Friday, April 17, 2020

Spring Geocaching Challenge (Join us in the FUN!)

My son and I had dabbled in geocaching over the past few years, but had never found any great "excitement" in it. It was a fun little activity that we'd casually enjoy after school while out for a walk or that we'd participate in with friends on a Friday afternoon. Up until recently, we had no goals around the sport or determination to find every cache in our neighborhood.

One of my son's first geocaches found in a natural area near our house

Enter Covid-19,  30+ days of physical distancing, bans on driving into provincial or national parks, and daily lectures to "stay the (insert expletive) home," and suddenly geocaching is the most brilliant sport/outdoor activity in the freakin' world!!!

We have now found over 50 geocaches and we've come up with a goal to find every geocache within walking or biking distance of our house. (which means we should be occupied from now through next year!)

The best geocache we've found so far!

What is Geocaching / How to get Started

In a nutshell, 
"Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location." - 

Kids love finding geocaches hidden in parks or natural areas

Getting started requires the following five steps:

  1. Register for a free basic membershipYou can also upgrade to a Premium membership which will allow you to search for a larger collection of caches. (something I highly recommend right now.)

  2. Load the Geocaching app on your phone. (We like the Groundspeak app.)

  3. Search the map in the app to find caches near your house. (Traditional caches show up as little green boxes.)

  4. Use your phone to navigate to the cache and try to find the hidden container. 

    And I recommend paying attention to the difficulty, terrain, and size. As a beginner, you'll want to choose larger caches and you might not want to start with micros (often the size of a matchbox or a small pill container.)

    I also click on the "hint" to help us narrow down the search, we always read the description for hints and tips, and we read the "activity" section for each cache to see when it was last found. If it was last found a year ago it might mean it's either super hard to find or that it's gone missing.

    You'll also find additional tips under the activity section from other users who've already found the cache and left a comment. (You have to leave a comment with every found cache.)

  5. Log your find.

    Click "log" when you have found your geoache, leave a comment, and then enjoy the victory that comes with the happy face that appears over that cache.

    Also, most people open the cache to exchange treasure and to sign the physical log book.

    The basic rule with "trading" is that you must leave something equal in value to the treasure you are taking out of the cache. Not every cache has treasure in it (micros are too small for example) but sometimes you'll find little Lego figurines, toys, and small tradeable items.

    And I've recently been "educated" that if you do not sign the physical log book inside the cache, you are not allowed to log the find on your app. - Which is stupid, but I didn't create the rules.

    For those of you worried about touching things during the Covid-19 outbreak, it's recommended that you either wear gloves, bring hand sanitizer with you, or choose to find the cache without logging it (no fun in my opinion.) 

Note the above steps apply to "phone geocaching." If you want to use a traditional GPS device, you can find more instructions on the website.

This geocache had a giant spider on it! 

5 Reasons to try geocaching

  1. It's a great way to get outside in your neighborhood. You don't have to drive anywhere, you can stay close to home, and you can squeeze a short adventure in as a Physical Education break between school work. It is a great after school activity as well, even while homeschooling.

    We'll be doing a lot of geocaching on weekends as a family as well this spring.

  2. Discover new trails and natural areas near home. We have a small pond by my house that we'd never hiked around because we never had a reason to. Suddenly we're exploring the area while we search for geocaches and I'm thinking, "Wow, this is a great little walk!"

    We've discovered so many "new to us" paths and trails around my neighborhood that I had no idea existed. We've found new trails I can't wait to bike when it dries out, and we found a cool ravine full of possibility (hiding under our noses for years!!)

  3. Exercise for the whole family. Maybe it's just my neighborhood but we climb endless hills every time we go geocaching! It's been great exercise and I look forward to getting out every day.

    Geocaching has also been great motivation to go for long walks around the neighborhood (that I would normally have considered boring.)

  4. It's FUN! Find treasure (even if you don't open the cache,) leave messages for future treasure hunters (which you can do virtually on your phone without touching anything,) and challenge friends to go and find caches.

    If you have friends in your neighborhood, you can give them the names of the caches you've recently found and then challenge them to go find the caches.

    We've also encountered wildlife while geocaching including moose, deer, porcupines, and rabbits. We truly never know what we're going to find each time we head out!

  5. Outdoor education and navigation experience. Geocaching teaches you to navigate through some challenging terrain at times. You learn to follow a map, and you gain valuable skills walking off-trail. Add a compass or a handheld GPS unit if you really want to take it up a notch.

    Geocaching also teaches you to be observant and to pay attention to your surroundings. Skills like this could save your life someday if you got lost in the woods. 

Imagine finding this geocache hiding under a log in the forest!

Geocaching is a Great Activity that's Safe at this Time 

We've been loving geocaching this spring because we aren't violating any of the health guidelines in our province. We've been encouraged to get outside daily (as long as we're healthy and symptom free) and to spend time with our families.

We've also been encouraged to stay close to home (which you can easily do while geocaching.) Walk or bike to find caches and you'll never have to get in a car.

This micro cache was hanging from a fence

It's also super easy to enjoy the activity while physical distancing because you'll often be taking paths less traveled while searching for your caches. In my neighborhood everybody sticks to the pretty paved pathway. Fortunately, you can't go geocaching from the paved path! You might start from the paved path, but then you'll be climbing hills on narrow dirt tracks and following skinny trails into the bush.

If you do meet up with another family or group on your hike, just step to the side, keep the recommended 2 metre distance, and carry on.

Note I do not recommend geocaching with friends at this time because there's no way you'll be able to keep that 2 metre distance from one another at the end when you get close to the cache.

We've discovered many new trails geocaching in our neighborhood 

So, who's in? Ready to find every cache within walking or biking distance from your house this spring? Take it to the next step and purchase the premium membership so you'll have more caches to find.

Disclaimer: This story is not sponsored. It's your choice if you want to purchase a paid premium subscription or start with the free version of the geocaching app. We used the free version for years and had a lot of fun.

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