Geocaching: Outdoor activity provides real-life treasure hunt
If you can't seem to break up the line of sight between your child's eyes and a computer screen, or you're having trouble loosening their grip on that overused video game controller, take comfort knowing there may still be a way to get them out in the fresh air for an afternoon.
Kids these days are plenty familiar with technology. They don't know a world without it.
So it's really no surprise that they often ditch old-fashioned outdoor activities like tag or capture the flag and turn instead to role-playing games on the Xbox or Angry Birds on the iPad.
Thankfully, parents can relax knowing that some outdoor activities have embraced the use of technology -- providing an easy transition for kids who don't typically get outdoors.
Geocaching combines the thrill of a treasure hunt with the use of a smartphone or GPS. Participants find their way to a specific cache by following a set of GPS coordinates.
"You find the cache and in the cache you leave a trinket," explained Harry Roberts, park manager at Frontenac State Park.
The Minnesota State Parks and Trails system offers dozens of geocaching quests throughout the entire state, including one in Frontenac.
"Avian Adventure" is the current theme, giving geocachers the opportunity to complete bird-related puzzles and quizzes at certain caches. Additionally, they might find a collectible bird card.
While some state park visitors use geocaching as a way to leisurely roam through unfamiliar territory, others make it a mission to collect as many bird cards as possible.
"Some do it almost competitively," Roberts said.
Ultimately, geocaching gets people moving and spending time outside -- something that younger generations may be doing less of these days.
"The idea was to draw in young people," Roberts said of why Minnesota state parks decided to start offering geocaching adventures.
"But I've seen people older than me coming and wanting to do the geocaching," he added.
Age is not necessarily a factor. Rather, geocaching can provide treasure hunts for everyone -- from the youngest kids who can wiggle their way through tightly packed trees to the elderly folks who do their searching from the seat of a wheelchair. Caches are hidden anywhere and everywhere for just that reason.
Geocaching is not just an activity for state park grounds. At www.geocaching.com, people can find dozens of caches nestled within their own neighborhoods. When looking up different geocaching adventures, they can see the difficulty level and terrain level associated with a particular cache before deciding it's something they want to find.
That means hardcore nature enthusiasts aren't limited to seeking caches that might be more suited to those who don't appreciate trudging through the woods.
The diversity among the caches is clearly represented at www.geocaching.com, which reports there are 1,884,436 geocaches active throughout the world.
More than 150 of those lie within a 10-mile radius of Red Wing, so grab a GPS and get started.
The concept is simple: Find a cache, take something from it and leave something in its place. You'll join a community of more than 5 million geocachers who have already tweaked their technologically filled lives to include bits and pieces of the great outdoors.