Not long after we purchased our RV in 2011, I began looking into activities that are part of a fun camping experience these days, including creative camping recipes, interesting hikes, bicycle trails and camp games. When looking at the Texas Parks and Wildlife site one day, I read about a geocache challenge that they sponsor and read up on it for a bit. It sounded like something fun to do, but I mostly put that idea off to the side at the time in favor of those more traditional camping activities.
A few weeks ago, I checked out all things geocaching again and decided to explore it on a broader scale, and I’m so glad I did! My husband and I have most definitely discovered the fun of geocaching now. I purchased the $10 app from Geocaching.com for my phone (very much worth that small amount of money for the convenience it offers), and I also registered as a premium member for a year at a cost of $30, just to give it a try to fully check everything out. I have been amazed at how accurate the GPS is on my Samsung Galaxy S3, too. It basically points right to the spot where the hidden treasure is hidden via Google Maps, although we’ve found that we still have to look a bit to actually find where it is hidden. And to our great surprise, we actually found a “travel bug” in the third cache we found, too.
We recently returned from a nine-day/night camping trip, visiting four different state parks, and we had a great time looking for geocaches during a part of our time in two of those parks. Five other family members accompanied us on this trip in their own RV, and the teenagers immediately took to geocaching with a passion and wanted to look for them even more than we did much of the time. So, my plan to find a new activity that we could all enjoy on our trip together was a huge success. In fact, I do believe they are now hooked on geocaching themselves, even after we all got a bit lost at night in the woods after locating a fun night cache. We eventually made our way to a road and just followed it back to our campsites, but we most definitely learned that we need to be better prepared when making such a trek in the future. We also dropped the “travel bug” that I had found back at home at a big cache in one of the parks. As of the time of this post, it is still sitting in that same cache, too.
At this point, we’ve found 24 geocaches, including some in our own area and those we found while on vacation. I now find myself pulling up the geocaching app on my phone when out running errands to see if there is a geocache in that area, too. For me, it’s not really about the treasure inside the cache but rather just the fun of the hunt and the stealth to keep from being noticed by the “muggles.” I ordered some nice swag from Amazon to leave in a cache if I take something out, and so far, I’ve only traded items in six caches. Some of the caches (especially the micro caches) only have a log in them, and sometimes in other larger caches, I opt to just leave the existing swag for someone else to claim and trade. My husband and I also found our first official Texas State Park cache while on our trip, too. Unfortunately, that find was after the rest of our family members had left to go home. That was a very interesting find, as it was a pretty large cache with a collectible card to take, and there was also a special hole punch to punch a separate card to verify that we had found the cache. I had not printed out those particular cards ahead of time from the website, but before we go geocaching again in the state parks, I will definitely do that, as they can be sent in to earn a special prize, with the lowest prize level starting at ten official cache finds.
Our next step is likely going to be the purchase of a decent handheld GPS unit. Right now, we are looking at a Garmin Etrex20 for less than $200. That little episode of getting lost in the woods at night pretty much made believers out of us to have better equipment along, if we are going to do this in areas where my phone’s GPS will not work. We had no trouble finding the cache at night with the luminescent trail to follow, but we definitely had some issues getting back to camp from there. What a fun experience that was, though. The teenagers are still talking about it, too. We will just be smarter about all this in the future.
To find out more about geocaching, just go to Geocaching.com to get started by registering for a free account. That is how we got started before we upgraded to a premium membership that opens up even more caches to find and offers some specialized search options. You can read their Geocaching 101 page to learn the basics, and we also purchased an inexpensive book to read a little more about it, too. That book is already a little dated, though, so I would recommend buying one that has been published in the last year or two, if possible.
We had a fabulous time on our nice, long camping trip, and our geocaching adventures just added to the fun and great memories!