A couple days ago, the children and I had a couple hours of time to fill between school and dinner. It was a sunny day, far too nice to stay indoors, but I wasn't in the mood for a playground. So... we decided to go geocaching! What is geocaching, you may ask? Basically, it’s high tech global treasure hunting. A bit more specifically, someone in the world (the hider) hides a treasure (a cache) somewhere in the world, and someone else in the world (the seeker), tries to find it by using their GPS!
Specifically, how does it work? Well, first, he hider creates a cache – usually a small Tupperware-like box (though it can be much smaller – called a microcache), often camouflaged, and fills it with trinkets, a pen, and small pad of paper. The hider takes the box out to an undisclosed public location and hides it, and then records the coordinates – X(and Y) marks the spot, you know – by using their GPS. Next, the hider uploads those coordinates to http://www.geocaching.com/ and describes a bit about the cache for the potential seekers: the size, the terrain, the difficulty of hiding spot, perhaps the contents of the box – particularly if the there is a special “prize” for the FTF (first to find), or a “travel bug” (a trackable tag that can be carried from cache to cache), and any clues (which are encrypted as to not spoil the surprise) if the seekers are having difficulty finding the cache. Next, someone else in the world (the seeker), goes online, chooses a cache that’s been hidden nearby, enters the coordinates of that cache into their GPS, and then attempts to find it! Once the seeker finds it, they take a bit of the treasure, leave a bit of new treasure, sign the log (if there is one), re-hide the cache (in the same spot) for the next seeker to find, and then log their find online, along with any extra hints, notes about the condition of the box or the hiding spot for future seekers’ reference.
Adam and I have been geocaching on and off for the last 6 years; and have even hidden a couple ourselves. We’ve taken the kids geocaching on nearly every vacation we’ve been on, ever since they were babies. It’s a way we’ve been able to reconnect with our love of hiking/climbing/outdoor activities without planning a full-on outdoors camping hiking trip. A geocaching trip can be a quick as a half hour stop, or a full day hiking adventure! The fun part for kids is that many caches contain small treasures – bouncy balls, figurines, toys, stickers, even money! I really enjoy the hunt! It’s a great family activity that combines nature, technology, and science, introduces you to new places you’ve never explored, and spans age groups (one trip, we went with both Adam’s grandmother AND our (then baby) daughter; and all had a great time!).
Yesterday’s seek was our first of the year, and my first time as the only adult on a geocaching trip; meaning, that I was both Captain AND Navigator! This was also the first time I used the Groundspeak Geocaching app on my iPhone instead of the hand-held GPS. Wow, what a difference! Prior to the iPhone, you’d go to your computer before setting out, find a few caches that looked interesting, print off the details (in the event that you need to look at clues or re-read the description, etc.), then painstakingly enter each coordinate into your GPS & set way points. With the iPhone, the GPS, map, compass, and geocaching.com are all combined in one place – so there’s no printing, no entering coordinates – just pick your cache, and start hunting! Makes caching with kids much easier & more fun!
We ended up finding two caches on this trip – the first being a bit more challenging of a find than the second – which was convenient, as by the end of the second one, the kids were wearing down, and it was starting to get chilly outside. My 5-yo was really into it this time; she knew right where to search, was actively checking the GPS map, and making guesses as to what was in the cache.
My 2-yo was just excited to be able to run freely outside, through the woods and mud, and get a bonus toy! Both kids have asked me when the next time is that we’ll go out. Myself, I can’t wait until the next sunny afternoon that comes along – it’s just that much fun!
To find out more about Geocaching:
Follow Geocaching.com on twitter: http://twitter.com/GoGeocaching