When people ask me what I did for my birthday this year, I tell them I went to Martha’s Vineyard and found 18 out of the possible 33 geocaches hidden on the island. You can read about that adventure here. Then the next question I almost always get asked, when I mention geocaching, is “what on earth is that?”

And then I answer, it’s pretty much the best activity ever.

Todd and I stumbled upon geocaching years ago, I’m talking 2002. We were home one night, bored and goofing around on the internet together. He searched google on one of his nicknames for me. He calls me “Cloobie” and I don’t know how that nickname ever happened. But whatever. He searched on “Cloobie” and found a geocache that involved the word “Cloobie.”

Then we clicked. Then moments later we were calling friends at 10 at night, packing a backpack full of beer, and tromping around Goddard Park in the dark trying to find a geocache.

And I still haven’t even told you what that is yet. But I will. Right now.

A geocache is a box of treasure hidden somewhere, maybe in the woods, maybe in a park. It contains small trinkets. The geographical coordinates of this box are posted on the internet, on the geocaching.com site. You can search for caches near you, and then plug them into a GPS and let the GPS lead you to the treasure. The idea is that you can take something from the box if you leave something in it. Usually it’s things of very little value—small toys, trinkets, etc. There is usually a log book you can sign once you find the treasure too.

What’s cool about geocaching is that it will inevitably lead you to an area in your town that you didn’t even know existed. The scenery is often the treasure for me. There are sometimes clues listed with the geocache on the site to help searchers find it.

Sometimes we geocache when we go on vacation—just to see another scenic site on our trip. Sometimes we get taken to a site of historical significance, and we’ll google that when we get back to the car so we can learn more. But let me tell you some of the coolest things we’ve seen in geocaches.

Sometimes you’ll find a travel bug. A travel bug is a dog tag on a chain with a unique serial number. On the geocaching web site you can look up the serial number and see where the travel bug originated and where it has traveled. If you take the travel bug with you and move it to a different cache, you have to log it on the site to show that its moved. Years ago Todd put a travel bug in a cache here in Rhode Island. He logged it on the web site and asked that it move westward to the Microsoft Headquarters near Seattle. Todd’s a technology guy, so that was a suitable destination for his travel bug.

Every so often he’d check the geocaching web site to see how far it has traveled. Then months later he received an email with a picture of it in front of the Microsoft sign. It was mailed back to him, and it now hangs on a wall in his office. Along its journey, it collected trinkets on its chain as souvenirs of its journey across the US.

And then there were the sheep. Years ago we found Emily the Sheep when we went geocaching. Emily was a small stuffed sheep with an E written on her side. The note included in a baggie with her said that she was 1 of 4 sheep. The others were labeled N, S and W. All 4 sheep were placed in a cache, I think it was in Nebraska, and it was asked that whomever found them carry the sheep in their intended direction. Emily’s was E for east. We are in Rhode Island, there isn’t much further east we can go without getting on a plane. But we had a friend who was going to Germany to visit his family. So we sent Emily with him. He placed a brand new cache, called Just for Emily, and left her in Germany. We watched the progress on the sheep on the internet. The last we heard Emily had made it to Singapore, while her siblings did not make it out of the US.

I hope that I inspired you to take up geocaching. It’s a great way to explore the towns around your home and learn more about navigation. For more info, check out the geocaching site.

BJ Knapp is the author of Beside the Music, available for purchase here. Please sign up for the Backstage with BJ Knapp mailing list to get updates on events, signings, dog pictures and so much more.

BJ Knapp is the author of Beside the Music, available for purchase here. Please sign up for the Backstage with BJ Knapp mailing list to get updates on events, signings, dog pictures and so much more.