Several weeks ago Bill Bradshaw from the Roper Mountain Science Center asked if I would be willing to do a workshop on geocaching at Paris Mountain State Park. I agreed, planning to do a repeat of the Discovery Educator’s Network workshop I did this past summer at the SCETV studios. I began coordinating the activity with my good friend Cathy Taylor (no relation) who is the Interpretive Ranger at the park. This Saturday we held the workshop on a spectacular morning as far as the weather is concerned.
The park has remodeled the old lakeside bath house into an education/interpretive center, and it has turned out beautifully. The old building was built in the 1930’s by the CCC, and features some amazing stone work. Inside are displays about the park, and a fantastic classroom. The classroom has all sorts of material for teaching natural sciences, included some pretty nifty technology. They have a projector, but they also have a camera microscope and several other display devices that can be used with the projector. I told Cathy I was very jealous of her new digs, and would love to teach in a classroom like this.
In a workshop setting like this it doesn’t make much sense to send the participants out looking for real geocaches located on www.geocaching.com unless there is a high density of those caches located within reasonable walking distance of your venue. Therefore, last weekend I placed several temporary caches within a 100 yd radius of the bath house. Most of these were virtual caches, where the participants had to tell me what was on a sign, etc. I did place two micro caches and one regular sized cache so that they would get the experience of actually looking for a container.
I arrived about an hour before hand this past Saturday to get things set up. First, I placed the caches in the locations I’d found last week. Then I took our borrowed GPS units and transferred my fake cache coordinates to them so that the participants wouldn’t have to try to program them themselves. Finally, I got my presentation set up with examples of containers, GPS units, and some of the tools of the trade.
Even though the weather was great, we only had two people show up for the workshop. Of those, one was already an avid geocacher, and the other was a newbie. Cathy and another ranger, Edie, showed up, bringing the total participants to four. It turned into more of an informal discussion of geocaching rather than the structured presentation I’d planned. We still went out and tried to find some of the geocaches I had placed, and had a good time. I just wish there had been more to take part.
The very first geocache I ever placed was at Paris Mountain State Park back in 2001. It was one of only a handful of geocaches in Greenville at the time. Bill Brissey and Doug Adomatis placed two others, but eventually all three were removed because of environmental impact. Up until last week there were two other caches. Bill Brissey had replaced one of his, and there was another somewhere near the first picnic shelter. As I was preparing for the workshop I spotted that two new geocaches had been placed by a user that goes by “Paris Mountain State Park.” It turns out that these were placed by Ranger Edie.
The first reaction of many parks was to ban activities like this. I understand their concern. Our first caches did cause some damage. Back then we weren’t fully aware of how easily and impact trail can form. However, I’m glad to see parks like Paris Mountain recognizing the educational opportunities of activities like geocaching, and getting involved in those activities and channeling them in the right direction rather than placing bans on them.