Springtime in Colorado, and once again Mother Nature calls out to shrug off those winter blues, load up your day pack, and explore the majesty of the Rocky Mountains' hundreds of miles of trails. Then she dumps a foot of snow on you.
But for those of us who eschew the stereotypical winter-time mountain activities for those less likely to involve inebriated tourists and protruding bone fragments, we don't care. We've been cooped up since October, gazing longingly at our boots neglected in the back of the closet, waiting for our chance. We've listened patiently as our friends talk about things like shredding, powder, and the advantages of titanium over steel surgical pins. Now it's our turn, and we don't care about the weather. Nor do we care that skinny guys with winter-white legs in hiking boots and cargo shorts are just one step up the dork ladder from rainbow suspenders and Crocs with tube socks. This is why we live here (for the hiking, not the chance to dress like a tool).
You may find, however, that not everyone in your household shares your enthusiasm. While our kids have grown to enjoy hiking as much as my wife and I, the idea of spending hours with mom and dad, just walking around outdoors, was initially met with something less than enthusiasm. Fortunately for us, we had recently taken up Geocaching together as a family, and were psyched to discover many of our prospective trails were peppered with caches. Geocache hikes have become one of my family's favorite outdoor activities.
For those not familiar with it, Geocaching is a real-world outdoor treasure hunting game. Players try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using GPS-enabled devices and then share their experiences online.
One of the beauties of Geocaching is that not only can it be an activity in itself, but you can also make it a part of nearly everything else you do as a family. Visiting family out-of-state? Introduce them to Geocaching and show them parts of their own hometown they've never seen. Mom taking a little too long at the salon? Whip out the smartphone and discover a hidden puzzle just a few blocks away. Soccer practice at the park? Stop yelling contradictory instructions while the coach is talking, grab your other kid that keeps running onto the field to play with his big brother, and go exploring.
|Discovering buried treasure|
Once you've found a few caches, and figured out which kind you like best, pick up some containers from Geocaching.com, your local sporting goods store, or just use what you have lying around the house, and have your kids make their own cache. They can range from magnetic nano caches the size of a bullet perfect for urban caching, to a five gallon bucket that can hold tons of swag. Choose a site that is close to home or work so you can maintain it, but hidden enough that muggles can't accidentally stumble across it.
There is much more you can do with Geocaching including trackables that move from cache to cache, environmentally conscious activities like CITO (cache in, trash out), and community events. I've included some helpful links at the bottom.
Now, get out there and get caching, and remember to leave the area as nice as, or better than, you found it. Geocaching can teach kids to love nature, but it's up to us to teach them to respect her...even when she's being a pain in the ass.
Geocaching guide: http://www.geocaching.com/guide/default.aspx
Wiki article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geocaching
Printable log sheets: http://www.techblazer.com/geocaching-log-sheets/
Leave No Trace: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leave_No_Trace
[First posted on my personal blog]