Outdoor Post #2: Geocaching!

Post #2 in the grand outdoor series comes to us from family friend Kara.  Having just written a novel in a month, she’s right on track to become the next Stephanie Meyer, although probably with less vampire love triangle, and more quality writing.  She also maintains what you might call a “mommy blog”, that definitely hasn’t made me paternal a single time…

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Hello out there, faithful followers of Absolutely Andrew (and Tara too!). Back in November, I asked Andrew to write a post for my blog on Thanksgiving memories. I agreed to write a post for his blog in return, and he has finally gotten around to collecting.

I am a former classmate of Tara’s from grad school, and happen to be one of those Mormons Andrew warned you all about last month- I fit numbers 4, 6, and 8. I’m not a number 1 though- I happen to be a transplant to Utah. I am not a native “Utard”. Actually, I grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, which is just as cool as it sounds. A lot of people from Alaska are really into outdoor sports, including snowboarding, hiking, hunting, fishing, etc. You may actually be wondering if Andrew and Tara are from Alaska, based on the number of outdoor sports they participate in. I, however, am a terrible snowboarder, and have never caught a fish in my life. (I did, however, manage to snag my sister’s hair with my hook the one and only time my dad took us fishing.)
My poor dad. No one to hang out with outside. No one to go cross-country skiing with. No one to go on long walks with during the endless summer days that Alaska is so famous for.
Until the summer of 2006, that is. That year, my parents bought a GPS unit, and, puzzled as to how they could use their new toy, took a beginner GPS course at REI. That’s how my family learned about geocaching.
Now, to get really in-depth in to what geocaching “is”, and to appreciate the scope of how popular it is, you really need to check out www.geocaching.com and read the how-to/what is it pages. Basically, people (MANY people) have hidden small containers all around the world, and have posted the latitude and longitude of these containers on the Internet so that other geeks people can go find them. The Huelin family was officially hooked.
 
This is me and my mom with the first geocache ever found by our family. Check out the wind!
 

My dad and my sister
 
One of the great things about geocaching is that it gets people like me outside and moving around. I always hated hiking as a teenager because there was no point- it was just walking! (Adult Kara cringes sometimes when she listens to Teenage Kara whine) Geocaching, however, is walking with a purpose- you’re out in nature trying to find something. The “something” can vary in size from an ammo can to a film canister (remember those?). It can be totally wacky like this cache we found recently near the University of Utah:
 

It had a zombie theme, and the box was decorated on the inside with plastic zombie figurines. Now that’s going above and beyond.
 
 

I found this geocache hiding in plain sight in the woods across the street from the middle school I attended. The bottom of the plastic owl was a cap that popped off to reveal the contents.
 
A geocache is usually big enough to hold a “logbook” for visitors to sign. This could be anything from a small notebook to a strip of paper wound around a pin (no lie). Signing the log is the ultimate proof that you found the cache. You can also record your finds on geocaching.com, but signing the physical log makes your find legit.
Later that fateful summer, my mom’s family came to visit. Her parents, brother, sister-in-law, and my five cousins were all excited to learn about our new fun activity. My dad and I planned out an epic geocache race through Kincaid Park. We split into three teams, and had to find three geocaches in the park in a specific order, then be first back to the cars.
 

The members of my team- cousins Matthew, Steven, and Brian, and Grandpa.
 
I don’t remember who won, but I remember we got locked in the park and had to call someone to let us out. I also remember sprinting through the woods, GPS unit in hand, laughing and shrieking with my cousins.
When I went back to school that fall, I tried to infect all my friends with the geocaching bug. My parents bought a fancy GPS unit, and I got to take the old one with me back to Colorado.
Less than six months later, I started dating my husband. He was excited to give geocaching a try, and we went on our first geocache trip together on St. Patrick’s Day, 2007.
 

Ryan’s first geocache. Ignore his hair, please.
 
Thirteen months later, Ryan and I went geocaching together in Denver, where he had moved for a job. Our third geocache that day was right in front of the Denver temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Unsuspecting me was soooo excited that someone had hid a geocache in front of the temple!
The “someone” who hid it was Ryan. Yep, my husband asked me to marry him by hiding the ring in a geocache. How could I not say yes?
 

The inside of Ryan’s proposal geocache.
 
Okay, who just said “Awww!” inside their head? I know, right? He’s pretty much amazing. My parents bought us our own fancy GPS unit for our first anniversary. They are pretty much amazing, too.
Anyone woman who has ever been pregnant and gone past her due date knows that you will do ANYTHING to get that baby to come out. My mom came to Utah for the delivery, and she was a big proponent of long walks to inspire labor. And you know my attitude towards walking… there better be a point to it.
 

This is me, six days before my son was born, out geocaching.
 
After my son was born, we flew up to Alaska to stay with my parents for a while. When my grandparents came out to meet Sammy, we took them (and baby Sam) out geocaching!
 

Ryan, Sammy, and Grandma
 
Now that my son is old enough to walk, he loves geocaching. Running around outside, getting to hold the GPS unit… toddler heaven.
 

 
I guess what I’m trying to say is, geocaching is an important part of my life. Being from Alaska, I’ve always wanted to be an outdoorsy type of person, but never really found my niche until my family discovered geocaching. It’s great for people of all ages and physical capabilities, and guarantees that you’ll have something to do no matter where you go. Give it a shot. You can borrow my GPS unit. Use it to create your own fun family memories.
Like it says on the geocaching.com website: The world is our playing field.

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