Laylee and I held my phone in front of us, the compass on the display pointing south. Twenty meters. Ten. Then suddenly it told us we’d reached our destination. Tourists were everywhere but we saw no sign of the treasure. We looked up and down the street, trying to blend in and look like casual sightseers, but we were on a mission, looking for a small geocache in downtown Seattle.
After a few minutes, I went back to the cache web page and looked at the hint. “A Week in Seattle,” it said. I whispered the clue to Laylee and we started looking again. It didn’t take us long to spot the bright red Seattle Weekly box across the street. We made our way to the box and sat on a nearby chair, planning our strategy. It had to be inside that box and since the box was metal, it was likely a magnetic cache stuck to the walls or roof.
When foot traffic around us slowed for a minute, Laylee made her way to the box and looked inside, casually feeling around with her hand. Quick as a flash she was back over by me, a look of triumph on her face, a small silver box in her hand. We carefully opened the treasure and signed the log inside and when the coast was clear, she replaced it and we continued on to the matinee we'd been planning.
Geocaching is a big game played worldwide by millions of people. Someone hides a container and logs its GPS coordinates online. Then others can go and find the cache and leave a note in the log and online to show they’ve found it. There are over a million of these caches around the world and almost anywhere we go I can locate one nearby.
There are a few reasons I’ve grown to love geocaching with my kids and we plan on doing it a lot more this summer. First, it gets them to move their bodies without it feeling like “exercise” or some kind of chore. It’s all a big game, a treasure-hunting expedition and they will walk for miles in search of a cache without complaining.
Second, it turns any outing into an adventure. We may be going shopping or to a doctor appointment but if there’s a geocache in the area, we can make it fun. Even if it’s just full of happy meal toys, Laylee and Magoo both love seeing what’s in the box.
Third, the process of looking for the cache builds skills. It helps us develop patience, math and observational skills, and of course stealth. You know it’s good when your kids can develop stealth. It comes in handy when you’re completing secret family missions or jewel heists.
I love that it gets us outside and doing a directed activity as a family. We collect our “finds” as badges of honor and each mission provides an opportunity to learn something different.
Memorial Day found us playing the game in a cemetery. With our GPS, we navigated to my friend’s grandfather’s gravestone and then used the dates of his birth and death to complete a mathematical formula that led us to the coordinates for the final location of the cache. Inside the jar, we found some fun facts about his life, signed the log and walked around and talked to the kids about some of the other people who were buried there. It was a great Memorial Day activity and something we wouldn’t have done if we didn’t have a cache to find.
Are you a geocacher? What other fun activities are you doing this summer?