Thursday, May 24, 2012

What a Cache!

School's out and summer has officially begun - even if the calendar won't say so for another month!

Day 1 of Vacation:  Any seasoned mom knows how rough the first transitional days are from school routine to summer vacation.  Wisely, this mom vacated the premises for much of the day, leaving the wailing and gnashing of teeth for Jeff to deal with.  Any seasoned dad knows better than to keep three kids cooped up in the house on a summer day, so he decided to attempt geocaching with the kids.  Despite enjoying a wonderful adventure of an entirely different kind (namely, meeting a man who is hiking across the country!), no geocaches were found on the first attempt.

Jeff, of course, was more determined than ever to find the caches.  So on Day 2 of summer vacation, the  5 of us set out together to Unlock the Mysteries Hidden on the nearby Rail Trail:

(awesome new hiking sticks from Grandma and Grandpa)

After we typed in the coordinates into the GPS and set off, we carefully tracked our progress until we knew we were exactly at the coordinates where the first cache was hidden.  Looking high and low, after just a few minutes, we heard Aidan say, "Hey, I think I found something!" Out came this ammo can, filled with treasure!
The thrill of finding a hidden treasure was magnified by the connection we felt to others who had made the discovery before us, and the wonderment of who might find it next.
We logged our find, selected a few treasures from the bag, and chose a few to leave in return (including the camp-style can opener that the hiker the boys had met the day before had given to each of them, as a gift).
Finding one geocache practically made us Bounty Hunting Experts.  Confidently, we set off toward our second cache, located about half a mile or so from the first.
This one, dubbed "Treasure Chest" online, was a little bit trickier to find.  But we did it!!  It was first established in 2006 - very cool.
Lots of cool and creative treasures in this oversized cache bucket - I LOVE the magnetic words that a fellow logophile left!

After signing the log at this cache, we learned that it had been found most recently on St. Patrick's Day by another family in our community.

These are some of the tokens left behind from others who have found the cache.  Essentially, the tokens are a physical marker of your finding the cache (in addition to signing the log book).  Individuals or families create original tokens and write their name and where they are from on the token before leaving it in the cache.  I am really excited for our family to design and create our own - we'll definitely revisit these first two caches to add our tokens to the mix.

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!  (Pax's choice from the Treasure Chest)
Geocaching was so much fun.  It took our previously-enjoyed family activity - hiking - to a new level, with the added incentive of finding and leaving treasure. It prompted some good discussion on what to take and what to leave, and it was gratifying to see the kids turn down "ordinary" treasures like dollar bills in favor of more unique finds. I love the whole concept of geocaching,  where technology actually fosters connection and community instead of hampering it.  I have long thought that a single hike through the woods opens you up to discovery and experience beyond imagination, if you just pay attention;  geocaching has added a whole new dimension to our exploration.

We're heading to California in a couple of weeks, and we hope to find a few places to hunt for geocaches.  How cool will it be to log ourselves in as "visitors from Virginia"?! 
Some great resources on geocaching - 

Official site - 

Some helpful tips and cautionary advice - 

More info on the tokens, especially if you want to take it to the next level (minting your own)

“Let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life.” – John Muir

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