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Geocaching involves unearthing treasure

Geocaching is the modern-day equivalent of a scavenger hunt. You need to have an appetite for discovery and willingness to work together as a team. We put the app to the test as a family.

Text: Leoni Hof; photos: Kostas Maros

“I don’t want to put my hand in there. Who knows what’s lurking in this burrow.” Yet I screw up my nose, roll up my sleeves and do it anyway. I’m certain my courage will be rewarded. The treasure is bound to be hidden here. It is a warm Sunday in summer, quite literally a “sun day”. We want to get some fresh air. Unfortunately our youngest has been less than enthusiastic recently about our usual family outings. She would rather play with her friends. And so we have to think of something that will keep her happy and come up with the idea of geocaching. You don’t need any expensive equipment, you can do it almost anywhere and in any weather. 

Rather conveniently we live directly below the local Zurich mountain which, according to the geocaching app, –  our digital treasure map – is positively teeming with “caches”. This is what you call the hiding places. In Switzerland alone, there are thousands. But just bear in mind that not all of these hiding places necessarily contain actual objects to find. They often hide small containers, so-called micros, which only contain a log book in which you can enter your name. Other caches may contain small treasures such as toy cars, marbles or coins – and you may take one if you exchange it with a similar object. 

“If you are going geocaching with children it is worthwhile reading the cache description before you begin.”

Get hunting!

It is our first timing geocaching so we choose caches with a low level of difficulty. The app indicates the level of difficulty and only takes us on easily accessible terrain and to child-friendly caches. Level five, for example, often requires special equipment such as harnesses and climbing rope. (You can even find caches in the Himalayas and Antarctic. Geocachers travel all around the world.) If you are going geocaching with children it is worthwhile reading the cache description before you begin. Now get hunting for treasure on paths well and lesser trodden. Because, on close inspection, even the former can be exciting again. We gape in amazement at roots that wind their way through the earth like huge snakes and run our hands over gnarly trees that look like ancient forest spirits. Our search makes us feel like real explorers. We find our first treasure in the hollow of a tree. Of course we are not going to give away any hiding spots here... Other caches hidden by geocachers are disguised as tufts of grass or stones, screws or pine cones. But only those who have already found caches are allowed to hide their own. 

Well equipped

We recommend having a manageable amount of equipment for geocaching: In addition to your mobile phone, you will need a pencil for putting entries in the log book, items to exchange, a pocket knife, a small mirror for caches in tricky nooks and crannies, perhaps a torch and notebook if a riddle needs to be solved. And by the way: you should try to be discrete when searching and especially when you find a cache. This is in order to stop “muggles” (the name used by the geocacher community to describe all non geocachers) from spotting caches. It goes without saying that geocachers must stick to paths, especially in nature reserves. We stop and look for an alternative route instead of trampling through protected areas and grazing land.  We actually find three caches on that Sunday as we tramp through the woods for hours, nibbling on blueberries and trying not to tread on the first sprouting mushrooms. Our daughter didn’t ask once if we were nearly there yet and us adults had great fun too, because we did it together as a family and everyone played their part. This modern-day scavenger hunt can really change your perspective – treasure could be hidden around every corner.