Geocaching: Trees as Treasure; Affordable GPS Units Are Creating High-Tech Scavenger Hunts for Everything from Dollar-Store Trinkets to Trees. (Recreation)

By Wright, Tim | American Forests, Summer 2003 | Go to article overview

Geocaching: Trees as Treasure; Affordable GPS Units Are Creating High-Tech Scavenger Hunts for Everything from Dollar-Store Trinkets to Trees. (Recreation)


Wright, Tim, American Forests


"Do you have a GPS?"

"Yes"

"Do you know anything about 'geo caching'?"

"Uuuuuuuuuh... no."

A few days later, as I find myself stumbling, splashing, and tripping my way through a heavily forested floodplain, I'm getting a pretty good idea what the "sport" of geocaching is all about. I'm in search of a birch tree growing near the banks of a sleepy, winding ribbon of water known as the Willis River in Virginia. For good measure I carry with me two Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) receivers. The plan is to find not just any birch, but a specific river birch and establish its GPS coordinates.

GPS, as this form of navigation is commonly known, is based on a network of satellites, each broadcasting a synchronized signal. The GPS receiver determines its position on earth by comparing the arrival time of each incoming signal. Then, it mathematically computes a location, It's so accurate, in fact, that during the Iraq war GPS-guided bombs were used to destroy not just individual buildings, but distinct areas within those buildings.

Buried in the heart of Virginia's Cumberland State Forest, the birch I seek is special. Due to its overall size, the birch has long held a spot on the state list of champion trees (the largest-known of each species based on AMERICAN FORESTS' National Register of Big Trees' formula of height, circumference, and crown spread). But it's been 10, 15 years or more since anyone last saw this champ.

With a faxed copy of a hand-drawn map to guide me through the maze of narrow channels and thick brush, the odds of finding the birch grow dimmer with each unexpected detour. The high-tech navigation devices I carry are not much help at the moment. All they can do right now is tell me how to get home--or, rather, back to the car--which at this point is a welcoming thought.

At long last a massive birch tree suddenly appears almost out of nowhere. If it hadn't been for my companion, I would have walked past it even though it was only a few steps away. Just because something is big, doesn't guarantee you'll find it if you're dodging sticker bushes in your face. Besides, either it's not where it was said to be or I'm not where I think I am. It won't be long before I realize it's a little of both.

Even though we're sure we've found our birch, we search another 20 minutes to make sure it isn't a fraud. Once all doubt is erased, I punch a button on the GPS while standing at the foot of this massive tree and a decimal version of latitude and longitude is frozen on the display.

Back at my office, I log onto a website that allows me to overlay my coordinates onto a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) map so I can compare the faxed, hand-drawn map to what the GPS reveals. The hand-drawn map is part of the standard form used to nominate a tree for Virginia's list. The birch was selected for my search partly because it's on public land, and therefore accessible, and partly because it has a detailed map. But the website's map reveals the tree significantly northeast of its hand-drawn position. Worse still, after all the mind-numbing detours, it shows that I wasn't where I thought I was, a fact that could help explain the original mapping error. To be sure the GPS is correct, I compare the hand-drawn map to details revealed by aerial photographs, a 1:25,000-scale USGS map, and my experience on the ground.

With a few mouse clicks, a link to the map showing the tree's position is e-mailed to Jeff Kirwin, state Big Tree coordinator, at Virginia Tech. His immediate response: "The links are outstanding! Can we link them to our website?"

The sport of geocaching is perhaps best described as a high-tech scavenger hunt in which computers and the Great Outdoors come together. According to the official geocaching website, the sport took off in the Pacific Northwest when, on May 1, 2000, the Clinton administration allowed civilian use of highly accurate GPS signals that had previously been reserved for the military. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Geocaching: Trees as Treasure; Affordable GPS Units Are Creating High-Tech Scavenger Hunts for Everything from Dollar-Store Trinkets to Trees. (Recreation)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.