We love to get the kids outdoors as much as we can, and taking hikes as a family is one of our favorite things to do. This week I decided to take it up a notch and try geocaching with the kids. When I first told them we were going geocaching they looked at me and narrowed their eyes, and of course asked the question I was asking myself just last week-What IS geocaching?! I explained it to the kids as a "real life video game treasure hunt" and immediately worried if I oversold it, but I wasn't far off. Players in the geocaching game try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using GPS-enabled devices and then share their experiences online.
The way we got started was simple. I registered on the Geocaching website (the basic membership is free and that gave us all we needed), and then we looked up some caches that we wanted to try to find at the Hide and Seek a Cache page. People put all kinds of fun things in the caches, and a cache always contains a logbook or logsheet for you to log your find. Larger caches may contain a logbook and any number of items and you never know what the cache owner or visitors to the cache may have left for you to enjoy. When you take something from a cache you must leave something in the cache to replace it. I wanted to make sure we found something that would be kid-friendly so when I looked up the potential caches I read the descriptions and found a few kid oriented ones at the Orra Phelps Nature Preserve. We stopped by Five Below and I picked up a few mini grow your own pots to leave in the cache, plus a little sailor rope bracelet and a bouncy ball (we weren't sure how big the cache would be and I wanted to make sure our stuff fit). You can also find what they call Trackables, a sort of geocaching "game piece" that you can learn more about here.
We set out armed with the Geocaching app I downloaded onto my phone and after tromping around for a while we really got down to business. We were after Daniel's Cache, which according to the description was started by an 11 year old boy, so it had a high "toy" potential. The description helped us find it, but the kids still had a blast watching the number of feet distance go down on the map as we got closer and closer. Once we got down to within twenty feet they started exploring, hunting under piles of sticks and behind big trees until they finally found it on their own. They couldn't have been more excited, AND it had two Matchbox cars in it, a real score for Finn. Levy was pleased with the thimble inside and we left our three new treasures and signed the logbook.
The kids absolutely loved it, and we already want to hide our own cache soon. It's super easy to hide your own too. We are going to explore some more caches first, since seeing caches in a variety of locations, in different containers and hidden by a variety of users will help us get to know what makes a great cache hide. The website is full of great helpful information, like their Guide to Hiding a Cache and the Geocache Listing Guidelines. It walks you through the simple steps to get started.
I very highly recommend trying geocaching yourselves. You can find easy ones to find at first (they list them according to difficulty) and make sure to read the descriptions to try to find something that might appeal to the age range of your kids. I don't need to tell you guys this but I have to add to make SURE to check for ticks, Finn had two on his FACE! But don't let the ticks scare you off, just follow the tick guidelines and be sure to do a thorough tick search and you'll be fine.
So go venture out on your own treasure hunt! And if you find Daniel's Cache maybe our goodies will still be in there! I'll let you all know when we hide our own and we can start a fun little Mamatoga Cache!