I'm sure you are thinking “what the heck is geocaching?”
Well, I always describe it as a modern-day treasure hunt, only the treasure map is your smartphone or GPS and the treasure is a box of dollar store trinkets.
There are nearly 6 million geocachers and over 2.6 million active geocaches worldwide—there are probably caches near you right now.
What is a cache?
Literally a cache is “a collection of items of the same type stored in a hidden or inaccessible place.”
In geocaching, a cache is simply a container that geocachers hide and find using GPS coordinates… caches come in all different shapes and sizes–anywhere from micro-sized, where there is just enough space for a very small log (a piece of paper to sign when you find the cache) to large ammo cans filled with SWAG for you to swap. Some caching containers are tricky because they look like ordinary items you would find outside.
There are different kinds of geocaches too. Sometimes you have to solve a puzzle, or you have to find two or three sections before you get to the end.
My wonderful friend Amy introduced me to geocaching when she and her family were driving to Philly from Texas and stopped in Huntsville for a short visit. You see, Amy and I have been friends for several years–we met through work–but we had never actually met face-to-face! So when she found out that she would be in the “general area” we planned a meeting.
I have five girls and Amy has two boys and a girl, ages ranging from 7 to 16, so we needed to find something that everyone would enjoy. Amy and her family have been geocaching for years so when she suggested we find a few, I said “That sounds like a great idea!”
Our first geocache was on Monte Sano Mountain just a couple of miles from our home (at the time). She picked a cache that wasn't too difficult and had treasure for the kids. The trek was a little steep on the way down to the cache and again on the way back up, plus we passed by a lot of poison ivy, but my kids loved every minute of it. They had so much fun finding the ammo can and then trading their trinkets.
The only thing you REALLY need to go geocaching is a smartphone (or a GPS unit) plus the coordinates to a cache. But this list of items can make your caching experience a lot better!
The first thing you need to do is sign up for a free account on geocaching.com and download their app to your smartphone.
Then log into your account on your phone, type in your zip code to pull up a list of geocaches around you, and choose the one you want to find. The description will tell you where to park, good places to start your trek and give you clues to locate the cache.
Be sure to pay attention to the difficulty, terrain and size of the cache. You don't want to take a 5 year old on a extremely difficult geocache, up a steep, rocky terrain, to a cache that does not product SWAG, unless you want to end of carrying your child on your back and risk an epic meltdown in the process.
Finally, once you've picked out your destination, drive to the recommended parking area, hop out of your car and start walking! Once you hit the “Navigate to Geocache” button, you will find a map/compass that points you in the direction of the geocache. When you are within a few feet of the coordinates put down your phone and start searching the area for the cache.
What to do when you find the cache?
- Check out the SWAG–take one, leave one (for the larger caches)
- Sign and date the log
- Place everything back into the container
- Replace the lid
- Return the cache to its original location
- Report the cache as “found” on your smartphone app
It really is that simple…
After just one cache we were hooked! We have been on many adventures in places we never would have found if it weren't for geocaching. It's one of the few activities we do as a family that everyone loves and is happy to participate in.
Caching is a lot of fun and a great activity for all ages and abilities. It's something that you can do without spending a lot of money and you don't need to have any special skills (well with some caches you do).
Since we started geocaching we have converted several families into hardcore cachers. Give it a try and see what you think! I'm sure happy we did.