She went on a scavenger hunt looking for a trinket, but what she found was opportunity.
Elizabeth Vance, the McDuffie County tourism director was geocaching around her office at the Depot and was surprised with the list of names on a log sheet she found in a canister.
Geocaching is a high-tech hobby in which folks go on a scavenger hunt using global positioning system coordinates. Although it began in 2000, Ms. Vance said the concept is new to her. And the more she is learning, the more she realizes it can benefit tourism in the Thomson area.
"When I saw that (list of names) I thought this might be a good thing," Ms. Vance said. "It doesn't involve a whole lot of money on our part and it's something that will bring people through."
Ms. Vance said there are approximately 50 names on the log sheet, but the number should be much higher according to the geocaching website where the GPS coordinates are obtained. The Depot cache has over 100 logged visits on the website, many from out of state visitors. According to information on the site, the difference in log numbers may be due to the fact that the cache container is too small for a pencil for visitors to use when they find the cache.
But the tourism director's prediction of the hobby's economic benefits to the area was right on target, judging from the most recent comment on the log site:
"Found it on our return trip from GW5. Had lunch at Ivery's 'Home Cooking' Restaurant across the parking lot. I tried some of each of the southern dishes on the buffet. Yummy! Thanks for bringing us to the area and for the hide."
And the numbers could get much larger. According to the website, there are over 400,000 active caches worldwide. In the last week, there have been approximately 290,000 new logs written By 42,000 account holders.
In geocaching, (pronounced "geo-cashing") individuals and organizations have set up caches all over the world and share the locations on the internet. GPS users then use the location coordinates to find the cache.
The caches range from nano-sized to large and can contain everything from custom-made coins with cachers' names to little dollar store items. The only rule is if something is taken, something must be left in its place. A micro cache, like the one at the Depot, is just a 35 mm film canister containing only a log to sign.
Just as there are different cache sizes, there are different cache types as defined By the clues. You have the traditional, the virtual, the multistage and the mystery.
The traditional cache is found using the coordinates and clues given. A virtual cache is a location, and when you find it you answer a question, such as a date on a monument, though sometimes it requires a photograph.
The multistage cache involves multiple caches. The contents of the first cache contain clues to lead to the next, according to The Complete Idiot's Guide to Geocaching.
Mystery or puzzle caches involve puzzles, problems or mathematical equations that have to be solved to acquire the coordinates.
There are over 60 cache sites in and around Thomson within 25 miles, according to the geocaching website, and most of them have logs less than one week old. And for Ms. Vance, the ideas are flowing with opportunity. She hopes to organize geocaching events and leave caches containing gift certificates to local businesses or restaurants or tickets to local events.
"I'm getting some really good ideas for stuff. It would be great to have an event. It just gets more people out and about around town... it may take about a year to get it going," she said.
For more information on the hobby or to register a free account to download coordinates, visit www.geocaching.com.
Morris News Service reports were used in this article.