As most things do, it just popped into my head today that I wanted to try geocaching. The weather has turned cooler, was just lovely today, with a high of 68 degrees Farenheit. I knew I wanted to get out of the house and do something new and different. I also really wanted to get some exercise.
I started out by searching Amazon.com for geocaching gps units. When I saw the price I knew that wasn't going to work for us. I then asked my 19 year old son, "I wonder if I can use my Droid as a geocaching gps unit?" He thought it was a good possibility so I did a search on my phone for geocaching apps. There were two, one that was free and one that was $9.95. I figured the $10 one must be superior, have special features and the free one must be inferior. Then I checked the reviews and the free app seemed to be more popular. In a few minutes it was downloaded and opened up. I needed to log in. Hmmm, okay, headed to http://geocaching.com and created an account. Then I logged in with my free app. I used the website to locate geocache sites within a few miles of my home then found them on my phone (it was faster to do the initial searches on my laptop but you can certainly use your smartphone to locate geocaches). I chose one in a nearby state park. I knew most of the trails at the park, this one was located on a green trail (which means easy to hike), and I knew it shouldn't be too strenuous.
Now to get the boys out the door. For some reason they didn't seem terribly excited about geocaching. I would have absolutely loved this activity when I was their ages -- modern treasure hunting. But an hour or two later and they actually, mostly had shoes on and water to drink. I say mostly because one of my teenagers actually walked out the door in his socks without his shoes. Some days . . .
A five minute drive and we had arrived at the state park. A little walk across the road brought us to the trail. Because we had brought my camera and because I was trying to learn foraging for wild edibles the walk wasn't quick. We stopped a lot to take photos of mushrooms. The boys really started to get into photographing the scenery, the odd phenomena, strange rock formations, odd growths, and spider webs. After about 25 minutes we arrived at a place in the trail where we needed to head north according to my smartphone app. Time to go off trail. The geocaching app showed that the geocache was 33 meters to the north. My 16 year old headed uphill, into the woods following the compass provided with the app. We had switched from map to compass view when we left the trail.
After less than a minute my boys announced that they had found it in a grotto, and there it was, an ammo box clearly marked. I stopped the boys from grabbing the box and diving in, insisting that we chronicle this moment, our very first geocache, with photos. So my 19 year old started snapping shots.
Finally, it was time to open the box. My 16 year old had the honors while we other two looked on. What a fun experience. The first item was a character flashlight, then came a McDonald's Beanie Baby, vintage salt shaker in the form of a rooster, an ethernet cable, swizzle stick, rubber penguin key chain, the log book, pens, a box with some kind of spell contained, and instructions for geocaching.
It took us a long time to choose what we wanted. Strangely enough my son chose a glow stick that no longer glowed. We left a Red Rose Tea figurine. The rules are that you leave something of equal or greater value than what you remove from the box.
Seeing the different types of treasure within the box gave me a better idea of what we might leave in the future.
I wrote in the log book provided, recording my geocache username and the names my boys chose to use. We then closed up the box and replaced it in the exact same place we found it.
When I got home I logged in our visit. That updated the geocaching.com website to show a visit to that geocache today.
There are so many geocache sites within 5-10 miles of our home that it will take us weeks, if not months, to visit them all. I figure this will be a great Saturday activity for our family and look forward to more of these delightful treasure hunts.