Geocaching: Rediscover the Joy of Exploration

An activity that combines the ancient drive to find hidden treasure with the modern desire to hold, at all times, some piece of digital technology (preferably with a screen)—that’s the pull of geocaching, a sport that became a kind of instant classic upon its dawning at the turn of the millennium. Already about 400,000 caches are stashed around the planet, with about 8,600 in Michigan.

How it works

  1. Buy a handheld Global Positioning System (GPS) device.
  2. Go to geocaching.com and locate the GPS coordinates to find the coordinates for one of the caches that other geocachers have hidden in Michigan.
  3. Find the cache, then add your name to the list at the cache to prove you’ve been there.

What you’ll find

The caches hold no real “treasure” in a monetary sense, explains Ken Rens, who along with wife Peggy and their Jack Russell terrier, Cricket, make up Michigan’s No. 1 geocache team—they’ve found about 5,500 caches thus far. The treasure is the joy of the hunt and especially seeing the beautiful places (a splendid overlook, a gushing waterfall) or natural oddity (a curiously shaped tree, a bog) along the way. Surprises do, however, sometimes wait in the cache itself—a spring-loaded snake, a toy frog that croaks.

Another reason to like geocaching: The activity has cross-generational appeal—so you might actually convince your children to go into nature with you. If there is a shared characteristic among geocachers, it’s a whiff of the techno-nerd, and many kids qualify.

Some Favorite Caching Locales of the GPS-erati:

We asked Donna Scramling and her husband, Gary, officers of the Michigan Geocaching Organization, to share a few hot spots.

  1. Mackinac Island: “There’s probably 55 caches up there. And you’d see places on the island you’d never know were there—off the beaten track.”
  2. Manistee National Forest: “Many outstanding geocaching experiences.”
  3. Udell firetower: The only fire tower left standing in lower Michigan.
  4. U.P. in October. “Wow, now there’s a place to go caching. So many waterfalls.”

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