Geocaching: Will Hike for Treasure
Ask a child if they want to go for a walk through the woods and you will likely get a less than enthusiastic response. Tell them that there is a hidden treasure involved and you have clues and the tools to find it and you will experience a vastly different reaction….they will probably beat you to the door.
The benefits of getting our kids outdoors are immense. Recent studies suggest that the average child today spends half of the time outdoors as the child of twenty years ago. Our children are wired to the many media and internet outlets and don’t have the time or the opportunity to indulge in unstructured outdoor play; play that many health specialists argue is critical to the physical and mental health of their critical development. One great book that goes into depth on the benefit of outdoor activity for our kids is Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods.
With my introduction to Geocache a few years ago I realized that this was another opportunity for an outdoor adventure. Geocache was created in 2000 with the onset of GPS accuracy; however it is still a fairly new phenomenon in my parenting world. I was initially introduced to it by a friend who brought coordinates and a GPS to an annual girlfriend -get-away. The idea of hiking as well as looking for something hidden was intriguing and as a group of my friends planned and searched I realized the appeal. It also occurred to me that this could be a great family activity.
As the parent of four kids, my husband and I are often faced with the challenge of bringing everyone together for an activity that engages their different interests. They are busy kids and I try to role model a healthy life full of opportunities for physical activity. They play basketball, dance, and love to swim. Much to my delight, my oldest daughter has taken an interest in running and as the daughter of a yoga teacher the older three often take my classes. And yet, other than an occasional family bike ride, it is just plain hard to get everyone together for an activity that 3 teens and a six year old will gamely participate in.
Geocaching is a great option. As of today they are all over the world. There are over 18,000 hidden caches in Wisconsin and more specifically there are 6 on Madeline Island. It is a real-world outdoor treasure hunt. On this particular trip I gathered the coordinates online and chose a location with a low level of difficulty since some of our hunters were 6 and 7 years of age. We took our kids as well as a couple of extra family friends and set out to find the hidden cache on Capser Trail on Madeline Island. The delight in the faces of the seekers when they found the treasure was very worth the trip.
And of course, the children of yoga teachers took the opportunity to show off their yoga skills in the woods. Bonus!
So how do you start? To get the location (coordinates) you need to log on to Geocaching.com and create a free account. After that all you really need is a GPS (many phones now have applications for coordinates also) and some good hiking shoes.
A couple geocache tips:
- Be prepared for your hike. Have water, bug-repellent, and perhaps some healthy snacks for kids. Considering the beautiful scenery surrounding many caches, bring your camera.
- Be mindful of the leave no trace principles and teach your children that same respect on their search for the hidden treasure.
- Cache etiquette suggests that you leave a small trinket in the container and log your visit on the log book enclosed.
- Replace the cache in the same exact location in respect for the next hunter.
- Be aware of your surroundings. A rouge patch of poison ivy can quickly ruin family fun day.
- Lastly, log your experience at Geocaching.com. This is also great creative writing opportunity for the older kids!