Have you ever gone geocaching? It’s the coolest thing! You search for hidden “treasures” in your neighbourhood or wherever you may roam. They are worldwide, and you can find them pretty much everywhere. There are even some along the Grouse Grind trail! They are in parks, in public areas, and sometimes right where you’re standing. But they are disguised or hidden, so you wouldn’t look for it if you didn’t know about it. I guess that’s why they persist – only those who geocache would be looking for them.
They aren’t “treasures” per se, but each contains a piece of paper that you sign to say that you found it. Some have put in a little trinket as a “prize”, but the rule is you only take one if you have something to replace it with. The “treasure” is the actual hunt – it’s SO fun to go looking for them, and the feeling of accomplishment and delight when you find it is immeasurable!
I had completely forgotten about it until someone suggested it on a Facebook post as something to do with the kids on the weekend – thank you to that clever person for reminding me of this fun and free activity! It’s been around for a long time but I’ve never been able to take part – in the early days I didn’t have a computer, and later I had kids in tow. Now that the kids are old enough to enjoy a treasure hunt, we gave it a try.
First, we went to geocaching.com and read about it. We watched the very entertaining video, looked at the map of all the geocaches in our neighbourhood, and decided that YES, this is something we wanted to do. I immediately downloaded the app onto my iPhone, turned on location services and set it to ONLY access my location when that app is open.
The geocaching app is free, but in order to use all the features – get hints, see pictures, filter caches, etc – you have to upgrade. I bought a 3 month membership for $13.95, which will give us enough time to find most of the caches in our area. I used the filter to find only “traditional” caches – there are some that are more complicated and that was more effort than I cared to put in, knowing that I’d have to teach the kids how to do it after I figured it out myself. Too much trouble for me, so we stuck to the traditional ones.
Our first one was easy. It was close to home, not really well hidden, very discernible. I found it first but didn’t tell anyone, then led the children to the area and it didn’t take them long before they found it under a piece of wood. It looked like an old film case, the plastic white ones with the air tight cap. Inside we found a nickel and a piece of paper (referred to as a log). We signed it, put in a quarter, and returned it to its hiding spot.
Our daughter was grinning from ear to ear – she had found the first one! She beamed with pride and ran excitedly to the car, practically quivering with the thought of finding another one. We checked the app and found that there was one in a nearby park. Off we went!
This one was a bit trickier. I used my gps (in the geocaching app) to pinpoint the approximate area, and then I stumbled upon it myself while the kids were running around searching. I quickly put it back where I found it, and told them the hints that were provided. Soon our daughter found it – it was very well disguised as a piece of wood! In fact, it WAS a piece of wood, but it had been hollowed out and the cache was inside. SO COOL!! The kids were over the moon!!
Here’s where the learning-through-doing comes in: I had left everything in the car so I didn’t even have a pencil with which to sign the paper! I ran back to the car and grabbed the pen, took some photos of the kids with the cache, and we replaced it exactly as we found it. We all literally RAN back to the van to hit the next one!
Our third cache we found in a large nearby forest. Thank goodness for the gps – we would’ve been searching for days in completely the wrong spot without it! This one was also tricky, and it was the 5 year old’s turn to shine. Sometimes you have to read the “activity” to read what others have said about the cache in order to get a real clue. That’s how we knew to look for a rock, but also to look IN the trees. It took about 5 minutes before the little one picked up a “rock” and inside was the cache! SQUEEEE!! We’d found another one! But this time I had nothing to do with it – I was so proud of my little ones!
Altogether we found 5 yesterday. Our 6th attempt was a bust – we couldn’t find it. Sometimes they are moved by animals, and probably sometimes they are picked up as garbage. Or maybe this one was just too difficult to find! Ah well, we’ll look again on another day. Because there definitely WILL be other geocaching days! We were outside for 7 hours that day, we got in oodles of walking, and the kids had a blast. What a wonderful way to spend a sunny day!
So, because I am who I am and I love this kind of stuff, we will be hiding our own caches. When they are hidden, we will submit them to geocaching.com and within 3 days they will be available to be found. Our “treasure” will be scratch ‘n’ wins because they are my calling cards – I’ve been leaving them around town for 2 years. I almost always include them in my tip at a restaurant (but only as an extra, not as a replacement for a cash tip!) I will check on the caches regularly – the app will show me when it has been found so I can replace the scratch ‘n’ wins if they’ve been taken. And I hope they DO get taken – that’s what they’re for!
Our geocaching handle is @ContestsVan. Come play!