about 12,000 feet. It is a very rarely used road, and I might have seen Bigfoot.

Any geocaching goals while you’re here in Washington, D.C.?

I have grabbed all the historic and very easy caches so far on this trip, but would love to do the Booth Escape route and the Masonic Temple WHEREIGO’s. (Editor’s Note: “Whereigo’s” are a special multi-stage, interactive kind of geocache.)

What advice would you give someone who is starting out with the hobby?

Go out into the country and find some easy caches and feel the thrill of finding a cache—and also experience the joy of fresh air in your lungs.

***

You heard him! Get outdoors and start your own grand adventure. Be sure to find the geocache at Sidney Harman Hall when you come to see Patrick on stage in Kiss Me, Kate!

Not sure how to get started with geocaching?

  • There’s a free version of the app that’s a good starting place. (Ultimately the full version is the best way to go since the free version doesn’t show every geocache and has limited features.)

Happy caching! (maybe you’ll see Patrick Ryan Sullivan out front of Sidney Harman Hall carefully tying his shoe…)

 

 

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