Have you ever heard of Geocaching? I first became aware of it many years ago, back before everyone had a pocket GPS on them wherever they went. Back then it was a matter of finding coordinates in obscure online forums and then inputting them into handheld portable GPS units rocking pixelated 8 bit displays like retro gameboy systems. For those of you that aren’t familiar with it – geocaching is essentially a bigger version of “hide and seek” in which players use some form of GPS to find caches that have been hidden by other players. It’s pretty fun if you like finding used tupperware full of scrap paper and trinkets BUT it does get you out of the house and out into the area you are in at the moment.
So, I had been toying with the idea of picking up the hobby and introducing the kids to it and moving to North Carolina was a great reason to start! We had never been here, we knew nothing about the area, and wanted to start exploring. The kids took to it right away and have become very adept at rooting out even the sneakiest of stashed caches.
We started out easy and picked a geocache near our apartment in a commercial development. Not exactly a World Heritage site or UNESCO spot, but it did give us a chance to try out this new muscle. We read the hints, and set out to find our first over Geocache.
The cache (GC1P581) was called “Watch for Falling Rock” and told an elaborate story about the origin of all those “Watch for Falling Rock” signs we see along the roadside on long drives through the country. The cache itself was a small container with a log in it for us to sign and replace for the next cachers to come along.
Each geocache that is placed and logged on the official geocaching.com website is ranked based on its difficulty to find, size, and the grade of terrain it is hidden in.
This first cache set us off on a mission to find more, to find them all. It’s a lot like Pokemon Go…but I think it’s cooler. The kids probably would feel the other way about it.
As we settled into our routines of work and school and life I was overjoyed to often have the kids come to me and ask if we could go geocaching. That meant being outside, making up stories and just having a good time getting to know the area around our new home.
Even our dog, Hanna, loved the adventures that we were setting out on – she took to the trails and the effort like any good dog does – with a wagging tail and her nose to the ground. If only geocaches had bacon in them!
Eventually we found the caches near our house had all been found and as a result we had to start planning trips further and further out to find more caches. We looked online and found that there were entire sets of geocaches that were only available to paid members of the geocaching community, and these increased the challenge, added puzzles and linked caches (you have to find multiple in a link to complete the quest) to those already around. Most of the easy caches, especially those hidden in public spaces tend to fall into predictable hides – such as under parking lot lamps or behind guardrails on roadsides.
The added challenge of having to plan out where we were going to go geocaching added another element of fun – and having the app on our phones makes it so that no matter where we travel to we are able to find a cache or two.
Being able to take the kids out on these adventures has been great, it’s become a way for us to not only discover the area around us but to work on stories and imaginations and build adventures in the everyday world. Some of the caches, ok most of them, are nothing more than cheap plastic containers with soggy wadded up paper logs in them, often so full that we can barely scrawl our tag and find date onto them (@WANDERTOGETHER208 if any of you had any question). Geocaching even gave me an opportunity to explain to the kids what the heck a FILM canister is – as this is a cache container of choice for many geocachers, however, being digital era kids this required a bit of descriptive help since they had no idea what film or the canisters it came in was.
The locations we have been taken to on these adventures have been everything from picturesque…
…to a bit more risque. Mine and Abbi’s jaws dropped as we pulled up on this “art” piece in Henderson, NC known as “Reminiscing” (and supposedly dedicated to Marilyn Monroe) and then we promptly distracted the kids and pulled away so as to avoid a conversation about modern art we, as parents, just aren’t ready to have yet.
The ultimate sign that you have joined the ranks of geocachers around the world, as a fully fledged member of the club, however, is when you take part in the time honored tradition of hiding your own Geocaches. For this first foray into creating our own geocaches and hiding them we teamed up with my father, whom had led my sisters and I on many treasure hunts spurred on by over-the-top stories during our childhood. Together we came up with an elaborate story about a former Union Officer named Thomas Bristlecone who turned into a ruthless outlaw in the Northern Frontier and then we divided the story up into four geocaches and linked them all together.
This is only the start. We are still waiting on these caches to be accepted into the official Geocaching.com log so that other geocachers can find them – but once that happens we will be eagerly watching for those FTF (First-to-find) posts to come in – as each container has a prize inside of it. We plan on using geocaching on our travels to, many of the places we have been are covered in hidden cache’s that we never knew about – even areas as far remote as Papua New Guinea are covered in them. The adventure has only just begun.