It has been a few years now since my family was introduced to geocaching. I believe it was an article in the newspaper that first alerted me to this wonderful family hobby. We like to call it "treasure hunting" and it is one of our favorite activities to do together.
For WFMW, I thought I would share this great hobby with you so that you might add it to your summer arsenal of "things to do."
The official website for the hobby can be found at http://www.geocaching.com/ and their explanation is as follows: Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online. Geocaching is enjoyed by people from all age groups, with a strong sense of community and support for the environment.
Our explantion: it is good, healthy family fun! Here are some hints as to how to get started:
- You will need a GPS receiver. This is the model we use. You will want one that works well under heavy tree cover. We began with one that turned out to not be strong enough. I would recommend reading reviews of models you are considering to see if other geocachers have had success with it. You can often find these used on Ebay or other sources. Our model is just over $100 new, but it is a one time investment for many hours of fun. We gave this to ourselves as a family holiday gift one year.
- You will need to register at the website. Then, you can enter your zip code and find the caches available in your area. We have been shocked to see how many are near us. Many were in our favorite parks, right under our noses! They can be hidden in containers as small as a film canister, so you never know where they are lurking! Also, consider printing out some logs for hunts you can do along the route of a family vacation. We are planning to do this on our next long drive. It will provide some much needed time to get out and stretch our legs a bit and will break up a long trip.
- Print your coordinates and hints and head out for some fun! The website will give you a map to get you close to your destination. After that, you need to head out on foot with the coordinates logged into your GPS receiver. Once you get close, you need to search around for the hidden treasure!
- Many caches have logbooks for you to record your name and the date of your discovery. We try to let the kids find as many as possible. Sometimes they are in an area that isn't safe for them, so be sure to look at the difficulty level from the site.
- We also have a small bag we carry for our treasure hunting adventures. In it we have hand wipes, a small flashlight, a pen, sunscreen, bug spray, little treasures (i.e. bouncy balls, plastic beads, etc. that they kids can exchange in the larger caches), a notebook, a small plastic bag and a camera. I have kept a scrapbook of our finds and it is such a fun reminder of the adventures we've had!
- Realize that you may not find every cache on your first try. We have had to go back to the website and ask for hints from other users. There is no shame in that because some of these are super tricky!
- Be cautious while you are hunting. The goal is to not alert others in the area to your mission. The reason is that someone who doesn't realize that others will be coming looking at these coordinates might move the cache. As a side benefit, the kids feel like super secret spies! We have had some great laughs trying to remain quiet in a very public space!
- Another benefit of this hobby is that geocachers have been asked to pick up litter that they might find when performing a hunt. We use the small plastic bag we carry to gather up anything we might find and perform a favor for the environment.
If you have any questions, please feel free to post them in the comments. I love to share this hobby with others and hope that you consider it for some good, quality family time. You are outside, soaking up some sunshine, getting some exercise and having adventures with the ones you love. I can't think of anything better . . .