Sarah Simpson Column: Treasure hunting: The horrors of geocaching with kids and why we keep doing it

The things we do for our children…

The other day my husband and I found ourselves under a small bridge on a community trail, swatting madly at mosquitoes as we watched our children slide down a small dirt bank on their backsides and nearly into a small, not yet dried up creek bed below.

“There are rocks in my crocks!” cried my son.

We’d told him to wear sneakers.

“I’m all dirty!” whined my daughter, after willingly side-stepping a groomed foot path to slide down the steeper route beside it.

I guess it’s going to be a tubby night.

Why!? Why!? Why do we do this? Nature is so…exhausting. Check that. Taking children into nature is so exhausting.

My son turned six a while back and for his birthday he received an official Geocaching® box from his Auntie to hide. Nobody in our family needs more stuff, we’ve all agreed. Experiences are where it’s at.

(Coincidentally, we’ve just cancelled our long-planned, year-end family trip to Disneyland with my parents and my sister’s family — which would have been the first proper vacation my family of four has ever had together. I’m devastated, but who wants to go to the Happiest Place on Earth, in the USA, during a pandemic?)

So, we’re staying closer to home. And we’re doing a lot more geocaching.

For those who don’t know, geocaching has been around for about 20 years. It is a world-wide hide-and-seek adventure game where you use GPS-enabled devices to locate hidden containers filled with….mostly junk; knickknacks, little log books to mark your discovery, the odd toy and whatnot. Sometimes though, you can find a “traceable”. Those are items which are put into the boxes with the provision that whoever finds them will move them on to another box. We’ve got one item in our cache right now that’s travelled more than 25,000 kilometres. There are more than three million caches spread out over more than 190 different countries in the world so really, nowhere is off limits — except maybe the U.S. as that border is currently closed.

The game has spawned a massive online community complete with code names and events and merchandise and stuff. For us though, we aren’t that keen. We think it is particularly fun on a sunny day with an ice cream cone in one hand and your Geocaching app open on your phone in the other. Well, not MY hand.

Whichever kid has the biggest tantrum in order to hold it and follow the line on the map directing us. We knew it’d be a problem. Holding the phone is the best part. You get to watch the numbers tick down as you get closer to the prize. We all like that part.

Knowing it’d be an issue, we taught the kids about coin flipping; heads for one, tails for the other, and whoever won got to hold the phone first. The problem? Every time our youngest won, she opted to defer to her big brother. So he’d hold the phone for his turn and then hers too and then she’d complain that she never got a turn. That’s small children in a nutshell for you.

But we keep going out to find new geocaches. Treasure hunting with kids always seems like a good idea before we do it. I mean, it sounds like kid heaven. What kid doesn’t want to find treasure, right?

If you ask the multiple groups of bicycle riders on the Trans Canada Trail last weekend, they’d tell you that geocaching with kids means little boys being begged to stop swinging sticks at random trail-side foliage like an action movie star, while little girls doddle about 25 yards behind everyone else claiming their legs are tired, all the while the parents continue to stare at two groups of trees trying to determine a) which dark, hollow stump to reach into and b) whose hand it’s going to be doing the reaching (Hint: not mine).

Caches mostly range in size from a small pill bottle to the size of a shoe box depending on where they’re hidden and how cruel the person hiding it wants to be, I guess. Sometimes they’re covered in camouflage and buried under leaves and sticks. Other times they’re a little bit more overt. Every time, OK nearly every time, their discovery is preceded by at least one whining child and one grown-up suggesting that “maybe we just skip this one”.

Sometimes we turn around to find one off the trail behind a tree relieving himself and the other whining that it’s not fair that she can’t pee in the woods like that, too. One thing’s for sure. It’s never boring.

So, if you’re ever out and about and see a couple standing around in the middle of a trail looking off into the distance — with a young girl lagging behind and a boy with a stick going ape on some long weeds up ahead— feel free to ignore us. We’re just geocaching.

And we’re having a blast.

ColumnistComedy and Humour

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