Monday, March 19, 2012

Into the Great Wide Open

We discovered a new creative pursuit this Spring Break. Something that our poor cast-ridden oldest child not only could do, but wanted to do. Geocaching. We had heard of geocaching from other friends who had partaken in the “sport” before. I logged onto the site to read up a bit and then put the free geocaching app on my phone. When we headed down to the Dallas Zoo, I ran the app and discovered that there was a geocache inside the zoo.

Finding the zoo cache!
***Time-out to explain geocaching***

Different people hide caches (containers ranging in size from film canister to lunchbox or larger, holding a paper log to be signed and dated by the cacher) in various locations, public and wild alike, and then log the coordinates of the cache location. They post their cache on the geocaching website for people to find.

Sample of a log
There are literally over a million caches around the world. Some contain trinkets that you can swap, some contain trinkets to move on to another cache. Non-geocachers are called muggles after the term for non-magic folk in Harry Potter. You can use a GPS device or a smart phone with the app to find the caches. After we got a little addicted, we upgraded to the more advanced app. That ties into the website and allows you to track and log finds.

***Back to the story***

So at the zoo, we used the compass and map on the phone, along with the description and hint to wind our way through the crowds and exhibits until we located our first cache. We almost missed it until the hawkeyed-hubby caught a glimpse of the container. The girls were pretty hooked at that point. Okay, I was pretty hooked then, too.

Over the next few Spring Break days, we turned our “staycation” into a geocache treasure hunt. Our local Lake Park proved to be a wealth of caches and we were able to walk to about five without getting back into the car.

Wouldn't you want to look for a cache here?

Hint: make your kids hit the restroom BEFORE hiking a half-mile into the woods to find a cache!

After a half-mile run to a port-o-potty, we resumed our hunt. We found three caches and about a million ladybugs and lizards. I guess the first sunny day brought all the lizards out of hiding. A catalog of our favorites is to follow. You will notice one fellow’s tail tracks in the sand as he cruised by us!

See, I told you there were a lot of lizards! Could you see them all?

The reason we found three caches and not five is: 
1. The aforementioned potty break, and, 2. The huge snake sunning itself in the vicinity of the last cache.

After the snake, we decided to go a bit more urban and hit the mean streets of Lewisville. We found three park-and-grab caches, which are generally in parking lots and easy to, say it with me, park-and-grab!

found another one!

Pros of geocaching:
*Finding cool wildlife like lizards, shamrocks, bird nests and ladybugs.
*Extra walking, climbing, hiking.
*Creates interest for child who is not really into “crafty” things and for children who are into “crafty” things.
*Kids learn fun things about direction, compasses, stealth and Frisbee golf.

Cons of geocaching:
*Big, big snakes.
*Sometimes muggles destroy caches so there is nothing to find.
*Briar scratches.
*Kids learn that Frisbee golfers have no patience for geocachers!

Fro-Yo break!
All in all, we have a great activity to do together. We created a little geocaching pack, full of bottled water, pens (some caches are too tiny for a pen) snacks and a box of tiny trinkets to trade. On our way to or from a practice, lesson or appointment, we can check our vicinity for a cache and try our hand at finding it. It is an ongoing treasure hunt that makes every trip in the car a potential adventure!


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