Wednesday, April 29, 2009

WFMW - Free (if you have a GPS) Family Fun!!

Our family has found a new hobby. It’s fun and gets us off the couch, away from the computer and television and outside to enjoy the great weather. It’s called geocaching.

We have tried letterboxing before, but my husband and I enjoyed it more than the kids and there was a little bit of whining happening while on the hunt.

Geocaching is very similar to letterboxing, except instead of written clues, you start with coordinates. All you need to get started is a GPS system. We don’t own a handheld GPS navigator yet (but are searching for the right a/k/a affordable one) so we use Garmeena, our trusty GPS from the car. (Ours is a Garmin and we named her Garmeena.)

Our GPS has a feature where you can type in longitude/latitude coordinates, as well as location. I’m assuming most of them do, you’ll just have to poke around for it. In order to get your “clue”, there is a website called From there, you just enter in your zip code, and you’ll see the geocaches that have been hidden in your area. I like click on the “search with Google Maps” icon so I can see exactly where I am going. (In order to get the coordinates, you must register, but it’s free. Make up a username that you like because you’ll be using this later to log in your find.)

I would suggest going to an area that you are familiar with starting out. The ones that we have found have all been in parks that are in our area. With just a little bit of time you can find some that may be “easy” to find. I would suggest looking at the hints and information left by people who have found them so you can get a feel of where it is at.

The ones that we have found are typically right off trails. There have been times that the directions take us way off the path, but keep in mind that trails typically twist and turn. Just be patient with it. (You can get a feel for how far off the path you’ll need to search by the difficulty and terrain rating.) Once you get to the location, you need to look for trees, holes, rocks, etc. that a container can be hidden under. We have found various containers, from a coffee can to an ammo box. Different sizes too!

Inside the container is where you will find the prizes. Almost all of the ones we have found have small trinkets and a log book. The trinkets have been coins, bracelets, keychains, small toys – really anything you can think of . You may get a trinket out, but be sure to have some items with you to put back inside. Sign and date the log book, and make sure you hide it back well so no one can see.

We haven’t encountered anyone else on the trails where we have found the caches, but be sure you are inconspicuous. You don’t want anyone to stumble upon it if they aren’t looking for it.I’m still new at this and still learning all the details, but this has definitely worked for us. For other great ideas, head over to We are That Family!