Summer is finally here! Kids are out of school and probably already looking for something “not boring” to do. Parents are wondering what will keep their kids occupied and off the couch for at least part of summer vacation. Why not combine a trail ride with geocaching for a fun, engaging outdoor adventure?
Here in Hayward, one of the most popular outdoorsy spots is the trail complex on the Hayward Hospital Property. If you and your kids like to ride in the woods here in Hayward, you’ve probably been to the hospital trails. Besides exceptional beginner-friendly single- and wider double-track trails, the hospital property also contains around 15 geocaches.
Basically, geocaching is a treasure hunt that you do with the help of a smartphone or a GPS unit. Geocaches can vary in size from the size of a quarter to a large bin. Often there is a logbook inside with info from other geocachers, and sometimes, there are little prizes like pins or stickers.
Geocaching is a very popular pastime with a ton of variations including mystery caches that involve solving a puzzle to determine the correct coordinates, earth caches that you can visit and learn about geological features, or even multi-caches that involve two or more locations. We are going to start with the beginner version.
Before you go out, click on this link to get a step-by-step overview of how to geocache.
My son, Egan, has been geocaching for a while, and has found caches all over the midwest. I asked him to ride with me on the hospital trails searching for geocaches along the way to see if the biking/geocaching combo would be a winner.
We decided to start at the Olson Road trailhead—shown on the above map in the green circle. I got a snazzy phone holder for my bike just for this specific purpose (well, actually and blasting 80s dance music-yes, GenX rules), and I set up my phone and opened up the app that Egan downloaded for me (yes, GenX-also not the best with technology).
When we opened the app, it showed all the nearby geocaches, and we decided which one to look for first. The closest one was one of a series and located very close to the trailhead. We checked out the coordinates, description of the cache, the hint, and then we clicked on navigate, left our bikes, and headed into the woods.
The app is super user friendly with a real-life overview of the area, which direction to walk, and how close to each cache you are. E actually already knew this one, so he was guiding me a bit. How far away you are is not exact, and you do have to dodge a lot of obstacles, so it takes just a bit of patience, especially when you start out.
With some persistence, though, we found it! The first one had a log and not much else, it was pretty small. I was feeling confident, so we continued to the next cache, got as close as we could by bike, then headed off-trail. Each cache was a bit different and hidden in a different way, so I definitely didn’t get bored, just excited to tackle the next one.
In between caches, we got to ride some easy, fun trails and were escorted by a newly-hatched dragonfly swarm. There were some great views and fun animals to see. The day was absolutely perfect.
We made it over to the lake and took a break, then headed back to the car, stopping once to look again for the only cache we couldn’t find. No luck there, but we still had an amazing afternoon.
Egan agrees, geocaching on bikes at the hospital is the perfect activity for a family to do together (I mean, Egan is 14 and we had a blast!). There are multiple things going on, so there is no time to get bored! Short ride times so no one gets tired; kids are learning about navigation; they get to use a device that supplies tons of info, like hints and maps; they are learning how to be observant and active in nature, jumping over and around obstacles and learning about plants, animals, and rocks; and, who doesn’t love a treasure hunt, right? You can do as few or as many caches as you like, and, if someone isn’t having the best time ever, it is easy to bail out and try out some fun single track or even to take the bike path over to the library for some quiet time.
If you aren’t in Hayward and you want to try this out where you live, just get the app on your phone, figure out where you want to ride, and check out all the caches on your route. You will be amazed how many treasures may be hiding right nearby. I hope this gives you some ideas about a family outing in your future. Have a great summer!