Now that my children are old enough to take on small expeditions, I’ve been introducing them to geocaching over the past couple of months. We had so much fun on our first outing, in fact, that I ponied up for a $25 yearly subscription to get the premium version of the app. I highly recommend that, by the way, because many of the best geocaches are hidden for all but premium members.
I also introduced my youth group to geocaching as an unstructured event. After showing them the basics, they picked our next adventure, and we found ourselves finding all sorts of interesting places all over town. In the span of two hours, we discovered secret paths that cut through small forests, climbed a tree in a fruitless search for a cache that wasn’t there, encountered a whole lot of suburban wildlife, hiked over train tracks, and trekked through a cemetery.
As one of my teens later put it, the appeal wasn’t in what tiny little trinkets we got out of the caches, it was in the stories of the journeys that we went on. It was like being guided to cool spots by strangers, some of whom went to a lot of trouble to set up some neat geocaches.
Four really cool ones stuck out at us:
- There was one that we spent hunting for a half-hour, focusing on the key word of “attractive.” We thought it meant good-looking, but there was nothing pretty there. Eventually we found a hidden metal tube with a magnet that was “attracted” to the underside of a metal scaffold.
- Someone took a lot of time to put together a coffin-shaped geocache in a cemetery that had a giant thumb pop up out of it when you opened it (“thumbs up!” was written on the lid).
- As part of a leftover Halloween cache, someone placed a mannequin’s head deep into a thicket. Creepy as all get out, let me tell you.
- Our absolute favorite, however, was a “Quarter Back” cache. This one was an actual newspaper vending machine that someone had painted with the geocache logo and placed off of a business’ parking lot. You put in a quarter to open it, but you got the quarter back (hence the name). Inside was a huge cache with more trinkets than I’ve ever seen in one of these.
Geocaching isn’t an activity that I have a lot of time for these days, but it is a great “once in a while” or “oh I have 10 minutes of spare time” or “we’ve got to hang out here a while, what do we do?” filler, especially in a populated area. While we don’t always find our caches, the journeys that we go on more than make up for the disappointment. And that’s something I want to keep doing for a while to come.