Looking for a Fun Outdoor Activity for the Whole Family? Try Geocaching!
I'm fortunate enough to live on the southern Oregon coast where we enjoy mostly mild weather all year long. Our summers are especially gorgeous with several months of sunshine, a "light breeze" (a local joke-- we get pretty strong wind gusts off the coast!), and the temperature rarely inches above ninety degrees (and even if it did, we wouldn't feel it with all the air circulation). The Oregon coast is also a natural wonderland with beaches, sand dunes, forests, and numerous rivers and lakes to explore. All of this adds up to perfect geocaching conditions!
For those that aren't familiar with the term, "geocaching" is basically high tech treasure hunting. People hide caches around the world then either visit the geocaching website or use their app to list the GPS coordinates and a few clues. People can then go out to the GS coordinates and try to find the cache. When they do, they sign the log book (to verify their find) and check out the look. The standard practice is to leave one item behind for every item that you keep from the cache.
The caches are rated on a scale of 1 to 5 for their difficulty level and the difficulty of the terrain. The easiest caches are ones located on level ground where people of all ages and physical abilities can approach and find them within a few minutes. According to the app, most people should be able to find these caches within a ten to fifteen minute search. The hardest caches can include hiking long distances, climbing cliffs, or maybe even require diving equipment. (For the record, I have never found a level 5 geocache!). In my experience, most geocaches are rated somewhere in between. It's up to you to choose which ones you (and your friends or family) would like to try to find.
Finally, the geocache description will also specify the size of the cache which can be anything from a "micro" (which can be pretty tiny!) to traditional (the original geocaches were often made out of old metal ammo cans). They'll even let you know when you should BYOP (bring your own pen) or if tweezers will be required to retrieve the log (some of the micros are seriously tiny!).
Now, if all of the above hasn't already convinced you to give geocaching a try then let me tell you about some of the extra elements that add to the fun:
1) Trackables: These are indicated by a drawing of a bug next to the geocache listing. Trackables come in a variety of sizes and styles. As the name suggests, each one has a tracking number printed on it. If you find a trackable in a geocache then you can log the find in the geocache app or on the webpage. You can then hold onto it for a while or until you find another geocache. You can then note that you dropped it off for someone else to find.
In addition to finding trackables in the wild, you can purchase them through the geocache website. Once you register them online, you can give them a name and list their goals (for example: traveling around the world). A few years ago, I bought twin trackables that looked like pink bunnies for my niece and myself. Since we released them, we've been able to track their travels around the world. The geocaching website sends us an email whenever someone either sees them in a cache, logs finding them, or re-releases them in a new geocache.
My niece named her bunny "Bun Bun." Almost immediately after we left her in a geocache, she started her travels. She traveled across the country to Massachusetts and then across the Atlantic. She has visited both Sweden and Switzerland.
I named my bunny "Pinky." Initially, she sat waiting in a local geocache for several months before anyone found her. She then spent the next year traveling locally-- all within less than a day's drive from home. But, since then, someone to her on a much further journey. Last I heard, she was visiting Taiwan!
Just last week, a friend and I found an adorable plush mouse trackable named "Tanya Mousekewitz." Apparently, she is part of a "rat race" with the goal of eventually traveling back to the United Arab Emirates. They even listed the specific geocahe location where she needs to go in order "to win the rat race against other stinky rats."
The trackables add an extra element of fun to geocaching. I especially love the wide variety of them. Most resemble key chain decorations (small, flat pieces of metal with pictures painted on them), but I've also found a few plush trackables, a few geocaching coins (they make them for special occasions and geocaching events), and even a few car decals.
2) Souvenirs: A few times a year, geocaching HQ will set up different themed events. For example, during the summer of 2018, they hosted "Hidden Creatures." Basically, all you had to do was go out and find geocaches. If you found a certain number then they would send you a "souvenir" of a mythical creature that you "found." The first creature was Big Foot (easiest to locate-- you only had to find 1 geocache) and the hardest was the World Turtle (you had to find 100 geocaches). My team got as far as the Dragon (50 finds). It was especially fun because I got my niece to help me with the search. Each time we earned a souvenir, I was able to teach her about mythical creatures including the Hippocamp, the Sphinx, and the Kraken.
3) Events: Geocachers around the world can host meet ups for their fellow geocachers. You earn a geocache "fin" for attending the event, get to meet fellow geocachers, and there is usually prizes and food involved. All good things!
Geocaching is a lot of fun. It encourages people to get outside and explore not only their own neighborhoods but also new places while traveling. If you visit the geocaching website (www.geocaching.com) and look at a map then you'll see that people have pretty much hidden geocaches everywhere.
During summer vacation, I think all adult care providers dread having the kids in their care say the words: "I'm bored." Geocaching is the perfect solution. It gets the kids outside where they'll get exercise and fresh air. The GPS coordinates only get you close to the geocache. From that point on, you have to puzzle out the clues in order to find the geocache. This is great because makes the kids have to stop, focus, and think. Then, finding the cache and checking out it's contents is a lot of fun.
The variety of cache sizes and difficulty level helps to keep geocaching challenging. And, with so may to choose from in any given area, there's always a new geocache waiting to be discovered.
So, get out there and find some geocaches!
PS-- They sometimes to team challenges. My geocaching nickname is "Reprieve26." Feel free to add me to your team. Usually, the team gets points for finding caches-- so the more team members, the better the chances of earning a souvenir!
Have You Ever Been Geocaching?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 HS Contino