Geocaching

Editor’s note: Granted the sport of geocaching has been around for a long time, but with the recent pandemic and lack of traveling opportunities, we’ve been looking for new, fun things to keep ourselves busy. Grace Juarez and her husband are avid geocachers, so if this is something you’ve never heard of or tried before, there’s no time like the present to take on a new, outdoor hobby.

Geocaching is one of the most well-kept secrets I know of ... that no one is trying to keep secret.

This trend may be growing followers, but most of the people I know still don’t have a clue that tiny to extra large “caches” are hiding all over their communities.

I like to refer to geocaching as a worldwide scavenger hunt. And in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, it’s a great way to social distance, get a little exercise and maybe even find something fun to take home.

The term was coined by Matt Stum when he sent out the GPS Stash Hunt to his mailing list, and since then it’s grown to a global phenomenon.

It’s pretty easy.

In these modern times, all you have to do is download a free app to your smartphone in order to participate. Stashers hide caches all over the place and upload the coordinates and a brief description to the app. Seekers then use the location and description to find the caches and add their name to the logbook with pride.

It can be used by adults, teens, families with kids and even by students or Boy and Girl Scouts to teach navigation.

One of the coolest aspects to geocaching is the “take something, leave something” policy. If a cache is big enough (not micro or tiny in size), there will often be small trinkets for seekers to take with them and a space to leave something behind.

I hopped onto the geocaching train many years ago, and I still love it. It was a super fun way to spend time at home and while traveling.

My husband and I would check out the app, load into the car and trek out to locations near us on the weekends or after our college classes while we were dating. Either by ourselves or with a group of friends, I can’t tell you how much fun it is to go on an adventure — or a “quest,” if you will — with a loved one to discover buried treasure. It’s no wonder the location-based app trend has taken off with games like Pokemon Go.

The caches can be relatively easy to find or cleverly hidden in small tubes tied to tree branches or behind secret magnetized fake outlets on metal poles.

One of my favorite finds was a tiny, red, squishy dinosaur our friend group nicknamed, “Dinosorge, Lord of the Forge.”

We’ve even added the geocaching element to our weekend trips and have so much fun exploring new places. For instance, Austin has this awesome geocache series exhibiting historical, interesting sites in downtown. I remember stopping at a tiny lighthouse by a busy road and thinking, “I never would have noticed this without geocaching.”

Another fun memory was visiting a friend at Texas A&M University and finding a cache cleverly hidden in a beautiful tree in a small neighborhood park. He had to climb the tree to find it!

In Nacogdoches, there’s a series of geocaches placed by the Texas A&M Forest Service to showcase various aspects of the agency and properties it manages.

Geocaching involves adventure, problem solving, critical thinking and mystery. It’s fun for all ages, and it’s great to share with friends and family. I look forward to sharing this experience with my nieces and nephews.

You can experience geocaching on your travels or even right here in your hometown, and the connection you feel to other seekers when signing your name to the logbook is wonderful.

There are hundreds of caches in East Texas, just waiting to be found. I know I’ll be looking. Will you?