On Monday, we went on our first geocaching expedition. Geocaching is a combination hike and treasure hunt — you get the latitude and longitude co-ordinates of a “cache” from the geocaching web site, plug them into your GPS, and then go find it. The GPS is only so accurate, however, so it’s not like once you get to the co-ordinates, you look down and there it is. You need to look under rocks or piles of leaves or in tree stumps, stuff like that. You can find some in the city as well, though I suspect those ones are harder to find — you can’t just leave one on the sidewalk.

The web site has thousands of caches listed, and each one has an indication of how hard the cache is to find, and how difficult the terrain is. You can put a cache halfway down a cliff wall, but then only rock climbers are going to be able to find it. There are also caches hidden underwater for scuba divers to find.

The cache itself is generally a tupperware-type box or ammo container that has a log book in it, and sometimes some little “prizes”. The idea is that if you take something, you leave something as well. The one we found wasn’t in great condition though, there were some rusty coins in it, two pens that didn’t work, and a plastic toy. We signed the log book and then took the broken pens and left a good one.

Sometimes, the cache owner makes a game of it, and creates several caches, each of which contains a “clue”. Once you find all the caches and put all the clues together, that gives you the location of the final cache. Some caches also contain a trackable item, which is something that has a code you can enter on the web site. The idea with those is to take the item from that cache, leave it in another one somewhere else, and then update the web site. Then you can follow the item’s progress around the world.

I borrowed a GPS from a guy at work, just to see if this is something that the kids would enjoy, and sure enough they liked searching in the bushes once we found the general location. According to the web site, there are numerous caches around our area, and there are some up north near where our parents live. We’ve even found a bunch in France, so we might try a few of those when we’re over there next summer (bought our tickets last week!). We’ve signed up for a geocaching “class” at the Royal Botanical Gardens in October, so that should be fun as well.


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