Thursday, April 10, 2014

Geocaching on the B-Line Trail

Geocaching is one of the skills that Will has taught herself since she began to free school. Using the Geocacher Girl Scout badge as inspiration, she figured out the concept, then how to use to find geocaches, then how (with my ample help and lots of frustrated noises, because that thing is NOT intuitive!) to use our GPS receiver (it's an older model of Garmin eTrex) to program and track those geocaches.

I pointed her towards resources, I read the dang GPS receiver manual from cover to cover and then hit the user boards to troubleshoot when Will couldn't get the receiver to do what she wanted it to do (FINALLY I figured out that's default GPS coordinates are listed in degrees, minutes and decimals, while our GPS receiver uses degrees, minutes, and seconds, although neither actually say that this is what they use nor mention that other conversions exist--ARGH!), and I planned outings to enable us to get to the geocaches that are further away from us than the park across the street, but mostly I just got out of her way and let her explore, work hard, and learn.

On a nice day last week, Will programmed the GPS receiver, we packed lunches and schoolwork and art supplies and reading material, and we biked over to our inter-city walking and biking trail, where several geocaches are hidden.

This trail, the B-Line, is a major foot, bike, and skate thoroughfare, and it's also got places to play--

--art to look at--

--and comfy green spots for two kids to do their math and grammar:

But most importantly, it has geocaches! Will took charge of the GPS receiver, and using it was an excellent hands-on lesson in estimating and measuring distances. It points the way to the next geocache, and states the distance either in miles to the hundredth place or in feet, and over the course of the couple of geocaches that we found, Will got much better at figuring out if we should get on our bikes or walk them, how far we should go before checking the GPS again, and when we were close enough for the kids to put down their bikes and start searching in earnest. 

It was my mistake not to look over the geocache listings as Will entered them into her receiver, since the receiver's accuracy ranges, but is often something like 20 or so feet; to really be able to find the actual geocache within that perimeter, you must figure out the clue, which none of us had read. It's a good thing, then, that Matt didn't have a photo shoot or meeting with a printer or a presentation that afternoon, since I called him at work, talked him through getting onto the geocaching site and finding the listings for our geocaches, and then made him read me the clue for each one. 

Thank goodness for those clues, too! Using the clue for one particular geocache, I led the girls to a big map on the trail, but then I, too, was stymied. It was Will who figured out that the map board had a hidden recess underneath, felt inside it, and found the geocache:

Here's me lying on my back in the dirt to show you what the geocache looks like. So cool, right?
 Fortunately, our second cache was easier to find--it was on the back of this sign:

One of the many nice things about our town is that it's so accessible to those without cars; after our geocaching adventures, we biked over to the hands-on science museum, and when that closed we biked to the library. I *did* have Matt pick us and our bikes up from the library on his way home from work, however, because biking home from the library with the kids is a special kind of hell in which I'm pretty sure they're going to die every second (does biking in traffic with kids make everyone break into a panic sweat? Gawd, it's terrifying!), but overall it was a fabulous day of bikes and picnics and sun and treasure hunting.

Perfect day, basically.


Tina said...

Our town is most definitely NOT bike friendly. We are, however, legally allowed to ride our bikes on the sidewalks.

Emma just went pedal free this past weekend, so for now we are sticking to riding at the park (where there are really wide paved paths, and grass for the eventual crash landing). I hope that she will be ready for more adventurous riding in the next few weeks so we can ride to the library. Only problem is how to haul 40 books to and from the library...

julie said...

Oh, man, I once biked with a backpack so full of books that I had serious trouble keeping my balance!

I really wish it was legal for adults to ride their bikes on the sidewalk! Even Will's rim size is technically over the size at which you're permitted to ride on the sidewalk. I think our law is partly because our city IS so bicycle friendly--with all those bike lanes on the streets, why let people ride on the sidewalk, I guess?--but downtown is kind of dangerous with all the college student drivers, I think.

It still probably shouldn't be a big deal, but I've never really gotten comfortable with riding in traffic, either, so riding in traffic with the kids just really stresses me out.


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