Children have been fascinated by treasure hunts for decades. Secret clues hidden in carefully thought out spots eventually leading the seekers to their treasure have excited and entertained every generation. However, a new sort of modern day treasure hunt has suddenly become a popular past time for many technologically savvy families. It's called Geocaching. If you haven't heard much about it yet, we have all the tips and information about how to become a Geocacher right here.
What is Geocaching?
You may not have realized it before but there are small carefully hand-made caches hidden all over the world. And it is very likely that there are a number of caches hidden in your own neighborhood too. Each one has been assigned specific coordinates and listed on the Geocaching website. Once a cacher has put these coordinates into their GPS device, the cache can be found. Geocaching is a fun, free and different way to connect with your community while enjoying an adventure (and perhaps some fresh air and exercise) along the way.
Where do you begin?
First make sure that you have a GPS device. A phone with GPS capabilities works just as well. (In fact, there is a specific Geocaching app that is helpful for those using their phones.) Next, visit the Geocaching website. There is a helpful introductory video explaining how it works on the home page. Be sure to set up a free account and pick a user name that is easy to remember because you will use it often. Then plug in your zip code and click on "Map It." All of the caches hidden in your area will pop up. Click on one you would like to find, program its coordinates into your GPS device and you are ready to go!
Where are caches found?
Everywhere. Caches can be found outdoors, indoors, in shopping plazas, on nature trails, at local memorials, on playgrounds, near schools and even in bodies of water. Some are as small as a magnet attached to a lamp post; others are large camouflaged Tupperware containers. As you browse the available caches in your area, you will notice how much creativity goes into setting up a cache. Each one is different which means each cache will offer you and your family a new experience.
Tips and Hints
Before you head out, you should make sure you understand as much about Geocaching as you can to make your adventure a little easier. Here are some recommended tips and hints to help out new Cachers.
Read Ahead. We recommend that you read all of the information about the cache that is provided online. Make note of its difficulty, the size of the cache and the kind of terrain involved. Often there is a hint that you will need to decode with a very easy key. Other times the provided hints are tricky and require a little homework beforehand. Be sure to have all of the information you need about the cache before you go so that you have some idea about what to expect and what you are looking for.
Be prepared. Depending on where your cache is, you will need to do some significant seeking. Often caches are hidden in overgrowth or in a tree or who knows where. If it is an outdoor cache, wear hiking clothes, socks and good shoes. Find a good stick to help you poke around. Never reach for the cache before making sure there are no little critters hiding out around it. You might even want a pair of garden gloves in case you have to pull back some overgrowth. Bring water, snacks and sunscreen for the whole family too.
Seek thoughtfully. Once you have arrived at the coordinates, the cache is usually not very obvious. While standing at the location's coordinates, Cachers need to think carefully about where they would hide a cache themselves. Review the tips and be observant. The cache should reveal itself eventually.
Come bearing gifts. Every cache has a small collection of treasures. They are not valuable but their purpose is for trade. So if you want to take a trinket, be sure to replace it with one of your own. Also, bring a pen or pencil and remember your Geocache user name. There is usually a log that visitors sign at each cache.
Be stealthy. Unfortunately caches are sometimes found and taken. Usually an explanation about the cache is left inside in case a non-seeker (fondly called a "Geo Muggle") happens across it. Of course not every Muggle is a nice Muggle, so caches can disappear at times. So as not to attract any attention to the cache, be stealthy. Be casual. Try not to be obvious about your find. And then replace it exactly where you found it. That way it can remain hidden and protected for the next Cacher to find.
Cache In, Trash Out. One extra rule that many Geocachers abide by is "cache in, trash out." In other words, while you are Geocaching take the time to take trash out with you. So be sure have a plastic bag on hand and do your part to clean the environment you are exploring on your hunt.
Have Fun. Geocaching should be a fun treasure hunt. Make sure your children are involved in the process as much as possible. Have them hold the GPS device and lead the way. Make sure they decode the hints when they can. Give them a chance to find it. Pick caches with an appropriate difficulty level considering those coming along with you. You may not find it in the end, and that's OK too. The adventure along the way is always the best part of the experience.
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