I gained an appreciation for the outdoors at a very young age. Thinking about it, some of my best childhood memories involved camping and hiking trips with my family and with the Boy Scouts. I’m hoping that my kids grow up with similarly fond memories of being out in nature. Fortunately for me I don’t have to work very hard to get them outside. My kids, ages 10 and 13, love hiking. They know how to prepare and what to pack for a day hike. They each have their own backpack and set of essentials, and enthusiastically ready their gear before our outings. Interestingly, while there is still plenty of sibling rivalry between them, when we are hiking they seem to get along much better than when they are at home together and left alone for more than a few minutes! In the last year they’ve proven themselves to be very capable of tackling several miles of trail, sometime with some significant elevation even. Our most strenuous trip together to date was a hike on the Tuckerman Ravine trail of Mt. Washington last summer. While we didn’t summit due to increasingly poor weather that day, we did make it into the bowl of the ravine. The hike proved to be quite an experience and a great accomplishment for them. They’re looking forward to bagging a peak or two in the Whites this summer (as am I!).
This past weekend we got out for a hike on some trails that don’t quite rise to the level of those found on Mt. Washington, but which provided for a great afternoon outdoors together nonetheless. The weather was perfect for hitting the trail, a sentiment apparently shared by quite a few as evidenced by the full parking lot at the base of Case Mountain. After finding a parking spot my two young hiking partners immediately donned their packs, took up their walking sticks and were ready to head out in record time. It was early afternoon as we started down the carriage path trail in the direction of the Spring St waterfall from our starting point at the Birch Mtn lot. As we took our first left onto the yellow trail that would eventually bring us to the top of Lookout Mountain we began to discuss geocaching a bit.
If you’re not familiar with geocaching, it’s essentially a scavenger hunt all over the planet! A geocache may be a small container the size of a domino or a large plastic storage bin. The most common sizes are something similar to a pencil box however. Geocaches are hidden anywhere and everywhere! Their location is logged in an app that provides coordinates and hints as to their whereabouts. Most geocaches are actual containers to find, often containing a log book to sign and sometimes containing small “treasures” or trinkets to trade. There are many more details to understand about geocaching. For more information on this very fun pastime I suggest checking the official website at www.geocaching.com . I first learned about geocaching about 5 years ago now, and we found our first geocache as a family approximately 300 yards away from our back yard, in the woods on an infrequently used state forest road. Since then it has been an activity that we will randomly pursue every now and then. I was amazed to find out that there are literally thousands of geocaches in every State! We are certainly not die hard geocachers, but we do enjoy hunting for geocaches whenever we travel, or once in a while locally on a nice afternoon as an excuse to get outside a bit.
So getting back to our hike, the kids raised the question “do you think there are any geocaches on Case Mountain?” Checking our geocaching app, it turns out that there are more than a few! We had planned to hike to the peak of Lookout Mountain and then circle around the other side from where we entered the trail system before returning to the parking area by another trail. Given their interest in making our hike a geocaching event, I modified our route to include several geocache locations along the way. The first three finds were caches placed by a local cub scout group about 8 years ago. Each was within about 20 yards from the trail we were on. From there we went on to find 4 more of the 5 we searched for, placed among several different trails, creating quite a fun hiking route around the small mountain. The kids were very competitively trying to find each cache first as I gave them the general area to begin searching in. The joy and excitement in their faces as they found each one was priceless!
We finished our hike in about 2 ½ hours after covering about 4.5 miles on several major and minor trails and signing 7 log books in various geocaches. The time in the woods on a beautiful afternoon would have been good enough alone. Adding a family-friendly scavenger hunt to the trip gave the kids an added fun activity to focus on. Overall, our hike could not have been better. In these stressful and uncertain times, the trails remain a safe escape and source of peace for us. I hope they provide the same for you.