Fatherhood Journey with John Engel: Family finds new outdoor adventure — geocaching

  • Adam Engel with a cache somewhere on the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail near Holyoke. Submitted photo

Published: 3/25/2021 1:38:30 PM

Our family loves to play together outdoors. Camping, hiking, running, biking, swimming, cross-country skiing, walking on the beach (especially at low tide), and gardening are some of the many ways we stay physically active, connected to each other and in touch with the natural world. Now, thanks to our son Adam, we’ve added geocaching to our list of outdoor activities.

Geocaching, according to the official website at geocaching.com, is branded as the “world’s largest treasure hunt.” Containers (also known as caches) of differing size, from small tubes the size of my finger to large boxes the size of a bread box, are hidden in publicly accessible locations. Clues (sometimes including picture images), along with latitude and longitude coordinates, are used to locate each object. Inside each container there is a scroll of paper to sign and date and sometimes small knick-knacks to trade.

After successfully locating a cache (he now has 73 finds), Adam records it on the app, adding a smiley face to his personalized map. With millions of treasures scattered throughout the world, the possibilities are endless.

The origin of geocaching, I recently learned, dates back to May 2000. At that time the Global Positioning System (GPS) was an integral part of our national defense infrastructure (and still is), and through an act issued by President Clinton, GPS was made readily accessible to the public. In short, the GPS systems is a series of satellites that allow devices (such as handheld GPS devices and now smartphones, too) to navigate with high accuracy the Earth’s grid of latitude and longitude coordinates that were first developed by astronomers centuries ago.

A creative minded computer programmer decided to test the accuracy of the newly unveiled GPS system by hiding a container in the woods to see if others, using only GPS coordinates, could located the hidden treasure, and thus a new hobby was born.

So, as the icy grip of New England winter recently began to ease, Adam downloaded the free Geocaching app to his smart phone, and began venturing by foot and bike to discover dozens of nearby caches. Within a couple of weeks, he was hooked and decided to use money he earned shoveling snow to upgrade to a premium membership for a mere $30 per year.

On the first full day of spring, Adam charted a course, packed some gear and he and I headed out on bikes to locate some new treasures. On our 11-mile journey we traveled along paved bike paths, two wooded trails, through three parks and refueled at a burrito stand, while adding 12 smiley faces to Adam’s map.

We experienced new places, including a memorial site for two Irish immigrants wrongly convicted and executed in 1806. We also visited many familiar places where we previously ventured without any awareness of the nearby hidden objects. A few caches proved too difficult to find and Adam posted a comment on the app, in hopes that other adventures would share additional clues so that we can return and try our luck, again.

In addition to the physical exercise, the excitement of navigating, basic map reading, and solving clues made for a genuinely fun adventure. Adam has been geocaching with his mama, Lori, too, we’ve geocached on a couple of family hikes, and we are already planning adventures at planned summer destinations, including our annual Vermont camping trip, and family visits in Connecticut and Illinois. For added fun, Adam and I created and hid a small cache in our neighborhood and have started salvaging containers for future caches, too.

As our middle schoolers (Adam and big sister Zoe) age, develop new interests and venture father from home, geocaching is a welcome way to keep us connected as a family and enjoying outdoors adventures together.

John Engel of Florence can be reached through his website fatherhoodjourney.com.




Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061
413-584-5000

 

Copyright © 2020 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy