My 9-year-old niece heard me talking about geocaching a few months ago and continued to ask when I would take her to see what it entailed. We were overdue for some one-on-one time so I recently planned an outing with her to (hopefully) find some caches.
If you’re unfamiliar with geocaching, I liken it to a scavenger hunt, only with GPS technology. You can use a smartphone (download the geocaching app) or GPS device. Create a free geocaching account, decide what type of caches you want to find (types are explained on the app and website), then navigate to the location. The cache may be micro, the size of a film canister, big or even virtual. Some are easy to find, others are frustratingly difficult. Once you find the cache, you sign your geocaching username in the logbook, return the cache to the exact location you found it (so someone else can find it!), and log your find on the app. They’re hidden low, high, in a tree, under water, in a pine cone, crevice, lamp post and somewhere in between. There are more than 2 million geocaches hidden throughout the world! Geocaching allows you to explore new places, or even visit again a place in your hometown.They’re hidden in urban locations, parks, rest stops, maybe on your street.
‘A’ was super-excited to spot several caches on the app map near us. So we chose one to start with, drove to the location, gathered a pen and my phone to guide to us to the location. I explained the need to be stealthy so ‘muggles’ (those who have never found a geocache) wouldn’t notice what we were up to. I let her hold the phone so she could see our location on the app and the direction we needed to go. With very little guidance from me, she led us toward the hidden cache. When we were within a feet of the location, I pointed out different spots it may be hidden and what to look for. Since it was her first time, she didn’t quite know what to look for….but I stayed a little behind her while she moved around a tree…..and spotted her first cache! Once I signed the small scroll and we hid the cache exactly where we found it, I showed her how to mark the cache as “found” on the app so it would be saved on my profile. And she was hooked!
We went on to find several more caches. We both laughed at how many times we’ve driven by a certain lamp post in a parking lot, never knowing a cache was waiting in there. She loved that we had to be stealthy so no one would pay attention to us. More than once, she stopped me so she could look around to ensure no curious onlookers watched us.
Some things that kept her interested:
- I demonstrated how to use the geocaching app so she could see the many caches hidden around us. I set the difficulty and terrain search criteria as fairly easy to ensure we’d have luck finding the cache, thus keeping her motivated and spirits up (who doesn’t like to register a win?!).
- Once we got to the location close to where the geocache was hidden, I gave her the phone so she could lead us to the location on foot. She loved ‘managing’ the search efforts!
- The app will show your location to the cache in feet so once we got within a few feet, I encouraged her to use her eyes to search. There were a few muddy hiding places, which she didn’t love at first but her smile was huge when she spotted the cache!
- We took selfies with some of the caches to send to her parents – she was so proud of our finds!
- Once I signed the logbook, she returned the cache to the hidden location. I appreciated how exact she was with ensuring it was in the same location.
- She took great satisfaction in clicking the “Found it!” button to register our find!
The drive back to her house had her wondering if another cache was in that tree, or under that sign or near her neighbor’s house, or……? Now her younger brother, my mom and some girlfriends want to try geocaching. I love geocaching with others!
The best part of the day for me? As we walked back to the car after logging A’s first cache, she took my hand and thanked me for taking just her (no younger siblings!) on this adventure and making it special. My heart melted right there – not only am I grateful my nieces and nephew enjoy spending time with me, I’m so proud she loves to be outdoors in nature as much as I do!