Spring is here and it’s time to hunt for some great outdoor activities. How about a treasure hunt that connects you to nature and is fun for the whole family? For an adventure everyone can suit up for, read on to find out how to go about geocaching in your own backyard!

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Photo: cachemania via Flickr

What is Geocaching?
It is a real-life treasure hunt done in the outdoors using a GPS device or GPS-enabled phone. You look up the location of the treasure, or cache (pronounced “cash”), you want to hunt for, and you’re off! Indiana Jones hat or Dora the Explorer backpack not required, though they will make you look more snazzy while you search.

Make your way to the GPS location of the cache you are hunting, and find the container or marker you are searching for. Open it up and see what’s inside. Sometimes it’s a logbook to sign, sometimes there is a book and treasures to trade for and sometimes there’s a disposable camera to document all the geocachers that come through. Reseal the cache when you’re done and put it back in the same spot you found it.

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Photo: Martyn Wright via Flickr

How do you get started?
To begin, go to geocaching.com to register for an account or download the geocaching app to your smart phone. They have a free basic level plan that gives you several caches wherever you want to hunt, and is a great place to get your feet wet. There are hundreds of caches around the Portland area alone! Once you’ve logged in, up pops a list of geocaches near you. Pick the one you want to seek, grab your GPS device and your adventure begins!

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Photo: Johan Larsson via Flickr

Who can Geocache?
One of the great things about geocaching is anyone can do it! There are caches hidden right in the middle of the city, some that are advanced and require some hefty hiking and hunting to find and everything in between. The app and the website have caches ranked by difficulty to find, challenge of terrain and size of the cache. This allows you to pick and choose the level of challenge you want for each geocache search.

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Photo: Dustin Moore via Flickr

Where can you Geocache?
The treasure hunting aspects bring to mind trekking miles in the woods– and that is sometimes the case.  But we have lots of caches hiding right in our own city!  There are caches right in the Oregon Zoo, where you can find the treasure hidden near the Zooliner Train or solve a riddle about the animals to open the lock to another cache.

There are virtual caches, where the experience of finding the spot is the prize. They will lead you to memorials around town, as well as a giant rock that look like swiss cheese and the world’s smallest park. The best part? It’s all within our city limits.

There are some more scientific caches, that teach you more about the geography and geology of our area.  These are called geocaches, and at each spot instead of a hidden box you’ll find some pretty amazing natural wonders.  Sights like exploring Rocky Butte and Mt. Tabor for remnants of their volcanic activity, or going 260 feet underground to explore the Tualatin Mountains!

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Photo: Martyn Wright via Flickr

What does it cost?
Geocaching doesn’t have to cost a thing. You can just sign your name on each logbook and mark the cache as found on your geocaching.com profile. If you chose to take the treasures, you will need to pick up some of your own to leave in trade.

When you’re ready to up your geocaching game, upgrade your account plan to open up a bunch more caches in every area. Premium plans cost $9.99 for a three-month option, or $29.99 for a full year, and both have auto renewal.

The only supplies you need to have are a GPS device and whatever outdoor gear you need based on where you are going. But if you really want to get into it, there are places to buy geocaching kits, such as Dr. B’s Newbie Kit.

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Photo: Jereme Rauckman via Flickr

Want to try it out?
While the Oregon Garden does have several official geocaches logged on geocaching.com, they also have an in-house geocaching hunt you can do, all contained within the garden grounds.  These private caches are all family friendly, and a great way to explore geocaching whether you are a novice or a pro.  You’ll pay an extra $10 for the coordinates, and the fee serves as a fundraiser for their GPS mapping project.  As a bonus, they do have a limited number of GPS units you can borrow for your search.

Oregon Garden

Cost: $10 plus admission– $11/adult, $9/senior, $8/student & military with ID, $5/child, Free/children 4 & under.

879 W. Main St.
online: oregongarden.org

Have you ever been Geocaching?  Tell us about your favorite experience below!

—Stacy Coplin