Monday, December 5, 2011

Geocaching


 Photo credit: Robert Hartz

     This is one of my new favorite hobbies. It’s basically a world-wide treasure hunt that uses GPS co-ordinates to find the hidden caches. Geocaching combines a lot of things I already like to do. We go out into nature to hike and explore to find the caches, it uses a fun tech gadget (Although at my house, we just use an ap for my Android phone,) sometimes you have to solve a puzzle or figure out a hint to find the right hiding spot, and who doesn’t love searching for a hidden surprise?
     I love to hike, and hang out in the out of doors. I’ve tried to get my kids to love this too, but it doesn’t always go well. They do love the outdoors, but mostly if there is a playground involved. They get bored too easily on even small hikes. Geocaching came to the rescue for me. Now when we have a goal! We aren’t just walking along to enjoy to journey. We’re going somewhere. We’re on a quest!
     What’s strange is that when we geocache, they are actually more likely to do the things I used to wish they would do on as regular hike. Things like, notice interesting plants, listen to birds singing, spotting wildlife, and noticing seasonal changes. I wonder if they take more notice of nature due directly to the fact that they are searching for something and therefore their observing circuits are active. Or could it be that since they aren’t currently thinking, “When will be done here?” they’re more open to being present in the hiking moment. I actually tend to think it’s the second. In general, they are not all that into the actual search. Sometimes they like to carry the GPS, and they will give a token, half-hearted attempt to help me search once we’ve come to the right co-ordinates. Usually they are contented to follow me along, look around a little at the hiding area, but what they get excited about is seeing the container once we uncover it, and checking out the ‘swag’ inside.
     Swag is the name for the small treasures that some caches contain. We have a collection of items that we take with us when we geocache so we can trade for some swag if there is any. Some caches are too small for any real swag items. The treasures are usually small, cheap toys, or similar items. The kids of things you’d find in Gatcha-gatcha machines. Some of the larger or more remote caches may have a more interesting selection of swag.
     So really, the prizes are not the reason to geocache in my opinion. You could get similar things with a lot less effort. For me, it really is about the journey. If you’re already a geocacher, or want to learn more, check out www.geocaching.com. I’m khartz over there if you want to see the caches I’ve found or be my geocaching friend.