By Matt Neal
There is something hidden around Woodstock. Something most of you have never found, and possibly never heard of. There are, in fact, hundreds of these hidden things in our town, waiting to be found. I have found many of them. I’m talking, of course, about the treasures that can be found through geocaching.
For those of you who have never heard of geocaching, the rules are simple. You go around and find hidden stuff. When you find it, you open it, sign the log, and put it back. It may not sound like much, but it beats binge watching “The Office” on Netflix. All you need is a smartphone and the geocaching app, which costs around $10. The app has a map that shows how close you are by using the smartphone’s GPS. Some of our younger readers have probably heard of the great new game Pokemon Go, which just recently released in the United States. It allows you to search for virtual Pokemon creatures in the real world, using a smartphone app. The basic principle is the same as geocaching. With both, kids are tricked into exercising. Take that, Xbox.
Geocaching has been around much longer than similar games, and the advantage is there are physical things to find. The caches themselves are simple. They are usually small boxes – the official geocache containers are a few inches to a foot or so in size. You won’t actually find pirate gold inside. Instead, you will find a log of all the people who have found it before. Sign your name (or family’s name) and the date. People also like to leave little gifts. Sometimes it’s a plastic dinosaur, or an army man, or some other trinket. Kids love that. My son collects all the weird junk he finds in them. Then we replace it with our own little goodies. That’s what makes it fun.
There are hundreds of hidden geocache locations around Woodstock: in a parking lot, behind a grocery store, or on a hiking trail. They can be in a tree, in a bush, or behind a guardrail. My daughter once found one hanging inside a drainage grate in a parking lot. It was tied by fishing line to the grate.
You can spend an entire afternoon on Highway 92 or on Towne Lake Parkway, going from one place to the next. My kids take turns hunting them down. Our best day was hiking the Iron Hill Trail at Red Top Mountain State Park. We combined hiking, biking and treasure hunting.
Since we started geocaching, we have explored parts of Woodstock I’d never been to. I found quaint neighborhoods, interesting shops and parks that I never knew existed. So get outdoors, enjoy the time with friends and family, and explore our town.