The Oldest Geocache in California.
Not all hikers geocache, nor do all geocachers hike. But if you both hike and geocache, you can combine your passions and hunt the second geocache ever hidden in California, and the oldest surviving geocache in California, here in San Diego County.
Phil’s Memorial Cache (GC5B) was placed on September 10th, 2000 by geocacher, GoodDogSD, and has been in continual service ever since. GoodDogSD named the cache for his loyal canine hiking companion, Phil. The cache has been kept alive and is maintained currently by geocacher, GoBolts!, since 2006.
I get email updates for a handful of geocaches, letting me know when someone logs certain geocaches. Phil’s gets logged more than all the others on my list combined. It’s become a goal, a milestone, for geocachers from all over.
I became aware of the presence of the Phil’s while on a hike on the 4th of July weekend in 2009. My hiking companion, Shannon, showed me the nearby geocaches, that I’d failed to load on my own GPS. I noticed the geocache code; GC5B. That’s an extremely low code number. As an example, my most recent hide is GC2K4BW. San Diego County is literally infested with geocaches. Shannon and I followed her GPS to the cache site, on that hot day in July, and almost as soon as we arrived, Shannon spotted a rattlesnake in a crevice between two boulders. Literally, before we even started looking, she saw that snake. Having grown up running around the hills and canyons of eastern Chula Vista, I have a long history of rattlesnake encounters. I do not like rattlesnakes. We very gingerly poked around the area, keeping an eye on the snake, for what was probably 20 minutes. Eventually, the snake loudly signaled its annoyance, and we took heed, departing without getting the find.
Without giving too much away, (nothing you won’t learn on the cache’s info page) Phil’s Memorial Cache sits just off of Laguna Meadow in Laguna Mountain Recreation Area. As might be obvious from the cache’s name, the trails here are dog-friendly. Depending on your tolerances, any time of year can be a good time to visit Phil’s. I avoid the hot summer days, but that’s me… You can make the hike out and back what you want. I think from the southern visitor center an out-and-back can be as little as 3 miles. You won’t find a flatter hike in the local mountains than an out and back right to Phil’s. Of course, you can string together any length of hike, and number of geocaches, you please and make a day of it. There are plenty out there to choose from. Just remember to treat it as a hike. Dress appropriately for the weather, and carry water and snacks. You will also need an Adventure Pass, either a single-day or annual, in order to park at the information center.
As the year wore on, and we managed to make more finds throughout the county, we approached our 300th finds. The plan was made to tackle Phil’s Memorial Cache on a cool (snakeless) winter day. Being we weren’t yet sitting on 299 finds, we mapped out a plan that would get us a few caches near Phil’s along with backups, just in case of a DNF (Did Not Find), then head on over to Phil’s for the 300th. The day came on December 6, 2009 and we took off to the Lagunas. There was snow on the ground and the temperature stayed in the low 40s the whole hike. Clouds and fog made for an interesting, atmospheric hike. In other words, it was perfect. We made the finds we needed to be at 299, and set off around the meadow for the oldest cache in California. Crunching through the snow to the cache was a bit of a change from the hot, July day we had been there last. The trip could not have been any more anticlimactic, as I walked straight to the cache, which was not at all near where we thought it was in July. We weren’t there a minute when I made the find. We signed the log, took victory pics, and set off back to the car, 300th find behind us.
I hope the geocaching hikers out there (and the hiking geocachers) will make the trip out to Phil’s Memorial Cache. It’s worth the time just for the hiking, nabbing California’s oldest geocache is just an extra bit of fun. If geocaching sounds like something you might want to add to your hiking experience, check out Geocaching.com for information on getting started.