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High-Tech Treasure Hunt


Published October 1, 2011 at 4:00 a.m.

Kids have no problem finding excitement in everyday events, but an activity that also sparks an adult's sense of adventure is worth its weight in gold. Try geocaching — a high-tech treasure hunt that combines nature and technology in a walking workout. A geocache is essentially a container that has been hidden for the sole purpose of being discovered; inside are a trinket and logbook.

The only equipment you'll need for this game — other than able bodies — is a GPS device or GPS-enabled smartphone and a computer.

Get started by visiting the website geocaching.com to find coordinates of a cache in your area. Plug the coordinates of the cache into your GPS device, which lets you know as you're getting "warmer." Ultimately, though, you have to hunt around for the container. Once you find it, you may take the treasure from the cache, but only if you leave an item of equal or greater value in its place. Sign the logbook, recording your success, then re-hide the cache.

I live in the woods, but have a computer. After registering my free profile on geocaching.com, I was thrilled to find I could go geocaching within a mile of my house. Online, caches are rated according to difficulty level, terrain and distance.

I was looking for a quick post-lunch-pre-nap jaunt that would not be too much for my seven-month-old daughter, Celia, so I picked a short cache called "Two Dogs Barking." My total hike after a quick drive: one mile round trip. Perfect. Had I been more ambitious I could have skipped the drive and added a couple of miles, but the air was ripe with ragweed pollen. A shorter walk would do.

I downloaded a $10 iPhone app to help on my hunt. The app isn't required, but makes it easier to establish your position relative to the cache. It took us along an old rail bed. With baby strapped on and dogs in tow, I enjoyed the scenery and, amazingly, actually forgot I was getting exercise. My heart pounded in anticipation: What would I find? I was genuinely excited when I finally found the cache, but can't describe what it was, as per game etiquette, so as not to spoil anyone else's fun. Lets just say this: Heading back to the car, I felt both accomplished and sweaty.

Back home, I posted about the experience on the game's website, where treasure hunters discuss their finds. A workout followed by a little creative writing? Win-win. Warning: Curiosity may quickly lead to find-and-seek obsession. But that's a good thing when you're looking for creative ways to keep a family active — and parents, alert.

—"Fit Families" is a monthly feature that offers easy and affordable ways to stay active. Got an idea for a future FF? Email us at ideas@kidsvt.com. Stina Booth is a writer and photographer living in Fairfield with her husband and daughter.

This article was originally published in Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT.