Have you always considered technology and the great outdoors to be worlds apart? The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is trying to bridge the gap with a program born from the success of a pilot program in the Austin area.
Two brand new geocache (pronounced geo-cashing) challenges are set to kick off on May 1 in two separate regions of Texas. Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth area parks will have 23 brand new caches hidden to test your determination and scavenger-hunting skills in the outdoors for the next four months.
How does it all work? In its simplest form, geocaching is seeking out a hidden treasure using coordinates that mark its specific location on the globe. Weatherproof boxes are hidden in specific parks and their locations marked. Individuals use their own personal handheld GPS (global positioning system) devices and the provided coordinates to seek out what’s been hidden.
“In years past, few owned a GPS, but now they are commonplace with users being able to use iPhone apps and even car GPS units to find these caches,” says Robert Owen, a ranger with Texas State Parks.
Participating parks in Houston include: Sheldon Lake, Huntsville, San Jacinto Battleground SHS, Galveston Island, Brazos Bend, Lake Texana, Lake Livingston, Village Creek, Martin Dies Jr. and Stephen F Austin. For information on the separate Dallas/Fort Worth challenge, visit our website at: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/geocaching/.
“It’s a healthy way to get out on the trails of state parks,” says Chris Holmes, outdoor education coordinator for Texas State Parks. “We think it should appeal to families and provide a really fun thing to do in a state park. The fun thing with the kids is that they literally get to find treasure, so we know they will be excited when they find the cache. This is really using technology to be outside and we’ve seen today’s tech-savvy children really grasp the idea and hit the trail running.”
Participants can download a Texas Geocache Passport, as well as the coordinates of each of the caches, from the TPWD Web site. In each of the participating state parks a hidden box will contain collectible wildlife-themed trading cards, information about the park, a logbook for cachers to record their visit and a paper punch unique to the park.
Geocachers can use their GPS units to find the containers and then use the punch to mark their passports to verify their visit. When they have completed all caches in that region, they can mail the passport to TPWD, and the first 25 people to send in their passports will receive a commemorative geocoin. Other participants who finish will receive Texas Geocache Challenge stickers, a certificate of completion, and be entered to win additional geocoins drawn at random.
“We really want people to get outside, and this is another reason for people to go out to state parks, as a family or as an individual,” Holmes says. “Try geocaching, you might get hooked and end up visiting a few more of the other thousands of geocaches stashed across Texas that you never knew existed!” To go deeper and learn more about geocaching, visit www.geocaching.com.