Geocaching may be the perfect Cascadia sport. Itâ€™s a puzzleÂ (appealing to our inner geek), itâ€™s an outdoor excursion (appealing toÂ our inner jock), itâ€™s a social trading game (yes, even cheerleadersÂ can play).
Geocachers hide containers with tradeable trinkets â€“ pick oneÂ and keep it, and leave your trade inside. Cache stashes could offerÂ small plastic toys, movie tickets, foreign money or stickers. NoteÂ your visit in the logbook with a stamp or signature, also kept in theÂ container.
Caches can be tucked away anywhere: city park, campground stream,Â old-growth tree or a mountain peak.
How do you find these containers? With your Global Positioning SystemÂ (GPS) device or cellphone, after retrieving instructions from aÂ geocaching website (the most popular is geocaching.com, althoughÂ regional sites also offer hide â€˜nâ€™ seek clues).Â Itâ€™s a game you canÂ play anywhere â€“ even when on a family vacation.
This week, weâ€™ll find out more about the kid-friendly sport ofÂ geocaching with Lisa and Martin Pedersen of the site FamilyNavigation.com, which focuses on their family life, geocaching and children’s activities. Â Lisa and Martin live inÂ the Comox Valley of BC’s Vancouver Island, and are the parents of Annika, 5, and twins Bryce and Jada, 2. All photos below are courtesy of the Pedersens, and certainly bring geocaching to life!
Q:Â How do you geocache with kids?
Our kids are all young, so they just help us find the cache once weÂ locate the area.Â Finding caches is a lot of fun, but hiding caches for other people toÂ find is also important.Â Our oldest child has hidden a cache of herÂ own and she enjoyed deciding on the trading items.
Q: What sort of toys did your daughter put into the cache?
For Annikaâ€™s cache, she decided that she wanted to includeÂ international coins. We had a lot of coins from our previous travels,Â which we put inside her cache. People are trading coins for ones inÂ their collection.Â In other caches we hidden weâ€™ve put geocachingÂ supplies or small plastic toys that kids like.
Q: Is it an all-season outdoor sport or best in summer?
Geocaching is an all season activity, it just depends on how much oneÂ enjoys going outside in the winter months.Â Many caches are hidden atÂ ground level so they can be a real challenge to find in the snow.
Like most outdoor activities, geocaching is most popular on warm sunnyÂ days.
Q: Why is BC a great place to go geocaching with kids?
BC is an outdoor paradise (yes, we are biased) so we love an outdoorÂ activity that shows some of the hidden area gems. Many forests,Â mountain parks, lakes, rivers, beaches and towns are filled withÂ geocaches, for all difficulty levels. Many geocachers live in BC, soÂ there are lots of caches to find wherever you go.
Q: Do you need any special equipment to go geocaching?
To go geocaching you need a GPS receiver that can direct you to theÂ coordinates of the hidden geocache. Like any electronic device, theÂ cost can vary depending on the features youâ€™re looking for.Â You canÂ buy a GPS receiver under $100, and you can pay much more.
We spent $300 for one that had special geocaching features and cameÂ with topographic maps.Â There are a lot of good, used GPS units forÂ sale.Â If you are unsure if geocaching is for you then you may want toÂ rent a GPS unit from an outdoor outfitter, or see if you can tag alongÂ with an experienced geocacher.Â Some cell phones now come with GPSÂ capabilities as well.
Q: Any geocaching tech that kids really enjoy?
Travel bugs are a cool thing that kids can get into.Â Â You purchase these smallÂ tags that attach to a trading toy.Â You put the toys (with tag) into aÂ cache and other geocachers will find the toys and move them on toÂ another cache.Â Travel bugs are tracked on the geocaching.com website,Â so kids can follow their travel bugs and read the stories of theirÂ adventure.
Q: What’s the coolest cache you’ve found?
We like tricky caches hidden in a very clever container or thoseÂ requiring us to solve a tough puzzle. Weâ€™ve found caches inside fakeÂ sprinkler nozzles, rocks, logs, among others.
A fun cache we found lately took us to a street sign, where we found aÂ small sticker with numbers on it.Â You had to figure outÂ that this was the number of a book that was on the shelf in the localÂ library.Â The geocacher had made arrangements with the library toÂ shelve a logbook where people could find and then sign their name.
After you have been geocaching for a while these sort of tricks becomeÂ easier to figure out.Â This was a very unique cache and a fun one toÂ do with the family.Â There are many extremely tough puzzle caches, orÂ multiple step caches, for people who really like challenges.
Q: Which caches do your kids like best?
Our kids — mostly due to their age — like any large container withÂ lots of things to trade.Â In their eyes the best caches are full ofÂ toys where they can trade something of equal or greater value forÂ something new they like. Sometimes choosing a toy takes longer thanÂ actually finding the cache.
Our kids think there is nothing like going for a hike in the woods andÂ returning with a new toy.
Q: What would you suggest to families just getting started or who want toÂ learn more?
If geocaching sounds interesting, then visit geocaching.com, theÂ official website listing all the geocaches hidden worldwide.
Itâ€™s very easy to get started but it may take a little while to getÂ the hang of it, if youâ€™ve never used a GPS before.Â There are manyÂ local geocaching groups you can find online. We have found thatÂ geocachers are very approachable and like to help out new cachers.
You can also find out on the geocaching.com website if there are anyÂ free events in your area put on by local cachers (usually a veryÂ casual potluck) where you can meet people and get lots of tips.
Q: Any parting thoughts?
We recently moved back to Vancouver Island, to a town we did not knowÂ very well.Â Through geocaching weâ€™ve now visited many of the localÂ sites and found some hidden gems like swimming holes or shellÂ collecting beaches.
Weâ€™ve found that geocaching is a great excuse to go outside and spendÂ time as a family.Â A word of warning, however: It is a very addictiveÂ activity.