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Dallas Morning News Article

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  • Michele Pain
    My friend Paul in Dallas cut and pasted this article for me. Just preaching to the choir I know but I though I d pass it on. Vacation News: Even though I went
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 3, 2003
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      My friend Paul in Dallas cut and pasted this article for me. Just preaching
      to the choir I know but I though I'd pass it on.

      Vacation News: Even though I went to California to pack up my Dad's house -
      did that man ever throw anything away? - my niece, who I introduced to
      Geocaching, and I logged 12 caches, 4 travel bugs and some weird jaunts! And
      we got her a Garmin Etrex. It has two geocaching icons - one for searching
      and one for found. She was so pleased to change the finding to found!

      Only fun I had. Hurrah for Geocaching.

      Shelly Pain
      ----------
      From: SFSSG@... (Paul Porter)
      To: mpain@...
      Subject: Great idea; I coulda......
      Date: Sun, Aug 3, 2003, 11:06 AM



      A digital dig: Geocaching is a hot new hobby
      08/01/2003
      By ALINE McKENZIE / The Dallas Morning News
      PLANO ? Scott and Debra Thomason are gingerly making their way through
      the brush at Arbor Hills Nature Preserve. They're so used to watching
      out for poison ivy that they have a nickname for it: "P.I."
      They do this for fun.
      They're looking for a small tin that may or may not contain tiny prizes.
      Their tools are their powers of observation, a compass and a gizmo
      called a Global Positioning System receiver.It's part of a hobby called
      geocaching, a sort of high-tech scavenger hunt that can be played around
      the world. One person hides an item ? an ammo box, a Rubbermaid
      container, a fake rock, a film canister ? and posts the latitude and
      longitude of the "cache" on the Internet.
      Another person then tries to find the cache, using those coordinates.
      The cache often contains a few trinkets, such as McDonald's toys or
      other inexpensive items.
      The protocol is basic: Sign the logbook in the cache, log your find
      online, and if you take anything from the cache, leave something in
      return.
      Some geocachers have logged hundreds of finds.
      "It's been lovingly called the sport that gets computer geeks out to the
      outside," says Mary Kelly, 51, of Euless, who works for the Social
      Security Administration.
      It's not as easy as it sounds, players say. A GPS receiver isn't
      perfectly accurate, so a searcher may have to cover an area 90 feet
      around or more, looking for a needle in a haystack.
      "You can be looking for something that's only 3 or 4 inches, and it
      might be camouflaged," says Ms. Thomason, 36, of Fort Worth.
      She and her husband, accompanied by 4-year-old Julianna, finally find
      the tiny round tin, painted in woodsy colors, well off the trail in a
      bed of ? poison ivy. They carefully retrieve it and sign the miniature
      logbook inside, chalking up another find.
      The heart of the Global Positioning System, and geocaching, is a series
      of two dozen satellites that give off radio waves broadcasting their
      positions. A handheld receiver takes those signals and interprets them
      to find latitude, longitude and elevation. A receiver can cost up to
      several hundred dollars, depending on how sophisticated it is.
      When the satellites were put in orbit, they were for military use, and
      their signals were scrambled so civilians couldn't use them with great
      accuracy. In 2000, the federal government ended this so-called
      "selective availability."
      Within days, someone had hidden a logbook in Oregon and posted its
      coordinates. People began finding the cache and signing their names on
      the log, and the sport was born. There are now geocaches in 177
      countries, according to www.geocaching.com, the activity's major Web
      site.
      Most caches are placed in parks or other open areas, some within easy
      distance of a trail and others requiring more of a hike. The Internet
      listing rates the difficulty to help people decide which cache they want
      to try for.
      "Geocaching has really been a blessing to me because it allows me to use
      my interests in computers and research and combine it with a trip to the
      outside," says Ron Wade, 60, a Rockwall engineer and vice president of
      the North Texas Geocaching Association.
      Ms. Kelly likes to collect pins that she finds in caches and has a hat
      with about 100 pins on it.
      She also has a fondness for "virtual caches," where there's no actual
      container, but instead a location with historical interest or an
      especially nice view.
      While the hunt is usually a solitary sport, geocachers get to know each
      other pretty well online ? who's good at camouflage, who sets out tricky
      puzzles, and so on. They'll occasionally get together in person at a
      restaurant or go clean up a park in a "Cache In, Trash Out" day.
      The Thomasons have a trademark trinket: a little enameled pin of a
      ferret. They leave one in every cache they find, even if they don't take
      anything.
      "I really don't care anything about the goodies," Ms. Thomason says.
      "I'm a puzzle-solver. ... People put a lot of ingenuity and time and
      outright sneakiness into it."
      As they look for another cache at Arbor Hills, they keep their eyes
      peeled for "UFL" ? the "usual fallen log." Logs are a common hiding
      place, so when they spot a stack of semi-neatly-piled logs, they home
      right in on the ammo box underneath it.
      Even Julianna is able to spot it with just a little help from her
      father. "An ammo cache! I found it!" She jumps with excitement.
      Inside this cache is a miniature Frisbee, a 3-D picture of a baby (which
      Julianna keeps), a computer mouse and a toy car with what look like dog
      tags.
      The tags mark the car as a "travel bug" ? an item that circulates from
      cache to cache. The tags have a serial number, so the bug can also be
      tracked online. Some bugs have specific goals, such as visiting
      waterfalls or going to a particular country.
      At another park in Plano, Mr. Thomason, 39 and director of
      infrastructure for a hospital, looks around at the joggers and runners
      and feels a little sense of adventure.
      "Geocachers are a kind of secret society," he says. "It's like, 'I know
      something you don't know.' "
      E-mail amckenzie@...
      TO LEARN MORE
      Here are some Internet sites devoted to geocaching.
      Groundspeak: www.geocaching.com
      North Texas Geocaching Association: www.ntxga.org
      Texas Geocaching Association: www.texasgeocaching.com
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