Friday, May 9, 2008

Geocache

Yesterday, the kids and I went to a homeschool class on Geocaching. I knew very little about Geocaching before we went, although I had heard of it. One of my homeschool friends set it up and I thought it would be fun for the kids to learn to use a GPS. Plus a lot of their friends were there so it counted as a social opportunity for us unsocialized homeschoolers.

The instructor gave everyone of us a GPS for the class. She talked us through how to use it and set it up step by step. Very interesting! I never knew that you can have your GPS "mark" the spot you are standing so you can find your way back to that very same spot later on. Very handy if you are lost out in the woods.

She called out coordinates to all of us and we plugged them into our GPS's. I double checked my coordinates each time she called them out, and checked them against the kids around me to make sure they had theirs right too. Then we went outside to try them out.

Once you start moving, your GPS screen turns into a big arrow that points you in the direction you need to go to reach the spot you entered in. We all started wobbling around outside following our arrows. I noticed immediately that I was headed in the opposite direction from everyone else in my group. I figured it was because they are all kids and I'm an adult and therefore I picked up the nuances of this little machine quicker than they did.

Eventually though, they all wound up in the same spot, while I was on the opposite side of the building being directed into the middle of a busy street. That's when I decided I must be wrong, and I swallowed my mouthful of crow and headed over to join the group with my head hung down in shame.

We had plugged in coordinates for two different spots around the building and we set off to find the second spot. This time I just followed the group because my arrow was still persistently pointing in the opposite direction. I couldn't believe I had programmed the numbers in wrong twice! How embarrassing.

Now that we had the hang of how a GPS works, we set off to find a real Geocaching spot nearby. We all went to the computer lab, looked up the closest Geocache and programmed in the coordinates. I double and triple checked mine to make sure I didn't mess up this time!

We had to load up in our cars and drive to the spot. It was about a 10 minute drive out in the woods down a gravel road. We all hopped out and started down a tiny dirt trail. Again, my GPS was pointing me to head back up the trail the way we had just come instead of the way everyone else was going. I finally grabbed the instructor and asked her what I was doing wrong. She checked it out and realized something was wrong with the GPS! I had entered everything correctly, but it was formatting the coordinates with no decimals and that threw everything off.

It wasn't my fault! Tee hee!

Anyway, we headed down the trail a ways, and discovered a mailbox hidden behind a tree. There was a ziploc bag with all sorts of odds and ends in it. You are supposed to take one thing and leave one thing. Then you sign a little log book to show that you found it, and go home and log into the Geocache site and and sign in to show that you found it and tell what you took and what you left. I'm ready to be hooked on this game and try doing this on our own now that we know how. It was a lot of fun! Until Ben found a tick on himself. And I found a giant black ant on me. Then Katie freaked out at the thought of the zillion bugs trying to get to her out in the woods and we had to head back up the trail before everyone else.

Other than that, and the messed up GPS, it was a lot of fun!

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