Geo-What??? Or How to Hunt for Treasure in Your own Backyard

When I first heard about something called Geocaching through a friend, I was intrigued.  It combines some of my favourite things:  hiking, exploring, history, environmental awareness, and just a little bit of mystery!

What is geocaching, you might ask?  Essentially, it’s a giant treasure hunt, played all over the world!

When you geocache, you use a GPS (short for Global Positioning System), or GPS-enabled device (think iPads and Smartphones), to find a set of coordinates where someone has hidden something (known as a “cache”).  The cache can be tiny or large, and contains anything from a logbook of people who have found that cache, to larger items that can be traded.  Caches can be hidden anywhere – a hole in a tree, attached to a fence by a magnet, or camouflaged in the forest.  Some caches have a theme, and some take you to an area of geological or historical significance.  Other caches require finding multiple locations to find the “treasure” at the end, or contain “trackables” – coins or other items with a unique code that can be tracked as they move around the world.

The great thing about geocaching is that it is easy to learn, gets you outside and moving, and once you have a GPS or have downloaded the geocaching app, it’s basically free to do!  It’s a great activity for all ages (my Spark-aged daughter LOVES it…how cool is it to hunt for treasure when you’re five years old???), and it’s something that is a wonderful bridging activity…older girls can help younger ones navigate with the GPS.

Here’s how to get started with your unit:

– Visit the official website for Geocaching, and it’s here that you find the coordinates for geocaches hidden all over the world!

– Create a profile, then read “Geocaching 101”.  There are lots of helpful hints and instructional videos that can help you understand the game.

– Go to Hide and Seek a Cache.  Here you can find coordinates and hints for each geocache.  There are many different options for finding caches in your area, such as by postal code, by cache name, by GPS coordinates, and more.

– Assemble your geocaching kit:  I find it helpful to have a backpack with supplies, such as my GPS, extra batteries, a hat, coat, sunscreen, first aid kit, cell phone, camera and pencil and paper (basically, all the “stuff” we take with us when we go on a hike).  I also have a small Tupperware container with crests, magnets, small dollar store toys, etc. that I can leave if I want to take something from a cache.  One of the courtesies of geocaching is that if you take something from a cache, you leave something else of equal “value.”

– Follow the “rules” of geocaching:  respect private property, and don’t let the Muggles see what you’re doing (a term borrowed from Harry Potter – people who do not know about geocaching are referred to as “muggles” by geocachers).

– Finally, take along a garbage bag, and “cache in, trash out” – geocachers share with Girl Guides a respect for the environment, and a desire to make the world a better, cleaner place.

For more information and ideas for geocaching with a unit, Girls Scouts USA has put together a great resource kit (PDF) for planning your own geocaching event.

So what are you waiting for….get out there and start hunting!

By guest blogger and Guider ‘Glowie’, aka Megan Gilchrist. Megan is the Contact Guider for the 7th St. Catharines Guiding (multi-branch)Unit. Read Megan’s other contributions to GirlGuidesCANBlog: Hands-on History, Every Penny Counts, and “Multi-Branch” Means More Fun!

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Have you done an activity for our National Service Project: Operation Earth Action? Don’t forget to log your actions and share your photos with us!

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