You awake to the sound of your daughter’s voice. “Mom, Dad! It’s time to get up!” The clock reads 5:45 a.m. – 30 minutes before sunrise. The three of you dress quickly, rush out the door, and pile into the minivan. The grass is wet with dew, and steam is rising from the water as you arrive at the lake just as the sun appears over the horizon. Your daughter pauses at the trail head to peer at the GPS receiver dangling from the lanyard around her neck. “The coordinates are three tenths of a mile that way,” she says, pointing to the path ahead. The three of you walk briskly along the trail. “One tenth of a mile,” she calls out as your pace quickens. “200 feet… 100 feet… 50 feet.” You pause at “25 feet” as the GPS pointer turns 90 degrees off the trail. Your daughter is the first to spot the faint path into the woods. She dives into the underbrush. Crouching, the two of you follow. By the time you arrive at the gnarled roots of an ancient tree, your daughter has the prize in her hand – a camouflaged metal container with a familiar green sticker labeled GEOCACHE. The three of you open the container together to find a few small trinkets and a blank logbook. High-fives are exchanged as you realize you are the “FTF” (First To Find) the cache. After signing the log and replacing the container, your daughter casually comments, “There are three more caches on this trail.” You smile. What the heck, the day is young!
“Geocaching” has been described as “hiking with a purpose” and is a great way to exercise and enjoy the outdoors with family of all ages. Geocaches are hidden all over the world, in both rural and urban areas. In fact, there are likely caches hidden right in your own neighborhood – possibly within walking distance of your home. To find geocaches near you, simply sign up for a free account on the website. The site allows you to view maps and download coordinates to geocaches. You can even download a free geocaching app to your GPS enabled smart phone.
Geocaching isn’t just about finding little treasure boxes in woods. It’s also about getting away from your TV, computer, or game console. It’s about being physically active, getting out into the real world, and sharing experiences with family and friends. One of the most common statements made by geocachers is, “I would never have known this place existed if it were not for geocaching!”
Are you a geocacher? What got you started?