You pass by them every day. Hiding in your local park. Tucked in among the trees at the end of the street. Stashed in the empty lot behind the mall. Little treasures hidden all over the city, while you walk by with nary an inkling.

That, my friend, is because you are a Muggle.

‘Muggle’ is the name geocachers give to non-geocaching folk. But what is geocaching? It’s a world-wide, year-around, easter-egg hunt. It’s hide-and-seek, but with loot. It is also one great excuse to get out and do some more rambling before the snow flies (again).

Geomonster with our first find.

A cache is a little container, carefully concealed from the prying eyes of Muggles. It holds a log book where finders can record their visit, and (usually) some trinkets for swapping. Take a trinket, leave a trinket, write your name – it’s that simple. Well, once you find it of course.

Chances are, there’s at least one cache within walking distance of where you are right now. Just look at all the caches in downtown Ottawa alone:

Geocaches in Downtown Ottawa

Some caches will hold ‘travellers’, with a metal tag (or ‘travel-bug’) attached. The tag has a number which allows it to be tracked on the web. Some travellers are sent out just to roam the world, others have specific goals in mind. Either way, their owners (and anyone else) can track their progress on geocaching.com.

Travel Bug

Most importantly, geocaching is family friendly – what kid can resist the allure of hidden loot? Miss Bea picked a Pooh figurine from her first find, and proudly carried it home to Daddy. I have a travel bug waiting for a mission, I’m thinking I may send it out to make it’s way around the British Isles, to return in time for Miss Bea’s 10th birthday, when we can plan a trip to follow in it’s footsteps.

And speaking of hidden treasure, here’s a find: geonarcissa’s list of family-friendly caches in Ottawa. “The caches on this list are accessible to families with kids in strollers, or easy to grab while a little one snoozes in the carseat. I’ve done them all!”. I contacted her while preparing this post, to ask her advice on families starting out, and not only did she come up with a great list, she posted it to her blog: Geocaching With Kids – Some Helpful Tips.

A word of warning though: geocaching is addictive. Ever since getting into this a couple of weeks ago, I find myself checking for caches wherever I go. Gotta run to Home Depot? There’s a cache at the end of the street. Going for a walk? You’re bound to pass some. And to think I thought I’d already discovered all Andrew Haydon Park had to offer.

Ready to start?  Here are some useful resources:

So check the map, put on your explorer boots and hats (and scarves and mittens), and go find some hidden treasure!