Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Geocaching Joys

When was the last time you went on a treasure hunt?  And not for a missing sock, a lost Lego piece, a miniature Barbie shoe, anything you needed from Wal-Mart (they need maps at that store!), the elusive sippy cup half-filled with milk last seen in the van, a cheap deal on cereal, or a pair of jeans that didn't make your back-side look big.  :)  A real treasure hunt.

For our birthdays this year (Brett and I were born just one week a part) we decided to buy a GPS gizmo (for lack of the real, technical term).  With this device, we can log coordinates of little treasures hidden here in the Grand Valley and all over the world ... and take our family a-hunting!  We figure it's a great way to get us all out of the house, get us active and get us working together.  And how else do you get your kids walking happily for 45 minutes?  A treasure, of course!  Here is a link to another blogger's experience geocaching ... I would recommend a little visit so that you are 100% familiar with this popular hobby.  Then come back here and I'll give you the Kellum-version. :)  (One little word of caution - this blog has a little language, so just be warned of other little people peering over your shoulder.)

Alrighty ... do you have a good idea about how this works?  First you go to a special geocaching website and look for caches you are interested in looking for.  Then you log the coordinates into your GPS ... unless you're just really good with longitude and latitude. :)  Then you load up, head out and look for said cache.  When you find the cache, you open it and log your name and the date.  When you get back home, you can register that you found the cache on the appropriate link and then the owner of the cache can follow its progress.  It's really pretty easy once your get the hang of it.  The biggest challenge is being sneaky ... with 4 kids ... with 4 excited, exuberant, un-spy-like kids ... with 4 kids who are oblivious to the loudness of their voices or the attention they draw to themselves.  We are not sneaky, but we're having a good time.

For the past few weekends, we have been heading out after naps on Sunday to look for a couple of treasures.  It's a pretty good time for us to go:  the kids are rested, Mommy & Daddy are rested, and it's still sorta warm.  The only challenge is finding the cache before it gets dark ... but more on that later.  Here are a few of our experiences; then you can decide for yourself if it sounds like fun. :)

A few weeks ago, we had two caches that were near each other that we set off to find.  They were within walking distance, so we loaded up the double stroller, the dog and the GPS.  We managed to find the first one rather quickly.  Actually, Aaron had it found and opened before I even got Lydia out of the stroller.  So a little anti-climatic for me. :)  Still, his excitement and pride in successfully find the little tupperware dish was fun ... not quiet, but fun.  I'm sure there were a few puzzled looks from those walking by on the trail nearby.  But we were in the bushes, shh-shhing and whisper-giggling, so we didn't notice.

The next cache, according the the GPS, was 1/10 of a mile ... thata way.  We headed off in the direction indicated.  Until we came to a body of water.  The GPS read that we still had 50 feet to go.  Hmmm ... no scuba gear, so I guess we need to go around.  This is where geocaching gets a little tricky.  All you have is the info in your little gizmo and you have to kinda figure out from there what to do next.  We weren't sure of how far "around" was going to be ... or if there even was an "around".  But, we still had plenty of daylight left and so we turned to our right and headed toward where "around" might be.  As we walked, we watched our "distance to cache" go from 1/10 to 1/5 to 1/2 of a mile... and then as we came around the bend (whew!) we watched as the numbers started heading back in the direction we wanted.  (This reminds me of a scene in "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" with John Candy and Steve Martin ... "You're going the wrong way!")  Eventually our little GPS beeped, letting us know that we were within 10 feet of the designated coordinates.  That's when the hunt began.  The kids were climbing trees, Brett was sweeping leaves out of the way and Gimli was marking.  I'm proud to say that Mommy found that one ... and then got to play a little "Hot/Cold" with the kids.

The kids were so stoked about being 2 for 2 that they almost didn't mind the long walk home (a bit longer than expected due to that pesky body of water!).  After an impromptu diaper change in the stroller ... and the happy surprise of finding a diaper in the stroller! ... we headed back the way we had come.  We made it home just before it got dark and only had one sad little person.  Not bad for a fun family outing!

The next Sunday, Brett logged about 4 caches into our GPS and we headed out to treasure hunt.  The first was was super easy ... if you're Norah and don't mind crawling around on the ground.  Again ... I was moseying along with Lydia and almost missed it, but we all got to join in the sly, covert celebrating.

The next coordinates were pointing us about 1/10 of mile in the opposite direction.  We headed off.  Just a family of six going for an afternoon stroll .... hum, dee, dum, dum ... while occasionally yelling, "I think it's over here!".  Aaron was carrying the gizmo when it started beeping.  That was just before he disappeared into the cat-tails and bullrushes.  We hollered for him to come back out and checked the coordinates.  Yep ... thwarted by water, again!  Instead of being able to walk those last 10 steps to our destination, we headed west until we we could cross over.

About fifteen minutes and a few whines later, we found ourselves across from where we almost lost Aaron.  The hunt began.  There was a lot of grass ... tall grass ... and a fence.  Aaron and Norah clambered to the other side of the fence (those little monkeys) while Brett and the babies and I looked on this side.  Again, it's hard to look inconspicuous when you're shuffling around in the grass, peering through the chain link and hushing your boisterous brood.  We had just about given up (sometimes they just aren't where you think they should be) when Norah quips, "What's this?"  Ah-ha!  So sneaky!  It looked like part of the fence, but it wasn't.  Way to go, Team Kellum!

We headed back to the van ... slower on the return trip.  Lydia had walked about 4 miles ... if you take into account the length of her legs and so she requested (screamed) for a ride back.  Norah was energized and ran the whole way to the van.  (I want to bottle whatever gives her such energy.)  Ashley shuffled, whimpered and lamented that we hadn't taken the stroller.  Aaron stepped in dog-doo.  Yeah ... the trips out to get the cache are often more fun than the return trip.  Fair warning to you all. :)  But when our moany little troop got back to the van, they were ready to tackle the next one.  The Treasure-Hunt-Bug has a powerful bite.

The final two caches were nice and simple:  pull up in the van, take a peek around, check the GPS, squeal happily, shush each other, look around sneaky, and get back in the van.  Actually for the last one, Ashley and Lydia opted to celebrate from the van.

All around, it's a fun hobby for our family ... and we're just getting started!  There are hundreds of caches here in the Grand Valley and it will be fun to go out and explore our city and surrounding area together.

I would encourage you to look into it, too.  Just be forewarned that you might discover more than just a cache.  You might end up with fun family connections, a few beautiful sunsets, a little extra exercise as you negotiate obstacles (lakes, rivers, canyons), dog-poo on your shoe, extra cuddle time with your kids as you hoist, schlep and haul them around ... and some silly stories tied to great family snapshots!


Here's a little something we will be making tomorrow for Thanksgiving ... a little munchy-goodness!

The Blessing Mix

Bugles - These are shaped like a cornucopia, the horn of plenty.
Twisted Pretzels - The shape symbolizes our arms folded in thanks and prayer.
Candy Corn - During the first winter, the pilgrims were allotted 5 kernels of corn because food was so scarce.
Dried Fruit - Thanksgiving is the celebration of the harvest.
Sunflower Seeds - Representing the potential of a bounteous harvest for the next season if they-re planted and well tended.

~From Norah's 2nd Grade Class 

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