By Shel Wagner

Having five years of mommy-hood on my resume, and freshly returned to my Oklahoma roots, I was resolute to rescue my Los Angeles-born daughters from the talk-show-touted epidemic of Nature Deficit Disorder.  After all, Okie childhoods include more-than-casual relationships with robins, dragonflies and crawdads.  Yep, growing up in the Sooner state was a guarantee that my girls would shun footwear and become grade school Grizzly Adamses…Right?  

With that conviction, the girls and I massaged a sunny patch of side-yard soil, and soon, golden blooms morphed into crimson tomatoes, and sweet peppers.  Bumpy green cukes dangled from curly vines. 

“Let’s go build a salad!” I chirped.  “Eeww!  I’m not going to eat tha-at!”  The 5-year old was incredulous.  “That cucumber was in the dirt.”  Her toddler-aged sister concurred.  “Der was a bug on da tomater.”

I soon realized they weren’t kidding.  And no amount of rinsing, or enthusiastic mm-mmm’s could convince them.  I felt a ding in my outdoor-mommy mojo. 

So what if they’re dirt/bug-a-phobes?  At least my daughters (I rationed) can tell a real-life bird, from an animated “Angry Bird” from that silly game.  My girls aren’t addicted to electronics!  And I promised myself they never would be.

But time can soften resolve.  On our bazillionth car trip, I relented that handheld gaming systems are rather engaging.  (And that “Angry Birds” game is a hoot!)  Before long, every possible LCD-screened thingamabob had come to live with us.  There was no denying it:  We were raising INDOOR girls! (“I.G.’s” for short.) 

I had to find a way to unplug them…to transform them from I.G.’s to O.G.’s.  That’s when I discovered Geocaching.

Geocaching is that hobby built around a website (I hear your groans.  Stay with me.)  The site lists GPS coordinates that lead treasure hunters to hidden caches of goodies… placed in remote areas by other geocachers.  Like a GPS scavenger hunt!

Sign up free at www.geocaching.com to get the hook-up on coordinates.  Follow a handheld GPS, or download an app onto your mobile phone.  We’re talking a wilderness journey…led by those alluring electronics.  It seemed like a natural (no pun).

We chose Roman Nose State Park as our inaugural geocaching venue.  There are more than a million geocaches hidden worldwide, and easily a dozen among the secluded canyons of Roman Nose. 

While in pursuit of one particular geocache, my girls became completely distracted by the magic of the outdoors, and forgot momentarily about the goal, and the gadget.  They preferred to kick off their shoes (yay!) …wade through spring water pools, flirt with a snapping turtle, and poke things with sticks.

Eventually we got back to our quest.  Satellite technology will get you close and cryptic website hints can help you from there.  The search comes down to patience and a keen eye. 

It’s etiquette of geocaching to bring along a trinket to replace what you take from the cache.  Tiny toys or stickers work.  Then it’s customary to sign the log book that you were there, and replace the box where you found it…so future geocachers can have the same fun you had.

And we did have fun…spending the day in a breathtaking OUTSIDE environment.  Putting our heads together to navigate the forest.  And I’d wager that those memories made in the real world will outlast those made in the virtual world, hands down. 

Our adventure was a major step (or hike!) in the right direction…and I hope to one day officially proclaim my daughters “Outdoor Girls”…even if we continue to buy all our veggies, polished and bug-less, from the grocery store.

Shel Wagner is Executive Producer and segment host of the weekly TV travel show AAA’s Discover Oklahoma.