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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Hi-tech hide 'n seek

We have a neighbor named Mary who lives on our street. Mary has two boys about 9 months older than Charlie. Mike and I have often referred to Mary as the "den mother" of the street. Well, today Mary took our troops out geocaching and boy did we have fun!

I had heard of geocaching, but never quite understood it. So when Mary was telling me at the block party a few weeks ago that she and her boys like to go geocaching, I pretty much invited myself along.

Over cul de sac fireworks last night, we made plans to go geocaching today. I showed up at Mary's house with 4 kids in tow (my three + Annie's friend Alayna). We went to geocaching.com and put in our zip code. Up popped a list of "cache's" in our area. We clicked the Google maps option so we could more accurately see where the caches were.

A cache can be a box with tchotkes in it or just a small tube with a piece of paper for finders to sign. Mary chose three caches we would look for. We input the coordinates of the cache into Mary's GPS and loaded everyone up into the van.

Our first cache was hidden somewhere in a cemetery. Charlie asked if he could hold the GPS first.

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We watched as the handheld GPS unit led us in an electronic game of "hot and cold." At first, we got a little turned around and headed in the wrong direction. But soon enough, we were back on track and Mitchell, one of Mary's twins, located the cache hidden in some brush against a tree trunk.

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Inside the cache was a small notebook for us to log our presence and several small trinkets. Each of the kids took a trinket and we left our own trinkets in their place. Then it was off to the next cache.

We had some trouble with the second cache. The GPS compass kept jumping around and led us pretty far off the mark. No worries though because it gave the kids a chance to play at a playgroud new to them:

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Eventually, we found it -- a small M&Ms tube hidden inside some boxwood bushes. No tchotkes in this one, just a log to sign. So we signed and put the cache back in its place for the next seekers to find.

The third cache took us the longest to find. What was crazy was that we had all combed a 3-foot x 3-foot area over and over and didn't find it. Just when I was ready to give up, Ryan, Mary's other son, reached his hand into a bush and pulled out the cache.

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Much to Robbie's delight, the cache had more trinkets and trash, plus the tiniest log roll for signing.

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We added our own trinkets and a trackable "bug." Someday, someone will take the bug out of the cache and take it to a new cache somewhere else. Mary can log the bug on geocaching.com and wait for others to report finding it and moving it. So they can "watch" the bug move around from cache to cache.

Once the third cache was safely back in its hiding place, we headed to a nearby playground.

Our first foray into geocaching was a success. The kids loved the hunt. We got plenty of fresh air. And it was all FREE! Annie has already asked if we can go geocaching again.

Do you geocache? How did you get started? What's been your best find? If you don't cache yet, do you think you might like to give it a try?

3 comments:

Amy's Mom said...

We did the "Low-Tech" version of geo-caching,also known as letterboxing. I had read a few articles about it,one was from a Chevy Truck ad in a magazine and it got my attention. So I did a little more reading and then planned a "letter Boxing" activity for Camp Samaritan (a Weekend Camp for adults living with Cancer." It was so much fun and we got so many compliments on it that we are doing it again at this fall's Camp Sam. In our version, we hid the boxes and gave each team obscure clues as to where to find the boxes. Each box contained a little rubber pre-inked stamp (really cheap at craft stores like Hobby Lobby) inside so the "Finders" could stamp their logsheet as proof that they actually found the right box.
The GPS version sounds really fun, too.

Nate's Mom said...

We also do letterboxing. www.atlasquest.com We love it as a family activity. We accidently found a geocache while looking for a letter box once, lol. I like the treasure hunt part. And some boxes have puzzles you have to figure them out. It's all good outdoor family fun!

Sheri in CA
Sheri's Scribbles

Sharon said...

HOW COOL! I've heard of this & wanted to try it, but we don't have GPS. One day I'll try this. And I'll think of you. :)