There are tons of ways to have fun with your spouse, kids, and the whole gang on hiking trails. Treasure hunts will never go out of style and starting on page 118, I offer some savvy tips for revving up the old-fashioned kind.
But there’s a whole new way to go on a treasure hunt these days, thanks to technology, and it’s called geocaching. (It’s kind of ironic that high-tech gear would get more of us into the ultimate low-tech place, the wilderness. Hmmm…)
Anyway, whoever invented it understands that we never outgrow the thrill of playing hide-and-seek or our fascination with the mystery and promise of treasure chests.
Trail Games to Enjoy Your Camping and Hiking Trip
If you want to enjoy your time on the trail with your kids, companion or other members of the trip, then you should look below for some insights.
CATCH on to GEOCACHING
If you are new to this worldwide craze, you have a great hobby in store. You must have a GPS device to participate, but you can rent one at www.lowergear.com until you’re sure you want it for keeps. And believe me, you will want your very own.
It is a great hiking game for youth and women
Aside from fueling your newfound geocaching addiction, a GPS will greatly expand your hiking range and self-assurance on wilderness trails. But renting is a good way to learn how to use a GPS and figure out which bells and whistles you want or don’t want on the one you buy.
There is a huge price range, $100 to $1,000, so you don’t want to pay for any features you can’t imagine using.
Geocaching is a one-size-fits-all outdoor activity. Geocachers use GPS technology to locate close to 500,000 caches, or treasure boxes, hidden in nearly every country of the world. Their locations vary from busy downtown areas to remote caves.
The “treasure” is usually a trinket or toy. You take something from the cache, leave something for the cache, and then add your name(s) to the cache’s logbook.
Geocache tokens are limited only by size and your imagination, but you should never leave food or candy. Many people leave a geocoin-a metal coin minted and trackable on the Internet using a serial number and Web site engraved on the coin. A less expensive alternative is a geotoken. I like to gather a collection of personal tokens that I can
Geocachers’ Golden Rules
First, never let non-geocachers see you find or hide a cache. Let them get out of view before you do your deed.
Second, you must leave something in the cache if you take something from the cache.
Third, leave your names(s) in the cache’s logbook, and log your adventure in the online listing on your computer when you get home.
Last, leave everything the way that you found it. Be sure to seal the cache tightly, return it to its hiding place, and make sure it is concealed.
use at a moment’s notice: polished rocks, charms, pencils, crystals, party favors, free ice cream coupons, and notes with inspirational messages.
Getting Started with the Game
To find out if there are caches near you, log on to www.geocaching.com and enter your zip code. For the clues that can lead you to caches within a 10-mile radius, you will have to open an account, but you can open a basic one for free.
With an account, you log in, then click onto a cache that sounds interesting, and the searchable database gives its waypoints. These are longitude and latitude coordinates that will look like this: N 47° 36.215 W 122° 19.767.
This information enables you to pinpoint the cache location in your GPS machine and translate that to the hiking area and on to your prize. If you are familiar with the trails in your region, you may be able to tell approximately where the cache is hidden.
Each listing rates the cache’s terrain and difficulty, which tells you how hard the area is to navigate, and how elusive the cache may be. Don’t expect to see a spotlight and lighted arrow pointing you to the exact location, complete with a marching band! It’s a little more complicated than that.
After you download the waypoints into your GPS, it routes you to the trail. Once you log the mileage and get within a radius of the waypoints, you may spend a while wandering around, looking in bushes and under rocks to find the actual cache. It is usually in a waterproof container, like an old ammo box, and should be easy to open.
Letterboxing Games on Hiking Trail
Letterboxing uses directions, clues, and riddles instead of the waypoints used in geocaching to locate treasures on a hike. At its simplest, a letterbox is a holder intended as a type of mailbox. At www.letterboxing.org you’ll find instructions for making and hiding your own letterbox.
Here you will also learn about assembling the rubber stamp, stamp pad, and other items you’ll need for the game. The site also gives directions, clues, and riddles leading you to another person’s hidden letterbox.
Once you find the hidden letterbox, you imprint yours or your family’s stamp in the logbook inside the letterbox. Then you imprint your own logbook with the stamp stored inside the letterbox.
It’s an “I was here” sort of thing. This is an exciting process because the stamps you find can be quite creative, ranging from a simple return address to handmade works of art. Think of them as passports in the wilderness.
Treasure Hunting Sports on the Hike and Backpacking
These games have always been associated with children, but they work for engaging all ages on hikes. Most of the women these days like these kinds of game too along with quite a large numbers of young boys.
Women with backpacking find these types of game quite interesting to make the journey funny. A treasure hunt does not require you to leave objects hidden in the wild, so it is in keeping with the Leave No Trace philosophy.
(Many purists believe that geocaching and letterboxing do not adhere to Leave No Trace, as, by their very nature, foreign objects are purposefully placed into the wild.)
How Treasure Hunting Trail Games are Played?
A treasure hunt is traditionally conducted by handing out a list of items that might be seen on the hike-and ticking off each success. But another popular method is to make “treasure cards,” with one item listed on each card. You can use them over and over, and make notes on the back when something unusual strikes you.
A stack of index cards (green for nature?) is a perfect size, and they hold up. Instead of writing the object on the card, you or your kids can cut pertinent pictures from newspapers or magazines and paste them on.
Some people even laminate their cards, punch a hole in the corner, and use a small carabiner to attach them to their packs. It’s easy to add and subtract cards this way, and they are always handy for the next hike. It can be a great backpacking game for the trail partners too. Just you need to think a bit. And, you get the idea.
Treasure Card Creativity Games for Family on Hiking
Never hesitate to spice up this activity, especially if children are involved. The whole point is to encourage your group-young or old—to observe their surroundings. Activities that stimulate everyone’s senses give fresh perspectives on any hiking trail. Here are some variations for treasure cards that my family likes:
- Adapt the game for your area. For example, include your state bird, or a sign showing a trail named after a local benefactor, or a path that leads to an abandoned water tower.
- Design your cards to require a response. For instance: Can you find an example of the damage the last storm did in this forest? (See more examples in the boxes following.)
- Add sounds to the list a train whistle in the distance, the high-pitched screech of a squirrel, the repertoire of a Mockingbird. (See more examples in the boxes following.)