Geocaching the COVID blues away

While this past spring was both scary and stressful as the pandemic raged about and kept us locked up during the last gasp of a Buffalo winter, summer for our household has been better. Unconventional compared to past years, but actually pretty fun and full of family bonding activities. Lots of hikes, lots of socially distant activities like berry picking, and a renewal of an old favorite activity of mine — geocaching.

In fact, when I had thought of this in August, I was slapping my forehead that this didn’t come to mind earlier when my wife and I were brainstorming things to do with the kids that were safe for them and for others around us. Geocaching is kind of a perfect COVID-era activity: It takes you to remote spots off the beaten path, it encourages you to not “play” if others are near, and it turns the world around you into an exciting treasure hunt.

So for the past month, I’ve been taking out my older kids a few times a week for geocache hunts. We haven’t really done it since arriving in New York two years ago, so this is fertile exploration ground for us, and there are hundreds if not thousands of caches to find. For both me and the kids, it’s thrilling to go on these trips because we never quite know what we’ll find or what we’ll see. Geocaching is often about being led by strangers to interesting places and shown things that most folk never witness, and that connects us with this invisible but real community.

It’s social distancing, gamified.

Some of the notable geocaches we’ve found so far:

  • One that included a small Polaroid camera for geocachers to take pictures of themselves and put them back in the container.
  • A multi-cache that involved finding death dates on gravestones and using those for the GPS coordinates of the final cache.
  • A WWII memorial that was one of the more visually impressive shrines I’ve ever seen.

It’s certainly helped us to get our exercise, especially since the kids grew so sick of “yet another walk.” Now we’re walking with a purpose, and they don’t complain but keep chattering away. We have team roles — navigator, log signer, treasure holder — and everyone gets to join in on the challenge of finding the cache.

Anyway, I’m hoping to keep this going until it gets too cold this year to do it. The question of winter activities in a city that’s still pretty locked up looms over our heads, but one day at a time and we’ll make it though even that.

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