Saturday, March 20, 2010

Treasure Hunting!

With the vernal equinox upon us (Yay!!), I wanted to plug one of our favorite family outdpoor pasttimes - treasure hunting!  Namely, letterboxing, and starting today geocaching too!

M and I have been treasure hunting since last summer, when the Urbana Park District started the Wild About Parks Quest (WAPQ).  Since I was personally invested in the program (I have authored six of the thirty clues), I started trying it out elsewhere around town too.  I wanted to get a feel for what *real* letterboxers do, to make sure we were doing everything kosher for the WAPQ, and to get ideas for how to formulate my own clues.

We love treasure hunting.  We get so into finding the boxes, stamping-in, and re-hiding them when we are finished - and being sneaky throughout the experience too. It is just such a great hobby for families - gets you exploring your environment, exposes you to parks and natural areas (and playgrounds!) you may not have been to, and it's down-right addicting!  Once you've found one, you just can't wait to find another. 

M, baby C, and I seeking the Busey Woods WAPQ letterbox.  This particular photo even got us famous - that's right, my big butt was on the back cover of the entire UPD's January-April Leisure Guide!

M, super excited about treasure hunting!

C nestled and asleep in his Ergo baby-carrier while I stamp-in at the Crystal Lake Park WAPQ letterbox.

My husband and I even searched for boxes on our anniversary trip to Starved Rock last summer!  Photo: Me hiking to the French Canyon at Starved Rock State Park, letterboxing supplies in hand!

Today, we decided to sleuth out our competition.  The Champaign Park District jumped on the bandwagon, stole our idea, and started a Geocache Stash.  Obviously, it is inferior to what we have been doing with UPD, but I must admit it was still fun for us.  The real problem is that it is not an event *anyone* can do - you have to have access to GPS technology, which most lay-people do not.  I have a smart-phone, but I had to download a special application, and I had difficulty getting my GPS to work correctly (turned out I had the units defined incorrectly).  Before I solved the problem, I got so frustrated that I called the CPD to ask if they had any loaner-GPS units for people to borrow for their event.  They do not.  I just can't imagine that they are going to get the kind of turnout that we have had at UPD, without providing access to all people.  Despite the technology barrier, we did have fun, and as always, M's favorite part is when we get to  
"tuck it back into bed to go to sleep!"


P.S.  Keep your eyes out - the 3rd clue booklet for the Wild About Parks Quest premiers on April 1st!


  1. Ours is totally the original and the BEST! UPD FTW!!!!!!!

  2. What a fun activity to try! :) You're right, though, the lack of access to technology would definitely hamper efforts- mine included, since we still don't own a GPS or a smartphone. Still- it sounds like a blast!