13 May
Posted in: travel
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Geocaching: Modern Day Treasure Hunting

Cracking open an ammo box-sized geocache

I believe one of the most amazing technological advancements is the global positioning system (GPS) and its handheld receiving units. One of our favorite family activities is using a GPS device for geocaching, better known in our house as modern day treasure hunting.

People hide caches and plot their geographical coordinates so other people can locate the caches using a GPS device. Currently there are over 2 million active caches in the world. Caches range in size from “micro,” which might only contain a small scrap of paper (the logbook) to as large as a breadbox. Bigger caches usually contain items to trade and/or trackables. Items to trade may include pencils, small toys, coins, patches, etc. We keep a small bag in our vehicle with tradeables we’ve accumulated. We also have a stash of small rubber animal figures we leave in caches as a sort of trademark for our family.

Looking inside a cache at the abundant treasures

Trackables have a code that can be entered at Geocaching.com. If you pick up a trackable from a cache, the idea is to log the pick up on the site and log when and where you leave it. You can then follow that trackable’s journey. We planted a cache last summer in a very rural location in Wyoming with a trackable in the box. The trackable has been to several locations around the United States. It was picked up and logged last week in Iowa. The person who picked it up said he plans on leaving it in Japan next. We’re excited to find out where in Japan our Wyoming trackable will be placed.

Spotting a geocache (it's good to be tall!)

My husband will download possible geocaching opportunities that are near locations we pass on road trips. We’ve discovered caches from San Juan Island to Texas and many places in-between. We’ve also spent lots of time around town finding caches big and small. It’s fun to find a cache hidden in a location that we’ve driven or walked by dozens of times and didn’t even know it was there. Our GPS device will alert us when we’re getting close (about 100 feet) to our targeted coordinates and when we arrive (usually means it may be within a 10-20 foot diameter of the cache). You can almost see the kiddos excitement the closer we get. The more caches we find the easier it seems to locate them. We have come to learn what subtle signs to look for and potential hiding spots. I love to listen for the “whoop” of joy when the cache is discovered. Some caches hold better tradeables than others. There are also caches where it’s hard to decide which goodie to take. It feels a lot like Christmas morning when we’re opening a cache. You never know what you’ll find.

The first geocache our family created, hidden inside a dense sagebrush

We’ve also scoured areas around the given coordinates and found nothing. Sometimes geocaches will be found by “muggles,” people who aren’t geocachers and those caches may go missing. Most geocachers take the time to log on the site that caches are missing or need the owner’s attention (broken container). There’s also the chance the cache is hidden so well we might not discover it. We hate to quit searching for those elusive caches, but we have walked away from a few in defeat. Some geocaches offer hints on the website for what to look for when you’re out searching. Often, it’s nice to know the final destination is near a forked tree or a large flat rock.

I recommend this fun and easy activity to anybody, especially families, who love to be outdoors and like the idea of a treasure hunt.

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  • I am a fellow geocacher! I am not hardcore about it but I do like it as a fun summer activity. A couple of my friends are really into it and when we go on group vacations they spend a large amount of the trip looking for geocaches. Very cool that your travel bug might make it to Japan! I’m stopping by from Mouthwatering Fridays. Thanks for sharing!

    • Our travel bug was placed in Tokyo which now has our kids wanting to go to Japan 🙂 My favorite caches are in everyday places that lots of people go by and never know anything is hidden there. Now that the snow is finally melted, we’ll be able to go searching again.