Cache In on Family Fun
Welcome to my stream of consciousness. In the midst of composing posts about our upcoming travels, two things came across my path that had me put those posts on hold to bring you this little confluence of thoughts.
The first distraction was this post from NWF about keeping kids entertained while hiking. It had me chuckling, not because it’s a humor piece, but because of the unwritten undertones of it…keeping kids entertained through tasks and events they might not appreciate when they’re in the moment.
Haven’t all we parents had to perform great feats of distraction in just about every possible scenario in our journey through parenthood? I know I have (Exhibit A, Exhibit B). The flood of memories of all the tactics I’ve used over the years brings about that mixed bag of laughter somewhere between exhaustion and relief.
On the very same day I read that post, I received a fabulous package in the mail…my new Pathtags! Which begs the question…”Val, what are Pathtags?”
Well, my friends I’m glad you asked. Pathtags are little metal tags you have designed (or design yourself) for trading and geocaching. The sky’s the limit on what can be done. People have them made for just about every reason and theme imaginable. Your tags get logged out in the world and you get to see all the places they’ve gone.
Jester designed our first signature tags, the ones that bear our geocaching monikers, JesterVineo and Spacebudgie. He did a great job but since I have so many other honey-dos on his list right now, I had my Val in Real Life tags designed by Rick at Tattooine Tags…who is all sorts of awesome BTW.
Connecting the dots…
So what does a post about hiking games and the arrival of my Pathtags have to do with each other? Well, to get to the point…geocaching.
While I’ve mentioned geocaching from time-to-time here, I pretty much always operated under the assumption that if you’re reading this granola-infused blog, that you probably know what geocaching is. Not that it’s not entirely the domain of granola-types like yours truly, but it does fall within the realm of granoladom. Anyhoo, in the spirit of not leaving anyone uninformed, let’s explore this rapidly growing hobby/sport that so many people have gone rabid over.
And Geocaching is…?
A high-tech treasure hunt basically. Using a GPS, you scout locations of hidden caches. The quarry may be as small as a blueberry (a “nano”) or as large as a breadbox. They’re hidden (and often very mischievously camouflaged) in all sorts of places, from your local parking lot to the middle of the wilderness. Once you find the cache, you sign the log and record it on your Geocaching.com account. For the smaller (nano & micro) caches, you simply sign the log but for the bigger ones, you may be able to trade items such as small toys, Travel Bugs, geocoins, and of course, Pathtags.
Geocaching is becoming more and more popular and it’s a fabulous way to discover places you wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s also a jim-dandy collection of geography lessons for kids and adults alike and it requires concentration and attention which is a big challenge in the Age of Distraction.
One of the other, more humorous, challenges of geocaching is avoiding drawing the attention of non-geocaching folks (aka “muggles”). So on top of searching for the caches, you’re trying not to let anyone notice you. Tricky, eh? It is. And it’s a lot of fun.
If that sounds like your idea of a good tme and you’d like to get started, learn the basics at Geocaching.com. The next best bet after that is to search out a local club. You don’t have to of course but it they’re a great resource. Here we have the Georgia Geocaching Association but there are clubs all over. There are also geocaching events and challenges happening all over as well…for example, the Georgia State Parks Geo-Challenge.
The great thing about geocaching is that it can happen anywhere and can be as much or as little of your adventure as you want. In other words, you can spend your whole day caching or you can just grab one or two on your way places. With over a million caches in the world, you won’t ever run out.
And it doesn’t have to be expensive to get started. Just like any new hobby, it can be expensive if you want, but it doesn’t have to be. (FYI, Jester uses his Android phone to cache and I’ve got a Delorme PN-40. I haven’t written a review yet but you can check it out on Amazon if you like until I get around to a formal review here.)
Wrapping it up…
This brings me to the kiddos. In addition to the games highlighted in the NWF post, don’t forget geocaching as a family entertainment option. It crosses all age ranges so it’s something everyone can do together. Plus, if you have a tween (like Fred), you can avoid the hiking-is-just-walking-for-no-reason discussions because geocaching is hiking with a reason. Not that hiking in and of itself isn’t wonderful, but sometimes the adolescent grumps need a little more incentive to step away from the video games. Once they’re on the trail, things typically smooth out and they get lost in the hunt…especially if they have the chance to track a Geocoin, TravelBug, or Pathtag.
So there you go…hiking, Geocaching, and Pathtags go hand-in-hand. A granola trifecta.
How many of you out there geocache?