We were made for adventure and I love opportunities to invite my kids into the fun. Our homeschooling family relishes opportunities to be outside together, exploring nature, and we have fallen in love with a form of modern day treasure hunting called geocaching.
Geocaching isn’t a new idea, and you can now find over 2,781,347 caches all over the world! A cache is a hidden “treasure” that ranges in size from nano (just big enough for a roll of paper) to one that can hold toys and other items. Geocachers place these caches (sometimes in plain sight in very public places!) and log the coordinates online. Then, treasure hunters delight in following the gps coordinates to the cache, signing the logbook, and exchanging one small trinket for another.
Geocaching.com is the mothership for treasure hunters. There, you can register for an account and begin caching! You’ll need either a smartphone or a handheld gps. You can download a free app called Geocaching, available for iPhone and Android devices. Geocaching.com offers both a paid and free membership. The paid membership ($10 for a 3 month subscription) is for the serious connoisseur. While the subscription membership displays many more caches than the free version, you can get along just fine with the free one.
When you’re ready to find a cache, simply open the app. It will display a map of caches in your local area. I recommend reading the recent activity for one you’d like to find because a cache could get destroyed or lost. By checking out the activity, you can save yourself from hunting for a cache that’s not there! The app will also give you difficulty level and cache size, so you’ll have an idea of what kind of terrain you’ll be traversing, and how large of a cache you’re looking for. Most of our recent cache finds have been a difficulty level of 1.5 or 2. Since we’re geocaching with a toddler and a 6 year old, we appreciate caches that are easy to access
Pick out your cache and click start! The app will show you a compass bar in the bottom of the screen, pointing you in the direction of the cache. It also gives you a running indicator of how close you are, in miles and then in feet. When we missed a turn, it was helpful to see the distance indicator climbing – so we knew we needed to turn around!
Once you’re within about 30 feet, it’s time to abandon the gps and deploy the children! The cache will be disguised in a way that someone just wandering by won’t find it, but you know it’s there somewhere! On the rare occasion, the cache has alluded us, but a second visit can solve the mystery.
For extra fun, bring a small trinket to leave behind. The kids love finding a small treasure like a marble, stickers, or a toy car, and then leaving a surprise for the next geocachers to find. Bring a pen to sign the log book, just in case the one in the cache isn’t working.
Travel bugs are SO much fun!! A travel bug is a dog tag, usually with a fun keychain attached, that has a unique tracking code. When you find one, log it into the geocaching app, and take it along with you. Then you drop it into another cache. It’s fun to keep them, and take it with you when you go on a trip, to help the cache see the world. 🙂
Our first travel bug (attached to the shoe on the right in the above graphic) began its world-wide journey in Australia! It has travelled to Ohio, Indiana, South Carolina, Georgia, and now Texas. We plan to take it with us to Salt Lake City and hide it in a cache there. The website shows you a map of where the travel bug has been, and the finders will leave little notes charting its journey. Yay for geography fun!
You can get your own travel bug (prices start at $5 on the geocaching website) and follow its journey around the world. You can also create your own caches and enjoy tracking all the “finders” online!
Geocaching offers unlimited fun and it’s fabulous family bonding time. Doesn’t your family need a little adventure? If you’ve already tried it, share your geocaching experiences with us in the comments!
Sarah Falk graduated from Baylor with a major in bioinformatics and is currently pursuing her Naturopathic Doctor’s degree from the Trinity School of Natural Medicine. She is a homeschooling mom to 3 and blogs at Renaissance Mama. She loves to escape to the barn for a few hours to recharge, or to sit near the lake with a chai tea latte and a good book.