Adventures in geocaching and writing—interview with Marcellus Cadd of Geocaching While Black

Marcellus Cadd (atreides_78723) writes the blog Geocaching While Black. What started with finding a local cache turned into a passion for finding hidden treasures and writing about the experience of it all. We spoke to Marcellus about his geocaching adventures, what geocaching means to him, and what he hopes readers take away from his blog.

100th cache of the day

How did you start geocaching?

There’s a therapist named Emily Taylor who said that people often start new things for one of two reasons: either for love or for grief. Well, mine was grief, thanks to a broken heart.  Somewhere, in the midst of my sadness, I heard someone mention geocaching. I had first heard of geocaching in 2001 and thought to myself “Why would anyone want to travel to the middle nowhere to find boxes?” Seventeen years later, it seemed like exactly the kind of thing I’d like to do. Of course, things had changed a lot in that time. I found a local cache a few blocks from home, and then another, and then another and, soon enough, my grief had turned to love. I was sucked into our hidden world, resting just beneath the surface of the mundane reality we and all the other muggles share.

What have been some of your most memorable geocaching moments?

Most of them are good: seeing La Casa de Azúcar in El Paso; my tour of the Terrell County Courthouse in Sanderson; my road trip to Longview with my daughters, grabbing counties along the way. And Mingo and Arikaree are in there somewhere, too…

Some of them are odd like the time I got stopped by Federales in Nuevo Leon or when I was an impromptu honor guard in Floydada.

A few are bad: my car crash outside Coleman or “the incident” in Paris.

But all of them, good or bad, are memories I’ll never forget.

La Casa de Azúcar in El Paso, Texas

When did you know you were hooked?

One day I looked up and realized that I had found a cache every day for 100 days in a row.  That’s about the time I thought “Yeah. I’m in.”

If you could geocache anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I have two dream caches! The first is in Niger in the middle of the Sahara. L’Arbre du Tenere was an acacia tree that survived for hundreds of years in the desert. The loneliest tree in the world, it was a navigation landmark for caravans and nomads traveling the desert.  Unfortunately, it was hit by a truck driver in 1973, but a monument was erected there to it and someone put a geocache there! It’s only been found once (in 2006) and I’d love to be STF, but that’s not happening this year. 🙂 The second is much easier to get to: an EarthCache called Earthquakes in Istanbul, located at the Hagia Sophia. I may never be able to get either of them, but hope springs eternal!

What types of caches do you enjoy most?

This is going to mark me as boring, but I dig Traditionals the most. As much as I like a clever puzzle or communing with others of like mind, there’s something enjoyable about the simplicity of going to the place, pitting my eyes against the environment, and finding the treasure.

Finding a Traditional Cache

What makes a quality cache?

A quality cache is one that has you coming away from it feeling it was worth it. That can take on many forms, too. A simple cache that is cute or funny or touching can be just as good as a really cleverly hidden cache that results in a feeling of victory.

Do you have a favorite cache of your own?

My personal favorite hide is a small puzzle box that’s a series of nested containers. It’s tied for my most Favorited cache, too. The other one that’s tied is a box (though NOT a key box) magnetically attached to something appropriate and, though I don’t think it’s all that clever or interesting, other finders really seem to like it. I guess my point here (and I do have one) is that I know what I like but I don’t begin to know what others will like!

Having fun while geocaching

You write the blog Geocaching While Black. Why did you start the blog?

My inspiration came from a forum post wherein someone asked how many times other cachers had been stopped by police. A lot of the responses were along the lines of “I’ve been stopped once in 4 years” or “I’ve never been stopped in 5 years” and I was sitting there thinking to myself “I’ve been doing this 6 months and I’ve been stopped by cops 7 times,” and I wasn’t even counting security guards. When I paired that with the fact that I had literally never seen a photograph of a black geocacher, I thought that writing about geocaching from a different perspective might be a good idea. That said, I don’t run into as much law enforcement these days because experience has made me better about not being seen by muggles, but I’m always prepared for the possibility.  

What does the title of your blog mean to you?

It was a bit of a happy accident. I was talking to someone about the idea of writing a blog from a black perspective and he mentioned that I should definitely stress the black part a lot more than I really intended because it set me apart from other blogs. I literally said to him “What? Am I going to call it…Geocaching While Black?” and we just looked at each other and knew a title had been born. Geocaching is very much a race neutral activity, but that also doesn’t just mean there’s only one race doing it. Putting it out there front and center serves as a reminder that some of us do this and serves (I hope) as a beacon to others, saying “come on in, the water’s fine.” If I’m lucky, it will inspire others to write about their adventures from their own special perspective, whether it’s racial, regional, or with whatever slant makes someone excited.

Texas’s oldest cache

What do you hope people learn from Geocaching While Black?

I’ll be happy if someone takes other cachers into consideration when making hides. Maybe some cachers might not find a Confederate memorial park to be a great place to find a cache.  Maybe hiding something in your back yard might not be a good idea if your neighbors don’t know that random strangers might go back there. Maybe the clever location could be problematic for other cachers for reasons having nothing to do with the cache itself and everything to do with sociological politics. If one hider takes that into consideration because of something I wrote, I’ll consider it all worth it.

From the tagline of your blog, how do you think being black and geocaching mix?

I think they mix just fine. 🙂 I’m not the only one, either. I haven’t encountered a lot of black cachers, but the few I have enjoy it almost as much as I do. Right now, as I sometimes joke, there are literally DOZENS of us, but I’m hoping that more of us will take up the challenge and I hope that my little contribution helps make that happen.

In Geocaching While Black, you frequently highlight county courthouses. Why do you seek out courthouses?

This was another happy accident. A long time ago, long before I started caching, I thought it would be interesting to visit every courthouse in the state of Texas. I put that idea aside, but resurrected it when I started doing the Texas County Challenge. If I was going to be in every county anyway, why not see every courthouse? What better way to differentiate each place I go? After a while, I started having opinions on the buildings themselves architecturally and, being the opinionated lad that I am, I just ran with it.

Stopping by the county courthouse in Deming, New Mexico

Your blog features numbering on all of the posts. What do the numbers mean?

When I started all this, I never seriously expected to continue beyond the 254 counties of Texas.  As I would number the counties I had been to, I just started at the beginning and counted up.  Once I hit 254 and decided to continue onward, I needed to differentiate which state the new counties were in so do I restart the count? That was only a good idea if I did one state at a time (which, obviously I didn’t). Instead, I decided to keep my main count continuing upward (showing how many counties I’d been to) and adding a state specific tag to show which state and what number it was from that state.

Signing his name as a Texas County Challenge finisher – finding a cache in all 254 counties of Texas!

You create blog posts on a regular basis. What keeps you engaged to keep writing?

I like to cache and I like to write so the two of them have formed a bit of a feedback loop. I grab caches to give me something to write about, but the writing demands more content so I keep caching. The cycle, now established, just keeps on going and going.

What has geocaching meant to you?

When I was happy, it brought me joy. When I was down, it gave me distraction from my problems. When the world was entirely open, it gave me reason to go try to see it all. When it all stopped during our various quarantines, it gave me a chance to see a little green. Some accomplishments left me joyous; some DNFs left me disappointed; some encounters left me glad, or salty, or, in a couple of rare cases, angry. But it always made me feel something.  Sometimes it was for nature, which is not something I’d always grown up with, sometimes for the city, which is really just a different kind of wilderness, but always, caching made me feel and that’s something I’m thankful for.  

Any advice for new cachers?

Everyone’s journey is special so cache the way you want to cache and (outside of basic geocaching etiquette) never mind what other people think! People are always going to have opinions on how X should be or Y should be and you may think them having a higher number of finds lends their words greater credence. There are people who have an order of magnitude more finds than I do who have done things I admire. But there are also people with an order of magnitude fewer finds who I am envious of. I know a cacher here who only has a couple hundred finds, but her farthest find is in Guam. Another cacher has just under half my finds, but has done it in eight other countries. A very good friend of mine is a very casual cacher, but she made it to Mingo long before I did! So do your thing and enjoy it!

Marcellus with his trackable umbrella

Emily is a Community Volunteer Support Specialist at Geocaching HQ. She's a native Texan raised in the Midwest and enchanted by the Pacific Northwest. You can usually find her lost in a guidebook planning her next adventurous travels.