Tech turns hiking into mystery adventure for geocachers

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EL PASO – There’s a little treasure in the mountains.

Actually, there are a lot of little treasures tucked in among the rocks and other landscape features throughout the city. They are little trinkets left by hobbyists known as geocachers, who use GPS devices or cell phones to follow clues like breadcrumbs as they explore the great outdoors.

“Geocaching is a modern day treasure hunt,” said Diana Moy, a park ranger with Texas Parks and Wildlife. “Instead of using a map and a compass, we’re now using technology.”

Moy offers free training sessions on geocaching and geocaches at Wyler Aerial Tramway State Park. Several websites, like geocaching.com, are used to post the GPS coordinates of the packets for others to discover.

Geocaches can be as small as a film canister or as large as a lunch box. Geocachers often fill them with everyday items such as buttons, patches or even coins. When you find a geocache you can sign the log book and exchange trinkets, then log your find online.

Some things to consider before starting a search for a geocache:

  • Geocaches are hidden but not buried.
  • Know the difficulty and terrain ratings of the cache area. Topographical maps can show terrain.
  • Consult the surrounding maps of the area. Road maps may be more than adequate within a city, but topographical maps – which show land and water features – may be more useful elsewhere.
  • Keep in mind that distances can be deceiving. You may be a mile from the cache according to you GPS device, but there may be a river or other obstacles in the way. It is up to you to find the best route to the cache
  • Respect the environment.
  • Watch for snakes, scorpions and other potential hazards may be in the area.

This story was produced during the summer 2016 UTEP Broadcast Journalism Workshop  for the TV-style news magazineBorderzine Presents: Hidden El Paso. The program explored an eclectic mix of El Paso’s hidden hazards and unexpected gems.

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