Sunday, July 22, 2012

Geocaching fun with the kids!

Today's Summer Blog Challenge is to talk about a free activity to do with the kids. 

I've been just waiting for the perfect time to talk about my new hobby that I share with the kids -- Geocaching!

What is geocaching you ask?  Well, it's a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.

What do you need to play? So, in order to "play," first you need a GPS device (Ok, so that part is not free).  I asked my hubby to get me one for my birthday back in March -- specifically for geocaching -- so that we could fully experience the fun.  But any GPS-enabled device -- such as an iPhone or a portable GPS navigation device -- can be used to play.  I have the Garmin Oregon 450 -- a very nice GPS device for basic geocaching;  my daughter has no problem following the direction arrow towards our next cache!

How do you play?  So , first you have to register on geocaching.com.  It's the official site for the game.  Then, you can search your current location for near-by geocaches.  You may be surprised how many there are within a mile or two of you!  You decide which geocaches you want to seek out, download (or enter) the GPS coordinates into your device, and you're off!   Most geocaches are located at parks or other "common" property, but there can be geocaches on private property if the owner of the cache has permission. 

What's in the cache?  The cache -- or container -- that is hidden can be any size.  Most caches list the size on the geocaching.com site -- anywhere from micros (think the size of a film container) to large (we have found plastic bins).  Most caches contain a log book so that you can sign and say you were there (you can also do this on the geocaching.com site).  The medium to large caches have room to trade "swag" -- small trinkets and treasure.  My daughter loves this part.  There can be anything in there, from small toys to tools to "what is that???"  Also, there are "trackable bugs" -- small items that have unique IDs that are tracked on the geocaching.com site, and are moved from one cache to another -- like the little bug is on his own adventure.  The owner of the bug can watch the bug's travels from the geocaching.com site.

Geocaching has been a great way to discover how many parks, reserves, and other natural resources near and far.  It has got my kids out of the house, into some mud-slugging boots, and hunting for treasure out in nature. 

We found that spring was the perfect time for geocaching in Michigan, and this super-hot summer has slowed down our trips.  But, we are currently up to 49 finds, 2 hides and 4 trackables logged. 

My daughter with a larger container we found in a tree trunk.

Another cache we found -- someone made this one themselves, even giving it a cool camo paint job.

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