We’re constantly looking at screens, whether it’s our laptops, tablets, smartphones or TVs. This winter, unplug and escape the cozy indoors for an outdoor adventure.
Geocaching is a sophisticated game of hide-and-seek that channels the feeling of discovery and journey of a video game but transports it off-screen and into the real world. Designed as a modern-day treasure hunt, it’s centered on the search for hidden caches or prizes using GPS devices. To find them, players share clues about the caches’ coordinates on online message boards. The caches themselves can be anything from a trinket to something significant to the person who hid the item, but the hidden cache is constantly changing and becomes a series of surprises: As one player finds the cache, he or she has to replace it with something else. And fortunately for people who love the chase, in multi-cache hunts, the clues are just the beginning. Each clue takes you one step closer to the end goal—the cache.
One of the benefits of geocaching is it can be played alone or with a group of friends. Plus, the game doesn’t stop after one person plays. Coordinates can be retraced and tracked several times before clues are updated.
There are also several ways to geocache. There are trails specifically geared toward kids with caches that are easy to find right off of park trails, including caches in Ashburn and at the historic Aldie Mill. There are also more difficult geocaches designed for adults, like multicaches or a virtual cache, which requires players to report back to the message board with found information they would only be able to discover on-site at the geocache location. Geocaches can also range from holiday-themed to long-running games for those who are regularly active in the community.
You can find caches broken out by location at the Geocaching website and app, which highlights searches better suited for beginners in green and includes caches in Forest Park in Alexandria, Custis Trail in Arlington, Providence Park in Fairfax and many more. If you want to join a group of like-minded geocachers, the Northern Virginia Geocaching Organization holds regular events, contests and online forums. Likewise, Virginia State Parks have their own geocaching program, which doles out prizes to participants, and Friends of the W&OD Trail encourages participants to come find caches hidden along its path.