Alyssa Holden, 16, Seneca
As a kid, I loved to play in my backyard, pretending I was on an adventure. I imagined myself as a pirate, a
princess, a knight or even just your average explorer searching for new lands. I loved jumping over rocks,
walking over fallen trees, and even tiptoeing through the occasional creek.
I found so many intriguing things in my woods. I discovered what appeared to be the ruins of a small stone building, but which I imagined to be the ruins of a long-forgotten castle. I climbed any tree that had branches low enough for me to reach. I even attempted to build my own clubhouse out of rocks and sticks. Needless to say, I haven't finished it yet.
A couple of years ago, my family discovered a website promoting geocaching. We had ever heard of it before. Upon further research, we finally learned what geocaching was all about. Basically, you plug coordinates into your GPS, and follow the directions to those coordinates. At the end, there would be a cache (a container), camouflaged into its surroundings. Amazing -- it was like an electronic treasure map for grownups. There was even treasure at the end of your hunt, that is, if you could find the treasure chest. This was exactly like the games I played as a kid. I was ecstatic, and very eager to give geocaching a shot.
Our first attempt did not prove to be fruitful. The treasure chest remained unfound, but our voyage through the outdoors was enjoyed by every member of my family.
In the time since that first treasure hunt, my family and I have greatly improved our geocaching skills. Now it's a race to see who can find the cache first. As we became regular geocachers, we were able to find those hidden paths and disguised treasures much more easily.
One time, we got really, really lost. Our first few successes seemed to have gone to our heads, and we tried a more difficult hunt. We ended up wandering around unknown woods for about 1 ½ hours, unsure of even how to get back to the path. We emerged sopping wet from crossing a creek (many times) and cloaked in a
mix of dirt and cobwebs. Now, it's a cause for hysterical laughter among my family.
When we first discovered geocaching, we mostly used it as a different way to get exercise, and have a little fun. Ultimately, there was a lot more to it, and more fun, than we expected. We found all kinds of beautiful nature scenes, everything from a waterfall to a hidden scenic overlook. We found all kinds of campgrounds and little known places to kayak and fish. We learned how many thousands of shades of green are upon the leaves.
But most importantly, we grew closer as a family. Spending time in the outdoors, getting exercise and laughing and chatting the whole way, took us to a much more lasting piece of treasure. So many memories have been born from those long walks in the woods with the whole family, including our dog. We laugh more, talk more and disagree less. Now, I'm not sitting inside bored all day. Instead I’m enjoying quality time with my family
and making lots of new friends along the way.