Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Introduction to Geocaching

Geocaching is a great way to get kids out and about exploring their environment.  "Going for a walk" might (for some unknown reason) be met with groans, and accompanied by "I'm tired", "my feet are sore" and "I want to go back to the car now".  "Let's go and search for some treasure", however, is met by eager and excited children, who can't wait to be the one to find the hidden goodies.

What is Geocaching?

For the uninitiated, Geocaching is basically a global treasure hunt.  People hide a 'cache' (a small box, containing a log book and some small treasure items), and note the whereabouts of this treasure on the geocache website.  Other people go out searching for the hidden treasure, usually using GPS devices to home in on the coordinates of the cache.  When they find it they write in the log book, take a piece of treasure and leave a piece of treasure, and note their find on the website.

Getting started

  1. Register on the Geocaching website.  
  2. Make sure you have a GPS device or GPS enabled phone.
  3. Get a few small items of treasure (small badges, erasers, children's jewellery) to exchange.
  4. Search on the website under "Hide and Seek a Cache".  For your first cache, especially with kids, look for local caches that are medium or large (easier to find and will contain treasure) rather than small or micro.  Also look at the difficulty level, go for easy if possible.  Now look at the "logged visits" for the cache.  If the last visit was more than a couple of months ago, or says that the cache was difficult to find, then it may be worth looking for one that was found more recently, so that its more likely to still be there.
  5. Now go out and search for the cache.  Once you've got the first couple of caches under your belts, the kids will have got the bug and be eager to find some more!

Our first cache

I decided to search for a couple of caches at our local Country Park, Queenswood.  The first was to be at the far side of the park (wellies required), but a medium sized cache.  The second was right by the car park but a nano (very tiny) cache.

We headed to Queenswood after school today.  Once there I clicked onto the Geocaching App.  It showed me a map of the local area, and my phone's GPS put me on the map too.  I clicked on the symbol for the cache we wanted to find, read the information to the children, and clicked on "start".  It showed me what direction the cache was in, and how far away we were, so we headed off down the track.  This soon became a muddy path, but we were all prepared with wellies, so it wasn't a problem.  As we got closer to the cache we focused more on the compass on the phone, and the direction and distance to the cache.  

The app gave a little fanfare once we were close, and by that point the GPS couldn't give us a more accurate pinpoint, so we started searching.  Bug started climbing trees and grass/mud banks looking under blades of grass and holly bushes.  C started hunting in ditches, under bits of wood and in any hollows he spotted.  We weren't really sure the type of place to look, but were pretty determined, and the hunt took us about ten minutes.  

I spotted the cache first (a tupperware box painted brown, hidden behind some sticks in a hollow among some tree roots), and summoned the children to see if they could find it once they were in the right spot.  They did and were eager to open the box and see what treasure might be within.  There was a notebook in which to write name and date of find, and there was some assorted treasure.  I was a bit disappointed with the nature of this treasure and had expected it to be a bit more interesting.  I had brought along a Scout pin badge and a child's bright coloured necklace.  The contents included a couple of coins, a wooden clothes peg with somebody's name on, an acorn, some business cards, a page from a puzzle book, a hairclip and a couple of badges - not inspiring!  Bug picked a hairclip and C chose a 20p coin and we left the necklace, and are now determined to buy some nice erasers, key rings, bookmarks etc to make sure that we improve the contents of the caches that we visit. 
My pair showing off their "treasure".
New converts to Geocaching

After the trudge back up the muddy path the children were elated with their find, but didn't have enough energy to search for a nanocache with no treasure inside, so we decided to leave that one for another visit.

Now that we've found our first cache, and I've got a good feel for how the app works on my phone, I'm looking forward to future searches.  I've also told C that once we've found 50 caches, we'll set one up ourselves too.

1 comment:

  1. My husband and his family loved geocaching too and had a couple set up near their family home. We used to look for any nearby geocaches whenever we went for a walk but haven't for a while - your post makes me want to go caching again :)