Thursday, November 17, 2011

Why We Love Geocaching



by Seattle Jon (bio)

the "Shoreline Crew" (our geocaching handle)

Our family was introduced to geocaching a few months ago during a family reunion at Fort Worden. Word went around that a group of family members were heading out to locate a few geocaches near the fort's old batteries. It sounded adventurous, so we went along ... and discovered a new hobby.

According to wikipedia, geocaching is an outdoor sporting activity in which participants use a GPS device (my iPhone) to hide and seek containers, called "geocaches," anywhere in the world. Continuing on, wikipedia explains that "a typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook where the geocacher enters the date they found it and signs it with their established code name. Larger containers such as plastic storage containers (tupperware or similar) or ammunition boxes can also contain items for trading, usually toys or trinkets of little value. Geocaching is often described as a "game of high-tech hide and seek", sharing many aspects with benchmarking, trigpointing, orienteering, treasure-hunting, letterboxing, and waymarking. Geocaches are currently placed in over 100 countries around the world and on all seven continents, including Antarctica. After 10 years of activity there are over 1,532,000 active geocaches published on various websites. There are over 5 million geocachers worldwide."

Imagine what you would typically do in the following situations:

You coach a soccer team and need to drop off raffle tickets to someone in the league who lives nearby. Your five-year old son, who is wired, asks to come along on the quick trip.

Did you answer that you'd tell your son it's just a quick trip and you'll be home in ten minutes? I would have a few months ago. Instead, I told him to hop in because I'd already checked my iPhone and there were two un-discovered geogaches near the person's house. We spent 30 minutes treasure-hunting after dropping off the tickets. My five year-old came home tired (less wired) with fresh scratches (from trees and bushes) and stories of buried treasure.

After a long day out of the house, you are early to a friend's for dinner and dread spending 30 minutes waiting in the car around the corner, knowing you will inevitably get angry at your kids fifteen times for climbing over the seats, causing everyone to show up cranky and in bad moods, ruining what could have been an enjoyable evening.

Did you answer that your house is just far enough way to make driving home to wait an inconvenience, or that heading to the local retailer to wait will only result in unnecessary purchases? We would have waited it out around the corner a few months ago. Instead, we located a nearby geocache in a park we'd never been to. We tramped together, as a family, through the woods and located a nicely hidden treasure container. The kids, and mom and dad, showed up to our friend's house on-time, hungry and happy.

Get the picture? I'll end with seven reasons why we love geocaching.

(1) Gets you outdoors. Geocaches are primarily hidden outdoors, so to find them you need to be outdoors. Not in front of the tv or computer. We could all use more outdoor time.
(2) Gets you involved in a diverse community. One of the placement guidelines for geocaches says that they are allowed in space, on other planets or on spacecraft. Tells you something about the type of people doing this activity. I want my kids exposed to those types of people.
(3) Teaches kids to not give up. Some of our best finds have come at the end of 20-30 minutes of searching, knowing we are frustratingly close but not finding anything. Then, just as we are about to throw in the towel, one of the kids will yell, "I found it!" There is nothing sweeter.
(4) No planning necessary. If you are anywhere, you are near a geocache. All you need is 20 minutes.
(5) Teaches kids a good way of getting stuff they want. You don't take from a treasure container unless you replace what you take with something of equal or greater value. What a concept!
(6) It's cheap. We paid $9.99 for the geocaching.com app and haven't spent a dime since.
(7) Create your own. You can create your own geocache. We created one on 9/11 at the base of two brick towers near the end of our street. We placed our log book in an orange matches container in memory of the firefighters who died on that day. We all gather around to read email alerts from geocachers who find our cache.

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