Welcome to Geocaching and for those who have yet to try, let me tell you, it’s one of the easiest adventures to get kids outside, active and exploring their surroundings.
Geocachers have been at it for 15 years. The outdoor treasure hunt uses GPS-enabled devices to place and locate hidden treasures known as “geocaches.” There are over 2.7 million active geocaches around the globe in almost every country (Canada ranks number three in quantity.) And in our little piece of the world known as Toronto, there are thousands hidden in parks, ravines and city streets and alleys. Chances are they are kilometres – if not metres – away from you.
Our first go was in Taylor Creek. For all adults and kids in TOw, the chase was almost more exciting than the find. When you use the Geocaching.com App, your device turns into a compass. It’s very kid-friendly (if you’re okay with them holding your smart phone) and has everyone discussing navigation and distances. (It counts down the metres as you approach the geocache.) Once you’ve found it, you have a look through its contents, add a new item, sign the logbook and place the container back in its original hiding spot. You can also share our experience and photos online – no spoilers please.
Every geocache is different. One adventure had our group of four adults and six kids literally digging in the sand, while another down a downtown alley was a bust. (We realized later via a log from previous geocacher that it had fallen and couldn’t be retrieved.) We are hooked.
Getting there: The Geocaching.com App has a free intro version that gives you access to traditional and very straightforward geocaches. (You can upgrade for a fee to have access to many more.) You can buy a device too. (We are “KidsinTO” if you want to find us on Geocaching.com.)
Low-down: There are many different kinds of geocaches. The original is basically a container of varying sizes (eg. an XS could be a film-sized or smaller canister.) The larger containers will have items for trading or trackables inside. All will have a logbook to sign. They are also of varying difficulties which are rated by stars. A one-or two-star is quite easy to find, while a five-star terrain ranking means mountain climbing or scuba-diving may be required. Some use puzzles and clues (instead of coordinates) and an EarthCache is for super nature-lovers with extra information on the unique features of a special geological location. There is also something called a Geocache Travel Bug where you can follow one item’s adventure and help to move it along to its destination. In Toronto the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority has TreeCaching Trails, a self-guided tour of the environment. Learn more on Geocaching 101.
FYI: You may need to manage expectations. By calling it a “treasure,” my kids were surprised to find a plastic take-out container filled with little plastic weather-damaged items. No sparkly gold coins and gems. Oops. So at our house, we’ve now started calling it a mystery box and focusing on the find and what we’d leave behind.
Leaving stuff: Little key-chain-sized trinkets and toys, rocks and gems are great geocache ideas. Make your own, find some stuff at home or if you’re really into, you can start buying items made specially for Geocaching. You can also create and leave your own cache. It’s best to find a few beforehand to get a feel for the “game” before creating your own. If you are leaving one in a park, such as in the TRCA lands, there are guidelines to follow.
Say what? Sometimes it feels like a whole new language – here is a Glossary of Terms to help you navigate the Geocaching world.