High-tech hiking | TheUnion.com

High-tech hiking

Sharla Cartzdafner
Special to The Union

The other day we were waiting for our burgers at Big As when I noticed on my geocaching app that there was a geocache just down the street near Moule Paint and Glass.

I grabbed the kids and we ran down the street to find it. My geo-senses aren't as keen as my husband's and it took me a little while to find it. Needless to say, our burgers were a little cold by the time we got back.

Geocaching is a global outdoor game of hide and seek. Using a smartphone or GPS, you can look for the more than two million hidden containers or puzzles all over the world.

By pulling up a map of the area on http://www.geocaching.com, you will see hundreds of hidden treasures in our beautiful area.

For long hikes or when we know we'll be out of cellphone range, we select and download the Geocache coordinates we want to find on to our GPS from the website.

For spontaneous hunts, like the one at Moule, we just use our geocaching app on a smartphone.

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It provides a compass to point you in the right direction. The person who hid the cache will also provide a description and sometimes a hint. If you are still struggling to find it, you can read the comments left by those who found it before you.

When you find it (or not), you log it through http://www.geocaching.com or their app. My family particularly likes that every time you log that you've found a geocache, the dot on the map turns into a smiley face.

For our family of four, geocaching is a great way to spend time exploring nature or going on a spontaneous treasure hunt while waiting for a burger.

On a recent Saturday morning we pulled up the map and decided to hit a trail off Highway 20.

This took us to a beautiful area of our county that we had never been before.

Another day we spent searching out caches at Western Gateway Park. If you boat at Scotts Flat, there are many all around the lake. There is another near SPD in Nevada City that we can't find. It drives me crazy.

My 12-year-old daughter likes to try and find the small "micro" caches that are only big enough to hold a tiny rolled up log.

The log is used to track who found the cache. Some people are so into this game that they've made their own custom stamp or stickers for the logs. We found one of those micro-caches with a magnet on it attached to the chain link fence that surrounds Lake Wildwood.

When we first started geocaching a few years ago, my daughter would get really concerned that we were being sneaky and doing something wrong.

Once she saw someone down the street using their cellphone while we were looking for a cache and she screamed "Mom, they're calling the police!" I assured her that official geocaches can only be put in places that people can legally go.

My 3-year-old son likes the larger containers because there might be a small toy for him to take. However, if you take something you need to be prepared to leave something of equal or greater value.

My favorite are the trails that have a Geocache every 400 feet. Before you know it, your whole family (toddler included) has hiked a couple miles without a single complaint.

There are several interesting and creative Geocaches around our area. One off of Ridge Road requires you to complete a Sudoku game in order to get the correct GPS coordinates. There are a couple of fun ones on Broad Street as well. The kids also enjoy being sneaky in populated places so those pesky "non-Geocachers" don't get curious.

I highly recommend that you and your family give this a try. Simply go to http://www.geocaching.com to join. It is a fantastic high-tech game that forces you to leave your computer and go outside or little to no cost!

Sharla Cartzdfaner is the Human Resources manager at Swift Communications.

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