Geocaching hobby leads officer to find lost woman
MOUNT VERNON, Dec 19, 2012 (Skagit Valley Herald - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
A 56-year-old Mount Vernon woman was hiking the new east end trail at Little Mountain about two weeks ago, venturing beyond the completed portion, when the sun quickly sank beneath the horizon.
Deep into the woods, the darkness caused her to lose her bearings.
"Once the sun goes down, it's just black," Mount Vernon Police Officer Tom Wenzl said.
The woman called 911 and waited for officers to respond.
Unfortunately, her location wasn't along any mapped route. Whereas Mount Vernon police may have called the Skagit County Search and Rescue team to respond in such a situation, Wenzl pulled out his iPhone to aid in the search.
Wenzl enjoys geocaching in his free time, an outdoor activity in which participants use a GPS device or smart phone app to search for hidden treasures, known as "caches." Fans of the activity hide items throughout the world and searchers who find the caches log their successes online.
Without a typical GPS device at his disposal, Wenzl opened his geocaching app. Because the woman's coordinates were recorded during her 911 call, Wenzl entered her location as a "waypoint" from his own position and was able to use the directional guidance on the app to find her.
The woman and her dog were found safe. She appeared to be well-prepared to hike, with food and water for herself and her dog, Wenzl said. She just got caught in the dark.
Wenzl later created a cache of his own to mark the location where the woman was found, aptly labeled in the geocaching database as "Rescue Me."
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