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geocaching: what it is & why we’re hooked

geocaching: what it is and why we're hookedRight now, we’re 2 for 6.

That’s right–2/6. 2:6?

And today we totally thought we had one, but we didn’t.

We’ll masters by wintertime, after a fall of not worrying about poison ivy or scratched legs or sunburn.

We’ll move from ‘navigating to geocache’ to using the map or compass (on the phone, of course), and maybe the kids will even have their own Geomate.jr.

We’ll know every attribute symbol by heart.

Decrypting hints will become second-nature.  ROT13, anyone?

We’ll look for–and log–trackables or travel bugs and never alert the muggles.

Every logbook will have our initials, and we’ll know exactly how to read d/t (levels of difficulty and terrain, hello) like the back of our hand.

I’m talking ‘geocaching’ here if you haven’t already guessed, and after becoming geocachers this July, we’re hooked.  Seriously hooked.

Well, most of us are.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Geocaching–What it is & Why We’re Hooked:  So ‘geocaching’. What on earth is it, anyway?

Geocaching is a free real-world outdoor treasure hunt. Players try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using a smartphone or GPS and can then share their experiences online (straight from the Geocaching site, yo!).

what is geocaching?

Boys’ Life Series: Let’s Go Geocaching by John Mckinney got us interested in geocaching. . .

what is geocaching

but the search is what got us hooked!

What does ‘geocaching’ mean?

‘Geo’ refers to ‘geography’ and a ‘cache’ is a container (strange, I know, but pronounced ‘cash’), so ‘geocaching’ is simply the act of hiding–or seeking–a little container using geographical coordinates.  Or you can look at it as ‘geo’ meaning ‘earth’ and interpret ‘geocaching’ as finding a small container somewhere outdoors.  Either way works.

Before we got started, we did a little reading.

We found Boys’ Life Series: Let’s Go Geocaching by John Mckinney at the library.  We read it cover to cover and renewed it three times. No joke.  I found it extremely easy to understand and at a perfect level of difficulty for Maddy and Owen to read independently.

geocaching prep

We poked around on the geocaching site.

geocaching prep

We decoded a hint or two.  We were ready!

So what did we do next? How’d we go from reading about geocaching to becoming geocachers?

  • We visited the website: geocaching.com. And we played around, watching the video, reading about the caches close to us, and registering on the site. It’s all free unless you want to upgrade to a premium membership, which (shhhhh!) we did after our first find.
  •  Then we downloaded the app: geocaching for smartphones.  (But you do not necessarily need a smartphone to geocache!! You do need to have a GPS device or a GPS-enabled phone to navigate to the cache, though.)
  • We found the cache closest to where we wanted to begin, we read the logs, decoded the hint, and we clicked ‘navigate to cache’.
  •  Finally, we jumped in the car and headed out for our first cache!

what is geocaching

Maddy navigates to our first geocache. . .

what is geocaching

. . . and we tried and tried. . .

what is geocaching

. . . and tried some more. . .

geocaching pool - spoiler

And we FOUND IT!!

what is geocaching

This one was a micro, so no treasures–just a teeny, tiny log that we signed.

And then we danced around.

It. Was. Awesome.

We were instantly hooked.

Geocaching is like a treasure hunt outdoors. It’s a secret club that makes us look at our surroundings a little differently.

For some reason, it makes this great, big world seem a little . . .  smaller.  Like the whole world’s really a big playground.

geocaching park

Near one of our most favorite parks. . .

geocaching park

. . . we geocached up to 7 meters away from the cache but just couldn’t find it!

Every time we get in the car now, Owen asks, Can I see your phone? I want to find a closeby geocache.

So he pokes around, reads a few logs, and gets us on track to find one–when we’re running errands, when we’re at the park, when we’re on our way home, when we just need a fun diversion.

Geocaches. Are. Everywhere.

And like I said, we’re 2 for 6. We’ve found two. We tried for six.

Our record’s not great.  But we’re still hooked, and that should tell you something.

geocaching butterfly

Owen unrolls our second find–

geocaching butterfly

which was hidden near our bank, grocery, gas station–right in the center of town!

We’re lucky with micros (super, small, teeny-tiny geocaches) but not so lucky with the bigger ones.   But since most of the bigger ones are in the woods–or a little deeper out of sight, we’re going for those this fall.

I’m sure I’m missing some big geocaching pieces here, but for the recreational geocacher–especially for the family with young children–we’re enjoying it. 

And this mama believes geocaching is the ultimate sneaky-fun learning:

  • we’re looking at distances as we navigate to caches and giving the kids a sense of how far x-amount of feet or meters is from us;
  • we’re figuring out our position in relation to the cache;
  • we’re using direction–north, south, east, west–as we decide which way to walk;
  • we’re employing our critical thinking skills as we decode the hint and interpret what it means;
  • we’re reading past logs and synthesizing responses;
  • we’re getting out in nature, exploring our parks, routes, walks, and world in a way we haven’t experienced;
  • we’re looking at our surroundings with closer eyes and careful steps;
  • we’re practicing the difficult skills of patience, endurance, and handling disappointment;
  • we’re learning–each time!–and are excited to become better at our geocaching skills.

And that’s it–we’ve been geocachin’ fools for a good two months now, so we’ll just catchya in the logbooks, okay? And any advice, ideas, suggestions, or resources YOU have, I’d love to see!  We’re newbies–and we want to learn!

Some geocaching resources for the newbies:

 

fyi: Affiliate links are included in this unsponsored post, written by totally new geocacher (me) and influenced only by my three little geocachers and my geocaching dog.

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Comment (53) | Leave a comment

  1. We love geocaching too! We found one last night that was by this huge fallen tree on a CLIFF (um, did someone forget to check the terrain?!) and it was guarded by a huge spider! But we found it, and it had a trackable (we love them).

    Here’s one of my many posts about geocaching-http://organicaspirations.blogspot.com/2012/08/jakes-rock.html

    I hope you guys keep caching, and I think I might get the book out of the library for my kids!

    Reply
    • Awesome, Becki! Thanks for sharing! I look forward to reading your post and can definitely agree that some are in CRAZY hiding spots! The spider would have been enough to scare me away, I am afraid. . . Happy geocaching!

      Reply
  2. Great post Amy!! Love getting the kids outside and finding secrets :) We’ve gone on 2 hunts and we’re 1 for 2 – but you’re right, you get hooked quickly. Planning on doing more this fall with the wonderful weather – and I got to work with a cool Kansas City org to HIDE a new cache (I’ll let you know about it in an upcoming post :) Your post will certainly inspire families to get outside and have some fun!

    Reply
    • Jacquie! Thanks SO much, my friend!! I’m DYING to read your post! You actually got to hide one for Kansas City??! LUCKY! It’s our goal to hide our own by winter. . . eeeee! so fun

      Reply
  3. One thing I am learning is that geocache hiders have a personality that carries over with each of their caches. So if one is hard to find, see how they have hidden others which might give you clues to find that one you can’t.

    Comments/pictures left by previous finders also have some clues as to where & how to find a particular cache.

    <3 a good cache! It gives my family a good activity to do together. I also try to get friends to go along with us for a picnic & geocache.

    Reply
    paco rich
    18/09/2012
    • Thank you thank you thank you!! Clearly–with our 2/6 record–we don’t yet know enough to look for personality in hiding, but we will get there! I know it! Yes, pictures and comments help–and I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to share these tips–you rock!

      Reply
  4. My husband discovered geocaching about a year ago. He thought it sounded like so much fun, but we never did anything with it. But I have a new excitement about it and I will remind him. We will do this!!!

    Reply
    Brandy
    18/09/2012
  5. I have never heard of this until today, and I love it! Is this world-wide, or just in the states? Living abroad I have learned to ask first!

    Thanks for all your amazing ideas and inspiration. I find myself checking your site constantly and I guess you could almost say I’m addicted! That’s a good thing! :-)

    Reply
    Traci
    18/09/2012
    • Traci–IT’S WORLDWIDE!!! There are 1,890,278 active geocaches and over 5 million geocachers worldwide (taken from geocaching.com)

      Reply
  6. This is such good educational fun. I know it is here in Grand Marais, and all over Minnesota. A very talented parent volunteer made a hunt on the school yard and took a few students at a time to the locations (a few years ago). This is exciting for kids and adults!

    Reply
  7. I’ve never heard of this. Sounds fun. Do you hide things for other geocachers? Who does the hiding? It sounds very complicated!

    Reply
    • I know, right?? So fun. Check out the link to the site for the answers to your ?’s–not bc I can’t answer them but bc there’s a little video—2min–that really helps explain this stuff!

      Reply
  8. Amy.
    Have you tried Letterboxing? We found that this was more our youngest speed (close to the same age as Cora) but Letterboxing is more treasure hunt without the technology. There are clues online at http://www.letterboxing.org Then you select your area and print off the clues. Some use real compasses, but these are boxes that are hidden just likes geos’ but they have rubber stamps to stamp your log book with and some are hand carved with a picture of that location. We have found that we like both, but have been more successful with letterboxing than geocaching.
    HAppy hunting

    Reply
    • Robin! NO, I haven’t tried it, but several of my friends have recommended it, saying that it’s great for kids and especially younger ones!! They’ve also said it’s a little more artsy and crafty than geocaching, which I’m sure my kids would love! Will have to check it out–for sure!

      Reply
  9. do you have to have a smart phone to do this?? I have the old school phone and can’t get it on my old phone but I really want to try this.

    Reply
    cheryl
    18/09/2012
    • NO!! I should have clarified that, Cheryl! YOU DO NOT need a smart phone to geocache!! Print out directions from the computer–on the geocaching site–and you’re good to go!

      Reply
  10. I read this article this afternoon and within an hour, had registered online, downloaded the app and my entire family went and found our first geocache! It was fun for my 13 year old and the 4 year old. We are hooked. Talk about higher level thinking!

    Reply
    Ari0429
    18/09/2012
    • OMG you are a star!! HOW totally exciting! You’re 1 for 1 on day #1!!!!

      Reply
  11. We love geocaching too! It is definitely easier in the late fall, winter, and early spring when the leaves are down. We usually stick to the “one star” for difficulty caches so that we can actually find them. Kids are 8,6, and 2 so it can’t be too hard! I think you live near me, so here are three good ones for kids to find: There is one at Flower Valley Park; one at the Rockville Ice Arena; and one at Croydon Creek Nature Center. We have found several more in the area, but those stick out as ones that were the most fun. Great post! And, I learned some new things to get my kids reading about it when we try this fall!

    Reply
    sarah
    18/09/2012
    • Sarah! THANK you!!! I am totally up for trying out those three caches–totally appreciate the feedback, my friend! Maybe soon we’ll be 5/9, thanks to YOU! We also stick to 1-stars, but I’ll tell you, that last one was logged a 1-star but we believe it was a 2- or 3- . . . Happy geocaching and thank you thank you for reading!! Hope to catch you on the hunt!

      Reply
  12. I love to hear about families that geocache! My husband designs and makes the “trackables” and other geocaching stuff that you use! Have a fun time caching. In no time you’ll be able to spot them fast.

    Reply
    • Amy–NO WAY!! So you’re like a superstar geocacher by marriage??!! Omg you made my day!!!!!

      Reply
  13. We do letterboxing and having even planted a box (no one has looked for yet to my knowledge :( My brothers and some friends do geocaching and I downloaded an app to my phone, but I’m finding my phone is not nearly as accurate as their GPS systems. We are 0/1 and have a much better letterboxing record! But there are 2 caches at the park across the street from us that we hope to find soon!

    Reply
    Lexi
    19/09/2012
    • Lexi–HOW awesome!!? I think my phone is a bit off with the GPS, too–which is why we’re going to hope that Santa brings the kids a GPS of their own this Christmas! So looks like I should explore letterboxing a bit more. . .

      Reply
  14. I’m going to get that book from the library and we will try one this fall. I think the boys will LOOOOVE this!

    Reply
    Heather K
    20/09/2012
  15. We, or my husband, are avid geocachers with over 10,00 finds. We have three kids 9, 7, and 7. It has taking us to some amazing places. Here is a video that might give you a better understanding. In this video the boys were three and my little girl is 5. We love geocaching!!!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGubwyThTU0

    Reply
    Nichole Jordan
    21/09/2012
  16. My son and husband started this today! I remembered you had posted and they read this great intro to it. Thank you!

    Reply
  17. Great article! My son started geocaching when he was seven. He learned about it at Cub Scout camp and came home all excited. We hooked him up and he is constantly on the geocaching site drawing maps of places we might be visiting in the hopes he can go geocaching. He drives his 12 year old sister CRAZY with them! I was looking to see what area you were in and noticed that you might be very close to a lot of “virtual” geocaches. We visited the Capital last year, and I’m guessing you can’t really hide stuff in a city with so much security! My son LOVED looking for the “ghost” geocaches that usually involve taking a picture in front of a famous monument or counting the stairs at the Jefferson Memorial. We probably saw a lot of interesting things we would not have noticed if not for geocaching. He is nine now, has found over 300 geocaches, and finally hid his first cache about a month ago. He loves checking the log to see what people have to say about it! Good luck with your hunts!

    Reply
    Heather
    03/01/2013
    • Heather!!! You guys are geocaching rockstars!!! WOW!! I am so intrigued–I had no idea about ‘ghost caches’–cannot wait to check them out! AND 300??! omg be still my heart. . .thanks for reading, and HUGE thanks for taking the time to write, my friend!!

      Reply
  18. We discovered caching on August 1, 2012. My oldest accidentally discovered one at our health dept. As of today we’re up to 523. I’m hoping to hit 1000 by our one year anniversary. Since discovering it (me and my 3 kids) we have ensnared one exbf, the current bf, 2 bf’s and their families, at least one of their friends, and my cousin wants to try it. We/I have made many new friends. We have discovered many beautiful places we never knew existed so close to home. My oldest is discovering leadership qualities and self confidence. All 3 children are learning to work together. They aren’t sitting in front of a tv or a video game (I do have to force the 8 yr old son to put those down some days though.) We’re outside, breathing fresh air, in the sunshine, exercising. 2 thumbs up! Favorite point! I am not a premium member yet. I need to be. Oh yes, and I hid my 6th hide today for my bff.

    Reply
    Shortcacher
    13/02/2013
    • WOW! Yes, you are a super star Geocacher!! I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to write! Though we are on the early end of caching, I hope to someday be able to share stats like yours!! AWESOME stuff, isn’t it? Huge thanks for reading and taking the time to share, my friend! Perhaps we’ll ‘cache’ you on the hunt one day?

      Reply
  19. I’ve always wanted to try this, but I think our smallest is still a bit little (he’s two). But one day, when everyone is bigger and more able to go the distance we are going to head up our mountain and find treasure!

    Reply
    • Kate! you will LOVE it, but yes, I think your tiny one would make it hard–because some of these are hidden in GREAT places! Perhaps it’s worth seeking an easy one (they’re rated by level of difficulty) or finding a sitter for your littlest while you all go out?

      Reply
  20. I heard about geocaching about 6 years ago. Between my husband and I we’ve found about 60 caches, but i told my Mom about it 4 years ago and since then her and her boyfriend have found over 1,000 caches in the US and several other countries. It’s great because when you go visit places there is ALWAYS something to do, and I love logging miles on trackables when I go visit another place far away. We started taking my son when he was really small, but over the past 6 months (he is almost 3 years old) he has really gotten into it. And when I say “really” I mean…. he will really burst into tears if we don’t find a “cache box” (that’s what he calls it). HE LOOOOVES it. It’s great because we can go hiking too. My Mom has hidden several in her hometown including one that is named after my son.

    Reply
    Kate
    17/05/2013
    • KATE! Omg you are a geocaching superstar. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post–and respond. I am always amazed at how far you can go with these. . . your mom found 1000 caches!?? And your son loves it, too? You’re like the poster family for geocaching. I love it!

      Reply
  21. Geocaching is our favorite family activity now. We moved away from our hometown about a year ago and it’s really helped me get to know our new place. Taking me all over town and making me stare at a map for hours. We started when our youngest was 3 weeks old. We also check the app often (we use C:geo because it’s FREE!) and grab caches when we are running errands or have some time to kill between appointments. Park and grabs are our favorite because I usually don’t like unbuckling all the kids and trekking them all over in the heat. Sometimes a girl just needs a smiley.

    Reply
    • AWESOME!! Paula, I didn’t even think about trying geocaching to check out a new city–cool idea! Thanks so much for writing, and I will def check out that app as well!

      Reply
  22. OMG!!! We just tried this today and we had a blast!! The kids kept saying it was the best day ever and begging to do “just one more”! Plus, B kept asking me, “But, how did you know about geocaching, Mom?” Wink wink! Thanks for all the info on your site!

    Reply
    Dana
    15/06/2014
    • DANA!!! YAY~! so, so, so happy to hear it! Sounds like it was awesome and that you guys found a few!! Keep me up to date and let me know if you (gasp!) ever hide one yourselves!! SO fun!

      Reply
  23. Hi Amy –

    Thought you might want to pass this along for field trip ideas for teachers. It has the instructions to set up a good geocaching outing:

    http://www.pinterest.com/pin/29836416256342305/

    Reply
  24. I thought I should mention checking with your local recreation center. Ours gives us the option of renting a GPS (for geocaching) for $5 a day. Its a great way to explore your local area (or a new one) while also spending time with friends and/or family. There are tons of caches out there, chances are you either walk or drive by one every day.

    Reply
    Shelly
    24/07/2014

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