Family Adventure Days began when my husband and I realized that while we were all together at home on the weekends, we weren’t actually tuning into each other as a family. With the temptations of video games, tv, and the internet at home, we decided to set aside one day each weekend that we are able to leave the house and get out and have some fun together as a family. This began last September and has been the best thing that ever happened to the Jordans! Hope you enjoy this post and be sure to enter my big Nestle giveaway at the bottom!
Today’s post is an introduction to a really fun family activity that ensure you and your family never says “There isn’t anything to do today” again!
I had never heard of Geocaching until Kathi left a comment on my first ever Family Adventure Day post singing its praises and asking me to look into it for my family. Well, I did and boy howdee were we ever hooked. We have gone on all sorts of Geocache hunts since then, even working it into our date nights, and have found that there is never a lack of things to do as long as you have a handy gps and a bit of an adventuring spirit.
What is Geocaching?
I’m glad you asked :). Geocaching is often called a “high tech treasure hunt”. All around the world (and yes, even in your neighborhood) there are little caches located for you to find. Folks have hidden these caches and then logged their gps coordinates with geocaching.com. So basically, you go to the website (or use a phone application like I do), look up the coordinates of the caches that are near you or where you are going to be, and then set off hunting! All you need to participate is a GPS device.
But What’s in the Caches?
Great question and this is where it gets even more fun! Some caches are so tiny that all they can hold is a little log, like this one.
You’ll be able to see what size cache you are looking for when searching, this log is from a size called “Nano”, they are the tiniest ones. When you find them you just write your team name and date on the log and then put it back where you got it. Later, when you get home, you can log onto the website and list this as one your team has found! These nano are usually magnetic and can be disguised as anything. I’ve found them more often than not placed where a bolt might be or a door pin.
We looked for ages in a parking garage at a nearby shopping center for one that was supposed to be there and never found it. On our way up the escalator after we had given up we looked and it was sitting right on top of the door hinge, looking like part of the pin! I have seen some that look just like bolts, only they are magnetized and the head screws off to reveal the log.
From there the caches get a little larger, this one is a film canister with a log inside that was sealed in a plastic bag to prevent moisture.
You see, they can be anything and anywhere. This one was found under the square base of a light pole. The GPS took me to the spot, I lifted the base plate up and Voila!
(uh oh, Christy is pullin’ out the high school french class, y’all stand back)
Then they get even bigger..like this one..
This is an old army ammo box we found in a state park. These types of caches are the kids favorites because they usually contain “treasure”! Caches of this size can be anything from an army ammo box to a bit of tupperware. I’ve also seen some coffee cans used as caches as well.
This type usually has what Geocachers refer to as “Swag”, little toys or items for whoever finds it to choose from. The rules are: You leave a small item and take a small item. I’m personally fond of leaving rubber duckies. The kids have gotten everything from playdoh to happy meal toys to action figures. Whenever we plan a family day of geocaching I try to work in at least one of these types of caches but we enjoy finding them all.
Sometimes me and my Bradybug go out night-caching in urban spots just to have a little Mama/Brady time.
Katy especially loves the caches on hiking trails. She says she is “A real mountain girl!”.
I prefer urban geocaching, which is looking within a city for caches. The reason for this is due to the first ever time we went geocaching. We looked online and found a local hiking trail we wanted to go on to find what was supposed to be a really cool cache. Well, we set off a looking, neither of us having been to this trail before. We parked and planned on being gone half an hour at most. Long story short (shocks you when I do that, I know), we ended up back at the car a full three hours later, panting, thirsty, and grateful we weren’t going to be the subject of a Lifetime movie night.
Here is my Geocaching Safety Tip #1: Most folks will tell you to never leave the trail when hiking and that is all good and well but I would personally advise you not to go geocaching in unfamiliar woods unless you are very good with a compass and directions. That leaves every member of my family out – and yet we still manage to have fun caching so there is hope for everyone!
This is a photo of us geocaching at a local park. Just this one park has several caches hidden within it.
We like to take the dog whenever we can 🙂
Sometimes you just can’t seem to find the cache…
Like the time we went looking for one at a restaurant and Ricky became convinced it was somehow in this grate.
We never did find that one but we all had fun watching Ricky look!
~giggles~ The cool thing about Geocaching is that it challenges you to always be thinking outside of the box. Some of the containers and hiding places are very creative and challenging and the containers can really be just about anything. They even make some that you hang in trees and they look like bugs!
This is all good and well, Christy, but how do I actually do it?
First off, go to Geocaching.com to download the iPhone app or find information on using a GPS. Okay so here is how the Geocaching app works for the iPhone. If you are going to use a handheld or car GPS device you can just visit Geocaching.com for instructions but this will still give you a good general idea.
The only expense in geocaching is your GPS, once you buy that you’re off to the races. We don’t use a GPS though, we use the GPS in our iPhone and the Geocaching iPhone app, which costs about ten dollars.
Most folks, I think, use a GPS and it is up to you which one you go with. I think I like the iPhone best because that is what I learned to do it on so it is most familiar and convenient for me. Plus, I always have it with me.
Never know when you’re gonna get bored and decide to geocache…We’ve been in malls and restaurants and went off caching on the spur of the moment.
Okay so here is how we do it on the iPhone. You touch where it says “find nearby caches”
This screen comes up. From here you can touch any cache and find out all of the details on it.
We can find out what size it is, where it is located, description of the container and contents, who hid it and when, we can even read logs of who found it recently where they might give us hints or talk about how hard or easy it was to find. Some folks even post photos of them with or near the cache (taking care not to give away the location). You can’t see all of these options on here because you’d have to scroll down on the screen but I wanted to show you a general idea.
Okay, so then we click that button that says “navigate to cache”… and here is what we get next.
BING! A map! the blue dot is you, the green whoshiewhatsit is the cache. Now you can just use that little map to navigate you right to it. The top right corner will tell you about how many feet away you are so you’ll know when you are close.
Important safety rule #2. IF you are caching in a car, you need someone riding shotgun to navigate to the cache.
This should be common sense but apparently the common sense train done left the station and an awful lot of folks stayed behind. I’m still scratching my head over all of these campaigns to stop texting while driving. That seems kinda common sense to me but apparently it isn’t judging by the massive oprah-esque billboards, commercials, flashing signs, and every other campaign trying to ban it. I have these “duh” moments more and more often here lately…
Oh, see that little button in the top right that says “View Compass” well if you are good with a compass, you can click it and get this…
~stares blankly at the screen~
Y’all I might as well be reading hieroglyphics because I haven’t got a blessed clue what I’m looking at here.
So I don’t ever use that screen. If you want to, knock yourself out.
This is a photo of the log on one of the caches. If you use the iPhone app, you can log your find right from your phone. These logs are important because sometimes caches get “muggled”, which is what we call it when someone who is not familiar with caching find a cache and takes it. You can’t blame them really. “Hey! Someone left me a whole box of rubber duckies!”. I can see how they’d think it was abandoned…okay well kinda sorta.
Either way sometimes caches disappear. They are muggled and perhaps destroyed by weather. So if you go to a cache and can’t find it, check and see if anyone has found it lately and then you can have a pretty good idea of whether or not you should continue your search.
Okay so I’m kind of a geocaching wimp. I’ll look for ya for about ten minutes and then I’m done. Also, if it involves ants, spiders, or getting my hair wet, count me out. I WILL however, walk two miles to be able to exchange a rubber duckie for a scooby doo pencil and sign a log book 🙂
Some neat Caches we’ve found:
People get VERY creative with their caches and the container can be pretty much anything. I even found a cache once hidden in the hollow of a tree that was an actual acorn with a nano capsule hidden in it!
Our very first cache was found here. You can’t tell it but the cache is located on this fence. See how cool this is? There is hidden treasure all around you, likely right where you are right now, and only geocachers know it!
Some folks get really neat with their caches and do series based on things. This is my cousin Michael. He and I were both born and raised in Huntsville, Alabama. There is the neatest series of caches there called “The Way We Were” that focuses on hiding caches around old Huntsville Landmarks that don’t exist anymore. This makes it a great series for Huntsville Natives to because you have to know what the city looked like ten or twenty years ago to be able to know where to look (Okay, you can just use GPS coordinates to find them but where is the fun in THAT? Oh look, there is a cache where Aunt Eunice’s Country Kitchen use to be!).
A few Geocaching guidelines:
1. Plan ahead. Research caches online and get a rough idea of where you want to go and which caches you are going to look for. I try to plan at least one that has swag on family caching days to make it more fun for the kids.
2. Cache in, trash out. This is a motto of Geocachers and really helps make a difference. When we are caching we try to pick up trash and leave the place we cache a little cleaner than when we found it.
3. If you find a cache with swag and take something, leave something of equal or greater value. I shop for my swag at the dollar tree.
4. Tell someone where you are going. This is important for safety, especially if you go caching in the woods.
5. Pack for caching. We have a special Geocaching backpack that includes the following : Pen or pencil, swag, plastic bags (to put swag in if the container isn’t waterproof), duct tape (to repair containers that might be leaking or have some other damage), bottles of water (in case we ever come close to becoming next week’s Lifetime movie again), and a few granola bars or some other type of snack. We also keep a little bowl to use for the dog’s water in our backpack, too.
6. Caches are only on public property. Never trespass to look for one. Also, before trying to hide a cache yourself, be sure you read Geocaching guidelines carefully and adhere to all of them for the sake of safety and fun.
Next stop: Explore Geocaching.com, pick a team name and sign up for a free account!
A little warning: when searching around the site they will talk about a movie called “Splinterheads” that has a pretty heavy geocaching theme. I saw this and ordered the movie, planning on using it to help show our kids what we were going to do. Note: This is most definitely not a family friendly movie. I’d just stick with this post and geocaching.com 🙂
And now a little something for your family from Nestle and Southern Plate:
FIVE Winners will be chosen to each win a Nestle Coupon pack that includes coupons to get everything pictured above FREE.
How do you enter? Leave a comment below!
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Contest details : Five winners chosen at random using random.org. Contest closes at midnight Sunday, September 5th, 2010. Winners will be notified by email on September 6th, announced on Facebook, and posted on this post.
Thanks for entering and good luck!
Special thanks to the wonderful people at Nestle, who truly understand the value of family time!
Family life is a bit like a runny peach pie –
not perfect but who’s complaining?