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Wednesday
Jul092014

Family Geocaching Fun in Ventura County

Military ammunition box geocache container (photo from Wikipedia)When a couple friends first told me about how fun geocaching was a few years ago, I blew it off, figuring it was yet one more activity that I don't have time for in my busy family life. I wasn't quite sure what geocaching was, but it sounded like a silly game to me.

Boy was I wrong! Geocaching is a lot of fun!

In a nutshell, geocaching is an outdoor activity where you hunt for hidden containers, or "caches," using GPS tracking on your smartphone or a GPS device. Kind of like modern day treasure hunting!

There are over 2 million active geocaches around the world waiting to be found. What is a cache? Generally a waterproof storage container in various sizes that contains a log and perhaps other little treasures waiting to be found.

I use an Android phone and, after registering at Geocaching.com, downloaded a free app called c:geo. I was impressed at how easy this app is to use. Simply press "nearby" to find local caches registered on Geocaching.com and pick one that is nearby and sounds interesting. The app tells you how many meters/km the cache is from your location. Read the cache description, click the little compass that shows you which direction to go and how far away you are from the cache. And, you're off!

(There are plenty of other geocaching apps for both iPhones and Android phones, many free. Since I've only tried c:geo, I don't claim to be an expert on these apps. So other apps may work better for you.)

The kids and I have a blast with geocaching. We can be anywere...a park, the beach, on the trails...and track down caches nearby. The GPS brings you to within a reasonably precise location, sometimes "dead on" and other times within 5 to 10 meters, but once you get there, you may have to look around in every nook and cranny. It is easy to give up, but it can take a bit of persistence to find the geocache. Some of the geocaches we've uncovered have been a lipstick case hidden under a rock, a plastic screw-top case hidden in a light pole and a small container hidden in a crevice of a fence.

Who hides these caches? All sorts of people hide geocaches, adding to the fun. We were at Point Dume State Beach when I said, hey, let's look for a geocache! Within 15 minutes we discovered a cache close to the sign shown below. Every hunt I do with my kids, we seem to reach a point where we want to give up...but after some perseverance and luck, more often than not we find the coveted treasure.

We were at the Thousand Oaks Library when afterwards decided to look for some geocaches at the adjacent Conejo Creek Park. Within 30 minutes we uncovered two small geocaches, signed the little log sheet (be sure to bring your own pen as many caches are too small to provide one) and went on our way. Geocaching is fun, engaging and great exercise!

There are literally thousands and thousands of geocaches just within Ventura County. Looking for a little push? Check out local community programs for geocaching classes...our entry into geocaching started with other kids and parents in a fun two hour Conejo Recreation and Park District session.

In addition to your smartphone, your kids can join in on the action with their own handheld GPS devices, like this Geomate Jr. Geocaching GPS.

Go try it out and let us know what you think!

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