This is a special edition of Noticing Nature! In a time of social distancing, practically everything is closed, and people are going stir crazy – I’ve got the perfect outdoor activity that can meet all the requirements for everyone’s new normal.
Would you believe there are millions of treasures hidden all over the world, just waiting to be found? What if I told you it’s very likely some of those treasures are right near you at any given moment? Keep reading, because I’m going to tell you about the ultimate game of hide and seek that anyone can play as well as another new extension of geocaching that we recently discovered!
What is Geocaching?
The prefix “geo” means earth, and a “cache” is a hiding place. Put the two together and you get an outdoor treasure hunt that’s an entertaining adventure! Gone are the days of paper maps where X marks the spot. With a GPS and a set of coordinates, you will be well on your way to finding your first cache! Geocaching has an interesting history that began two decades ago, and is similar to the centuries old hobby of letterboxing. I first heard of letterboxing when my daughter was in Girl Scouts and working for a badge. Our troop made both a letterbox as well as a geocache, and so began a new hobby for us!
We have been geocaching off and on for about eight years. I remember on our first find, we encountered a senior couple looking for the same thing we were! This picture was from one of our first finds. I can’t believe how small our kiddos were here! Geocaching can be something to be enjoyed by all ages!
How to start Geocaching
At the most basic level, start by following these simple steps:
- Register for a free Basic Membership. This can be done online or through an app on your smartphone. There are several to choose from, but I have always used the official Geocaching app by Groundspeak, Inc.
- Visit the “Hide & Seek a Cache” page. (I search by location via the app).
- If you use the app, make sure your location is turned on and click current location. Otherwise, enter your postal code and click “search”.
- Choose any geocache from the list and click on its name.
- Enter the coordinates of the geocache into your GPS Device. If you are using your phone, this will be done for you.
- Use your GPS device to assist you in finding the hidden geocache.
- Sign the logbook and return the geocache to its original location.
- Share your geocaching stories and photos online. I recently created a new account, so if you decide to sign up, be sure to find me!
Where and what to look for
Geocaches can be found all over the world. It’s common for geocachers to hide caches in locations that may be important, historical, or are significant to the cache owner in some way. These locations can be quite diverse. I have found caches in parking lots, on hiking trails, and city parks.
You should also check to see that other geocachers have recently logged finds on the cache page (also called the cache listing). This indicates that the geocache is most likely still in place and findable. We’ve had a couple of major hurricanes in my area since we last went geocaching, and found several were no longer findable. Caches come in many shapes and sizes. These are some examples of ones we have personally found.
Found one! What’s next?
A cache always contains a logbook for you to log your find. Sign and date using your member name. Larger caches may contain a logbook and “treasures”. These items can turn the adventure into a true treasure hunt. You never know what the cache owner or visitors to the cache may have left for you to enjoy. We’ve found small toys, a key from a keyboard, and other random items. Remember, if you take something, leave something of equal or greater value in return. I once left a $5 gift card to the nearby Dunkin Donuts as a random act of kindness. Often, the small ones will only have room for a log. For these, simply sign and log your find. They are still fun to find just the same!
If you’re lucky, you may also find a trackable, a sort of geocaching “game piece”. Each trackable has a unique code that can be used to log its movements on Geocaching.com. Some of these items have traveled hundreds of thousands of miles thanks to geocachers who move them from cache to cache! We found one in our area that originated all the way from Japan! I carried it with me to Myrtle Beach, SC to help it make its way around the world. At last check of the log, I saw that it did get picked up, and was on the way to Texas. Unfortunately, the finder never hid or no one logged the little monkey after that. If you find one, keep it moving, so everyone can enjoy it!
Geocaching Adventure Lab
While I was creating a new geocaching account, I noticed something new in the app store. Released just last year, Geocaching Adventure Lab, is a new app that involves finding clues and solving puzzles to complete the Adventures. Unlike traditional geocaching, Adventures do not require a physical container and can be located indoors. If you’re already a Geocaching member, these caches count towards your geocaching statistics and total finds.
The kids and I decided to try an Adventure Lab recently. We had so much fun, and learned things about our city that we did not know! We were only able to complete half the Adventure, because the other half is in our state capital of Raleigh, which is slightly over 100 miles away. On our half, everything was outside, but I’m going to wait to finish this Adventure until more places are open- just in case. Both my kids enjoyed the new adventure because of the clues you had to find and solve before you can get the next clue. I like the added elements of problem solving to the hunt and tying in local history. I am looking forward to adding these into our homeschool studies of our state.
As you can see there is fun and adventure all around you! You just have to go find it! This is the perfect time to try something new, all while maintaining social distancing. This post gives you a great start, but you can find out anything else you need to know at Geocaching101 guide. Check the lingo associated with geocaching so you understand the language used. There is more information such as different types of caches, as well as how to hide your own cache. Should you decide to do your own adventuring, I’d love to see where you’ve been, and you can find me under the name Homeschool Fanatic. Be sure to download my day hiking checklist in the free resource library if you’re caching on the trails.
Watch out for muggles and happy hunting!