Friday, December 9, 2011

True Confessions: Geocaching

Dorking it up a notch chez Whitlock, we took up geocaching this year.  In case you are too hip to know about geocaching, it is a worldwide treasure hunt, where people hide and seek containers using GPS instruments.   The coordinates of hidden caches are posted online at; you pick one, and go out and find it using your smartphone or GPS.  Inside the container there may be any manner of crap- dollar store toys for kids, keychains, pencils, swag of that nature that you are welcome to take as a souvenir of your find, provided you leave something behind.  Declan loves the crap collecting aspect of geocaching.
Declan's first find

   There will also be a log book inside the cache where you can record your "find" as well as online logs.  Some caches contain "travel bugs"- toys that have a registration number that geocachers will move from cache to cache, where you can track its movements online, sort of like that garden gnome that circumnavigated the globe.  There are more than one-and-a-half million caches hidden all over the world, including hundreds here in Arkansas, with new caches coming online all the time, so it is a pretty unending diversion.

We learned the how-tos of geocaching from a seminar at our local library.  That is how you know it is cool.  We were looking for a hobby we could do as a family that was active and outdoors, and geocaching has the bonus of being virtually free, so we gave it a try.  As long as you've got a signal, you can do this with an iphone app that costs $10.  We also shelled out for a $30/year membership, but that is not a necessity.   With the membership you can do advanced searches of particular kinds of caches (sorted by type, difficulty of the find, and difficulty of terrain) and download the search results to your handheld GPS.You can plot out geocaches along the route of a roadtrip, and use a little hunting around in the woods to break up a long drive.  You can find caches when you are travelling, as people usually try to hide the caches in places that are interesting or scenic, so it takes you places off the beaten tourist paths where you wouldn't have otherwise ended up. So there's that.  Just about every park and public space you can think of will have a cache hidden in it somewhere.  It's truly amazing how many are hidden out there, in the woods and in urban areas.

For us it is a good hobby fit as it combines elements of puzzle-solving (we all love), being outdoors (I love, the dogs love), technology (Shane and Declan love), hide and seek (Declan insatiably loves) and maps (we all love).   And did I mention that it's free? 
It is more interesting than it sounds.

We only just started in September so we haven't logged that many finds yet.   That doesn't mean I don't have enough expertise to invent my own variant:  pajamacaching.   This entails getting all ready for bed, but at the last minute going out and hunting a cache in the dark.  Very exciting for the kidlet.  This was our first pajamacache find-  it was hidden outside of Kraftco, walking distance from our house.  It's actually pretty amazing how many caches are hidden in the city that you pass by every day without knowing they are there.  

So in my experience, geocaching beats the heck out of playing the umpteenth round of three-year-old indoor hide-and-seek where he's behind the curtains AGAIN and his arm is hanging out flailing around and he's loudly and convulsively giggling and you have to muster up the energy to feign being puzzled as you faux-hunt around "is he under the coffee table? nooooo"  That is a special kind of exhausting right there.  So it gets a strong recommendation from me:  if you're looking for something to do with your kids, give it a whirl.  Hopefully you will discover that you love geocaching too, and that way you won't be able to make fun of me.


  1. I love geocaching! I've only done it a few times, but I might have shelled out for a GPS a few years ago... We should double-family-geocache sometime!

  2. Sounds good Brooke! I bought a GPS but haven't entirely figured out how to use it yet!It's not the most intuitive piece of technology I've ever encountered, I will say that.