After having had a few quiet days enjoying the snow at home, we decided it was time to get our boots on and venture a bit further afield. The snowman is a lumpy pile of snow, a carrot lying forlornly beside it amidst a couple of grapes we’d used as eyes.
We’ve been meaning to attempt geocaching for a while now – read: years, but I’ve never actually got around to trying it. I downloaded the app a long time ago and our nearest cache is apparently 100 yards down the road. It also tells us we need tweezers to find it, so with three impatient boys, I felt we’d give that one a miss as a starting point.
So in a bid to start ticking things off my to-do list and burning off the boys’ endless reserves of energy, I decided we would head to a local park to us and give it a go.
The geocaching app was showing 5 caches on the map, despite all the descriptions saying there was a trail of 9. A few of them had people posting that the caches were missing with recent dates on, so we started with one that looked like it might be positive.
The boys followed the map on my phone until it pinged up that we were very close. It gave us a clue of ‘stumpy or not’ and so we trailed over to an enormous tree trunk.
Only to find nothing. The boys searched high and low, but we found nothing.
We moved on to the next, and the next. Two were 100% not there, and one other was telling us it was in a tree but the co-ordinates took us to a bare patch of grass so we looked in all the nearby trees, to no avail.
(We did find a lot of beautiful fungi though!)
The final one had several logs underneath it on the app saying it definitely wasn’t there, so we didn’t investigate the last one. The park trail clearly needs more maintenance.
Looping back around the park and crossing the bridge, we ended up close to the first tree stump we investigated. Thinking we’d give it one last shot, we headed over, before realising we’d missed another stump nearby.
The boys bound over and find a little plastic tub nestled in a tiny stump underneath a few branches piled on top. The contents were damp and covered with mildew, but we managed to swap a painted stone for a plastic dinosaur before signing the logbook.
Despite most of them appearing to be missing (although the app history does say they’ve been replaced numerous times, so obviously a frequent issue), the boys really enjoyed geocaching and are begging to go again on Wednesday as forest school is cancelled. We’re aiming to go somewhere a little more off the beaten track in the hope that it’s less likely people will have removed them.
What is Geocaching?
Geocaching is essentially a world-wide treasure hunt, achieved by entering location co-ordinates into a GPS system. Most people will download the app onto their phone as a good starting point.
The best geocaching site to get started with is geocaching.com and the website allows you to register for free. You can then type in your town, city or postcode which will allow you to see the geocaches local to you.
Each cache has details written about it – some of them a little cryptic, and I find myself wishing I’d paid more attention to my mother doing cryptic crosswords when I was a little girl. I didn’t get it then, and I don’t get it now.
Typing in our own postcode brought up several places we could easily park up and go for a wander, without having to walk miles in the freezing temperatures. A local park brought up a local trail of 9 caches, although it did warn that they were having problems with people stealing the caches. Feeling it was a good place to start and warning the boys in advance not to be too disappointed if we didn’t find anything, we donned hats and gloves, grabbed a flask of hot chocolate and set off in search of a needle in a haystack.
Types of Cache
There are different types of cache, varying in size and shape. Perhaps the best place to start is with a traditional cache, which is generally a plastic tub. The tub will generally contain a logbook and pencil, and sometimes will include swappable items and/or trackables.
A micro cache can generally be found in a camera film pot and are not big enough to hold any swappables or trackables.
A nano cache is like a nano SIM card – tiny! Many clues on these caches say, ‘make sure you bring a pair of tweezers!’
A multi cache is a trail which, once you have found the first one, will give you co-ordinates for the next one.
Swappables are generally small items that people leave in a traditional cache. More often than not they’re small trinkets to engage the children – small plastic dinosaurs, pretty shells, painted stones.
Geocaching.com describes trackables as ‘a trackable tag that you attach to an item. This allows you to track your item on Geocaching.com. The item becomes a hitchhiker that is carried from cache to cache (or person to person) in the real world and you can follow its progress online.’