A couple of years ago when my brother was living in Brisbane, Australia, he sent me an email with the subject; Geocaching. It was a picture of his 4-year-old daughter opening an ammunition box in the middle of a lush forest. I had no idea what they were doing until he later Skyped me and described their Geocaching adventure, which is perfect for kids of all ages…
According to Wikipedia: “Geocaching is an outdoor recreational activity, in which the participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called “geocaches” or “caches”, anywhere in the world.” Cool, a treasure hunt! Who doesn’t love a treasure hunt?
I went to the official geocaching website: www.geocaching.com. As soon as Selective Availability from the Global Positioning System was removed (May 2, 2000), Dave Ulmer of Beavercreek, Oregon, hid the first container and recorded it (May 3, 2000). Since then there are over 2 million geocaching locations and 6 million geocachers worldwide. Geocachers hunt for various kinds of geocaches. The containers range from micro size, small, regular, and large. Sometimes the geocache is simply a location. There are usually trinkets to trade and a log book in each box.
When I entered my postal code on the web site, I was amazed to see that there were 38 geocaches within 5 miles of me right now. There are geocaches hidden by people who are honoring their newborn niece, history buffs, kids clubs, nature and wildlife lovers, romantics, families, and just about anyone with a zeal for the outdoors. They would even let me hide my own. Of course there are certain guidelines for hiding a geocache, such as: It cannot be buried, you must have permission from the property owner, wildlife and the environment cannot be harmed, etc. Apparently you can even hide one in outer space.
Knowing I probably might have some financial resistance getting to Mars this week, I decided to venture closer to home with my 3 year-old and give it a try. I first downloaded the app onto my iphone and signed up for their free membership so I could get the necessary information to find our treasure. The web site suggested that for my first geocache I pick one that was a geocacher’s favorite, and had a difficulty rating of 1 or 1.5. Since this was the first geocaching adventure with my young son, I had better pick an easy terrain rating also.
With phone in hand we set out on our adventure. Treasure hunting is always a perfect way to get children into the woods. It was a crisp fall day, the aspen leaves were sprinkling our path and we were enjoying the outdoors. When we approached the location I took a moment to read the description on the cache page. It gave me a rather in-depth history of the location and described in detail my view including the particular flora and fauna. We looked around, and I will admit we had to use the hints given to us on the app.
Then, all of a sudden there it was, right in front of us! The treasure contained a few of the items the cache page described and some new ones. We added a ping pong ball and returned it exactly where we found it. Letting go of the ping pong ball was rather hard to explain, but my son is excited to come back and find it again. We walked down the path and enjoyed the sights and sounds of fall. When I looked at my phone and found another geocache was hidden just a couple of miles away, we decided to continue the adventure.
Geocaching is more than just finding a treasure. We learned about GPS navigation, exploration, history, nature, and especially for my three year-old – sharing. This was definitely a fall highlight and I know my family will be doing more geocaching. Although it might be a while before I get to outer space.