Tens of thousands of families already are huge fans of “geocaching.” The worldwide phenomenon was created in 2000 when global positioning devices (GPS) were just beginning to become a common feature of people’s lives.
It was a computer consultant who first came up with the concept of geocaching. In May 2000, Dave Ulmer wanted to test the accuracy of then newly-expanded GPS technology by hiding a navigational target in the woods. He called the idea the “Great American GPS Stash Hunt.” The idea was simple: hide a container out in the woods and note the coordinates with a GPS unit. Little did he know that his idea would grow into a worldwide activity with millions of devoted participants.
How it Works
Here’s how it works: treasure hunters all over the planet (known as geocachers) hide little caches of stuff that may be tucked away down your block or placed in nooks and crannies as far away as across an ocean. You use your smartphone or GPS device to hunt down the treasures—which can range from little goodies like plastic toy animals to play tokens or maybe even coins.
It’s helpful to teach your children the etiquette connected to finding trinkets inside a container: you can keep a trinket if you replace it with something of similar value. Estimates are that there are now close to 2 million registered geocaches in the world and 5 million adults and kids trying to find them.
Traveling to Find It
Some families are so passionate about geocaching, they regularly travel to faraway destinations to try to find caches. It’s a great excuse for a road trip to check out new areas of the country, too. While the family sedan may get you along the highways just fine, keep in mind some of the caches are hidden off of dirt roads that may require a little more clearance. This might be the perfect excuse to look at SUVs at Chevrolet in Tucson. At the very least, have a dealership check your tires and change the oil before you hit the road.
If you don’t want to go the self-guided route, Geo Tours, a specialty travel company, showcases entertaining geocaches that are specially designed to introduce young and adult travelers to unfamiliar locations.
What You’ll Find
Geocachers commonly hide caches in places that are important to them, and those can be close to home or farther away. Their choices often reflect a special interest of the cache owner. Locations can be quite diverse and may include the local park, the riverbank at the end of a long hike or the side of a city street.
Sometimes objects are moved from cache to cache, and their travels can be logged and followed online. Geocachers can track trinkets online as the caches make their way around the world. This lets everyone in the family enjoy a huge part of the attraction of geocaching — the thrill and adventure of learning about new places.
There are varying levels of difficulty you can choose when playing, which can be ideal for families. “Hide & Seek a Cache” on the geocaching.com website contains caches with difficulty ratings of 1 to 5 (easiest to most difficult, respectively), related to how challenging the hiding place is to find.