Community Spotlight: How a geocacher reached wellness goals

Meet Sheila Withrow aka Cazador66. After serving as the Manager of the Public Health Protection Program for the Northern Health Authority in British Columbia, Canada for 25 years, she has recently retired and relocated to the southern Okanagan region, where the climate is milder and allows for plenty of outdoor activities, such as geocaching.

Geocaching has helped Sheila embrace an active lifestyle and reach her wellness goals so we chatted with her to learn more about how geocaching renewed her motivations to reach her health goals.

In Sheila’s own words: I’m fortunate to live in an area where within 10 minutes from home, I am surrounded by Nature Trust preservation land and can really get away from it all. I love anything outdoors, especially activity related: hiking, biking, paddleboarding, boating, camping, golfing, gardening, and of course, geocaching.

HQ: How and when did you get introduced to geocaching?

A coworker said to me one day, “You like walking and hiking with your dogs, have you ever tried geocaching?” I had never heard of it. After a brief explanation and a look at the website, I programmed the GPS we had at work and off I went. I was hooked from day one!

HQ: What is your favorite part?

I can’t say which is my favorite part, as I pretty much enjoy it all! I love that geocaching is world wide. Before we travel anywhere, whether it is an international vacation or a nearby camping trip, I make sure I’ve loaded my GPS with the caches I might encounter. Getting a souvenir from a new country still excites me. I also really enjoy hiding caches and reading each and every email I get from cachers who find my hides.

HQ: Do you have a favorite cache or cache type?  

My favorite caches are the ones that take me to locations that I would never have found otherwise and generally involve a hike to reach them. I have enjoyed some spectacular waterfalls, awesome geological formations, and amazing high mountain vistas thanks to geocaching. Reading the description and other cacher logs help me find these one-of-a-kind spots.

HQ: What keeps you coming back?  

I’m addicted! Geocaching is a healthy drug. The more geocaches I find, especially creative ones, the more it inspires me to come up with some unique hides of my own. For example, I created a Mystery Cache which requires the geocacher to put on their water shoes and wade out to an island to reach the cache after solving the puzzle!

HQ: How has geocaching impacted your life?

I have started to use geocaching as my workout program and this has had a positive impact on my overall well-being. I have a big, young bloodhound dog that needs lots of exercise, so combining his walk and mine with geocaching is the perfect solution. For me, geocaching is not about numbers; I don’t really like park and grabs. I go for caches that will get my heart pumping and blood flowing. It is also our “ me” time. The two of us out hiking, in the bush, rejuvenates our spirit and clears the mind which I now refer to as Forest Therapy.

HQ: How have you combined your health goals with geocaching?

The year I turned 49, I was determined to get fit! Fit for 50! Then I turned 51, then 52, and nothing had changed. I was creeping up towards my highest weight ever when a friend of mine (who is 70 and really fit) said the simplest thing that resonated for me and got me motivated: “If you just keep active and eat sensibly and healthy, you will never get fat.” Not rocket science and not anything I didn’t already know, but sometimes you need a reminder to stop procrastinating. I stopped letting the dog pull me on the bicycle for his run, and started walking with him daily. I used a fitness app to help reduce my calorie intake and made a few tweaks to my already pretty healthy diet. In six months, I have lost over 25 pounds and have achieved my goal weight. So even in winter when we can’t really geocache, we get out daily for some Forest Therapy and look for locations that might make a great hiding spot for new caches.

HQ: How did you decide you want to find caches that haven’t been logged in a while? 

Looking at the geocaching map close to my home location, the closest geocaches left for me to find are ones that involve a pretty significant hike, around 3-4 hours. They also get logged only about once a year or less. They have been on my radar for a while and this year, I plan to obtain those smileys!

HQ: What are you most looking forward to in geocaching this year?

I have populated my home town with many geocaches, as there were very few here when I relocated. This year I want to revisit them all and upgrade some of them to make them unique, memorable, and potentially Favorite-point-worthy, quality caches.

HQ: If someone reading this was looking for inspiration to get started on their own wellness journey, what words of advice would you share?

It’s all about mindset. Believe you can do it, and you can. If you want to make a change, start with small changes and build from there. If you haven’t been physically active, start with short walks and keep increasing your time and distance. Fuel your body with wholesome, nutritious foods. Set realistic, achievable goals for yourself and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t succeed at first. Try again tomorrow because life is too short to waste. Put away the electronics, and enjoy some nature and geocaching instead!

Geocaching in the Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada
Hiking and caching on Giant’s Head Mountain in Summerland, BC, Canada
Recently geocaching by Okanagan Lake, near Summerland, BC, Canada