Mansfield Teacher Pioneers Group to Find Buried Treasure
From left to right: Robert Bruton, Marty Johnston, Donna Bruton, Kathy Johnston, and Larry Stevenson.
by Kerry Pipes
If you happen to be at the No Frills Grill in South Arlington on a Wednesday evening, you’re in the midst of a select group of treasure hunters. Every hump day, a group of outdoor enthusiasts known as “geocachers” gather here to discuss their latest journeys, searches and findings. The group is formally known as SWAG (which stands for Southwest Arlington Geocachers) and it’s part of a hobby that is growing in popularity across the country.
Donna Bruton is one of the founders of the SWAG group. The fourth-grade Mansfield ISD teacher and her husband, Robert, began geocaching in 2003 and were immediately hooked. “Our first cache we found was at Cedar Hill State Park. There are geocaches hidden all over Mansfield. If there is a park in Mansfield, then there is a cache there,” she says.
SWAG can trace its formal beginnings to about six years ago. Bruton was eager to tell us more about it. “We are a group of geocachers that meet every week to eat and visit together. We talk about geocaching, family, work, and other things.” She says it’s much like a weekly fellowship with other people who share the same hobby. “People that show up can talk about fun caches they have found, ask questions about caches they’ve had trouble finding, find people to go geocaching with, and just basically trade stories about life and geocaching.”
The group began with six members but today it’s not uncommon for 20 people to gather on Wednesdays. They meet from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m, in the party room at No Frills Grill. There’s generally no set agenda so people come and go as they can. Bruton says the group orders food, plays trivia, talks about the week at work and school and, of course, discusses caches that they have found. As Bruton says, “People often ask other cachers to cache on the next weekend.”
So just what exactly is geocaching and how does it all work? According to Bruton, geocaching is an outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. The participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache, which is a container of some type, hidden at that location. Enthusiasts say it gets them outdoors and offers hours and hours of fun, physical exercise while allowing them to enjoy nature.
A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook (usually with a pen or pencil). The geocacher enters the date they found it and signs it with their established code name. After signing the log, the cache must be placed back exactly where it was found. Larger containers such as plastic storage containers or ammunition boxes can also contain items for trading, usually toys or trinkets of little financial value, although sometimes they are sentimental. Geocaching shares many aspects with benchmarking, trigpointing, orienteering, treasure-hunting, letterboxing, and waymarking.
The SWAG group in Arlington is informal and the members like it that way. But it does organize an event once each month. “We host a geocaching event each month, and have a Facebook page where people can keep up with our happenings,” says Bruton. “We camp together, attend other functions together, and plan geocaching trips together. Geocaching is a great hobby to explore the outdoors and get a bit of exercise,” she says.
If geocaching piques your interest, you can visit the SWAG group on Facebook – just search for “S.W.A.G. - Southwest Arlington Geocachers” or just show up at No Frills Grill next Wednesday. You never know what adventures may be ahead of you.
By day Donna Bruton is an elementary school teacher in the Mansfield ISD. But on weekends she goes searching for buried treasure in area parks –think Indiana Jones with a GPS device. She’s involved in a popular and emerging hobby known as geocaching. Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (or container) hidden at that location. Bruton has been involved in the hobby since helping to found SWAG (Southwest Arlington Geocaching) about six years ago. She’s also finishing up a two-year term as the North Texas representative to the TXGA (Texas Geocaching Association). We had a chance to visit with her and find out a little more about her and the intriguing hobby of geocaching.
What do you like most about the community of Mansfield? I enjoy working in the Mansfield community. I also enjoy the choice of shopping and restaurants. Mansfield has some very good parks.
How do you spend your free time? Hobbies? Interests? Geocaching, walking, taking photographs.
Do you go see movies? Which ones? Museums? Theater? We enjoy going to the Cinemark in Mansfield. I enjoy exciting movies and science fiction movies. I enjoy visiting museums of all types. My favorite ones are the ones that display historical artifacts and photographs from the city and/or area. Musicals are my favorite things to see when I attend the theater.
What’s the last book you read? I’m reading The Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I just finished reading the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin that the “Game of Thrones” television series is based on.
Do you have a favorite quote? I enjoy reading inspirational quotes, but don’t have a favorite one. My favorite dog quote is “Dogs are not our whole life, but make our lives whole.” by Roger Caras.
Who or what inspires you? I’m inspired by people with positive outlooks on life.
Do you travel? Where? Every year the TXGA (Texas Geocaching Association) hosts a Texas Challenge in different parts of the state. We like to travel to the host city to geocache, tour the city, and catch up with our geocaching friends from all over the state. We also like to travel to the area where the GeoWoodstock is held. That is the big geocaching event that moves to a new location in the USA every year.
Belong to professional/community organizations? My school’s P.T.A. I also foster dogs through the North Texas Boston Terrier Rescue group.
Education: B.A in Elementary Education from Texas Wesleyan University and M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction with a reading specialization from Grand Canyon University.
Professional life: Elementary teacher.
Current job title: 4th grade teacher for Mansfield ISD.
Other related jobs/experience/career: Taught for 12 years in Fort Worth ISD, this is my 12th year in MISD.
Married: married to high school sweetheart, Robert, for 25 years.
What is Geocaching?
Geocaching is an increasingly popular outdoor activity that depends on the use of portable GPS positioning devices, or the use of a GPS-enabled mobile phone. Participants in geocaching play a glorified game of “hide and seek,” whereby some geocachers hide “caches” – hidden containers – and others seek to find the caches. Usually, the caches are sturdy containers that contain a small logbook. Individuals that successfully find the cache leave their code name/alias on the log book, along with the date and time that they located the cache. The cache is then returned to its hiding spot. Some caches are very small, and very difficult to find (such as a 35-mm film canister), while others may be quite large. Geocachers often use larger caches to leave toys or trinkets, which are traded out for new ones by the next person that finds the cache.
For more information on geocaching visit www.geocaching.com/guide.