Why #OutdoorFamilies Matter

I haven’t been able to get this tweet out of my head since I read it this morning:

THIS.

This is why I get off the couch when it’s cold and snowy.

This is why I’m outside in the yard even though the house is a mess.

This is why I pack up the camper over and over all summer long–even though I have a perfectly nice home (that probably needs cleaning).

It’s all about the memories. 

In an article titled “Sharing Memories as Gifts: Treasures to Last a Lifetime” published by Outdoor Families Magazine, Suzanne Solsona gets at this issue of memories when she asks,

Without thinking too much about it: What is your most vivid, cherished memory of childhood? Your teenage years? As an adult?

She argues that those memories are related to what we did–not what we had. I’d go one step further and say that many of my own most vivid memories were about what I did outside. Like the tweet above suggests, when I think of my favorite memories, they aren’t of television or movies (even though I’m a major fan of both). They aren’t about things I did inside at all. Instead, I remember…

  • Reading a book by the campfire with my parents on Foote Pond.
  • Sleeping on the Lake Huron beach as a teenager (admittedly not all that comfortable).
  • Hiking with my son to the top of his namesake mountain–only to realize he’d fallen asleep on the way.
  • Seeing amazement on my sons’ faces when they first saw Mt. Rushmore.
  • Getting swept up in my kids’ glee as they flew down snow-covered hill on their sleds.

These are the things I remember–and the things I hope my sons remember, too. These memories are the reason my family is an #OutdoorFamily.

#outdoorfamily

What are your reasons for getting outdoors? Are you an #outdoorfamily–or aspiring to be? 

 

 

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Essentials for Making Campground Reservations

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Making Campground reservations campsiteLast year, I made a big mistake.

We were making the transition from camping in a small pop-up to RV camping. Previously, we’d gone to little “in the middle of nowhere” campgrounds that were just numbered pads of gravel in the middle of a state forest with a hand pump for water and a pit toilet. With our new trailer, though, we felt the need to try out all the amenities, like water, electric, and dump stations. However, we still wanted to feel like we were really camping, so we steered away from any campground with the word “resort” in the title.

Here in Michigan, we have some of the most amazing state parks, so those seemed like the best option to meet our new camping wish list. With that decided, I sat down at my computer when the weather started getting nice in May to make reservations for our summer camping.

Big mistake.

In case you’re wondering, the big mistake wasn’t sitting at my computer or trying to make reservations. The big mistake was thinking I’d still be able to find available sites at the popular campgrounds in May. Whichever state campground I tried, I found no availability—or only sites that didn’t meet my search criteria. To say I was disappointed and frustrated would be putting it mildly.

Since camping is such a popular activity in Michigan—and perhaps because summer is so short—campgrounds fill very quickly. I’ve learned my lesson, though, and this year things are different. Here are my plans to ensure we get the camping reservations we want this summer.

Research Campgrounds Ahead of Time

Many people know exactly where they want to camp. Maybe they’re camping with friends who always go to the same place, or they want to camp near a specific place (like Sleeping Bear Dunes or the Mackinac Bridge). What’s harder to know is the specific site within the campgrounds in which we want to stay. For example, we’ve unfortunately ended up with the campsite closest to the dump station and sites closest to the main road with cars rushing in and out. To avoid this problem:

  • Do a drive through: The best option is to see the campground yourself—if that’s an option. My family has been known to stop at campgrounds we’re not staying at to ask if we can drive through. Most places are more than happy to allow us to take a look. We like to get a map of the campground, if they’ll give one to non-paying guests, so we can mark down sites we like. Then, when it’s time to make reservations, we pull those maps out of the glove compartment (where they always end up) and know which sites are the best.
  • Check out reviews: In the 21st century, it seems everyone writes reviews. While I’m not always sure that’s a good phenomenon, it can help you determine if a campground is the one for you and your family. From reading reviews on Trip Advisor, for example, I’ve found out valuable information like which loop is the busier one and which campground bathrooms need upgrading.
  • Check out photos: These days, many campgrounds are posting photos of each site on their websites. Typing the name of the campground into Google Images will produce photos that others have taken of the campground (and often surrounding attractions). Further, if you’d like a bird’s eye view of the place—maybe to see how close the sites are to one another or how much undergrowth separates each site, use Google Earth to get a look at the place.

Doing your research ahead of time can make all the difference in how successful you camping trip will be.

Find Out When Campgrounds Begin Taking Reservations

I never expected that I’d need to make my camping reservations when there’s still snow on the ground, but that’s the case in the most popular campgrounds here in Michigan. Another part of the research you should be doing is to find out when the online reservation systems will begin accepting reservations for the year to come:

  • Michigan State Park Campgrounds: According to the Michigan DNR, reservations for state park campsites can be made six months in advance—not a day before. If you want a prime site at one of the popular state parks like the Porcupine Mountains SP, Ludington SP, or P. J. Hoffmaster SP, you’ll need to book pretty close to six months out of your intended reservation.
  • Private Campgrounds: Reservation systems can vary wildly for these locations, so it’s good to call ahead. One popular private campground my family likes to visit in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has beautiful Lake Superior overlook sites—but only if you book when reservations open in October of the year before.
  • Recreation.gov Campgrounds (National Parks): According to their website, reservations are available six months in advance , with notable exceptions like Yosemite National Park. Group facilities are available 12 months in advance.
  • Reserve America Campgrounds: Acknowledging how tough it can be to get “the good sites” at popular campgrounds, this website includes a list of the Top 5 On Sale Secrets, including synchronizing your clock with the online reservation system to ensure you’re making your reservation at the soonest moment possible. They also suggest setting up your login and password ahead of time and even practicing the reservation procedure so you’re ready the instant the booking window opens. This is serious business!

Knowing when you can begin making reservations is key to getting the campsites you want.

The Exceptions

If you’re like me and don’t get around to making all of your reservations way ahead of time, there’s still hope:

  • Cancellations: There’s always a chance  a campground may have a cancellation. Some campgrounds keep a waiting list, if you call to check their availability.
  • Nearby Locations and Campgrounds: Often, there are county park campgrounds or private campgrounds in the vicinity that have openings.These locations may be less known so therefore have more availability.
  • First Come First Served Campgrounds: If you arrive right at check-in (or even a bit before if check-out is earlier in the day), the odds of getting a prime site are good.
  • Being Nice: I’ve had some luck with just calling the campground directly and being as polite as possible to the person on the phone; when campsite demand is high, politeness can go a long way to getting you an open site.

What are your secrets to ensuring you get the campsite your family wants each year?

 

Words That Matter: Great Book of Lists 2.2

This has been a crazy-busy week, so I’m doing a bit of multitasking in this post. What follows is my newest chapter in The Great Book of Lists. Thank you to La duchesse d’Erat for this excellent challenge. Here are the instructions for anyone interested:

  • Every Monday, I will propose a theme and you will have until Sunday night to publish your ticket, including the hashtag #TGBOL and a ping back (link) to the post announcing the topic which you are participating.
  • I will publish a summary of holdings with a new theme on Monday.
  • The comments section will allow you to say on what topics you want to write or to do lists.
  • Do not forget to subscribe to the blog so as not to miss the ads Monday.
In addition, this list is also in response to the Three Quotation Challenge. Thanks Jade M. Wong for including me. (Please forgive me for combining my three quotes in one day and skipping the tagging people part. The way this week has gone, I’m just glad to get to participate at all).

Okay, so here’s this week’s prompt and my response:

The Great Book of Lists 2.2: Words That Matter

Words, as simple as they may seem, possess power. Once spoken, you cannot take them back. Once said, it’ll be either white or black.
 
So today, let’s make a list of those words that has pushed you forward, to do good, to be glad. Words that kept you standing. Words that encouraged you to keep moving. Words that picked you up. Words that lit you up. Words that introduced you to an unknown world. Words that explained you the meaning of life, even beyond earth.
 
Those words deserve to be shared, so let’s share them today.

1. If you’ve read my “What I’m About” page or taken a look around my site, you’ll see I’m a big fan of where I live. I’ve moved around the country and traveled the world, and there’s really no place like home.
If you're lucky enough to live in Michigan, you're lucky enough.

2. One of the most famous shipwrecks in the Great Lakes was memorialized in the song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot. I’ve grown up singing that song, and I can’t help but think of these lines whenever I stand on the shore of Lake Superior.
Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?

3. I’ve always loved the Robert Hayden poem “Those Winter Sundays” because it reminds me of my dad and because of the simple yet evocative descriptions of cold mornings. I’ve included just the first stanza here.
Those Winter Sundays

4. This is my favorite love poem. I’m not particularly mushy, but something about Brook’s lines “His hand to take your hand is overmuch” and “…you are free with a ghastly freedom” have resonated with me from the first time I read this piece.
To Be In Love poem

5. This is kind of a sad poem, emphasizing the idea that our pain is our own and that life goes on even when we are in the midst of tragedy, but I love the way Auden uses Brueghel paintings–especially Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, which hangs in my office–to remind us that life isn’t all about us.
Musee des Beaux Art

6. Although all of these words above have mattered to me at some point in my life, the words that matter most are the ones below, written by my son:
I love you mom
Okay, your turn! What words have mattered to you in a significant way? 

Summer Dreaming: Michigan’s U.P.

My front yard is covered in snow, but I’m daydreaming about summer trips to the Upper Peninsula today…

Little Sable Point Lighthouse

A man stands at the window trying to read the darkness. It shouldn’t be dark. It’s morning, an hour past sunrise, yet the sky is heavy gray and clouds dip and turn and roll onto themselves, caught up in winds merciless enough to shake the tower of the lighthouse in which he stands. It’s been like this all night, and he hasn’t slept. Instead, he’s peered out into the nothingness of night, not knowing but guessing the numbers of lives lost in the storm. He can’t save them. They’re too far out in Lake Michigan, and the waves are more churlish than charitable. He keeps watch, though, staring into the storm and keeping the flame lit, signaling the way home to any who survive.

 

One of my family’s favorite lighthouses to visit is the Little Sable Point Lighthouse in Silver Lake, Michigan. Silver Lake State Park and the surrounding area is a summer destination for many who enjoy the opportunity to camp, swim, fish, and ride the dunes. However, my family likes the area best outside of the busy season. We wait until fall when the leaves are changing colors or we visit in early spring when the sun warms the sand enough to melt the snow. It’s at these times when I find myself daydreaming about what life must have been like when the lighthouse was in service.

Amy's phone 079History

From the early discussions of the need for another light along the Lake Michigan shoreline (Point Betsie and Big Sable Point having been recently constructed in 1858 and 1867 respectively) to the Michigan Department of National Resources’ lease of the lighthouse to the Big Sable Point Lighthouse Keepers Association in 2005, Little Sable Point Lighthouse has had many historical highlights:

  • 1871: The schooner Pride grounded on Little Sable Point, increasing calls for a lighthouse.
  • 1872: O M Poe, the Major of Engineers of the Eleventh Lighthouse District, wrote to the Lighthouse Board to request land for a lighthouse.
  • June 10, 1872: The US Congress appropriated $35,000 for the Petite Pointe Au Sable Lighthouse.
  • July 1872: Forty acres of what was public land was set aside by President Ulysses S. Grant, but construction was delayed because there were no roads to the area.
  • April 1873: Work on the lighthouse began with the construction of a dock to offload materials.
  • 1874: James Davenport became the first head keeper at Little Sable Point Lighthouse upon the lighting of the third-order Fresnel lens atop the roughly 100-foot tower.
  • 1899-1922: Joseph Arthur Hunter served as head keeper, longer than any other keeper.
  • September 24, 1900: After receiving complaints that the brick tower was hard to see in daylight, the lighthouse was painted white.
  • 1910: Originally named “Petite Pointe Au Sable Lighthouse,” the lighthouse was renamed the Little Sable Lighthouse.
    November 11, 1940: William Krumwell served as keeper in November 1940, when the Armistice Day Storm struck the area.
  • 1953: Little Sable Lighthouse was electrified and automated.
  • 1954: Henry “Hank” Vavrina, the last keeper, was transferred to Big Sable Lighthouse.
  • 1958: The brick dwelling and outbuildings were determined to be no longer needed and were torn down.
  • 1974: The lighthouse was sandblasted in 1974 to cut the cost of annual painting.
  • 2005: The Michigan Department of Natural Resources leased the lighthouse to the Big Sable Point Lighthouse Keepers Association (later renamed the Sable Points Lighthouse Keepers Association).
  • 2010: Paid for by a Federal Coastal Zone Management grant, the Pathways to Illumination project was completed, providing visitors with a paved pathway to visit the lighthouse.

Lighthouse Life

As a writer and researcher, I love when history comes to life. One of the people I think about when visiting the Little Sable Point Light is its last keeper, Henry “Hank” Vavrina, who raised two daughters on the lighthouse property after his wife’s death (he later remarried, and his wife and stepsons also lived at the lighthouse). Vavrina saw the 1940 Armistice Day blizzard when 30-foot waves resulted in the loss of 66 lives on three freighters, the SS William B. Davock, the SS Anna C. Minch, and the SS Novadoc , along with two smaller vessels. I can only imagine what it would have been like to look out from the lighthouse at those raging waters, knowing very little could be done to help those on the lake except for keeping the light burning.

Visiting the Light

The Little Sable Point Lighthouse is located on Lake Michigan near Silver Lake, between Ludington and Muskegon (Latitude: 43.65156 and Longitude: -86.53934). The lighthouse is open to the public throughout the summer, and for a modest fee, visitors can even climb the tower for a panoramic view of Lake Michigan. For more information, contact the Sable Points Lighthouse Keepers Association:

P.O. Box 673, Ludington, Michigan, 49431
231-845-7417,
splkadirector@gmail.com

References and Resources
http://www.splka.org/interviews/Jerry Harkenrider – Final Copy Sept 2015.pdf
http://www.lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=193
http://www.michigandnr.com/parksandtrails/Details.aspx?id=493&type=SPRK
http://www.terrypepper.com/lights/michigan/littlesable/littlesable.htm
http://www.splka.org/littlesable.html

How Long Until Camping Season?

According to all of the major weather services, this lovely Fall we’ve been experiencing here in Michigan is about to end. We’re currently under a Winter Weather Advisory, with three to eight inches of snow expected between tonight and Sunday. That makes today one of the saddest days of the year for me: The official end of camping season.

imageOkay, truthfully, we winterized our camper a couple of weeks ago, but with temperatures in the 60s, I’ve been tempted to get out one more time. If only the packing, unpacking, and planning didn’t take so long.

Speaking of planning, tomorrow’s blustery weather gives me a great excuse to start thinking about next year’s camping trips. This is where I’ll be starting my Camping Season 2016 planning:

  • Pinterest’s Camping Section: How many different ways are there to roast a marshmallow? I can spend hours looking at the clever things people have come up with for outdoor cooking and outfitting their RVs. I also spend far too much time looking at pictures of national parks and campgrounds.
  • Camping World: Who doesn’t need a new zero-gravity chair for relaxing by the campfire? I’m always amazed at the things this place sells that I didn’t know I needed–but now really, really want!
  • Families on the Road: How do families who travel the country in an RV survive? Okay, so I don’t think my family is ever destined to join their ranks, but I love to read the adventures of those who do.
  • RV Life: What’s boondocking? Why do I need a generator? A lot of the information on this site is geared toward full-time RVers, but I’ve picked up some useful tips from the pros.
  • Michigan Campgrounds & RV Parks: Where’s the best place to camp in Michigan? Since we spend a lot of time wandering around our home state, this Pure Michigan resource is a must.

So what are your favorite resources for planning next year’s camping season? How will you while away the time until it’s time to head out again?

 

Keeping the Edmund Fitzgerald Alive for a New Generation

Edmund Fitzgerald

“Edmund Fitzgerald, 1971, 3 of 4 (restored)” by Greenmars. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Edmund_Fitzgerald,_1971,_3_of_4_(restored).jpg#/media/File:Edmund_Fitzgerald,_1971,_3_of_4_(restored).jpg

Today is a special day in my household. Today’s date, November 10, has been marked on the calendar with big red letters reading “FITZ.” We started the morning by listening to Gordon Lightfoot’s song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” and my seven- and five-year-old sons are eager to get home from school this evening so they can put on the Edmund Fitzgerald play they created. At some point today, we’ll read through the countless articles written about the Fitz (especially the great series from the Toledo Blade) and watch the video footage we’ve all seen many times before.

For those who aren’t aware, today marks the 40th anniversary of the sinking of the S. S. Edmund Fitzgerald, November 10, 1975, a tragedy in Michigan history. Around the state and throughout the Great Lakes region, commemorations are being held to honor the 29 sailors who disappeared into Lake Superior. At the Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point tonight at 7,

they’ll ring the bell of the Edmund Fitzgerald 30 times, once for every man killed when the great ship went down and once more for all sailors lost at sea.

My family wasn’t personally touched by the tragedy. We lost no relatives the night the Fitz disappeared beneath the waves. However, we spend our summers along Lake Superior, in particular, along a section known as Michigan’s shipwreck coast. My sons have grown up not just hearing about the great ships traveling the Great Lakes, but they’ve seen them with their own eyes. They’ve walked along the beach and touched the bones of old ships washed onto the shore. They’ve been to the museum at Whitefish Point and studied the bell retrieved in 1995 from the Fitz. My seven-year-old son has studied the museum displays and read so many books he even argues with others about his theories about what caused the Fitz to sink.

Edmund Fitzgerald CostumeSpeaking of my seven-year-old, this year, when we asked him what he wanted to be for Halloween, he took no time answering. He wanted to be the S. S. Edmund Fitzgerald. I shouldn’t have been surprised because he has a fascination with Great Lakes shipwrecks like the L.R. Doty, the Iosco, the Olive Jeanette, and others. It’s the loss of the Fitz, however, that has made history come alive for him in a way no textbook ever could.

Tonight, when we finish watching the play the boys have created, we’ll sit in front of the computer at 7 pm and watch the live stream of the Shipwreck Museum’s Edmund Fitzgerald Memorial on Fox32. We’ll mourn those lost on the Great Lakes, and we’ll ensure they will be remembered by a new generation.

An Almost Great Michigan Read: Station Eleven

Station Eleven

I read Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven as part of the Great Michigan Read program sponsored by the Michigan Humanities Council. The idea of the program is to get the entire state, from young adults to senior citizens, reading one book. Their mission is to make “literature more accessible and appealing while also encouraging residents to learn more about our state and individual identities.” St. John Mandel’s book has been lauded as one of the best books of 2014 by a long list of the people in the know, and she has definitely earned that praise.

I remember the first time I read a quick synopsis of Station Eleven. Three things jumped out at me: Michigan, post-apocalyptic, and traveling Shakespeare troupe and orchestra. I couldn’t imagine how those things would work in the same book, so I put it on my “must-read” list. Surprisingly, St. John Mandel manages to deftly combine these three concepts—and a multitude more—in her novel.

The book begins in Toronto in the present as Arthur Leander, an aging actor, dies on the stage during a production of King Lear. It is Arthur who ultimately connects all of the other people in the book, although that’s easy to lose sight of as the narrative zooms off in various directions. Readers are quickly carried off into a post-apocalyptic world where a flu virus has killed somewhere around 99% of the world’s population. Those who have survived, including a traveling Shakespeare troupe who lives by the motto “Survival is insufficient,” must try to put the pieces of civilization back together.

While I loved St. John Mandel’s book, I’m not sure it quite reaches the status of a “Michigan” book—or even a Midwest one, for that matter. Yes, the book is set in Michigan. The Shakespeare troupe and orchestra as well as the other characters in the novel travel along the Michigan shoreline. The book mentions cities like “New” Petoskey and Mackinaw City, and there’s even a discussion of the collapse of the Mackinac Bridge. However, those seem like convenient places pulled from a map rather than integral to the plot. The novel could have been set just about anywhere without hurting the narrative. Okay, so I’m being picky (especially since the Great Michigan Read program doesn’t require a book be set in Michigan), but I wish she’d made me feel like I was in a post-apocalyptic Michigan right along with the characters. Maybe now that she’s spent several weeks wandering the state for Great Michigan Read events, St. John Mandel’s next book really will be a “Michigan” one.

Previous GrGreat Michigan Readeat Michigan Read Titles:

2013-2014: Annie’s Ghosts: A Journey into a Family Secret by Steve Luxenberg

2011-2012: Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder During the Jazz Age by Kevin Boyle

2009-2010: Stealing Buddha’s Dinner: A Memoir by Bich Minh Nguyen

2007-2008: The Nick Adams Stories: Ernest Hemingway

Why I (Sort of) Love Michigan Seasons

Michigan Seasons FallMy yard is filled with mature oak trees. Several of these behemoths have trunks around which I cannot reach my arms. When we bought this property two years ago, it was these magnificent trees that sold us. The way their branches reached out and created a canopy over the backyard made the place feel like a secret garden.

But that was at the end of summer.

When that first fall arrived, we headed out into the yard to rake up the leaves. It was a wonderful day spent enjoying nature and getting some work done. At the end of the day, we felt as if we’d accomplished something as we looked out over the yard.

Until the next morning when we awoke to find that the entire yard was covered in another layer of leaves. As we looked out the windows, we couldn’t help but look up at the branches of those towering oaks. They were still full of leaves. We spent many, MANY more days raking, eventually buying a leaf blower to try to keep up.

I’ve often said that I love living in Michigan because of the distinct four seasons we get. I’ve gotten to watch those oak trees empty themselves of leaves in fall. During the winter, the trees’ bare branches provide a haunting contrast to the gray sky and falling snow. I always know spring has arrived when I see the little bursts of green in the highest-reaching branches, and by summer, our secret garden has returned.

As I stare out at the leaves piled in the yard, I have to remind myself I really do love all four season. Even fall. Sort of.

10 Reasons to Love Fall Geocaching in Michigan

The weather is cooling down fast now here in Michigan. We lit our first fire of the year in our fireplace last night. Our favorite Great Lakes beaches are emptying of tourists—and some have even gotten snow already. The trees are starting to look bare as last week’s red and yellow and orange leaves are twirling to the ground.

This is the time of year I love best because the cold gives me a good excuse to curl up on the couch with a cup of tea and a book. However, with two young boys in the house, those quiet moments don’t last long.  When they need to get outside and run around, we grab our GPS device and head out treasure hunting–geocaching, that is.

A Geocache

A Geocache

If you’re not familiar with geocaching, it really is a bit like modern-day treasure hunting. Anyone with a GPS device or a smartphone with the geocaching app can login and get the coordinates to all sorts of caches across the world. Many of these caches contain just a log where you can record the fact that you found it; others contains trinkets that kids like to exchange for small items they bring along. There are even virtual caches, where there is no physical container to find—just the triumph of recording that you were there. To give you an idea of how popular this hobby has become, here’s a photo of the caches in the state of Michigan.

Geocaches in Michigan

Geocaches in Michigan

Yes, each of those little colored dots is a cache. We have a premium membership, which is well worth the $29.99/year price for the entertainment, but even without paying, there are plenty of caches to find.

Anyway, whether you’re an experienced geocacher or if this is the first time you’ve ever heard of it, here’s my top ten list of reasons why geocaching is a great fall activity for families:

  1. The whole family can participate. This is an activity that my kids love, and my husband and I enjoy it, too. The kids love the experience of finding “treasure,” while we get to take a nice walk and catch up on the events of the week. We actually manage to have *real* uninterrupted conversations while the kids are running ahead toward the cache—mostly unheard of otherwise!
  2. Geocaching teaches valuable navigation skills. I grew up learning how to find my way using maps, but the tools of navigation are much more sophisticated these days. My young sons can operate our GPS device far better than I can already. I’m sure that will come in handy someday—maybe!
  3. Geocaching is great exercise. In the pursuit of caches, we’ve clocked many, many miles—and no one complains about how far we’re walking because everyone is focused on following the coordinates and seeing what’s in the cache. The kids are active and loving it! (Oh yeah, and the adults are active, too, which is probably the bigger achievement, if I’m being honest.)
  4. Geocaching gets us outside. As I mentioned above, fall makes me want to curl up under a blanket. I could hibernate until spring, if my family would let me. However, once I’m outside smelling those leaves and feeling that cool breeze on my face, I can’t help but smile and appreciate the beauty of the season.
  5. We see places and things we’d never see otherwise. This is a big one for me. Since we started geocaching, we’ve been to so many places we otherwise never would have seen. One of our favorite unexpected finds was the Devil’s Washtub in the Keweenaw Peninsula, but we even found a couple of small parks in our own town we never knew existed.
  6. Geocaching teaches us to appreciate the journey as much as the destination. Whenever we head out geocaching, we know there’s a good chance we may not find the cache. It happens sometimes, and it can be disappointing. The best part of the adventure, though, is trying—even when we fail miserably. There’s always next time!
  7. Geocaching is a great problem-solving activity. Some caches require some ingenuity beyond just navigation. The GPS devices get us only so close to the cache; after that, we have to decode and follow clues or sometimes complete puzzles. This leads well to #3…

    Geocache Trackable

    Geocache Trackable

  8. Geocaching reinforces the value of teamwork. Our team, my family, does pretty well together. I can’t tell you how many times my husband and I have been ready to give up on a cache when one of my sons stumbles (sometimes literally) on it. The boys sometimes get annoyed at each other when one finds a cache before the other, but they’ve learned that it takes all of us to be successful. Beyond our little team, we also participate in a larger network of teams, by finding “trackables” and helping them along their journey. The kids love seeing where those have been and where they go once they leave us, reinforcing that it takes many people to get something accomplished sometimes.
  9. Geocaching is an inexpensive hobby. With so many hobbies costing a fortune, it’s nice to have something we can do together that really costs very little. Sure, there’s the initial cost of a GPS device, but a smart phone works almost as well. We splurged for the $29.99/year premium membership, which gives us access to even more caches and some useful extras, but that’s not a necessity. There’s also the gas cost, but that can be managed with some planning.
  10. Fall geocaching with the family beats raking leaves any day! It’s going to snow soon enough anyway, so no one will see all those leaves we didn’t get to!

A word of warning, though: Geocaching can become addicting! Once you find that first cache, you’ll want to find the next and the next.

So much for raking!