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Geocaching 101: A Local Guide to a New Hobby

Nov 12, 2014 01:34PM ● Published by Kevin

Photo courtesy of i_am_jim via Creative Commons.

In our November-December edition, Kerry Pipes explores the world of geocaching - a game of treasure hunt that is quickly gaining popularity in the United States and Texas. Pipes highlights local geocaching group SWAG (Southwest Arlington Geocachers) and its founder, Mansfield ISD fourth grade teacher Donna Bruton.

In light of the feature on Bruton and her group, we compiled a guide to geocaching in Texas. Are you a local geocacher? Share your stories, photos and finds in the comments below.

Basic Things to Know

Membership to the geocaching community is free at the basic level. All you need is a GPS-enabled device and an account, and you can be on your way. There are many levels of the game, but the basic rules remain static: if you take something from the "cache," leave something of equal or lesser value in its place; write about your find in the cache's logbook; and log your experience at geocaching.com.

According to the official website, "Geocaches can be found all over the world. It is common for geocachers to hide caches in locations that are important to them, reflecting a special interest or skill of the cache owner. These locations can be quite diverse. They may be at your local park, at the end of a long hike, underwater or on the side of a city street."

The types of finds vary, including but not limited to: a traditional cache (or container), mysteries and puzzles, multi-location caches, event caches (meetups), EarthCaches (environmental education - a special type of cache), adventure mazes, and many more. Click here for the full list.

Some restrictions to playing the game include not leaving certain items, like explosives, ammunition, knives, drugs and alcohol, as well as food and heavily scented items. You also should not move a cache from its location.

Introduction and full-featured apps can be downloaded to your mobile device. For more information, click here.

For a quick introduction to the geocaching world, watch the video below.

Texas Rules of the Road

There are certain state laws that each geocaching community must follow. A full list can be found here.

A few tidbits in Texas, according to the GroundSpeak website:
  • Trespassing - Texas originated the use of a stripe of purple paint as a legal substitute for a posted No Trespassing sign. This allows for a quick and inexpensive method of posting large areas of land. If you see purple paint on posts, poles, or trees, they are legally the equivalent of No Trespassing signage, and should be treated as such. Many other states have since adopted this same law.
  • State Parks - Geocaches placed on Texas Parks & Wildlife lands are required by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department to have a permit and adhere to a set of guidelines. Verbal approval from a Ranger is NOT sufficient. There must be a permit on file. Some restrictions apply, including locations, container durability, and labeling.
  • State Forests - No permits are necessary.
  • Wilderness Areas - Caches are not allowed within the boundaries of Big Slough Wilderness, Guadalupe Mountains Wilderness, Indian Mounds Wilderness, Little Lake Creek Wilderness, Turkey Hill Wilderness, and Upland Island Wilderness.
  • Nature Preserves - Caches are not allowed within the boundaries of Barrow Nature Preserve, Big Walnut Creen Nature Preserve, Blunn Creek Nature Preserve, Blowing Sink Nature Preserve, Colorado River Wildlife Sanctuary, Indiangrass Wildlife Sanctuary, Goat Cave Nature Preserve, Mayfield Park and Preserve, Onion Creek Wildlife Sanctuary, Spicewood Springs Nature Preserve, Stephenson Nature Preserve, and Zilker Nature Preserve.
  • Fort Worth - The nature center at Fort Worth allows caching; however, permission is required. The cache must be removed after one year, and a maximum of five active caches are permitted at one time. For more information, contact Suzanne Tuttle (troutlily) at 817-237-0427 or TuttleS@ci.fort-worth.tx.us.

Recreational Reading

A murder-mystery novel was published in September 2012 by Russell Atkinson called "Cached Out." It is the second book in a series of mystery novels based on fictional retired FBI agent Cliff Knowles. Alone after the tragic death of his wife, Knowles takes up geocaching.

"While looking for a cache in the mountains he comes across a human skeleton and reports it to the sheriff's office. Then a second body is found - a fresh corpse this time - right after Cliff found another geocache nearby. When it turns out the first remains are those of a fugitive he was supposed to arrest years earlier, he becomes a suspect in a multiple homicide investigation. He has no choice but to use his sleuthing skills to identify the mysterious cache owner, known only as Enigmal, and free himself from suspicion" - Plot Summary from Amazon.

The piece received 4.4 out of 5 stars on Amazon's marketplace. Most reviewers say that even someone who knows nothing about geocaching can catch on to the story. Atkinson himself is a former FBI agent and current geocacher. He has three other books, in addition to "Cached Out," available on Kindle.

Click here for more information.

Fun Signature Items

One personalized item to trade at caches is a pathtag. Not exclusive to geocaching, pathtags are single-sided custom metal tags about the size and weight of a U.S. Quarter or a one Euro coin. According to the official website, the precise dimension of Pathtags are 23mm in diameter and 2.0mm thick. Pathtags are made from a solid iron base and are plated in a protective colored plating of either silver, gold, copper, or black nickel.

"When you order your Starter Kit, you will be prompted to upload a design from your computer. Pathtags are really easy to design and many owners design their own tags. If you don't feel up to the challenge, check out our Design Page for tips and links to our Design Partners. Design Partners are professionals skilled in the rendering of Pathtag designs. They will help you by producing your design for a nominal fee (typically $25 or $35)," the website says.

Texas Groups

Obviously, we kick off this category with the aforementioned SWAG group, right here in your backyard. For more information about Southwest Arlington Geocachers, read our November-December issue.

TXGA
- The Texas Geocaching Association is a statewide group that promotes the hobby. Its website hosts a bulletin board, as well as events and education seminars for interested parties.

If you take up the hobby, are on the road, and want to meet up with groups throughout the state, here is a list of groups that you may want to check out:

What is Geocaching?

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