Updated: Aug 2, 2020
Our family started geocaching a long time ago. It's been so long, I don't even remember. Maybe 14 years now? We got interested because we love nature and it is a fun activity to do while going for hikes, walks or even just driving and discovering new areas. We started doing them just Joseph, my husband, and I. Then we would ask friends or family to come and make it a day of it. If you don't know what geocaching is then to break it down it is a scavenger hunt. You are given GPS coordinates to find the cache and when you do you sign a log letting people know you found it. There are several types of caches. There are virtual caches, small containers, large containers or even multi-level and puzzle type caches. Some are easy park and grab types or long hike ones. There are easy and hard level caches. There's a little something for everyone. No matter if you are young or old you can do this activity. In the description of each geocache, they tell you the difficulty level. The two types of geocaches that are my favorite are hiking and cemetery ones. I know the cemetery ones sounds creepy, but sometimes it can lead you to a story about someone's life or a history lesson.
There are several things I love about geocaching. Geocaching sends you places where you have never been. We have found hidden treasures, parks and just places where we would have never discovered before. Secondly, I love spending quality time with my family that doesn't include a focus on electronics. Too often I find we do many activities in front of the TV or a tablet or just being sedentary watching a movie or playing board games. A bonus is that it's a lot of physical activity. Having a goal of finding these geocaches makes long walks or hikes feel more enjoyable and more fun than normal. This is something for everyone, especially kids. When we go, I tell Asher we are going on adventures and he gets so excited! He doesn't even realize we have walked 3 miles and neither do I most of the time. Lastly, the organization of geocaching promotes cleaning and trying to help save the planet. There are certain trash cleaning days that they organize also. Where people get together and help clean trash out of parks or other caching areas to make it better for others. If you click HERE it can give you more information on how to sign up for free or join as a premium member for a small fee per year.
So why am I tell you all of this? We are in a unique situation with COVID-19. We are stuck inside with electronics or with an outside socially distant activity. So want to share with you my top 10 places that have my favorite caches, hiking and photo spots. Plus the next time you can have that family or senior portrait done you have a list of places that you can do them at. There are specific areas and reasons why I love these places. You can learn more about them and see if these places fit into what you want for you and your family. If you find you and your family geocaching at one of these areas please post on my Facebook page a picture or in your stories on Instagram and tag me @shanontessierphotography. I would love to hear about your adventures and see them! Just don't give away where the geocache is hidden so others can find it!
Taughannock Falls State Park, Trumansburg, NY
This waterfall is ginormous. You can see it by driving up a trail or taking a pretty short (and very easy) walk to it. Many waterfalls, like Watkin's Glenn, are steep and a little treacherous to get to but not this one. This one is pretty flat and not long. You follow this stream to the waterfalls and there are several stops to take photos and explore. The trail is beautiful with the tall trees and streams with views on the right of the cliffs. There is a beautiful bridge and a landing area right in front of the falls so it is a fantastic background for any photo shoot. There are a couple of trails at this park and especially the trail at the top with the scenic overlook is spectacular. It definitely will not disappoint. This is perfect for a stroller too for littles. I've done this with Asher when he was a baby. I just don't recommend this if it has rained lot right beforehand if you are taking a stroller.
Jordan Aqueduct, Jordan, NY
This area is very unique. It has bridges, a waterfall, an open area of grass, a curving staircase and very well maintained gardens. I have done a couple of senior sessions, a wedding and some family photos here. The thing I get excited about with this park is that there are many areas to take photos and explore. I shot some photos of my son playing in the shallow stream under the bridge last year. Kids love playing here! You can bike the trails up on top, play in the streams, check out the gardens and play in the open area of cut grass. The stonework from the bridges is amazing for photos. If you like a mixture of that type of architecture but also love nature this is a wonderful place for photos. This has a couple of geocaches also. There are not places to hike here but it is a fun pit stop for geocaching.
Hoopes Park, Auburn, NY
This is a little park. There is a circular walking path with several picturesque places. A beautiful stone bridge in the walking path for one. There always ducks or geese in the large pond area in the front part of the park. You can feed ducks or just sit on a bench by it. There is a gazebo also for weddings that can be for a wedding ceremony or pictures after. They maintain a lot of little garden areas with a beautiful fountain on the backside of the park. On one of the sides of the park is also a curved stone staircase. I love this one for family photos and have done a couple there too. One interesting family activity that will resume once this social distancing thing is all over they have movies in the park during the summer. When we lived in Auburn we would go. It is a small but unique park to visit. There are several geocaches here also so you can make it a little stop if you just need to get out and be socially distant.
Howland's Island Wildlife Management Area, Port Byron, NY
I only found this place looking for a geocache and never had any idea it was here. This is a little bit more remote and full of mosquitos but I have two great aspects I love here. The huge structural train trestle that is blocked off from traffic so it is perfect for a rustic photoshoot for couples, seniors or families. I have done all three here and it is amazing. After the trestle, there is a large open and wildly grown field and a trial you can walk on. It is very remote so usually, no one is there to bother or get in the way of photographs. Just bring mosquito repellent because they get horrible at times being that it is right next to a swampy area.
Fair Haven Beach State Park, Fair Haven, NY
There are several beautiful areas in this park. There are trails off the beaten path that you can go to and avoid a lot of people. We have one geocache we placed here and if you are interested in that check out Coke, Pepsi & Sunkist (those are our handles). Several areas are GREAT for photos. There are concrete steps in the middle of the park, a tall dune with grasses, the beach itself, the pier, trails, bridges and the rock formations in between the two main beaches. When we can go back and play at the park there are several playgrounds also for the little ones. We always buy a state park pass for the year to enjoy all the state parks have to offer. It is worth it if you use it more than 8 times a year.
Sterling Nature Center, Sterling, NY
There are several trails here. My favorite is the one right off the parking area to the left, going down to the beach. It has many areas to photograph. You start on a path that takes you to an open space of tall grasses in an open forested area right off the beaten dirt path. Then you take the trail down to the rocky beach. You can walk the rocky beach and walk beside the lake. There is also a set of stairs in the middle of the trail right before the beach, which seems very odd. However, behind the stairs in the middle of nowhere, there are the open woods and I like to use the stairs for portraits. There usually are logs to sit on and other cliffs by the beach to use in the backgrounds of photographs. I recall several geocaches here and had fun finding them in a couple of trails
Chimney Bluffs State Park, Huron, NY
If you enjoy seeing bluffs, hiking and trails that are more challenging to hike then this is a great place. There are beautiful bluffs, rocky beaches, a bridge, a fence, large stones and a winding pathway that can be great for family and senior portraits. There is this cool sitting tree, I call it. It is U-shaped and if fun for photos. There is also a wide-open grassy area to just take photos. There is one main trail but a couple of other smaller ones to explore. The sights here, especially at the top of the bluffs are amazing and the bluffs change yearly so it's always a great trail to go on to see what has changed.
Port Bay, Wolcott, NY
This park I only found out about by trying to find a geocache and living in Wolcott, NY. It is not a true park but a one road rocky and uneven trail to Port Bay. Many people fish, swim and boat off of this area. It has a small but rocky beach but it is pretty remote also. If you want to use floats, don't mind rocks and do not want to pay for the park then this is a good place for you. There are very large boulders here to do photoshoots on and wooded areas also. There are no bathrooms here and a really small area. However, it is usually very quiet and just a little chunk of nature.
Wolcott Falls, Wolcott, NY
We visit this small park frequently with our family, especially now with trying to be socially distant but still really close to home. At the top where you park there's a place that overlooks the falls and tells you about the history of my little town. Directly across from the overlook are an old building with a rusted gate in the front and a neat door on the other side. I love to take senior photos at those places specifically. Then there is a small park and a pavilion. There are no public bathrooms here so just be aware of that for your little ones though. At the park end of the park, there is a semi-steep path that leads down to the falls. It is not too steep and it is maybe a half a mile or even less to get there. Along the path are a wooded area and a stream. The falls are beautiful. It is not grand like a lot of waterfalls but the rock formations are. I love this little park and it is peaceful. We have a geocache hidden here also so be sure to find it and tag me in the post!
Your Own Home or a Friend's House
Your own home or even a friend's house can be a gorgeous spot for photos. The fact that you are there all the time and sometimes you are used to your breathtaking views doesn't mean it's not the ideal location. You can do your family photos or even some hiking. I did a woodland series last year at my brother's house in the middle of his woods. That's the last photo There are 16 acres, gorgeous trails, and streams throughout the property. You can see several of them on Instagram under the hashtag #woodlandseries. I've also used tall or overgrown grasses on people's property for some beautiful senior or family photography. All the above photos were taken at home locations. The world is a beautiful place, you just have to see the potential beauty in it all.
You can have a geocache on your actual property also. I just recommend you being ok with people coming and going where you live. Plus hiding the cache closer to the road so people aren't all over your yard or walking through it. You can make stipulations on when people can come (not early morning or late) and for those of you who own a business and live in the same place, it would get your name out there if you did. Even if you own a business you could do this on the outside of your establishment somewhere and make it blend in. For example, if you have a hair salon and have a bench outside you could get creative and hide it under the bench or something creative with what you have outside and let it blend in. I think that's why I love geocaching so much too, some of the containers I have found are hidden well or you think they belong. They look like a normal part of where you are but it's not and you have to think about it and figure it out. So it is mental and physical at times. Once you start looking for geocaches you realize many of the places you have been to have them already. You will start recognizing areas once you get the hang of it.
I hope this helps you and your family grow closer together and gives you more of an idea of places to go to for your next photoshoot, place to hike or geocache. Please comment and share this information with friends who you think might help also. Please tag @shanontessierphotography with your adventures!
Thanks for listening,