It seems I just cannot get enough screen time. I am glued to my computer eight-plus hours a day and when I get home, I watch Netflix and then play games on my smart phone before turning in. If I wake up in the middle of the night, I use Pinterest to lull me back to sleep with visions of baking double stuffed caramel brownies and constructing a table out of pallets.
Recently, I discovered a way to stay linked in while hiking.
Geocaching has been around since 2000, but only for those with handheld expensive GPS devices, such as Garmins.
Today, there is a free app for iPhone and Andriod cell phones.
I was initially skeptical of trying geocaching because, well, it sounded dorky.
The pastime involves loading the coordinates for a planted geocache, then using your phone or Garmin to lead you to the location (usually within a few feet) and searching around, looking under logs and rocks, until you find the cache.
The trick is, while your phone will get you close, a cache is usually well hidden. Sometimes they are stashed in fence poles, in fake rocks, inside tree trunks or so micro in size they are overlooked.
A typical cache fits in the palm of a hand, a small waterproof container containing a log where geochachers enter their name and the date found. In larger caches, like Tupperware containers, geocachers usually leave a small trinket and take something to bring to the next cache.
It is almost like treasure hunting.
Now, like I said, I was not initially enthusiastic about going geocaching.
A friend suggested a hike and then once we were on the trail said we were going geocaching.
I plodded along behind the group while they poured over their cell phone screens, debating which way was the most direct to the location. When we were sufficiently close, they started searching for the cache, looking under rocks and in tree branches. After 15 minutes elapsed with no trace of the thing in view, I decided to download the app, right there in the forest off Tyler Parkway to help get this whole thing over with sooner.
Then a funny thing happened. I loaded the app on my phone and started following the arrow pointing in the direction of the cache. I read the description of where it was located and the comments left by people who had looked for it. Before I knew it, I was hooked.
A friend yelled out that they had found the tiny container, hidden well between two rocks. We were on to our next cache, this one located off a Payson Area Trail System hike. I led the charge, shouting out that we were 300, now 200 feet away. We stumbled on Native American ruins and the hike turned into something more. We oohed and aahed over the crumbly low walls, the pottery shards and arrowheads.
It was all I could do to get the group back on track and looking for the cache.
We carried on and found it, a dinosaur-themed box that people filled with small plastic toys.
When I checked the time, several hours had elapsed. I had noticed neither the passage of time — or the workout I was getting.
We walked home feeling like expert treasure hunters.
The next night, I suggested we hit the area by the Payson rodeo grounds. We quickly found the two caches, but then continued our walk up a dirt road to a saddle overlooking Payson to watch the sunset. After five years of living in Payson, I had visited two areas I had never seen and they were some of the prettiest. What else have I missed?
I have now geocached in Sedona and Payson with family, friends and even my little sis with Big Brothers Big Sisters. No matter the age or place, geocaching pulls everyone in on the hunt. And it’s a lot easier than building a pallet table.
• Geocaching (pronounced geo-cashing) is a game where users discover hidden containers in urban and natural settings, such as under park benches and in a tree trunk.
• There are more than 2 million geocaches throughout the world, in more than 180 countries.
• After a geocacher hides a cache, they list it on Geocaching.com, challenging others to find it.
• At minimum, geocaches contain a logbook to sign. Some geocaches contain small trinkets for trade.
• If a geocacher takes something from the geocache, they replace it with something of equal or greater value.
• Geocaches are returned to their hiding places for the next geocacher.
• To begin, download the Geocaching app or visit Geocaching.com.