Geocaching in Baytown
Adventurers for a day in coastal Texas - By Ashley Donde
“We’re going on a treasure hunt,” my husband, Sean, eagerly announced to our two children, Emelia and Noah, as they rambled down the stairs early Sunday morning.
“What?!” my six-year-old son exclaimed. I could see the excitement build in his eyes. Kids and treasure hunts go together like peanut butter and jelly. Then, as if an invisible conductor suddenly raised his baton, he and his seven-year-old sister started singing: “We’re going on a treasure hunt, we’re going on a treasure hunt!”
Our plan had been brewing for a few weeks after I spoke with a friend about family-friendly activities, and she mentioned geocaching. “Geo-what-ing?” I replied.
She went on to tell me about a family weekend she’d recently had in Baytown, Texas, searching for geocaches: small items—usually tiny containers holding a log sheet and sometimes small “treasures”—hidden in public, with coordinates posted on the Internet so people can locate them.
“We loaded up our kayaks, and even found geocaches during our paddle down the creek,” she told me.
This type of family adventure was right up our alley. We had to try it.
We left in the morning, water bottles and sunscreen in tow. We were introduced to Baytown as we drove over the Fred Hartman Bridge, the longest cable-stayed bridge in Texas. Its beautiful, yellow geometric design made for some pretty incredible photos, so I snapped pics while my husband drove. To our left was the sky-high San Jacinto Monument, a symbol of Texan independence and grit.
Getting our feet wet
Baytown seems industrial at first glance, and it is. Hugging the Gulf of Mexico, it’s part of the Port of Houston, one of the busiest ports in the world. But, just as treasures are so often hidden, Baytown is a gem hiding behind all of that industry.
As we crossed the bridge, I pulled up my geocaching app, found the map and chose a geocache that had an easy rating, since this was our first attempt. Bayland Park was our first stop. We pulled into the waterfront park and found it bubbling with activity. Families and friends of all ages had folding chairs, coolers and upbeat music playing. Fishing was clearly the name of the game, as we saw plenty of people casting their lines off the shore. We had to pass on fishing that day, but I told my husband we’d have to go back soon with our fishing rods.
“Where’s the treasure?” Noah asked, as I stared at the compass on my phone, following the red needle toward our coordinates.
“It’s hidden, Noah.” I said. “We have to look around. It’s not going to be as easy as you might think.”
When my compass led us to the target, we all stood there thinking something must be wrong. There were three large historical marker signs and a lamppost. Where could a geocache be hidden?
I wandered over to the lamppost and began fiddling around with the base since I noticed it wasn’t screwed into place. To my surprise, the base popped up. Emelia reached in at lightning speed and grabbed a small canister. “We found it! We found it!” she shouted, jumping up and down.
Sean and I clapped, smiling to see the joy in our daughter’s eyes as Emelia opened the canister and removed the tiny log sheet. I grabbed my pen and entered our family geocache name and the date into the miniature logbook. Noah rolled it back up, put it in the canister and placed it back where we found it, for the next geocachers to find.
A taste of triumph
“On to the next stop, treasure hunters!” I called out, as we hurried back to our car.
This one led us further into Baytown. As we drove, the beauty of the local flora grabbed our attention. Tall, flourishing trees, including the giant historic Oak growing right in the middle of Texas Avenue. My daughter was convinced there had to be fairy homes somewhere among all the greenery and I was inclined to agree—especially when we hopped out at our next stop, the Baytown Nature Center. Inside, we discovered two butterfly gardens full of honeysuckle, brightly colored flowers, a couple geocaches and perhaps even a dash of magic. Baytown’s beauty fired up everyone’s imaginations.
The coordinates next led us right next to Pirates Bay Water Park. We could see the waterslides and wave pools in the distance and could hear families laughing and having fun. And just like that, I had another family weekend in Baytown scheduled in my mental calendar.
The kids jumped out of the car, and began searching like a couple of pros. Their imaginations were perfect for this activity, looking in all the nooks and crannies I might have bypassed. Noah came up triumphant this time. We signed the logbook again and we continued on our mission.
After a few more stops, it was time to grab a bite to eat.
The flair of local fare
Pipeline Grill was our choice. The decor of industrial light fixtures, pipe door handles, aluminum-siding accents and various oil and gas signage paid homage to the local industry.
The menu was a distinct blend of Southern fare and traditional American favorites, mirroring the culture found in the South Houston area. We shared an appetizer of seafood fondue—a melty, cheesy masterpiece of shrimp and crawfish, spooned onto crunchy Texas toast. After enjoying the fondue, we all decided on burgers and fries, and Sean and I enjoyed some ice-cold local brews.
Explorers in the making
Our stomachs were full, and with renewed energy we continued our treasure hunt. At several stops we pushed our way through trees and bushes, my kids clearly feeling every bit the little explorers they had become. All curiosity and adventure, and no fear.
On our drive home, our family felt a new sense of unity and accomplishment.
A new hobby was born that weekend. We now love to liven up our daily lives by peppering in some geocaching while we run our errands. It’s a fun way to add a little more adventure in our lives.
We discovered a few weeks after our trip that Baytown has a GeoTour in the works. We are all eager to head back for a new adventure, and this time we’ll be loading up our kayaks for some water-based adventure. Perhaps Emelia and Noah will become pirates for a day. But no matter what, they’ll love another imagination-fueled Baytown adventure.
Discover more about Baytown’s new geocaching tour for your next adventure.