These two young geocachers have found a Mexican peso. They’ve found fake pirate jewels. They’ve uncovered a wicker rabbit. They have discovered key chains, chess pieces and thumb-sized plastic dinosaurs.
Eric, 8, and Glenn, 6, usually with the help of their dad Trevor McFetridge, have found so many trinkets from geocaching that they’ve filled a small plastic tub at home. It was this container that they emptied with a clatter onto a coffee table during a recent interview.
“That was from Keji,” said Eric, holding up a prize.
“Remember this?” said Glenn, holding another.
“Remember this, Dad?”
Each object has a story. Geocaching is an outdoor game that combines the exercise of hiking with the brainwork of treasure hunting. It blends tramping in woods and playing with GPS-equipped smartphones. Find a treasure? Leave one of your own behind. But the prize, or swag, is secondary. The hunt is the thing.
“Quite often the prize is not the goal, the prize is a kind of a bonus,” says Trevor.
Trevor owns the smartphone that helps his family find some of the hundreds of caches, or containers, located around Nova Scotia. Each cache is posted on a website called http://www.geocaching.com with GPS coordinates and a cute hint as to where it’s hidden. This allows geocachers around the world to find each others’ hidden containers.
The website boasts over 6 million caches worldwide, and over 2 million participants. Closer to home, organized events introduce newcomers to the hobby and give experts new challenges.
On their various hunts, the McFetridges usually explore the woods and parks near their Halifax home. Their favourite spot is Long Lake Provincial Park, a place packed with geocaches.
“It’s so close, and so wonderful and has so many paths to go through. We’ve cleaned out anything within an hour of the road, so now we’ve got to go deeper and deeper in the woods to be able to find anything else,” said Trevor. “But it doesn’t stop us from going back to just enjoy the paths we know and Long Lake.”
In the process, the boys have discovered old abandoned farmhouse foundations. They’ve seen snakes, porcupines, frogs and toads.
Trevor said he likes how geocaching helps expose his boys to nature. He also appreciates the family interactions.
“When you are out of the house there are no TV, toys, games or anything. You are walking. I have a captive audience. The boys and I talk about a lot of different things, everything from nature, to school, to life. It gives us a chance to connect on a non-toy level, just through conversation,” he said.
The boys clearly appreciate it as well. And while they mix up a few places and dates describing recent geocaching hunts, they remember their triumphs clearly. Like the time Eric found the wicker rabbit cache on the McFetridges’ fifth attempt looking for it. And the time Glenn surprised his older brother and his dad by finding another tricky cache in Long Lake just as darkness was falling.
“We were giving up and then [Glenn] just looks in some place and he’s like, “I found it”. And I was, “What! You did not!” said Eric.
Glenn had. It was just another of many finds. They have a full treasure chest to prove it.
For more information on hiking, walking or snowshoeing in Nova Scotia contact Hike Nova Scotia through www.hikenovascotia.ca.