Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Field Tripping - Geocaching

I've been wanting to write about our new hobby for a while, but haven't had the time. We went geocaching yesterday with friends, though, and it was so much fun that I just have to write this post in case it sounds like something any of you would be interested in. We introduced these friends to it a few weeks ago, and they are completely addicted.
We are a family that loves to be outside, and we love hiking and exploring. That can be difficult with a 4 year old who likes to be carried everywhere though. Geocaching has changed everything for us. It is essentially a treasure hunt using your car GPS, or any of the very specialized GPS units made for geocaching.
There are caches hidden all over the world, and there are hundreds of them on this island. Most caches are small containers which have a paper log and pen, so you can prove you've been there. Many have cheap little toys for trading, which is what Crumpet loves. If you take a toy, you must leave a toy. I usually buy packs of party favors, and leave one in each cache. There are also tracking coins which you take and leave in another cache further away, and you can follow their journey around the world online if you choose. We haven't taken any of those yet, but we're hoping to get to Japan and then we'll take a few with us!
There are a variety of GPS units that you can use. We started out just using our handheld car GPS. You enter the coordinates of the cache and move around until you reach approximately the correct latitude and longitude. Once you get within 20 feet or so, you just have to look around for piles of rocks:
cool trees:
or some other likely hiding spot. Often, there are hints to help you get closer on the geocaching website.
There are very expensive, hi tech geocaching units and I'd love to have one someday. For now, though we bought a Geomate Jr. (about $80) which is a child's GPS unit made just for geocaching.
I find this much easier than the car GPS unit. When you arrive at a location where you'd like to go hunting for treasure, you turn on the unit and it tells you where the nearest 20 caches are. All you do is follow the arrow on the screen until you reach the right spot. SO easy. I admit that I did not like this unit at first though. It is possible that you will end up climbing down cliffs and walking through ponds (yes, we've done both) if you don't prepare before you leave the house. Now we print a quick map of the terrain and the location of the caches we're hoping to find so we know what to expect and what direction we should try to approach from.
Now, when we go hiking, Crumpet is excited about finding the next cache and forgets about the fact that he's exercising. It's not uncommon for us to go on 3 or 4 hour hikes these days. Of course, there are times when it's nice to take a break on Dad's shoulders, like when you're hiking up a steep rocky path surrounded by cactus... This trail led us to the top of a hill
With this view:

Which is something else we love about geocaching. We have ended up in some phenomenal places that we never would have found if we weren't out geocaching. It's a great way to see unusual, off -the-beaten-track places.
A cache was hidden in this hole:
Everywhere I go now, I wonder 'is there a cache in that hole? Behind that tree?' They really are all around, and you would never know about them... Some are in parking lots, and I hear there is one in the mall here!
There were lots of them near this lighthouse:

If you are interested, have a look at here. All of the geocaches in the world are listed here, and you can keep track of your finds online.
For more field trip posts, visit Live the Adventure.


  1. I have heard of this once before but totally forgot about it! What a great way to spend a day with family! And that view you found - wow. :) Thanks for sharing this - I really have to look into getting a gps soon!

  2. The kids and I have tried letterboxing, but I really think they'd enjoy geocaching a bit more. A handheld GPS is on my wishlist for Christmas. It will be a great addition to our hikes! Thanks for sharing and linking up to Field Trip Friday. :)

  3. I heard of geocaching before but decided to wait a bit until Anna is older. It does sound like a very fun hobby. I am waiting for the next iPhone to have a built-in GPS unit :)