Geocaching is one of those things I’ve often heard mentioned but never tried. From the little I knew, geocaching sounded a fun activity – a kind of treasure hunt across our outdoor spaces. Busy with planning our walks and travels, I never got around to finding out more.
A couple of weeks ago, we went for an autumn walk with some good friends of ours. It turned out that they are geocaching enthusiasts and as we got to the end of the walk, they announced that there was a geocache close by and would we mind having a quick look for it? The clue was ‘snail mail’ *spoiler alert* and after a bit of hunting about we found a postbox. Concealed underneath, to Roo’s utter fascination, was a small magnetic snail with a tiny roll of paper tucked inside it with the names of all those others who had also correctly solved the clue and tracked down the geocache. As our friends added their names to the list, I knew we were all hooked.
Roo is at an awkward age for walking at the moment. She is no longer a toddler and has a fair pace on her when she gets going but she hasn’t yet built up enough stamina for longer walks. She tends to walk in short bursts, often running for much of it and then she flags – often dramatically! When we go out as a family, one of us can give her a piggy back for a bit when she gets tired.When I’m walking alone with just her and her sister though, she has no option but to walk all the way. As a result, our walks are restricted to around 2-4km or we are all grumpy when we get home!
Introducing geocaching now seems perfect timing. A bit of treasure hunting will give Roo another interest on her walks as well as being something I find fun too. Geocaching also gives me an excuse to explore shorter or linear routes we would have otherwise overlooked in favour of circular walks somewhere more ‘interesting’ and will give old familiar routes new interest. What’s more, geocaching will take us across those chilly winter months, giving us a good reason to get out for half an hour even when we really don’t want to!
I was amazed at how many geocaches are located all around us. For some reason, I had always imagined them to be out in the wilds, requiring a moorland walk or mountain scramble to reach. When I downloaded the Geocaching app though and checked out what was nearby I found around ten geocaches in our local area alone, most of which are in place we visit on a daily basis!
Some geocaches are blatantly easy, the hints barely necessary. Others are complicated and multilayered requiring some serious detective skills to figure out. This way, there is something to entertain all ages and time allowances. Some geocaches, like the one our friend found, only have space to write your name and date. Others are larger containers containing small items to take away (you replace with treasure of your own) and some geocaches even contain trackable items that are completing a mission to move from one location to another (e.g. to travel to all counties in the UK or to cross Europe) via geocaching enthusiasts! Pretty cool!
For those who like me are geocaching novices, all you need to get started is the Geocaching app or website, a pen and patience. You can sign up for the app for free or pay a few pounds for more features. Then just look on the map to see what geocaches are nearby, look up their coordinates on the map to get you close by and then use the hint to track down the actual container. Once you find one, you log your details in the geocache’s log-book and online. If you fancy hiding your own, you can do that too – it’s amazing to think that all the zillions of geocaches out there have been planted and are maintained by other geocaching enthusiasts!
Yesterday we had planned to do a walk nearby and try and find most of our local geocaches. Unfortunately, we ended up delayed on other errands and it was too dark to go on our walk. To save Roo from disappointment, I found a geocache that looked to be located on our way back from the shops and given the clue ‘snail mail’ (the same series as before it seems) it promised to be another easy find. Sure enough, Roo spotted the post-box in no time. With jubilant shouts of ‘treasure!’ (you are supposed to be secretive when finding a geocache – we have to work on the discreet thing) she found the snail hiding underneath before I could even get there! How funny to think that this unassuming post box that we pass so often on our travels has been harbouring a secret for all this time! Our first geocache has been found and judging from Roo’s excitement over this new hobby, there will be very many more!