On the topic of hobbies, I’ve mentioned geocaching in previous blogs but never really got into it. No time like the present.
I’m hearing you say, “What the heck is geocaching?” Well, it’s basically a big treasure hunt using coordinates from a website or app to find hidden caches. You will find geocaching in at least 190 countries. It’s all kept organized by Geocaching.com and many volunteers who make sure things run smoothly.
What is a cache? The cache is the treasure. Caches come in all sizes and shapes and can be hidden just about anywhere—trees, rocks, fences, foundations, electrical boxes, benches, trash cans, wherever you can hide an object. What makes it even more interesting is that they come in a variety of containers, depending on their hiding place. A cache may be hidden in an old pill bottle, film canister (remember those?), plastic container, pipe, lawn ornament, ammo can, magnetic container, fake rock, or artificial flower, just to name a few. The sky is the limit! Inside a cache, you will find a log, or piece of paper, where you sign your geocaching name. Sometimes there are other “prizes” in the cache that you can trade.
All you need to geocache is a phone or a portable GPS and a geocache app. The app gives you all sorts of information, including hints, description, stats, who hid it and who has found it. If you can, it’s a good idea to take a few “tools” with you, such as a screwdriver or tweezers.
I began geocaching about a year ago, shortly after I retired. I started out of curiosity but after I’d found a few, I was hooked! The thing I like the most about geocaching is that it takes me to places I wouldn’t normally go. I love to explore, and searching for a cache really feeds that hunger. It’s the thrill of the hunt, I suppose. It is fun to search and finally find what you are looking for, especially when the cache container is a surprise. For example, today my husband and I went out to some local trails and found three caches! Who would have thought there’d be a giant plastic mushroom in the trees or a mysterious golf club hidden in the bush. Not to mention those crazy gadget caches in Regina, Sask! And I never would have known about the swinging bridge in Wolseley, Sask., if it wasn’t for geocaching. (What a beautiful little town!)
On a recent trip to the International Peace Gardens, my husband and I stayed in Brandon, Manitoba. We decided to do some geocaching. We did a couple of “Adventure Labs” and learned so much! We saw places that we wouldn’t have noticed driving around. It was really interesting and of course fun. Adventure Labs don’t require a lot of searching. All you have to do is find the spot using the coordinators provided in the app and then answer a few questions. Viola, you have it! Geocaching even had this prairie girl searching slippery ocean rocks and tide pools in Tofino, BC. Now that was different!
“Geocaching has enhanced our lives,” says Joanne Cliff, who retired about seven years ago. “It gives us a reason to get out of the house to explore new areas of the city, rural roads and small towns. It has taken us to places we would never have gone to. Geocaching has given us opportunities to meet so many awesome like-minded people, many of who have become good friends.”
Rachelle Wall agrees. Rachelle started geocaching in 2018, two years before she retired, and has really embraced it since. “Geocaching is more enjoyable in retirement because I am not interrupted by work! I like geocaching because it gets me outdoors in the fresh air and takes me to places I have never had an interest in going to, even in my own city. I can bring geocaching with me whenever and wherever I travel, and I like that geocaching can be a social or a solo activity. I am more than happy for friends and family to join me, but I am just as happy to go it alone!”
There is more to geocaching than just hide and seek. There are different types of caches, such as Virtual Caches, Earth Caches and Puzzle Caches Gadget Caches that keep you on your toes. There are also local geocaching clubs that host events, such as community and park clean-ups, and special group challenges. The Saskatoon and Area Geocachers (SAGA), hosts SCAR (Saskatoon Cache and Release) a 24-hour cache-a-thon event, and there are others such as GeoWoodstock which was held in Abbotsford, BC in 2022, that attract people from all over.
Geocaching is a great activity for the whole family, but it has even more benefits for older adults. It promotes healthy aging through physical and mental exercise, encourages socialization and combines using technology with being outdoors. And let me tell you, I have never been good with directions so when you put me in some bushes with a compass, look out! Bushwhacking is not my strong suit, but it is only one part of geocaching and there are lots of caches hidden in urban areas where you don’t have to worry about getting slapped in the face by a tree branch, stepping in a hole, ripping your clothes, etc. And did I mention wood ticks? Nope. Rural geocaching in May and June is not for me!
There have been a few studies done on the benefits of geocaching. The Texas A & M Geocaching for Exercise and Activity Research (GEAR) study was funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and researchers found that geocachers reported improved health and fewer days of poor mental and physical health. Active geocachers were 40% more likely to achieve CDC recommendations for optimum physical health than non-frequent geocachers. The official blog for https://www.geocaching.com has a post on the benefits of geocaching and lists the top five benefits of geocaching as:
- decreasing stress,
- boosting mood,
- sharpening skills,
- keeping you present and
- making you stronger.
“Geocaching keeps our minds active when trying to solve mystery caches and puzzle caches,” says Joanne. “Geocaching is good for the body. When searching for a cache you will get exercise, fresh air, and a sense of accomplishment when the cache is found. You learn new skills like navigation, and fun facts when doing lab cache adventures and reading some cache pages as they are often placed at historic sites. No matter what city you are in there are geocaches to find. I have met cachers at events in Las Vegas and Martinique, cachers from around the world. I even met some German tourists caching at a cache in downtown Saskatoon
Studies and research shouldn’t be the only motivating factor that gets you out doing something you enjoy. It’s important just to do it. “My advice to new retirees is to get out and keep moving as much as you can,” says Rachelle. “Keeping active through sport, socializing or solitary hobbies like geocaching will keep you fit, and is good for your mental health. As a retiree, I can do what I want, when I want and, most importantly, IF I want.”
What are you waiting for? Download the app and start searching!
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