Geocaching the environment

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By The Staff

When my daughter Heather Burke and I joined the Pajarito Environmental Education Center, we created a geocache with environmental flavor at PEEC to celebrate the nature center. It was named “Hide and Go Peek.” The hope was for searchers to experience PEEC, with its native plant and water conservation areas.  

Avid geocachers ourselves, we chose to make a two-stage cache that would be just a little bit puzzling to find.

During the year, the results and comments from geocachers have been a pleasure and an education.

The cache has been called inventive, educational, crafty, informative, imaginative and  “a blast.” Local people and travelers from Texas to Prague have written log entries.

To set up the site, we had to register with the international geocaching web site and follow the guidelines for creating a cache (www.geocaching.com). PEEC’s site is rated “easy” in difficulty and terrain.

Geocachers may choose it from the list of geocaching sites in Los Alamos included on the web site, and note the hints, latitude and longitude. Then they read their global positioning system to get within 50-feet of the first stage. They are their own “search engine,” as the web site reports, so they have to examine the area and think about the hints.

 When they have made their discovery, or discoveries, they log the find inside the cache and again online. The latter is where we get feedback about our site and revel in the comments.

While we’re on vacation, geocaching takes us out of the usual sight-seeing and we meet interesting local folks. The puzzling hints challenge our verbal and numerical skills.  Reading the log entries online gives us a geography lesson.

If we are involved in a “travel bug,” a coin or object that is registered online and is to be taken a distance, we can trace it around the world.  

Once, we took a “travel bug” to the ocean, as per instructions in the online registration by the owner.  It went on to England and is now jumping across Australia. We’re exercising map-reading skills as we trace it.

With geocaching, each experience is different. We find ourselves in local areas we’ve never seen before. While geocaching in springtime, we notice shrubs leafing out, flowers blooming, clouds, animals and vistas. We get ideas about landscaping, appreciate wilderness and hear birdsongs. We enjoy geocaching with houseguests, three generations within our family and a dog. We invite anyone wanting to learn this skill to join our class from 6-8 p.m. Wednesday at PEEC.

The fee is $9 for  PEEC members and $10 for non-members.  

Call the nature center office to enroll at 662-0460, signup on line at www.PajaritoEEC.org or drop by PEEC at 3540 Orange St.