Story by Aaron and Jordan Kandell
Photos by Elyse Butler
A moment ago the tunnel entrance was filled with sunshine and birdsong. But now, a quarter-mile in, the light from the cave’s mouth has narrowed to a pinprick. The only sound is the sloshing of unsteady feet as we push deeper into this secret irrigation flume. In the dark heart of the Ko‘olau mountains, my brother’s headlamp flickers off, then back on. “Of all the moments to die, it had to be now,” he mutters, slapping the only light we share between us. Arms linked, we stumble onward into the dark, seeking one of the most elaborate and adventursome geocaches in Hawai‘i: “The Holy Grail.”
“If you try to explain what geocaching is, you get a lot of funny looks,” warns Errol Hopkins, president of a successful insurance company by day, treasure hunter by night. He has met us in the shaded corner of a mall parking lot, safari hat tucked low, GPS held high. At first glance you would never guess that Errol—better known in the cache kingdom by his handle “Dadwrap”—is one of Hawai‘i’s pioneer geocachers, a man famous for creating some of the Islands’ most mind-expanding, puzzle-based “hides.” With his smudged bifocals and collapsible walking stick, he more resembles a high school history teacher than a weekend Indiana Jones. And yet Errol has found nearly all of the 1,200-plus caches in Hawai‘i to date.
Still the question remains: What is geocaching? And why when we ask does Errol’s face contort in comedic exasperation? To answer, we must rewind the clock.