Moms, I know you have heard all about how we need to encourage our children to get out there and move. Be active, stay healthy! The US Centers for Disease Control recommend an hour of activity a day for children and adolescents. Now, personally, I don’t like to just “workout”. I like to be doing “something”. Hiking, gardening, racing, playing sports — anything than just repetitions ands circuits. My kids are a lot the same way. But, I’ve found something that we can all do together, is different every time we go, and it’s always a fun adventure. In fact, this is so much fun you could say our family is officially addicted to it. We are all suffering from one great addiction: geocaching.
My husband and I started geocaching while I was expecting my fifth grader. So, yeah, we’ve been doing it for a bit more than ten years.
What is geocaching? Geocaching is a global treasure hunt. The treasures are placed by people who want to highlight certain places. The GPS coordinates for spots where the treasures are hidden are taken by a hand held GPS device, then published on the internet.
The largest website is geocaching.com, but others exist as well. After the coordinates are approved by the site manager — there are specific safety requirements — they are made public on the web site. After that, participants upload the coordinates to cell phone geocaching applications. And the hunt is on! Our favorite Android application is called “c:geo”.
We have cached in the snow, up to a cave, at night carrying a six month baby. We have cached in the desert on a night hike with an 18 month old child. We have cached in big cities and small towns. I have even hiked to the top of a mountain, eight months pregnant, to find a cache. Once we geocached through the desert between Boulder City, NV., and Henderson, NV. (Yes, it can be done — but I recommend a 4 wheel drive vehicle.) We even hiked to the start of the Mount Olympus Spring Water springs.
Caches can be as small as hearing aid battery, as large as a military ammunition can, or even larger. We have placed caches that look like electrical outlets, as well as caches that looked like bird nests. We even placed a cache that looked like a tarantula. Almost anything can become a geocache. And yes, there are caches hidden all around.
Sometimes, we have had to stop our travels for the day because we ran into an obstacle we couldn’t overcome. On one geocaching trip in the Uinta Mountains, we came across a fallen tree. We couldn’t go over it, we couldn’t go under it, we couldn’t go around it. So, we had to go back home. But I still want to go find that cach — next time, though, we’ll need to bring horses.
My favorite type of geocache is called a CITO. That stands for Cache in, Trash out event. A CITO is a clean up event put on by geocachers. The coordinates for the area that needs to be cleaned up are published. The event organizers bring the trash bags, and usually there’s a BBQ or pot luck after the cleaning is done. We’ve been to a few of these, and have hosted one. The camaraderie that is built is similar to any service project. I love getting to know other cachers and meeting people from all walks of life and CITO’s are a great way to do that.
And the treasure part? Well, the biggest treasure found geocaching is the experience of finding some place new or finding a new and creative way to hide a cache. Geocaching has helped us get to know each of the areas we’ve lived in over the last elevenyears. Geocaching has led us on some fantastic rides, and hikes, to some great places. More importantly, we have met some fantastic friends geocaching over the years. We get to meet up with them periodically, and it’s great.
We always take our children with us while we’re geocaching. They’re getting really good at finding the caches. Sometimes the conditions aren’t safe for young kids, so we keep them in the car. But, it’s still one of our favorite spring, summer, and fall activities to do together as a family. Geocaching has taught my children that they can do hard things (even when the mountain path seems really steep), and that there’s adventure everywhere, they just need to look for it.
Geocaching is one addiction I’m glad I’ve shared with my family.
Have you ever been geocaching? What’s your favorite outdoor experience you do with your family?