Taking Hide and Seek to New Levels
Do you remember playing hide and seek as a child? I never understood why it took my mom 15 minutes to find me hiding under my bed. I remember thinking she is not very good at this game. Now, as the parent of a rambunctious little two-year old boy whose volume is always on full blast, I get it. Lets just say we play hide and seek at my house a lot. Personally, I prefer to play outdoors. My kids are the same way. I think I’m fortunate because it seems like many of the kids of today would rather be indoors. They love social networking online, portable digital media and instant access to information. Chances are they are not interested in it if it doesn’t have keys to push or a touch screen to navigate. Sometimes it’s hard to get them to just slow down and to appreciate or even acknowledge their surroundings.
A Gadget That Gets You Outside
A few years ago, I discovered a way to incorporate their love of gadgets with my love of the great outdoors. It is called geocaching; a version of hide-and-seek designed for anyone to play. In a nutshell, it is a high-tech treasure hunt using GPS receivers. Players, aptly called “geocachers,” have hidden almost a million caches all over the world for you to find. Basically, the game plays as follows. You go to www.geocaching.com and conduct a search of the area you wish to hunt. Once armed with the description and coordinates of the hidden cache, you begin your quest. You might be looking for an ammo box, Tupperware container, or maybe a film canister; depending on the type of cache you are hunting. After locating the geocache, you log your discovery in the cache logbook, trade trinkets by leaving something behind for the next player to find, and then return home to share your experiences online. It’s fun and requires little to get started. In today’s economy, we can all use a way to have inexpensive fun with the kids. The only cost involved is purchasing a GPS unit. Geocaching can be as difficult or simple as you want it, since you decide which geocaches you seek.
Anyone Can Play, Young and Old
Again, what’s great is the game is not age specific. My 9-year old absolutely loves it. Geocaching combines technology with the excitement of a treasure hunt. For her, it’s all about the discovery and swapping trade items. She likes to make her own trade trinkets to leave behind – she’s fascinated with Shrinky Dinks. I loved making them as a kid, so it’s fun to share my experience and knowledge of that magic plastic material with my daughter. She thinks it is so cool to look through the oven door and see her artwork shrink right before her eyes. If you go geocaching in one of Arkansas’s State Parks, keep an eye out for one of her creations.
The ParkCache Challenge and Other Park Geocaches
Arkansas State Parks are great places to search for geocaches. Lake Ouachita State Park has 9 geocaches and there are over 250 within a 10 mile radius of the park. The ones in the state park are located along hiking trails, near scenic views of the lake and near historic Three Sisters Springs. The park interpreters offer programs year-round on geocaching and hold a special event each summer dedicated to the game. In fact, I’m sure you could stop by the visitor center and ask for additional help if necessary. This winter, my kids and I have been hunting caches in other state parks. They are able to see some of my favorite places in the state and we are creating many lasting memories. Sometimes, we will hunt geocaches on the way to the parks. It breaks up the driving time and gives them a chance to get out a run around during long rides. Now, when the kids say, “Are we there yet?” I can say, “You tell me. How far to the next geocache?” (editor’s note: Find out more about geocaching in Arkansas State Parks on our geocaching Web page. Learn about placing caches, the ParkCache Challenge and where to get more information. You can also find out a lot more from the Arkansas Geocachers Association.)
Susan has Bachelor of Science in Psychology. She grew up in Hot Springs and spent lots of time camping on the area lakes. Susan wants her children to have those same great memories she has from her childhood.