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Hiking & Geocaching: The Perfect Combo

It's Sunday afternoon and the rain has finally stopped falling; time to get the family out of the house for a little R&R. Geocaching is the perfect combination of hiking, family fun, and treasure hunting.

Geocaching has been around since 2000. It was started by a forest service guy in Beaver, Oregon to train and challenge staff how to use geo coordinates to pinpoint forest issues and needs. Since then, it has erupted into an International recreational activity with "caches" just waiting to be discovered all over the world. I have geocached while traveling across the United States and have visited several caches while in Germany. Geocaching is huge in Europe with multi-generational families hitting the trails and sneaking through the forests every weekend.

How's it work? Well, first you need to have the Geocaching app by Groundspeak, Inc on your phone. It is free to download, however if you really want to up your hunt, you can opt for a Premium membership to get access to additional caches and special offers. You can also just use the website online and utilize a handheld gps for the hunt. I like to use a combination. I fine-tune my cache options online, then use my phone for the actual hunt. The app allows you to search for caches by city, zip, landmark or coordinates. When you're in the mood for a caching adventure, we just select, "caches near me" on the map. You will be shocked to see how many are literally right in your own neighborhood.

The caches are hidden in all sorts of types of containers and each cache listing will give you hints by difficultly, terrain, and size. Most will note if it's suitable for kids. It will also note things like parking, nearby amenities, restrooms options, etc.

When we geocache, we always carry a backpack with the following items: 
  •  Pen or pencil to mark your find in the cache's log 
  • Small pack of hand wipes for cleaning up after handling the cache. 
  • Bug spray / sun screen 
  • Water 
  • Treasures! These are little "things" that you can find around the house or at garage sales. The idea is to "take something - leave something." We're not talking super valuable things - more like what you would expect to find in a child's "treasure box."  
  • Phone or external gps to locate your find - right down to the feet. 

Here's how! Figure out which cache(s) you are going to hunt for and enter the coordinates. Follow your gps to the area and start hunting , but watch out for muggles...the idea is to be somewhat stealthy! Muggles are people passing by that aren't geocachers. Also watch for poison oak, snakes, ticks, etc. You are outside! Make sure everyone in your party understand what these things look and sound like. The caches will never be fully buried. They are accessible with minimal uncovering. Also, be respectful of people's private property. Some people like to hide caches on their property but read the hints and clues and don't go tromping through their flower beds or into their back yard. Once you find the cache, sign your profile name and date, check the cache for a "trackable", take something - leave something. Always leave the cache better than you found it! If you take a trackable coin or object. Always log it on the app and move it along as quickly as possible.

I had a trackable coin that I launched in Hood River in 2009. It traveled for six years before getting "lost". During that time, it traveled 22,519 miles all over the world. It was great fun to follow its adventures and I was quite sad when it disappeared.

Once back home - or on your phone along the way, mark your find on your account in the app. This keeps track of your adventures! Regroup and get ready for your next geocaching hunting adventure. On a good afternoon hunt, you can usually log in three or four caches.

In the Columbia River Gorge, there are numerous trails that already have geocaches hidden along the way. Catherine Creek (Washington), Rowena Trails (Oregon) and the Trout Lake Trail (Washington) to name a few. Geocaching and hiking in the Columbia River Gorge is a great way to get out there and explore! Maybe our family will see you on the trail

Date Published: 1/21/2018 10:55 AM