Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Monkeys go Geocaching!

I always loved the idea of treasure hunting as a kid: solve some puzzles, find some clues, figure out where the big "X" is, and find your treasure! Of course, as a kid, the only treasure you tend to find is the stuff of imagination (or, if real, then you're a darn lucky kid!).

I heard about Geocaching a few years ago and thought it was a great idea: "treasure" hunting using GPS coordinates, a keen eye, and sometimes a series of clues to help you figure out where you need to go. And, best of all... each "treasure chest" is real. Where's the down side? :-)

A couple years back I picked up a Garmin eTrex, meaning to give it a try. Unfortunately, my youngest daughter wasn't old enough to go trekking through the woods yet, my oldest seemed indifferent, and I wasn't all that thrilled with the readability of my GPS, so I pretty much put it off for "the future", although I poked around on from time to time out of curiosity.

It recently occurred to me that I now have an iPhone. With GPS. And many downloadable applications at my fingertips. As well as two kids old enough (and interested enough) to try it. The bug bit again. :-) I downloaded a geocaching app (aptly named "Geocaching") that allows me to find caches local to me (or close to a location of my choice), look up their descriptions online (are they easy to get to? How large are they? Kid-Friendly?), and best of all: Use the GPS capability of the iPhone to navigate to a specific cache, even offering a "compass" mode once I get close enough to need one. How could we not go at this point?

So we went! Friday was our first foray into Geocaching, and the girls (including the BIG girl) got a kick out of it! The first cache we tried to find was a Princess-themed one, but there were a few neighborhood kids building a bike ramp in the area, and I didn't want to poke around while they were there. We tried another one at a local picnic area instead. Armed with GPS/phone in hand, we poked around and after a few minutes of searching (and trying to figure out how accurate "compass mode" really is), we found our treasure: an ammo box hanging from a tree a few feet away from the picnic area (more camouflaged than you'd expect, even hanging from a tree with nothing to cover it). Woo hoo! Contents: a log book and a few trinkets. The girls took one each, and we left two things in turn.

We went out again today and found two more: the original princess one (overflowing with girly, princessy things), and a second "microcache" that was just big enough to hold a log book (no room for a pen - bring your own!). I think I'm hooked... and the girls got a huge kick out of the "treasure hunt" as well. :-)

I've already started to amass a collection of items to leave behind in caches (to replace the things we take), and I'm considering picking up a "travel bug" or two (trackable items that cachers log online and the owners track as they move from cache to cache). There was a travel bug in the princess cache we found today (attached to a really pretty owl figure), but we figured we'd leave it for someone who'd be going caching again soon.

Some pictures from our excursions:

Our first find! Monkey got into the act as well! :-)
(Yes, I'm wearing my glasses... the cold I'd avoided for the Seattle trip finally caught up with me and my eyes were pretty unhappy with contacts. Bleh.)

Today's first find: the "microcache" (in Ellen's hand) that had some log paper rolled up inside: just enough for us to log the date & basically say "we found it!" Oh, and Kelly found a penny too. Look at that excitement! :-)

The Princess cache: the girls checking out the swag and me writing in the log book

The weather was nice enough to spend some quality time outside once we got home as well... aaaahhh... (Nice cup/crazy straw combo on the table, isn't it? ;-)

And look who moved in... we believe he/she is a neighbor's cat, but kitty seems to own the whole neighborhood. Fine with us, as the cat is the perfect non-pet: comes by to say hi, the kids get to pet him/her, and then goes home. For allergic me, that's a win-win situation right there. :-)

The only downside: my battle with the fir trees for yard dominance. I decided that I'd finally prune the bottom branches off the trees today. They bit back in their defense, but I think I got the better of them. At least I have all my limbs, even if they do look like this:

Little buggers. :-P

Ah well, back to work tomorrow. Can't say it wasn't a fun weekend, though. :-) Hope everyone else had a nice weekend and got to enjoy the nice, warm weather now that it's finally here! (And now I'm hoping that I didn't just trigger a snowstorm by saying that... uggh!)

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