Dallas Morning News Article
- 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.
From: SFSSG@... (Paul Porter)
Subject: Great idea; I coulda......
Date: Sun, Aug 3, 2003, 11:06 AM
A digital dig: Geocaching is a hot new hobby
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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.' "
TO LEARN MORE
Here are some Internet sites devoted to geocaching.
North Texas Geocaching Association: www.ntxga.org
Texas Geocaching Association: www.texasgeocaching.com