Finding buried treasure may seem like a dream to most people, but treasure hunts take place every day in Hampton Roads. Folks here and around the world are enjoying an international game called geocaching. Tanya Eldert, a Norfolk mom, is writing a book called Family Geocaching with her 10-year-old daughter, Sianna. They hope to spread the word about this challenging, family-friendly activity.
“We wanted to introduce geocaching to families because many people don’t realize what it is and how easy it is to get the whole family involved,” Tanya explained. It works like this: searchers use their smart phones or GPS to locate caches (i.e., the “treasure”). The cache can be almost anything—from a big plastic box or ammo can in the woods to a tiny magnetic tube the size of your fingernail. After discovering the cache, the find is logged in on your geocaching account and on a paper in the cache. Geocachers try to keep their activities hidden from “muggles” (people who don’t know about geocaching) so that the caches don’t get taken or destroyed. Since caches are placed by other geocachers, the number of caches is always growing.
Geocaching began in 2000 when the U.S. government opened up availability to some GPS satellites. Back then geocaching was an expensive hobby, the equipment could cost hundreds of dollars, and there were a limited number of caches to find. Today, many people use a $10 app on their smart phone and search for over 2 million caches hidden around the world. Hundreds of those caches are in Hampton Roads and easy to find for families who want to get out of the house and explore.
Family Geocaching shares tips about geocaching, not only from the Elderts’ perspective, but also from families around the world. “We conducted almost 100 interviews and got great stories and hints from families who are geocaching in their communities and around the world,” Tanya said. The book has attracted interest from places as far away as New Zealand. “I love the tips we get from the kids,” she said.
Geocaching is also very educational for both kids and adults. “I have lived in Hampton Roads for 10 years, and I have learned more about this community in the last year geocaching than the previous nine put together,” Tanya said. Many caches reference history, including some here in Hampton Roads. “I’ve learned there was a Revolutionary battle near one church in our area,” said Tanya, “plus found the last gas lamps in Norfolk near another.”
Traveling and geocaching are a natural partnership, according to Tanya. “After we started caching, it became easier to take trips with my daughter,” she said. “We integrate a few hunting stops along the way to search for a cache or two, and she is much happier on the road.” Geocaches can be found in every state, and in most countries visited by tourists. “Our plans are to cache through the United States and get a ‘virtual souvenir’ from each state,” Tanya said. “We are also going to do a caching cruise to Alaska next spring and hope to take other cachers with us.”
To complete the book and cover the some of the costs, Tanya signed up with Kickstarter.com, a crowd source funding site to get support. People interested in the book can pledge money in return for rewards like souvenir coins, bags, geocaching starter kits, bumper stickers, and signed copies of the book. “This is just another way to get people involved with the book from the beginning,” Tanya said. “Writing the book has been a geocaching community effort and so is getting the funding. We couldn’t have done it without the help of a great geocaching community.”
If you’ve been dreaming of discovering buried treasure, try geocaching. Besides the thrill of the hunt, it’s the perfect way to combine fresh air, family time, and exercise while learning about the world around you.
• Visit www.FamilyGeocaching.com or to order the first copies and get the Kickstarter reward, visit: www.kickstarter.com/projects/1415937770/family-geocaching-a-guide-book
• To connect with Hampton Roads Geocaching, visit www.geocachinghamptonroads.com. The group will hold its annual picnic in Newport News Park on August 31st.