It’s no surprise that spending time outdoors is good for the whole family, but it isn’t always easy to figure out what to do once you get there. Sure, playgrounds are fun, and Indy certainly has a fantastic selection, but if you are looking for something a little more adventurous than swings and slides, consider one of these outdoor activities that are sure to engage everyone in the family.
Orienteering is “a map and compass sport” according to Michael Garrison, President of Indiana Crossroads Orienteering. Participants use a detailed orienteering map, a compass and their problem-solving skills to find specific points, in order, on a predetermined course. Meets are typically held in parks, but sometimes include urban spaces, and are accessible to orienteers of all experience levels. Although participants are timed, meets feature open starts, so you will often find both skilled athletes running the course and families with children taking their time.
“This really is an approachable sport,” says Garrison. The cost of participation is very low. A typical fee for an orienteering map, which is your admittance to a meet, is $15, and compasses are available on loan. Garrison says people will frequently wander into meets and just decide to give it a try.
Aidan Blacklock, a rising sophomore at North Central High School, started orienteering with his parents Brenda and Rob when he was six years old. He would accompany his mother on the beginner course, as his father would choose a more difficult course. Now fourteen years old, Aidan won the National Interscholastic Varsity Orienteering Championship. After eight years, it is clear that his dedication and passion for the sport have paid off.
When Aidan first participated, his mother navigated, but as he matured he slowly took over and began to brave courses on his own. Brenda likes that her family can participate together while simultaneously enjoying individual experiences. After meets, especially after Aidan began competing on his own, the family always made it a priority to regroup and debrief.
“This is an activity that engages both the mind and the body,” Garrison says. He has been involved in the sport for thirteen years and appreciates that it demands both problem-solving as well as physicality. Brenda loves that it relies on your decision-making skills and has enjoyed watching her son develop his self-confidence.
Interested in finding out more? Visit Indiana Crossroads Orienteering at www.indyo.org for information about standard meets and upcoming special events.
Similar to orienteering, geocaching requires participants to get outside and use their problem- solving skills, but unlike orienteering, smart phones are the tools of the trade for this activity. Often described as “the world’s largest treasure hunt,” geocachers use their phones or other GPS devices to enter coordinates and find various hidden “treasures.” Explorers will sign a logbook to record their participation and are encouraged to get social and share their experiences. Geocaches are located all over the world and are found in environments from parks to city street corners, so practically everyone can get involved. And, geocaches are frequently added and changed, so the likelihood of running out of treasures to find is slim. A quick search on geocaching.com reveals over 20,000 geocaches in Indiana.
Noblesville resident Abby Hake describes geocaching as “an odd scavenger hunt.” She got involved with geocaching because her husband and brother wanted to try it, but quickly found herself enjoying the activity. She uses the free smart phone app, and when they are near a location and have some time to kill, they geocache. Abby recommends taking older children: “It’s sort of like figuring out a riddle while looking for camouflaged or super teeny tiny capsules, and that might not be the best for littles.”
If you and your kids have an adventurous spirit and are looking for a new activity to share together, try orienteering and geocaching. You may quickly find a new fun family obsession!