This is a guest post by Julie Henning, Feed Me Editor, Road Trips for Families.
All Who Wander Are Not Lost!
Kids today are “high tech.” Gaming, cell phones, and texting (OMG, LOL). Heck, sometimes we use email to communicate, even though we’re all inside the same house. With all this instant gratification and even the GPS lady to answer the age-old question, “Are we there yet?,” how do we unplug without completely alienating ourselves?
One solution: geocaching. Sometimes known as a high-treasure hunt, people all over the world are playing the game. By creating a team name on the official geocaching website, www.geocaching.com, you can join in with the ¾ of a million other people in on the secret. Regional clubs, outings, and even geocaching events are also growing in popularity.
In a nutshell: someone has some stuff, they put it in a waterproof container and hide the container in the woods, the city, or even an ocean. Noting the “coordinates” (latitude and longitude – bring a compass), the location of the container is uploaded into geocaching.com database. Now…say you have some stuff, some free time, and a sense of adventure; simply log in to geocaching.com and punch in you zip code. Returned to you will be a list of nearby geocaches. (Geo=earth, Cache=data)
The people who hide geocaches sometimes use tiny containers and rappel up rock outcroppings in an “extreme sports” challenge. Our family picks caches that are kid-friendly, not too far from the road, and typically don’t involve anything other than tennis shoes and an iPhone (we use the Groundspeak Geocaching iPhone Application).
We have a container in our car full of stickers, temporary tattoos, rubber lizards, bouncy balls, rings, and other penny carnival treasures. Upon finding the geocache, we sign a log book with our team name, take some stuff, and leave some of ours. Linking between the iPhone app and the compass on the phone, we “usually” find the cache without too much trouble (geocaches can’t be buried, but are sometimes placed under rocks and in hollowed out trees). It’s important to return the geocache exactly where you found it, and take the time to log your find on geocaching.com. Some geocache owners even leave a disposable camera in their container as a photo log (this is especially fun when kids are involved on both ends).
For families going on a road trip, one way to explore different regions of the country is to incorporate geocaching into your vacation. Many visitor bureaus, state parks, and even resorts maintain their own special geocaching programs as a way to teach social studies, geography, and even history about their region. Many of these programs are on geocaching.com, some are not. Visit the Geocaching column on Road Trips for Families to get some ideas or just call ahead.
Reading a book like the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Geocaching may be particularly helpful if you are considering a bigger adventure or investing in technology like a handheld GPS unit specifically used for finding geocaches. Whether you research, jump in, or dabble in a geocache or two, you may just be surprised to find that you get as much out of the game as the kids do. The sense of mystery, adventure, and teamwork may just be enough to call “family bonding” by another name: go 4X4 it!
- What do you think? Have you ever geocached before — on your own or with the kids? Let me know how it went and what tips you might have! If you’ve never done it before, do you think you might give it a go? I’m going to give it a try locally first before heading out on a big road trip (here is the link to Ottawa geocaches — it looks fun!).