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October 09, 2006

High Tech Treasure Hunting for Dads & Kids

Georei As my wife has explained several times in her blog entries, we have an almost 8 year-old boy and twin almost 4 year-old boys. The inside of our house looks like the 1971 Pontiac GTO in the high school parking lots of our youth. There are some worn seat covers and the paint job has patches of white plaster and dents that remind me of bondo on a fender. So in trying to come up with a fun hobby to spend time with the kids, the number one objective was something where they explore outside the house rather than jump on the furniture and glue themselves to the floor inside the house. A friend recommended geocaching and it has proven to be a fun family treat.

Geocaching is organized treasure hunting for all ages with treasure boxes, or “caches”, of varying sizes hidden in public areas (not private property) all over the world. The GPS (Global Positioning System) coordinates of these hidden caches are documented on the geocaching web site.  It was started in May 2000 with the first cache hidden in Beaver Creek, Oregon. Today, there are over 33,000 people worldwide who have registered on the geocaching website. With more than a quarter of a million active geocaches in 222 countries, there is no shortage of potential family treasure hunts. Many of the hidden caches are easy to locate with a standard GPS device (I purchased mine at REI in Redwood City) but there are caches accessible only by airplane, kayak or with scuba gear if you feel especially adventurous.

What makes this an especially great activity for parents and kids in the bay area is the sheer number of hidden geocaches in our own backyard. So far, my kids and I have uncovered 16 of these hidden prizes in neighborhoods all over Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Redwood City. Our first cache was in downtown Palo Alto.Geo3

Some of our next discoveries were at a park in Redwood City with a World War II tank, near the ducks outside the Menlo Park library, in a sculpture near the Palo Alto main library,Geo2_2 on a walking bridge over highway 101, two in Suburban Park, three in different parks within Menlo Park  and one on a bridge over San Francisquito Creek. Yesterday, we found one in a neighborhood tree. We are having trouble finding the one located in Holbrook Palmer Park and in the underbrush of Flood Park.

All in all, geocaching has been a great way to get the kids out of the house and “searching for hidden treasure” in their own back yard.

-Neil B.

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