I was recently visiting friends in New Mexico over the Thanksgiving holiday and we were trying to find a good outdoor alternative to the “Black Friday” consumer madness. We had 3 dogs among us, so canine fun and exercise was a priority, but we also wanted a scenic spot with something unique and unforgettable to offer.
How to find this perfect place?
Specifically, the unofficial, word-of-mouth, crowd-sourced travel advice that is the geocaching social network.
This is how it works….
- Get a general idea of a place you want to visit. Maybe it is a quaint town, a river corridor, or a line of hills that you saw from the car on your way into town.
- Enter the name of the nearest town, zip code or coordinates (Lat/Long) in the search bar at the top of the Geocaching.com home page.
- and open the map on the lower right side of the geocache page. The map becomes populated with all of the geocaches in the area and you can see them in relation to towns, roads, rivers, parkland, etc. Click on any of the icons and its description will pop up. Chances are, you will quickly find one that describes an adventure worth checking out.
My friend told me about an area that he had never visited, but had heard good things about from people who like the outdoors and climb rocks, and whatnot. I plugged in the name of the nearest town and quickly spotted an intriguing spot called “Jemez Goblin Rocks.” Turns out, It was only an hour from Albuquerque, but we had the area to ourselves on a beautiful November afternoon.
As we rattled up the dusty forest road, I noticed we were the only visitors to the area. We would have driven right past it, except the compass needle on my smart phone app swung decisively at a spot where the shoulder was just wide enough to park a car. The only signage visible from the road was an 8-inch “No Motorized Vehicle” on top of a small 5-foot high rise, bordering the road.
We made the short climb and — Whoa! — a fairyland vistas of volcanic towers and spires opened before our eyes! My wife took dozens of great pictures with her new camera while the rest of us wandered among the rocks and debated whether they resembled trolls, hobgoblins or some other underworld race. To my eye, they resembled the patient sky-watchers of Easter Island, all searching for the return of their alien masters, or maybe the throngs of tourists that such a spectacular geologic marvel should attract.
Did I find the geocache? No, the geocache – which was a vintage 2002 model – was missing. Hey, that happens from time to time when you play the game known as geocaching. But did I find what I was looking for – an uncrowded, dog-friendly paradise for a group of old friends to spend an Indian Summery day exploring? Most certainly did!