Last weekend we wanted to do something DIFFERENT.
We toyed with the idea of taking a "field trip" to a state park we had never visited in Georgia. We talked about going bowling. In the end, we wanted something that didn't cost much, that would be fun, help us explore new places, and keep the kids learning.
My husband came home from work on Friday and told me we would be geocaching the next day.
It was THE MOST fun day!
If you're like me, you've heard a lot about geocaching but never knew quite where to start, or really even exactly what it was. According to Geocaching.com:
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.
Chances are there are several geocaches in your immediate area. We went out for a few hours on Saturday - located 4 sites and found 2 "treasures". Warning: this can get a bit addictive. As we were heading home I was checking on my phone telling my husband "Oh, but there's another one 1.2 miles from here - let's go find it!"
In my limited experience I'll try to help you get started:
Go to Geocaching.com or get the app Geocaching Intro
The website provides a lot of great tips for getting started. My husband downloaded the app, which is a very good BASIC help. We found, however, that downloading the full app was very helpful. It was $9.99 - a small price to pay for what will be months and months of adventure.
You can either use information from the website and plug it into your GPS, or use your smartphone.
As you can see, the app uses your location to show you geocaches that are nearby. They are rated by level of difficulty, terrain and size.
The first one we found was "Trees of Fayette and Coweta #2" -- so we found the cache under some oak trees just 2 miles from our home! It was fun finding the cache, and we also snuck some science in by talking about the type of tree while we were there. I want to go and find the other trees in our county the next time we go! (I could see this turning into another week of outdoor schooling in the future.)
Wear Tennis Shoes, Comfy Clothes, Bug Spray and Pack a Cooler
You might be hiking into some terrain where you will need your tennis shoes. If it's buggy, take the bug spray. To keep your kids chugging for the entire time, pack water bottles and their favorite snacks.
Carry "Trinkets" With You
Many geocaches contain little items you may take and replace with something else. A friend of mine recommended small items from the dollar store. Your kids may even have these things around the house: bouncy balls, erasers, pins, trading cards, etc...
Some geocaches just have you sign a log and that's it. We found some with treasures inside, but we weren't prepared to leave anything in return, so we just left them as is.
Be Prepared to "Hunt"
Our first cache was easy to find. We never did find the second one.
The third one was found by my daughter, but it was hidden very well in some evergreens. Can you see it?
Part of the fun of geocaching is using the clues provided and then examining your surroundings carefully. We miss so much in life by not paying attention! I love that geocaching required us to observe everything!
You will be given clues and pictures that might help you find the cache, so you do get a little assistance.
Swallow Your "Pride"
Our very last hunt for treasure led us to a shopping center we frequent quite often. It led us around the back of a TARGET, and up into the woods behind the store. Because of my back, I chose not to climb up the hill and into the woods behind the store, but my children and husband happily ventured to find the "Japanese Peanut Butter". (This location was also right behind a Japanese restaurant, and was hidden in a peanut butter jar covered with camoflauge duct tape - clever, huh?)
As I'm standing on the sidewalk calling out to them I received several strange looks from cars passing by. It was quite comical, actually.
After about ten minutes I heard loud screams of "WE FOUND IT!" - and then my husband texted me this:
Benefits of Geocaching
We plan to geocache again! My husband and I could see so many benefits just after our first time:
- It is an economical way to spend time together as a family
- You can learn more about your community - or, if you are traveling - find out about fun places where you are.
- It forces everyone to PAY ATTENTION to their surroundings and really THINK.
- I can't tell you the excitement and proud feelings when the kids each found a cache - this is worth so much!
- It would be a fun activity to bring a group of people together to achieve a common goal (I'm thinking youth groups or a small homeschool group in particular).
Of course, geocaching makes you hungry, so a stop for yogurt might be necessary. Care to venture a guess as to who the nut is in my family??
All in all, it was a GOOD DAY!