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2 fun Smartphone apps that merge exploration with exercise
This is a monkey geocache in Hyrum, Utah. - photo by Elizabeth Reid
Whether youre looking for free entertainment or just want to know your community better, the Geocaching and Ingress apps are two great ways to add some adventure to your life.


Think you know your town pretty well? Its likely that geocaching can show you nooks and crannies you never realized were there. Hidden all around the earth are containers, more than 2,600,000 of them, of various dimensions. Some are the size of a shoe box, while others are as small as a pencil top eraser. The tiny caches contain only slips of paper, which finders are expected to sign. The larger caches often have toys, usually castoff Happy Meal surprises or a few Matchbox cars. The premise is simple, find as many caches as you can wherever you are.

Geocaches are everywhere. In urban areas, containers can be found on stop signs and under Wal-Mart light poles. Caching in the city takes stealth. Its important not to call attention to yourself or else muggles, those unfamiliar with geocaching, might wonder what youre up to. Rural areas are also riddled with caches. Just about every hiking trail has a few caches hidden off its path. These caches are usually larger and contain toys and trinkets known as tradables. Kids love the toys found in these caches and will likely stop complaining about tired hiking legs once they know a cache is only 400 feet up the path.

The location of most geocaches is easy to find. Some, however, are tricky. In order to find mystery caches, players first need to solve puzzles. These puzzles range from the easy to the seemingly impossible. Some involve math while others entail decoding hexadecimal or Egyptian hieroglyphics. The extra challenge of the puzzle cache can make finding its actual location very rewarding.

Geocaching is simple to try. The geocaching site lists and maps all the caches throughout the world. Free apps can be downloaded onto smartphones and tablets, turning electronics into handheld treasure finders.


Have you ever seen someone walking around a park, seemingly at random, who kept glancing at their iPhone? Or maybe they paced up to an amazing sculpture on a busy city street, read its description and then frantically typed away on their Android. You may have assumed they were another casualty of technology obsession. But its likely they were playing Googles massive worldwide game, Ingress.

In the alternate reality game of Ingress, churches, statues and historic plaques have been turned into potentially powerful digital portals. After joining the game, players have the option of uniting with one of two teams, the Resistance or the Enlightened. They help their team by capturing portals and connecting them, creating fields over the earth. Then they level up by digitally blowing up previous fortifications and claiming them as their own.

Like geocaching, playing Ingress will take you to areas you normally would not have visited, discovering many delightful areas mere miles away. Youll be encouraged to branch out from familiar surroundings and will earn points for visiting new landmarks for the first time. The Google app recognizes if you are traveling on foot or car and youll be rewarded for ramping up walking miles. As you travel, youll likely run across others who are playing the same game, introducing you to new friends. Most Ingress players are nice and surprisingly normal, even if they happen to be members of the competing faction.

Competition is big in Ingress. You might find yourself experiencing previously unknown feelings of possession over random objects in your city, like a water fountain or church building, when members of the competing faction destroy your digital protections and claim them as their own. Suddenly, going out for random bike rides wont seem too strenuous as you strategize how to best defend your territory.

Playing Ingress with kids is fun because the game is simple enough for even grade schoolers. Also, most parks are riddled with portals, making them the perfect place for families to play, both physically and digitally.

With over 10 million downloads, Ingress is relatively easy to learn. The free Google app is available on most Smartphone devices and can be played wherever there are data connections.

After playing Ingress and participating in geocaching for a while, it is unlikely youll ever look at your world the same way again. And with these two games on your Smartphone, walking wont seem like exercise, it will be adventurous.
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