By guest blogger and local geocache enthusiast, Melanie Low
I’m crouched behind a tree, fifteen feet off the trail, my two sons dancing around me as if it’s Christmas morning, I give an awkward wave to two hikers passing by. The pair of active looking birdwatchers raise an eyebrow probably wondering what trouble we’re up to, but they wave back anyways and give a friendly greeting to us as they continue on. “I’m just checking out these cool mushrooms” I call out, pointing to the moss covered tree. As they disappear behind a bend in the trail, my boys and I reach into a rotted out hole in the stump and triumphantly pull out a camo duct tape covered container. An important rule of geocaching is never get caught by muggles (those not in the know). My two boys, 6, and 8, snag the container and sift through tiny trinkets inside and pull out their own collection from their packs for a quick trade as I fill out the log sheet with a tiny pencil. Once we are done the container is safely stowed away exactly where we found it and we head off down the trail to start another geocaching treasure hunt.
Geocaching has been an international growing trend of nature inspired hide and seek with containers as small as upcycled film canisters (yes I’m dating myself) to large metal or plastic containers that hold treasures to trade. The word “treasure” might be exaggerating slightly as small baubles like marbles, tiny toys, bits of jewelry, or keychains certainly won’t make you rich, but to my boys, who happily hold their newly traded finds, it certainly is a prize worth cherishing, and any time that I get to spend outside with my littles after what seems like years stuck in the house, is definitely a valuable bounty.
Apparently there are more than 2 million active caches hidden around the world, with North Grenville having several hundred of those, all ready to find thanks to geocaching.com and their free app Geocaching by Groundspeak. A quick download, a free profile to set up, and you and your family can enjoy a new level of outdoor fun. The simple-to-use Geocaching app directs you to hidden caches with GPS coordinates and simple navigation, but finding the exact locations of elusive and creatively hidden caches can be tricky. Some are camouflaged as bolts on a bridge, containers in tree stumps, or need to be lowered down from some high spot with a well disguised rope. I highly recommend new geocachers head to Ferguson Forest, home to many easy-to find and large geocaches, (one in particular, was hidden by yours truly and the Kemptville Beavers last year). Kemptville itself is home to hundreds of caches, many right downtown, although even I leave those to others, because “stealth” in a busy, public place, is not a word my children are familiar with. If you do go downtown, be sure to pick up lunch or a coffee at one of the local restaurants, cafes, or bakeries.
Now stop, wait. Before you put on your hiking boots (or snowshoes), let’s go over some ground rules.
- As mentioned before, avoid getting caught or acting suspicious,
- return containers exactly where you found them,
- and if you take a treasure you must leave a treasure!
We also take care to leave no trace, and respect the land, with no trespassing on private property.
My boys and I also carry a geocaching kit with us in our hiking pack.
- extra ziplock bags,
- pencils and pens, and
- a handful of trinkets to trade.
If we find a cache that needs maintenance we can do what we can, or add trinkets if supplies are running low, and we also carry out any trash or litter we find while hiking. But most importantly, on top of basic geocaching etiquette, always be prepared for your adventure with proper footwear, clothing, and navigation tools.
When you’ve been quite properly immersed into geocaching with many finds under your belt, you can upgrade to a paid account on the Geocaching app to access even more locations, or take the challenge to hide and register your very own cache. So go put some boots on, pack your knapsack, bring some snacks and fresh mittens for the kids, and get outside for the thrill of the hunt! And next time you see a family “taking pictures of a nice flower” it just might be me stalling so that we can dive into a camouflaged container filled with treasure once you are out of sight!
Kemptville and the Heritage Hamlets of North Grenville are located just a short drive from Ottawa or Brockville, Ontario. Take the Kemptville exit off Highway 416.