Why I love geocaching

Tonight for Family Home Evening in my ward, we had several spotlights featuring the hobbies and talents of several people in the ward. I was asked to talk about geocaching, one of my unhealthy obsessions.  I made a quick video slide show of some of my favorite geocaching moments.   I figured it would make good blog fodder, but then I realized it was 7 minutes long and silent, so it probably wouldn’t go over well.  So I shortened it and added music,  which makes it infinitely cooler, right?

Here’s some of what I had to say:

When I was a kid, I loved exploring my great-grandfather’s farm. I was convinced that somewhere on the farm was a buried treasure. I hunted all over the place for a clue that would lead me to another clue that would eventually lead me to the place where all the gold was buried. It was great fun, but it wasn’t until years later that I realized that farmers rarely had enough gold to bother burying it and that pirates rarely stopped in Wyoming.

When I first heard of geocaching, I was immediately intrigued. I remembered back to my treasure hunting days on the farm. Here was a real sport where people hid treasures (ok, boxes with treasure (ok, McDonalds toys) inside) all over the world, and then gave you the GPS coordinates to them and sent you off to find them. How cool was that? Grownup high-tech treasure hunting! Awesome.

I couldn’t afford a GPS when I first heard about it, but I tucked it away in the “I’ll do that later” file. By the time I graduated from grad school, I had had my first taste of geocaching with a friend’s GPS and now could afford one. I was still looking for a job, and had quite a bit of spare time on my hands. So I got my GPS and enjoyed finding and hiding caches all over Salt Lake City. 

When I moved to Michigan, geocaching helped me get to know the area and the people. It took me places I probably wouldn’t have gone to by myself. I would have never found Hines Drive or the Metroparks or Belle Isle without geocaching. I would have missed some of the most beautiful places in Michigan.

For me, it’s really about the places and the people that you encounter while geocaching.

I have geocached in three countries, seven US states, and about 1/3 of Michigan’s counties. Other places I’ve cached:

  • The Huron River from a kayak
  • The Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan Mexico
  • The tops of the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming
  • Sleeping Bear Dunes 
  • Cache County Utah
  • Downtown Toronto
  • Maybury State Park (a Michigan state park that used to be a Tuberculosis Sanatorium)
  • Multiple Pioneer Cemeteries
  • Henry Ford’s house
  • The campuses of the University of Wyoming, the University of Utah, the University of Michigan, and Eastern Michigan University.
Geocaching is a lot of fun for many types of people.  One of the things that surprised me was the number of retirees that participate.  There is really something for everyone.  If you’re interested in a long hike to a beautiful waterfall, you’ve got that.  If you want to try out scuba diving, there are caches set for you.  If you want to solve a puzzle, if you’re just bored and want to explore your neighborhood, if you’re out running errands and you need to kill a few minutes, there’s a cache for you.
I’ve cached with many different people.  Among the highlights:
  • My two and four year old nephews
  • Both of my grandfathers
  • Many of the people on my blog-roll
  • A hilarious nurse from Chelsea Michigan
  • Several dates, one of which I showed off for by falling (gracefully) into the Huron River in late March.
One of the rules of geocaching is that when you find the cache, you have to sign the logbook.  Imagine how surprised I’ve been to be caching in Utah on visits to see my family, and to open a cache and see that it has been signed just before me by someone I know from Michigan. It’s happened twice!  
Another rule is that if you want to take something from the cache, you should leave something else for the next finder.  I love to trade out signature items, little cards and trinkets that identify the person.  Many times its just a laminated business card or something like that but I once found a Smiley face stamp from someone called “S5280ft.”  Geocachers are pretty clever.

I once heard a statistic that made me sad: the average American spends only 6 minutes outside per day and that is usually spent walking to or from a car.  I have no idea if that is true or not, but Geocaching is one way to get past that 6 minute barrier.  I found a sport that has lots of variety, that takes me places I’ve never been with great people.  I highly recommend it.

Here’s that video that I was telling you about: