We are currently between trips of our “Year Long Adventure” spending our time at home in the Dallas area before heading out to the Southeast on Leg 3. Last weekend we were blessed with “Spring like” temperatures in the high 70s. (It is 15 degrees outside as I write this post four days later, showing you how quickly the weather can change here in North Texas.) We decided to take advantage of the great weather and go out on a family adventure of Geocaching.
Geocaching.com describes Geocaching as a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate containers called geocaches which have been hidden outdoors and then share your experiences online. Geocaching is enjoyed by people from all age groups, with a strong sense of community and support for the environment.
Our family had tried this with some success twice before by using the Geocaching App on the iPhone, so our kids were very excited to go hunt for caches. We drove to a park near our home and turned on the app to locate the three closest caches to our location. The closest one was with .10 miles of where we parked. It is amazing how many geocaches are out just waiting to be found. The online clues lead us to a light pole to find our first cache of the day.
Most caches consist of a waterproof container of varying sizes. Inside you will typically find a log in which to sign your name and the date you found the cache. It is fun to see when the cache was last found and how many people have been there before you. This first cache was the size of a film canister, so it wasn’t large enough to have a pen. Luckily, we were near the car and could get one, but this reminded us to keep a pen with us as we continued our hunt. Larger caches will sometimes contain trinkets that you can take as long as you leave something similar in return. Some caches will contain a rubber ink stamp to record the find in a log of your own. Really serious geocachers will hide “travel bugs” in their cache. These items have a GPS tracker attached which will track the item as it is moved from cache to cache across the country or even the world. Each travel bug has a unique number stamped on it which allows its journey to be followed online.
We changed parks to head to one with better walking trails in search of our next cache. This cache was .27 miles away from our new parking spot, but much harder to find. Unfortunately, the curving walking trails did not always take us in the direction we were trying to go. We followed the GPS and compass directions for about 20 minutes before we were finally headed in the right direction. Once we were within 50 feet of the cache, we left the cement path and headed into the woods. This large cache was located in the base of a tree in a hollow spot.
The guest log inside showed that the cache had been placed in this location a little over a year ago and found 25 times since. After celebrating our find and carefully placing the container back in its hiding place, we were ready to call it a day. Because we were unfamiliar with the layout of this particular park, our wandering path to the cache left us not knowing where the van was. Luckily, iPhone Maps pointed us in the right direction.
We did attempt one final cache on the way back, but we were unsuccessful this time. The GPS said we were within 10 feet of where the cache was supposed to be located, but we were unable to find it. We accepted this small defeat in favor of finding some lunch.
Our kids really enjoyed the hunt and using the GPS and compass to find their way. They did not even realize that they were having family bonding and exercise to boot. We had such a good time that we plan to geocache through the Southeast and maybe even hide a cache of our own.