I have a confession to make: I am GPS challenged. Still, when the opportunity came up for me to take my boys on a modern-day treasure hunt, I didn’t let that stop me. I had never heard of geocaching before, so I was surprised to find out just how popular it is. There aren’t many family activities that are diverse enough to accommodate a variety of budgets, activity levels and schedules. Geocaching fits the bill on all levels. All you need to participate is a sense of adventure and a GPS unit. Bug spray and sunscreen aren’t a bad idea, either.
In geocaching, participants hide objects to be found by others with the aid of a GPS unit. The latitude and longitude coordinates of the geocache are posted online, along with any additional clues. By typing the coordinates into a GPS device, geocachers are led to the hidden treasure, or “geocache.” Some geocaches are simple to find, while others involve multiple stages and activities such as rappelling or rock-climbing.
Digital Tips and Treasure Trails
First I looked at the Conservation Department’s geocaching page at mdc.mo.gov/node/3379, a good resource for basic information on the game, as well as regulations for conservation areas. Then I visited www.geocaching.com, which allows you to search for caches in your area. I discovered that there were dozens of treasures to be found in my community—and here I’d planned to drive a couple of hours for our adventure!
Armed with two sets of coordinates and a borrowed GPS, my family set out on our treasure hunt. Our first stop was Rockwoods Range, between Pacific and Eureka in western St. Louis County, a five-minute drive from our house. I pass both the range and the nearby Rockwoods Reservation, just north of the range, at least once a week, but I had yet to stop and check them out.
We parked our car at the range and piled out. Excited, a little nervous, and not quite sure what to expect, we entered our coordinates into our trusty GPS and were off on our adventure.
We walked down a pleasant trail, wondering why we had never visited the Rockwoods areas before. They were enchanting and so close to home. Then we reached a point in the trail where the GPS unit signaled for us to go off the trail. I paused, looking into the woods. I am constantly reminding