By Guest Blogger Ryan Leigh Runyon
Several years ago, some friends introduced me to geocaching. I’d read about it before, but hadn’t experienced it until they invited me to join them on a hunt. My oldest child went along, too, and we both had a great time. I was eager to share the experience with my husband, knowing it was an activity we could enjoy as a family. Pretty soon, I was creating an account on geocaching.com and we were purchasing a handheld GPS receiver! Since we originally went geocaching, there are now apps that have been developed that can be used instead of the GPS.
If you’ve never heard of geocaching, I’m not surprised. Many folks that I encounter have never heard of it before, or if they have heard of it, they only have a vague idea of what it’s all about. Believe it or not, geocaching began 16 years ago! There is a great video explanation of geocaching here: www.geocaching.com:
Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, 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
As a family, we are very casual geocachers. When the weather is nice and we know that we have a few free hours, it’s one of several activities we choose from. There’s a little bit of preparation involved, but the payoff is well worth it! I locate some caches in close proximity to one another, use online maps and driving directions to refine our plan, and then upload the cache coordinates to our GPS receiver. Sometimes I also print out a bit of information about the caches such as the size, the level of difficulty, and other notes that might help us as we search. There are also paperless options for geocaching using smart phones and other high tech devices, as well as a family-friendly GPS receiver with preloaded coordinates.
Caches are rated by size, terrain, and difficulty as well as a number of other characteristics. When I know that it’s a family excursion, I make sure that I look for larger caches that will hold trade items or travel bugs. My kids love to trade items, but also enjoy searching for items that they will use in these trades. The dollar store is great for this!
As short trips and staycations are becoming more popular, geocaching is a great way to spend time as a family. You really don’t have to go very far to find cache locations – there are 30 within a three mile radius of my home. A quick search of the 27104 ZIP code with a 5-mile radius yields 175 geocaches! If we are going on a trip, sometimes I’ll upload some cache locations near our destination. Then I just grab our geocaching bag – stocked with the GPS, spare batteries, items for trading, a pen, gloves, and bug spray – and we are ready to hunt!
As for finding the caches, well, they are everywhere! I’ve strolled through parks, searched in parking lots, and hiked through the woods. My hunts have taken me to places that I see every day and to places that I’ve never seen before. It’s not just the hunt that’s fun – there’s often something to learn from each geocache. Many caches are placed in specific locations because there’s something to be seen or enjoyed near the location – rivers, historic buildings, and playgrounds are just a few of the examples from caches I’ve found.
For this not-so-outdoorsy girl, geocaching has become one of my favorite outdoor activities. If you are interested in giving geocaching a try, start your adventure at www.geocaching.com – the go-to site for new and experienced geocachers.
Have you tried geocaching? If so, tell us about it along with your favorite places for finding caches!