"I'm bored!" "There's nothing to do around here." We've (un)officially reached that part of summer where the only thing more annoying than being awakened by the neighbor's lawn mower at 6 a.m. is the whine of kids who have run out of ways to entertain themselves. And let's face it ... there isn't really a lot of "pre-packaged" kid-friendly entertainment available in this little town of ours. I'll let you in on a kid-friendly secret that can help save your nerves, doesn't have to cost you anything and is actually fun for kids and adults: Geocaching. Geocaching is, essentially, a GPS fueled treasure hunt. Before you nab someone's TomTom (that won't work, anyhow), check your purse or pocket - got a smart phone? That's all the technology required to start. To geocache with a smart phone, you'll need to download a geocaching app. Like most things, there are free apps and ones you can pay for. I personally cache with an Android phone and have tried a few apps; c:geo (www.cgeo.org) is the one I like because it's easy and I didn't have to read the manual to make it work. But there are many good ones, both Android and iPhone, just check your favorite app market. Read reviews - let other people's troubles and triumphs make your life easier. To find out more about the technical aspects of geocaching, visit www.geocaching.com/guide/default.aspx. That'll help you find the tools to get started, but the real fun is in the hunt. The idea of geocaching may be new to you, but it's been around as a hobby since selective availability was activated in 2000 on 24 satellites circling the earth. Currently, according to geocaching.com, there are 2,133,187 active geocaches and more than 5 million geocachers worldwide. Almost 30,000 of those caches are in Washington state. More than 1,800 of those are within a 50 mile radius of Othello; there are 13 within five miles. That's a whole lot of fun pretty close to home! So once you have a good app on your phone, then what? Using the app, do a search for geocaches around here (or wherever you are). Read the listings and find the one that seems most interesting. The listing will tell you how hard the geocache will be to find and how challenging the terrain to be covered is. Pay attention to these things - you don't want to find yourself on a rock ledge 20 feet above a lake with a toddler (or with three grade school kids on New Year's Day when everything's covered with ice - but that's a story for another time). Another thing to look at is the size. What you're going to be hunting is a container, and they come in sizes. "Micros" are the smallest and while they're often fun for grownups because of the challenge, they're not much fun for kids because all they contain is a piece of paper you sign to prove you found it. Medium- and large-sized caches usually contain much better swag (the treasure) for the kiddos to swap. Before you start your adventure, gather up some cheap toys or other small items, because you are expected to trade "like-for-like" value on swag. Every cache has a log to sign, so always take your own writing instruments - usually there's one in the cache, but you never know for sure if it will work. Once you find the cache, make the trade and sign the log, it is important to put the cache back exactly where you found it so the next treasure hunters can enjoy it. Log your finds either on your app or on the website when you get home. That's about it - all you really need to get started on a new hobby you can enjoy with your whole family. Pirate hats, hooked appendages and a parrot for your shoulder are strictly optional.
If you have questions, please email me - I love to talk geocaching! I've only been doing it a year or so, but my family and I are firmly hooked.