Well, kids, before there was Pokémon Go, we used to do this thing called geocaching. It may sound silly, but Pokémon Go seems to have taken over the world. If you aren’t ready to make the Pokémon Go leap yet, or if you’re looking for similar but challenging fun, you’ll want to check out geocaching.
Geocaching is a kind of treasure hunt game that started in the early 2000’s. The idea is that people “cache” or hide little treasure in boxes and hide them out in the wild. They record the coordinates of the treasure box and enter those coordinates onto a geocache site so that others can find it later. Sometimes you’ll find a tightly rolled up piece of paper to sign inside or near a cache, and other times you’ll find trinkets or coins.
I use the app Geocaching by Groundspeak, Inc. which I have downloaded on my phone. (It’s available for iPhone and Android.) Using the app, you can open up a map view to see any geocaches near you. Then you can navigate to the cache, read hints, see when others have found the cache, and add your notes to the virtual log. You can also use the Geocaching website to look up caches by town. Lake County towns that are listed include Buffalo Grove, Gurnee, Highland Park, Lake Forest and Mundelein, just to name a few.
Once you do find the cache, you can sign your initials or name and/or leave a stamp or a trinket behind. Geocachers try to be sneaky so “muggles” or non-geocachers don’t catch onto the antics. This isn’t always easy to do! It’s especially hard when you’re wandering around in circles looking for a cache.
Once you’re in the right area, you’ll have to become a detective, searching for the hidden cache. Here’s a picture of a teeny little capsule we found hidden in the cement bars to mark a parking spot at the Lake Bluff train station.
It was tucked into the little hole where the cement is nailed into the ground. That one took us a while to find!
The most common types of geocaches you will find seem to be hidden at the base of streetlights or lampposts. We found a few near the Chuck E. Cheese in Gurnee across from Great America. There seemed to be a lot in this area, which makes it a great place to search if you have kids with you. Sometimes I stop and check to make sure a geocache is there before taking my kids, because otherwise they get frustrated at not being able to find it. But at the same time, the thrill of the mystery is super fun.
Don’t let this lamppost fool you! The metal square base actually is loose and can easily be lifted up to reveal the geocache hidden underneath.
This sweet little ice cream cone geocache was found in the parking lot between Chuck E. Cheese and Starbucks in Gurnee off of Grand Avenue. Don’t be afraid to look everywhere, but I always suggest looking at the base of lampposts first.
Want to take geocaching to the next level? Hide your own! See the geocaching website for more information and tips and tricks on how to set up your own geocache. And for another type of fun, you can attach a Groundspeak Travel Bug to a small item. You and your kids can then watch to see where your Travel Bug zips off to as different geocachers move it along.
Geocaching is a great way to introduce your kids to problem-solving, map and directional skills while getting outside to enjoy nature, spending time with each other, and having fun. It’s also a great lesson in perseverance, as sometimes you have to keep at it before you find a geocache. But when you do, it’s super exciting to see what’s been hidden and to leave your mark behind for others to find.
Where has your family found geocaches in Lake County? Were they hard or simple to find?