The thrill of the hunt

Summer is finally here! 

With the sun shining and my three boys eager for outdoor excitement, my family
is gearing up for our new favorite activity — geocaching! 

While we love to visit waterparks and day camps in summer, I’m a mama who’s determined to maintain the family budget while also keeping the inevitable “I’m bored” groans at bay.

And let me tell you, I hit the jackpot with the worldwide treasure hunt that
is geocaching.

If you aren’t familiar with the craze that took over in the early 2000s, it goes like this: Caches are containers that hold trinkets and a log book. And they can be found only by using precise GPS coordinates because they’re completely hidden — usually in the woods or other natural areas, usually along scenic trails.

It’s up to you and your confidantes to find the cache or, as we call it in my family, the hidden treasure. 

Not only is it a cool new way to get outside and enjoy family time, but — this is the best part — it’s also free.

Ready …

It wasn’t always this way: In the early days of geocaching, you needed a special GPS (Global Positioning System) tracker. Good ones cost hundreds of dollars!

But these days all you need is a mobile phone and a geocaching app. 

Though there are several apps you can chose from, my family decided on the free app simply called, Geocaching. It provides a map of the caches that have been hidden and recorded in a selected area, providing you with hundreds — yes, HUNDREDS — of opportunities to seek and find!

Think Pokemon Go with a more linear structure, less standing around and no gaming at all.

We’ve hit locations all over the place, including the North Shore of Lake Superior, Como Park in St. Paul and Reservoir Woods Park in Roseville, to name a few.  

Caches are rated by difficulty level, which I found very helpful when traveling with young children. Once you select your cache with the app’s map, it leads you, step by step, to your destination. 

You can search the activity portion of the selected cache to see when the last person found it and if anyone has had difficulty finding it. 

Get set …

Before heading out geocaching, here is a list of tips and items to bring for a fun adventure!

  • Charge your phone: In the realm of geocaching, there’s nothing worse than being close to finding a cache and having your phone die. 
  • A pen: Kids love the opportunity to log their successes and see who else was victorious in their search. We’ve occasionally come across a cache with an entry log that’s missing its pen — or has one that doesn’t work. So bring your own just in case — maybe a waterproof one!
  • A trinket: Part of geocaching is getting to keep the treasure you find. But this means you must also leave a small trinket in its place. Some things we’ve found in the containers have included paperclips, coins, acorns and action figures. The biggest cache we found — and by far my boys’ favorite — was a container filled with fidget spinners. 
    • So what should you leave behind? This is a great opportunity to get rid of the unwanted clutter in your house. Whether it’s a trinket from a birthday party or items from the junk drawer, be sure to put something new in the cache. As the old saying goes, someone’s trash may be someone else’s treasure. But don’t worry too much about trinkets. 
    • I’ve found my boys are far more caught up in the hunt for the cache than the prize at the end. They’ve never been disappointed with the treasure found, even if it’s an acorn or paperclip. 
  • Bug protection: While caches usually aren’t too far off the beaten path, there’s a chance you may need to trek through some overgrown tall weeds or peer into the buggy brush. 
    • I like to make sure we have some long socks, pants and/or bug spray along to protect us from poison ivy or creepy crawlies. What’s an adventure without a little risk, right?

Go!

Geocaching is about enjoying the journey and the natural gems of the area, including local and regional parks. Take some time to enjoy the wild beauty that surrounds you — and the amenities the parks have to offer — whether it’s a playground, bike path, picnic area or nature center. 

Traveling? Even better. You can do this on vacation, too!

I guarantee your kids’ whispers of boredom (or demands for screen time) will turn to cheers of joy. Happy hunting! 


Amy Beseth is a mother of three and the owner of Pride & Joy Doula Services, serving St. Paul, Minneapolis and the surrounding suburbs.