Thursday, April 22, 2010

Be Out There Challenge Day 4: Geocaching at the Nature Center

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On Day 4 of our Be Out There Challenge I took Thing 2 and some of his buddies to a local nature center. My boy was the unofficial guide having attended camp there for many years. He knows all the secret spots and eagerly led an expedition around the 13-acre oasis, which is bounded by townhouses on one side and train tracks on the other.

After hugging trees, running through the woods and spying all sorts of natural treasures along the way (see the photo story below), we entered the center to rent a geocaching kit. For $7, we got a full pack of supplies- everything from a hand held GPS unit to a first-aid kit.

Geocaching is a worldwide game of hide and seek. Participants hide small boxes or bottles and note the GPS coordinates (say, on a website) for people to find. We have friends who seek out caches wherever they travel. Sometimes people leave notes or tiny treasures in the boxes. It took a while to convince my guy to try the activity after he realized he wasn't going to uncover piles of money (i.e. geoca$hing).

The center offers three set course options, beginner, intermediate and advanced. We chose the intermediate course, which is laid with a full set of clues within the nature center acreage.

We split up jobs. One boy recorded our coordinates in a special take-home notebook, another was the cache opener/clue extractor, one boy operated the old-school GPS unit, which is to say a compass, and I held the new-fangled GPS.

Remember that post about letting go? Well, I held on to that GPS unit knowing that if anything happened to it, I'd be out nearly $200! But eventually, I relented so they each had one turn using the unit to locate the cache. It was complicated a bit by the fact that my son knew the territory so well, he was able to find some of the cache areas based on the written clues and not the coordinates. But, still, a good time was had by all.

This was the first time caching for all of the members of our group, but it won't be the last. I now have a group of rambunctious boys itching to tackle the advanced course. That course leads cachers to multiple parks and takes hours to complete, so we'll likely save that until summer.

In the end, our group completed the course in about 40 minutes, but the boys and I spent over two hours in the great outdoors. Seasonal allergies be damned, we had a fantastic time.

Remember to comment here to enter to win a one year subscription to one of National Wildlife Federation's excellent children's magazines. If you have a favorite geocaching website or app, please let me know!

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