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apr.2 {searching for treasure, family style}

{our Secret Stairs letterbox}

Now that the weather is beginning to turn for the better, the sun getting stronger and the birds busy in the new feeder beside the house, being outside is such good medicine.  One of our favorite things to do with the kids outdoors is go letterboxing and geocaching.  If you've never heard of this, it's pretty much like going on a treasure hunt with a map and clues leading you to a hidden trove of fun.

Letterboxing, which we began maybe six years ago when our oldest was little, is a network of boxes that people create and hide, then leave clues behind for you to find.  Anyone can create one.  Inside the box is a log book of some kind, an ink pad, and a stamp that is usually hand carved.  Some of them are really beautiful and have such clever names and themes.  All you do is goto the Letterboxing website, look up a box in the area you want to explore, and it will give you the list of directions and clues plus helpful information about the location and conditions of the hike, some even in cities and stores - you never know where you might find one!  You'll need your own kit with ink, a stamp you made (or bought) and a notebook and pen.  Once you track down the letterbox you stamp the found log book with your own stamp, then imprint your notebook with their stamp with the date, the box's name and location, and any other fun notes about the journey.  Eventually you will have a book filled with interesting places and a collection of really unique stamps!

The more modern version is geocaching, where you find boxes using GPS coordinates instead of written directions and clues.  The geocache boxes contain a log book for you to sign as well, but are also filled with little trinkets meant for trading with those who find it.  So you need to bring along your  own notebook and pen as well as a few tiny treasures to leave behind, like marbles, little action figures, pokemon cards, whatever!  You never know what you will find, and your own stash of goodies will always have something new and interesting.  We usually note which treasure we find in which box as well.  There is a great App for geocaching by Groundspeak Inc. and even though it is a little expensive as far as Apps go ($9.99), it is really cool and very helpful tool to have.  Some of the boxes can be tough to find, especially since the GPS coordinates are usually off by a few feet in any direction, so this program can really help by giving hints including maps and photographs of the geocache site.  It will also tell you how hard the boxes are to find, how far you'll have to hike, what the terrain like which is helpful if you have little ones in tow, and also general reviews of the location and trip.  It's saved us many times!

What I love most about both of these outdoor adventures is that they've helped us discover places that we would never have otherwise - beautiful parks, lovely trails, stunning vistas, and special hidden nooks of curiosity and interest.  We learn something new on every trip either about the area or the history of the location, or simply in finding a great new playground or campsite.  The kids love it too and it's so great for their sense of direction and navigation.  And who doesn't like discovering treasure?  You certainly don't need to have children to enjoy the hunt.

So grab your bug stuff (Cutter Advanced by Off is a great deet-free optionand go find some treasure this season!  I promise you'll have such an amazing adventure.