Friday, March 28, 2008

Geo Caching in the Parkway?

Might be an interesting idea to try out.

A certain cachet treasure hunting gains modern fans who use GPS devices and clues to zero in on hidden items
Janice Crompton Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pennsylvania)
March 16, 2008

Deep-six the Nintendo and the computer games.

It's time to properly break in those fancy four-wheel drive SUVs and new hiking boots because geocaching is more popular and family-friendly than ever.

Previously reserved mostly for high-tech extreme sports junkies, geocaching is becoming more accessible to a larger segment of the population, as beginners discovered last Sunday at Mingo Creek County Park.

About five years ago, there were four geocaches hidden in the park. Now, there are 22, at least two of which were hidden for or by children.

A group of about 17 participants learned how global positioning system devices work and the history of geocaching, and got some hands-on experience finding hidden geocaches.

The program was sponsored by the Washington County Parks and Recreation department and the Three Rivers Informal Geocaching Organization, or TRIGO for short.

Geocaching is similar to treasure hunting. Players use global positioning systems to zero in on certain locations where geocaches, sometimes called just caches, are hidden by other players.

The devices work on the same principle as automotive global positioning navigation systems -- they gather location data that's triangulated from satellite signals. As more satellites became available for non-military use, a GPS can now direct a user to within 9 feet of a location in the woods.

What is a geocache?

Usually, the caches are waterproof plastic containers or ammunition canisters full of swag, like small toys, trinkets or other mementos of nominal value that players trade for other items. Each cache also contains a log book which players must sign to prove they found it.

Caches can vary in difficulty. Some can take repeated attempts in underwater or other difficult environments to find.

Purists prefer locations such as Mingo Creek County Park where walking on unpaved ground and communing with nature is required.

Occasionally, caches contain geocoins or travel bugs, special items identified by serial number that move quickly from cache to cache, sometimes with a mission.

"It's like hiking with a purpose," said John Motto, of Hempfield, Westmoreland County, better known as "Quest Master" on Internet discussion boards where many enthusiasts gather to discuss everything geocaching.

As with computers and other electronics, some of the children who turned out at Sunday's program seemed more adept at learning how to use the devices than the adults.