Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Geocaching IS the treasure…

Over the last few months, we toured Oswego County to discover the hidden treasures – from trinkets to history - left by those who came before us. We owe a debt of thanks to Tim, our personal guide and savant, for introducing us to the excitement of geocaching.

Similar to the 150-year-old game letterboxing (see Jessica's blog), which uses clues and references to landmarks to find hidden treasures, geocaching also uses latitude and longitude coordinates on a GPS receiver.

A History Lesson:
The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a radio-navigation system that provides accurate location information through the use of satellites. In May 2000, Selective Availability was removed and the accuracy of civilian GPS receivers was increased from 100m to 20m. The hunt was on!

The first-known cache was placed by Dave Ulmer in Oregon to test the accuracy of GPS. The coordinates were posted online and readers were directed to locate the “stash” using their GPS receivers and report back. There was only one rule: “Take Something, Leave Something”. Originally called the Great American GPS Stash Hunt, this new hobby eventually became known as geocaching and a Web site was developed to track caches all over the world.

A New Adventure:
Our first geocache search led us to find Dr. Mary Walker. We enjoyed the great outdoors and learned a bit of our local history, as well:

Dr. Walker was among the first women in the country to receive a medical degree and was cited for valor for going behind enemy lines during the Civil War to attend to the wounded. For these acts of bravery, she was presented with the Congressional Medal of Honor, the only woman to receive this award. Among her many credits, she was a surgeon, a public lecturer and an early champion of women’s rights.

We had great fun in this multi-cache hunt! Using GPS coordinates and clues from the Web site, we found the first cache; which gave us the coordinates to locate the final cache. With the prize in hand, we took a token, left a token and signed the log book. Later, we went online and registered our find.

Careful not to include spoilers, we took these photos of our quest:

Our next geocache adventure led us to Mexico Point Park in the Town of Mexico. This time, we decided to hide a cache of our own! We had a terrific visit to the park and learned of its famous resident, Silas Town, an American spy and Revolutionary War hero. (See my post dated August 7, 2009)

Here are a few pictures of the park (again, no spoilers!):

It was equally fun developing clues as unraveling them! I cannot give you any further hints as to the whereabouts of this cache; however, if you would like to discover it for yourself, you can start online at http://www.geocaching.com/. Click on “Hide and Seek a Cache” and enter “GC1Z9RQ” in the GC code box at the bottom of the screen.

There are hundreds of caches hidden all over Oswego County. To find one in your neighborhood, visit the Web site listed above. Becoming a basic member is free, quick and simple. As always, please be mindful of your surroundings and respect area properties and environments.

Happy hunting, cachers!


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