Today’s post comes courtesy of Magical Mama Tiffany, who wrote this article for her local newspaper for their children’s athletics section. I thought it was so great I asked her permission to share it with you all. We’ve never done geocaching and now I really want to try!
As a homeschooling mother, ensuring my children know their times tables forwards and backwards, can speak at least three languages fluently and can read at well beyond grade level is all up to me. Ensuring they are fit and healthy is all up to me too. Sometimes the latter is the harder to achieve!! We don’t belong to any teams, we don’t follow any particular sports and all we really know about football or volleyball is how hard it is to park in town if there is a game on. We never even know when there IS a game on…. We may only begin to suspect when the level of red clothing gets to be beyond the already high norm. Anyway I digress, it’s what I do… digression is my Shtick! ;D In our house running up bills and jumping to conclusions is often the only reliable form of exercise we get, but recently I had a conversation with our delightful bookmobile lady and she kept talking about "Geocaching". As is often the case with me, when someone talks about something of which I have entirely no knowledge, I will nod my head in agreement and murmur understanding sounds. We carried on this way for some months; she would talk away about Geocaching and I would leave the mobile library scratching my head utterly confused, whilst she maintained the impression that I was entirely au fait with the whole concept. Eventually, to avoid getting myself too deeply into the mire, I set to on my computer and searched for "Geocaching"
Geocaching is a fairly recent phenomenon but is similar to Letterboxing which has been around for at least 150 years. A participant places a container of any size at a particular location. The idea is to make it quite hard to spot. The container would have a log book and perhaps a trinket or two, usually nothing terribly expensive. The container’s precise location is noted and these coordinates are added to a database. Folks wishing to locate a cache would search the database using such parameters as zip code or town name. Worldwide there are 698,176 active "caches" and the number is constantly growing! You would be surprised to see how many caches are hidden near you! Using a GPS locator, or simply Google Maps, you may enter the coordinates of a cache and you will be able to put on your walking shoes, head out, and FIND IT! 😀 It’s not always that simple of course, some of the caches are hidden in difficult terrain and you may have to do some serious searching. The caches are rated in order of difficulty, so if Grandma is coming along for the day, you would search for a cache that is rated a one for ease. If you felt like a challenge then pick a five!! Finding the location of a cache is the easier part…. Next you have to find where within that location the cache is hidden! Some of the caches are large and so easier to find… some are MicroCaches… those are VERY TRICKY!! Think needle in a haystack!! 😀 The satisfaction you find from locating a MicroCache is really something though!
After talking at length with "Our Library Van Lady" we decided we would like to have a try! We went to the Geocaching website (http://www.geocaching.com/ ) and entered our zip code. We found some very close to us so decided to have a go at finding one. I didn’t have a GPS unit, so I simply took the coordinates from the Geocache site and plugged them into Google maps. Voila! as they say. We used the Google maps information to get us as close as possible to the cache location and then we followed the little clues given by the owner of the cache to pinpoint it’s exact position! It’s basically a high tech treasure hunt and the children and I are HOOKED!!
My husband does a lot of driving for work, so we bought a Garmin GPS unit and we were able to program that ( very easily! ) to work as a Geocache tool too!! We’ve found several caches now… many of them in odd places, some were easier than others but each of them was hugely satisfying and a great thrill for the children.
I saw a T Shirt once and on the front of it was something like "I’m a Geocacher. I use military satellites to track Tupperware in the woods" !! What can be better than that?! As far as a means to get children excited about the outdoors, finding clues, and following instructions, Geocaching is the way to go! It can be free, it’s extremely easy and it’s tons of fun! Give it a try and see!
If you want to read more of Tiffany’s wit and wisdom, check out her blog here.