Geocaching?  Really?  My son came to me the other day and asked me if I knew what Geocaching was.  Geocaching.  Hmmm…what is Geocaching?  I wanted to sound cool, so I sort of answered him based on what my sister had told me many years ago about her experiences Geocaching up in Connecticut with her kids.  Since I had not heard of it before (or since) then, I sort of assumed it was a “Connecticut” thing.  Boy was I wrong…

Here it is...our first cache! It didn't take long to find this one.  We quickly found the general area, and the clue on the app said "look up," so that helped us a lot!

Here it is…our first cache! It didn’t take long to find this one.  We quickly found the general area, and the clue on the app said “look up,” so that helped us a lot! I was surprised at how small the containers can be. Apparently, they can be even smaller than this!

One of the You-tubers my son follows talked a little bit about Geocaching in his video.  Next thing I knew, we had downloaded the app on my iPhone, and we were heading out the door with a pen and a bouncy ball following the GPS on my phone looking for some sort of hidden treasure!  Here’s what I have learned in my short time Geocaching…

Geocaching is a treasure hunt that takes advantage of today’s high-tech gadgets and apps.  The word “geocaching” actually comes from the words geography and caching – the process of storing or hiding objects.  The object is to use GPS coordinates and subtle clues people leave on the app to track down cache boxes that have been hidden in various places near you – usually on a trail, or at a park, sometimes even in people’s yards.

What you find, and what kind of container you find will vary from place to place.  A cache is basically a container that holds something.  So far on our adventures we have found a small 35mm film canister tied to a tree limb, a missing cache box, and a small water bottle hanging from a hook that had been attached to a cedar tree on the trail near our house.  Some of the containers can be very large, and others can be very small (and very hard to spot).  But we learned from our experience, if you are planning to hide some Geocache treasures, you might want to consider a waterproof container.  A couple of the caches we found were soaking wet!

All you need to go Geocaching is one of the many apps on a mobile phone or other device that has the location setting turned on, and a few small items to trade (coins, tokens, toys, or anything you can think of). The geocaching app uses the GPS in your phone to locate geocaches near you and guide you to them using a map of your area.  Oh and don’t forget… you need to be adventurous and ready to hop across streams, crawl through bushes, and do your best to avoid bugs and other creatures!  Wear good shoes too – – and I don’t mean flip-flops!!

I'm glad Dad was along for this adventure. After missing good pictures of our first outing, I decided to tag along on this adventure and be the photographer, instead of the crazy Mom jumping across the stream!

I’m glad Dad was along for this adventure. After missing good pictures of our first outing, I decided to tag along this time and be the photographer – not the treasure crazy Mom jumping across the stream looking for the hidden cache!

Get your app up and running and then you can head out and hunt down the hidden treasure (or cache) by following the directions on the screen.  Each cache is supposed to have a logbook so you can record your name and date in the logbook.  You can also log your adventure online with many of the apps so others using the same app can read about your experience at each Geocache location – was it hard to find, was it missing, was it rain-soaked, etc…

When my son first told me about this, I was a little skeptical, but after our first adventure, I was hooked.  It was so fun to see him using my iPhone’s GPS to search for this treasure!  And then, when he came running home to tell his sister about it, I was ready to go out again.  So was everyone else in the house.  It really is an activity that is fun for all ages.

So…we got home from our adventures and had so much to discuss.  What treasures we might hide or find on our next adventure, what we needed to have in our backpack, and all sorts of fun things…  We quickly went online to read up about the app and other information so we could be the best Geocachers in Allen, and then logged on to Amazon and ordered our kit called Dr. B’s Geocaching Beginner Kit.  In this kit we have a trackable tag, waterproof log papers, waterproof logbook, stash notes, a Geocaching sticker, the Geo Creed, a permanent marker, pencils, assorted plastic bags, and a few other items. We need to be prepared, right??  And now I’m fully invested!  So of course, we also needed the Cache Advance Rock Geocache – you know…a sneaky place to hide our first treasure.  I know…I’m such a child…

They say if you take something out of a cache, you need to put something back in for the next adventurer.  So far, Zach has chosen to leave a colorful bouncy ball each time.  I guess if you’re 9, finding a bouncy ball would be pretty cool.  But I’m hoping to find the ancient, rare and valuable coin that someone left thinking it was just a nickel!  But…we’re not too focused on the prizes, because after-all, the fun is really in the hunt!

untitled-1-3

Okay…so maybe it is about finding the treasure. Because even though someone left a really lame rubber band in this container, the kids were still thrilled!

The app we are using is called Cachebot – available in the App Store for your iPhone.  It is a free app, but for a fee, you can upgrade to a premium version.  So far, we have been satisfied with the free version.  We’ll see how long that lasts…  I’ve already considered upgrading several times (without Zach even asking), so I’m sure it will happen once I have my husband fully on board our new Geocaching train!

Here is a screen shot of what the map looks like. All the solid green dots represent locations of caches!

Here is a screen shot of what the map looks like. All the solid green dots represent locations of caches!

I find myself very excited about our next adventure – – in fact, I’m hoping he comes home from school today asking to go out again.  Who knows what we might find…  Some ancient coin, a small Matchbox car, or anything…or maybe nothing.  But like I said…it’s more about the adventure anyway, right?

And here he is...my little Geocacher following the GPS to our next stop. Unfortunately, this trip required us to jump over a small stream - glad no one had a camera to get pictures of that...

And here he is…my little Geocacher following the GPS to our next stop. Unfortunately, this trip required us to jump over a small stream – glad no one had a camera to get pictures of that…

A screen shot of the app explaining level of difficulty, terrain, and how big the container is.

A screen shot of the app explaining level of difficulty, terrain, and how big the container is.

There is actually a very interesting website explaining the phenomenon called Podcacher – Geocaching Goodness.  It was full of helpful information.  And let me tell you…these people are serious Geocachers!  On their website, it says “Sonny, Sandy and Sean, also known as Team PodCacher, are a family geocaching team in Southern California (aka Sunny San Diego). Sonny started geocaching back in Nov 2002 (as “iTrax”) after reading about the hobby in Wired magazine. He introduced Sandy to geocaching in January 2004 on their first date and she was hooked (on both him and the new hobby). They got married and started caching together as “iTrax and FoxTail”.  In May 2008, Sean joined the family and they chose the name “Team PodCacher” to cache together as a family.” 

Now we are not quite that serious (yet), but I can brag about 3 successful adventures so far!  With many more to come, I’m sure…  And once we upgrade to the premium app, there will be no stopping this Geocaching team!  Guess I better start thinking of a name, since “Team PodCacher” is already taken.

Another helpful article I found was called Geocaching with a Smartphone.  And if you are a visitor of Texas State Parks, just visit their website for details and join the Texas State Parks Geocache Challenge.  We are not planning to adventure that far, but I think that if we find an impressive booty at one of these local sites, we will definitely think about expanding our journey to all the state parks in Texas!

From what I’ve read, we would not be the only ones trekking to all the Texas State Parks.  In one article, I read that there are more than 2 million cache sites around the world, and almost as many people participating!  How has this gone on for so long without me knowing about it??

Geocaching with the Cachebot App on the iPhone

Here’s Zach enjoying his first successful Geocaching experience. Unfortunately, the contents in this little cache were soaking wet, so we weren’t able to record our successful find in the logbook, but we were able to update all of this information on the app!  So be sure to use a water-proof container if you plan to leave some treasures somewhere.

So…that’s Geocaching!  Oh…one last thing.  Most of the articles and apps say you are supposed to be sneaky and not let people see what you are doing.  According to Zach, I’m not sneaky enough, and I need to leave my camera at home.  My camera makes everyone look at us and wonder what we’re doing!  Sorry kid – – I needed some pictures for my blog!  Oh, and don’t tell him I posted these pics.  He told me my pictures would give away all the locations we’ve been too!  Hopefully, you won’t recognize any of these trees on the trail near our house.  Good luck on your first Geocaching adventure.  I hope you find some good treasures.  Leave some good treasures too – – just in case we come after you!  Have fun!  Until next time…