Have you ever gone Geocaching? It’s a real life treasure hunt you do with the GPS built right into your phone.
You can be Geocaching in minutes, and there are tons of caches hidden around the South Sound, including many in Tacoma. It’s FREE, and it’s one of those rare family adventures that appeals to little and big kids. Perfect, in other words!
First, a few basics:
A Geocache is a small container. It contains a note so you can log the date when you found it before you put it back for the next searchers. Sometimes, caches also contain small trinkets, and you can take them and put in some of your own. Make sure to bring a few small things if you want to do this (think matchbox cars, marbles….some caches are just medicine bottle sized, so nothing large/extravagant). Really, though, the thrill is in the hunting and the finding. Henry made it his mission to check out every hole in every tree/stump/log. I’m not going to lie-some members of our group thought he made the progress a little slow!
You can find Geocaches to hunt for at a number of sites. We used Geocaching.com. It has a one minute video that would be perfect to show your kids, as well as lots of other information. You can get one version for free, but we ended up paying 10.00 for the app my husband downloaded to his phone. Opencaching.com is another good site, and it’s always free.
Once you’ve found a cache you want to find, you follow the GPS coordinates to the location. As you get closer, you’ll see a line on the map on your phone letting you know about how far you have left to go. Sometimes the hider has also left clues.
It sounds simple, but some Geocaches can be downright tricky to find. On our recent adventure, we went to Point Defiance. Lot of caches are hidden in parks, and I think it’s a smart idea to choose a destination that will be fun for your kids even if you don’t ultimately find the cache. At Point Defiance there are quite a few hidden in and around the trails in the middle of the park and running along its edge. It’s a great way to explore an area that tends to get overlooked.
We were almost right on top of the first one before my clever husband spied it. We never did find the second one, and boy, did we look! The clue told us to look near a log-turns out that wasn’t much help in the woods! Sometimes caches do disappear-someone who isn’t a geocacher stumbles on it and takes it (You need to try to be a little sneaky when you’re hiding if other folks are around), or an animal carries it off. We knew this one had been found recently because it had been logged online. Try as we might we couldn’t find it, but we still had fun searching, and it took us on park trails we hasn’t visited in a while.
We might go have another try next weekend. Geocaching is addictive! A few things to know before you go!
- Do keep in mind that this is an outdoor adventure and dress appropriately.
- You will have the best luck if your phone gets a strong signal. If your service tends to be spotty, you might want to invest in an actual GPS unit.
- Once you’ve found a cache, be sure to replace it for the next family, and always be a good steward of the environment and be sensible while you’re out and about-don’t go on private property or wander around dead end streets at night (You knew that, right)?
- Be sure your kids understand that they’re probably going to find a container with a note, and that you’ll be writing in it and then returning it to its hiding place. If your kids would be bummed out if they didn’t find something to keep, you may want to pass on this activity.
For more information, and some suggestions about good Seattle area Geocaching, you can check out this helpful article at Parent Map.
Btw, If you didn’t realize Pt. Defiance had some many woodsy trails to walk, you’ll enjoy my series on, “Hidden Point Defiance.”
I know lots of you are veterans of many Geocache adventures. I’d love for you to leave a comment with your best tips! Good cache locations to hunt would be particularly awesome for newbies!