On Sunday we took our friend Nina and her two children, Bela (11) and Alek (10) out on their first ever geocaching adventure. I chose some of the CaptainJack Common Wood caches near Hazlemere in Buckinghamshire as I felt that the short distance between the hides and beautiful countryside surroundings to be an excellent backdrop in which to demonstrate the wonders of geocaching to a family of muggles. 🙂
When you have a hobby that you really enjoy, such as geocaching, often you find yourself wanting to encourage your friends to take it up too, or at least give it a go. One reason for this, I believe, is that many pastimes are often enhanced when they are shared, enabling joint experiences and alternative perspectives to be experienced. If, dear reader, you too are a geocacher then I expect that at some point you have considered introducing one or more of your friends to the hobby. Whether you realise it or not the process of converting a muggle is normally made up of a few distinct stages.
Stage 1 is when the topic of what you did at the weekend comes up in conversation, and for the first time you reveal to your friend that you are a geocacher. The most likely response to this is, “GeoWhat?” So you spend a few minutes explaining it to them and their reaction will determine if you progress to stage 2. If they laugh at you, think the whole thing is silly, lose interest, or change the subject then you probably write them off as a terminal muggle. If however they show some interest, even if it is in conjunction with seeming a bit bemused by it all then you file this away and as some point escalate to the next level.
Stage 2 occurs when next the topic of geocaching comes up. If they bring it up asking whether you have been again since the last time you talked about it, or mention that they looked at the website after you spoke then you know you are well and truly progressing. Now you feel able to talk in a little more detail about your experiences of geocaching, the finer mechanics of it, the benefits and how it can be enjoyed in so many different ways depending on what sort of person you are. At the end of this conversation you throw out a teaser like “Perhaps you could come along some time?” or “I bet your kids would love it, I could show you the ropes if you like?” Their response to this varies enormously ranging from “Great, I’ll get my coat.” to “err, I don’t think so.” and everything in between. Assuming they don’t laugh in your face or immediately show you the door, then all that remains is to progress to the final phase.
Stage 3 is to actually take them out and show them the wonders of geocaching. Moving between stages 2 and 3 can take just a few hours or alternatively might drag out for days weeks or even months. But when it finally happens you then get the chance to prove that you weren’t just making it all up. You pray for good weather, caches that are all there, no technical problems, no injuries, a gentle downward slope and the wind behind you. And then… finally then… it is up to them; they either like it or they don’t!
And so it was that we arranged a caching adventure for Nina and the kids. First things first, you have to get the prep work done. I did all the cache planning, map squinting and parking spot selection as normal; no point just taking them to a forest and just winging it, that is bound to end badly. They came over to our place first so that we could help Nina get C:GEO installed on her phone and the caches stored for offline use. Getting the app working took a little while, for some reason it wasn’t quite storing the geocaches properly and we weren’t getting a compass icon which would allow her to actually navigate to the hides. Nina, being a swot, had already set up her geocaching.com free account and so when the app was installed she just needed to log in with her new caching name, Fistfull. We eventually got the glitch sorted; not really sure what the resolution was but reinstalling the app seemed to do the trick. With all the prep done, we headed off to Buckinghamshire to see if we could convert our muggle friends into geocachers. 🙂
Common Wood in Buckinghamshire is a beautiful area of woodland with well-defined paths running all around and through it, along which had been placed 23 caches. We had planned to take on 12 of them and as we left the car and headed into the woods the weather was perfect, the going underfoot was firm and dry. And the kids sounded excited. It was great for Sam to have two friends around his age to explore the woods with and while we introduced Nina to the basic of C:GEO they disappeared off into the trees laughing; eager to find hidden treasure. Soon we were approaching our first hide and after explaining to Bela and Alek what sort of thing to look for they scrambled around along with Sam, all wanting to make the first find. It was Bela who found the cache, and it was great to hear the excitement as it was retrieved and its contents examined. Once everything had been pulled out, inspected and then replaced, the log book was signed and off we went to find more caches.
We spent the next few hours in the woods searching for tupperware, the sounds of children laughing and shouting filling our ears. Nina soon got to grips with the app and how it all worked and both Bela and Alek took turns in following the compass arrow. Whilst Nina was a little timid about getting amongst nature her enquiring mind and curiosity had her searching high and low, if not actually amongst the undergrowth then from the path with a keen eye. Bela and Alek on the other hand were quite happy to head off the path and get in amongst the nettles and bushes. Sticks were found and employed as poking devices for the more sinister looking holes but no stone was left unturned in order to find the treasure.
Bela, Alek and Sam all found caches and even Sharlene managed to find a couple which was not easy seeing as the kids were normally all over the GZ like a swarm of bees long before us adults had even arrived. Only Nina, and myself didn’t manage to claim a find on the day but I suspect that she was OK with that for the moment, just seeing Bela and Alek having a good time was reward enough. Aside from the geocaching, there was much fun had in the woods with the kids finding interesting bits and bobs all around such as a feather that sported almost camouflage style colouring and a fossil imprinted into a stone. Perhaps the find of the afternoon was the tyre swings that were discovered right next to the last find of the day.
I couldn’t have planned a better introduction to geocaching really. The surroundings were lovely, the weather good, there were lots of easy finds, sadly but inevitably a DNF and we even bumped into some other geocachers on the way round too.
Like I said when it comes down to it, you can’t force people to like something you can just introduce them to it and hope they find the experience enjoyable. I think our friends did enjoy themselves, Bela certainly seems to have a natural ability for locating caches, finding 5 of the 11 caches on the day. Alek seemed to have fun too although I think he got a little frustrated at how many his sister kept finding before he had a chance to start searching. But boys being boys, he and Sam always had their favourite pastime of attacking the woods with sticks to fall back on. I know Sam certainly enjoyed having his friends along providing chat and perspectives much more in line with his own rather than those of Mum and Dad as normal.
Shar and I certainly relished having the company of a good friend to enrich the geocaching experience and I like to think Nina had a great time too. I don’t know if they will make the full transition from muggles to geocachers but if nothing else it was a fantastic afternoon out in the great British countryside with friends, nature, sandwiches and tupperware. Happy days indeed.
Now crack the whip Nina and get Bela and Alek writing those logs!
As I am such a nice friend here are the links to the geocaches on geocaching.com in the order we did them.
Fallen Again (GC3CQKV)
A Common Hide (GC3CQKX)
Rooted to the spot (GC3CQME)
Post a field note (GC3CQN3)
Little Penn (GC3CQNF)
Lion’s Farm (GC3CQNP) This was our only DNF