What on earth could make a woman in her 40s walk for hours in the woods looking for Tupperware hidden under a rotten log?
For me, the answer is geocaching. Geocaching is an ideal way to enjoy nature all year long. Considering I have found 136 caches in 13 different states, I think I am hooked on the hobby.
Geocaching is a scavenger hunt. It encourages people of all ages to use their GPS devices (or smartphones with GPS technology) to get off their couches, out of their houses, and explore new areas.
It’s pretty simple. Go to www.geocaching.com to learn more and create an account. Download the app to your device, in my case an iPhone, for less money than you’d spend on pizza delivery.
Unlike the pizza, the experiences you will have geocaching will last much longer. Once you start exploring, you’ll understand what I mean.
Just know that you need to have a healthy sense of adventure, and be respectful of the land the caches are located on. Caches are found on private and public lands. Some are even located on business properties.
Once you start geocaching, you’ll be amazed how many there are around you. One of my favorite things to do when traveling is to check my app at gas stations, rest stops, and other places along the way. Looking for a cache is the perfect excuse to stretch your legs and explore on those long road trips!
You will learn quickly how to use the GPS coordinates to help you, along with different clues and hints found within the app about the caches you are seeking.
There’s not one true description of what a cache can be. Some will be as small as a quarter and others as large as a coffee can or ammo box. There are a few that will have items for trade. Others are so small they can barely hold the signature log.
Some are placed up high, some are down low, while others are magnetic and hidden in plain sight.
It’s amazing to see all the signatures on the cache logs. My daughter and I have seen signatures from our neighbors down the street to geocachers from Ashwell, England, on the logs. (I am not sure why the geocachers from Ashwell stuck in my mind so clearly, but they did!)
Above all else, it’s a fairly inexpensive and enjoyable way to bond with friends and family. I have great memories of geocaching with my daughter when she was younger. She would often squeal with delight when she was able to locate one before I did.
Now that she’s older and more experienced, she doesn’t get as excited about the finds as she once did, but she still lights up when she can beat me to it.
I have introduced a few of my friends to geocaching and they will suggest we use my app to find a few when we are together. I love watching them get excited about it, like I do.
It also comes in handy a few times as a teacher. I often travel with my broadcast journalism students for contests and conventions. When we have down time and the kids say they are “bored” that is a great time to get the app out and go on a hunt!
However, don’t think you always have to geocache with other people. I have done it alone a few times. When driving long distances by myself, I like to stop occasionally, take a short break and get a little exercise.
The thrill of the hunt and finding a solution to the riddle that is geocaching is fun, but ultimately anything that gets us outside (in my opinion) is a positive thing.
I hope you’ll consider trying it, too!
(Michelle Turner lives in Union, Mo.)