Adventures in Geo Caching | by Cally Neal

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Have you ever gone on a Scavenger Hunt? Didn’t you just LOVE it? Scavenger hunts have to be one of my most favorite activities of all time. We did these often as kids. One clue after another until we found our “treasure”. Oh the memories I am flooded with as I write this. But imagine for a minute a WORLDWIDE Scavenger Hunt. Be still my heart…sign me up yesterday!!! Fast forward 30 years (Dear Lord that went fast) and I am now a wife and a mother with a full time career as well as this crazy picture taking hobby I am obsessed with. Our children have a decent gap in age, 10 and 5, so finding activities that are age appropriate and interesting for both of them, but also not totally lame-o for the hubs and I, is challenging. Que Geocaching.

What’s geochaching you ask? Well it’s only the biggest best scavenger hunt in all the world…and I do mean ALL the world. Geocaching is EVERY where. Allow me to explain this heaven sent activity to you and how easily you can fall in love with it. There are these awesome people out there who go around hiding things for you to find. They hide everything from small magnetic key boxes or tiny metal pill bottles to large lock boxes with trinkets and treasures in them (AKA Swag). Although some containers are small, one thing that they all hold is a log. A log is a book or a paper that the finder is supposed to log the date and their geo name on. The finder then re-hides the cache in the same place for the next hunter. We don’t know who these magical mystery hiders are or where they are from but they are literally hiding these things all over the place and it’s “team us” against “team them”. They try to stump us and we try to crack their code. You can even be a “them” while being an “us” too…..if you know what I mean.

So how do you find one? The hubs and I use geocaching apps on our phones to look up caches everywhere we go. The app will give you a short description and the locations on the map. Some caches will have clues in the description or the comments from previous hunters. For instance, in a recent hunt we had to use the numbers on a street sign to figure out the coordinates for the cache. We’ve even been to one where you cannot retrieve the cache unless you take a 20 oz. bottle of water to dump into the hidey spot. This will allow the cache to rise to the top where you can grab it. We are still looking for that one but I mean come on, how cool is that? I will tell you how cool this is. The hubbins loves it, I love it, my newly 5 yr old loves it and so does the 10 year old boychild. And the best part is I get to photograph all the adventures. When the kids are waking up begging to go on the weekends, snowy roads, thunderstorms or a prior engagement are the only things that will prompt a “no”. Whether we are exploring in the woods, searching a one lane bridge on a back road or prowling our small town with flashlights under the cloak of night, my “big camera” is always in tow. This is such an interesting activity that I can simply be there and document the real life moments as they unfold in front of me. My kids now know exactly where to start looking so I will follow them to hollow trees, bridge rails, cracks in stone walls, bushes and trees. It’s so interesting to watch and photograph them because they are close to the ground and can get into places and can see things we taller creatures can’t. Just follow the kids with that camera and you will see the determination as well as the feeling of victory on their faces when they find one. Side note: Because of the wooded locations we explore, we have taught them what poison ivy, oak and sumac looks like and we also check for ticks after every excursion. I suggest you do that as well otherwise geocaching might easily turn into your most “unfavorite” activity.

Every place and cache is unique. Some are very easy and we allow the kid to do those completely on their own. Sometimes they are slightly more difficult and we spend a good bit of time hunting. Did I mention Geocaching is completely FREE? Well ok, gas money and snacks will be a small but very worthwhile investment. Momma needs her Buffalo and Blue Cheese Combos boys and girls! Geocaching doesn’t just allow us to BE together. It allows us to think, work and learn together. It forces us to get outside and put down the electronics (except for the app part). It takes us places we would never think to just go. At the end of this year our Geo photo book is going to spur so many “oh remember that one” type conversations. So if you are looking for a good way to beat your cabin fever this winter and if you don’t geocache already, I urge you to do some research on how to get started. It’s so easy and I bet within a few minutes of downloading the app of your choice (Cachly, Groundspeak, etc.) you will probably find out there is a cache hidden just a few minutes from your own house. If you are already one of my fellow scavengers, don’t forget to bring that camera with you because the curiosity of a child is unmatched in my eyes. If you ever see the name Weepnprophet on your log, you will know we were there before you. Happy Hunting!

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