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Group kicks off geo-caching tour

Practice of finding locations with prizes began in Clackamas County

The Clackamas County Historical Society and GEOregon and have combined forces to present the GEO-Heritage Tour of Clackamas County, which kicks off on Saturday, June 16, from noon to 4 p.m. at the Museum of the Oregon Territory.

Free geocaching GPS classes for all ages will be held at 1 and 2:30 p.m.

The CCHS GEO-Heritage Tour combines a love of adventure and treasure-hunting with an appreciation for Oregon history. The first 300 to complete their tour passports will earn a 2-inch, limited-edition, trackable bronze GEO-Coin commemorating Clackamas County.

Collaborating organizations include heritage sites from Oregon City to West Linn, Milwaukie to Mount Hood. Participants are invited to pick up a tour 'passport' at the museum on opening day, take a free lesson from GEOregon experts, enter to win prize drawings, and get their first passport stamps at the museum and the nearby Stevens Crawford Heritage House.

The GEO-Heritage Tour Passport is a guide to 30 interesting spots of Clackamas County history, from metro-area museums and historic homes to natural areas on the Barlow Road. Treasure hunters pick and choose 20 out of 30 passport destinations, collecting museum stamps, information clues or Global Positioning System-located codes along the way.

Similar to the century-old game of 'letterboxing,' geocaching is an international, outdoor treasure-hunting game that uses GPS-enabled devices. It originated in 2000 in Beavercreek.

Players navigate to a specific set of GPS latitude/longitude coordinates, then attempt to find a hidden geocache container.

Once the passion of a select few, when GPS was new technology, now anyone with a GPS enabled 'smart phone' can enjoy finding geocaches while on a road-trip or a Sunday drive.

Linda Downing of Oregon City designed the GEO-Heritage Tour Passport. She and her husband, Kirk, created the clues and hidden geocaches in the challenge. People know them by their geocaching handles of 'DoodleCat' and 'MisterKirk.'

'We use geocaching to explore when we're out of town on vacation,' Linda Downing said. 'It takes us to interesting viewpoints, historical places or funny roadside oddities that only the locals know.'

Sue Gary, one of three key GEO-Heritage Tour organizers, is an engineer who appreciates technical things and the great outdoors.

'This is why I love geocaching; it involves both,' Gary said. 'I also have a great love of Oregon and her history, so I enjoy learning and experiencing more about the area where I choose to live. This event is a great combination of all of these things.'

Gary will teach Saturday's GPS classes, along with Gloria Totten, a program specialist with Multnomah County and part-time PSU instructor.

'I believe very strongly in community involvement,' Totten said, 'and a part of what I love about geocaching is not only that it gets me involved with others in my community, but that it also has a learning aspect. It takes me to new sights and I learn a lot about the world around me, including history....which is why working with CCHS is exciting to me, because they have the same sort of values.'

The Clackamas County Historical Society GEO-Heritage Tour program was made possible by grants from The Clackamas County Cultural Coalition, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Bob's Red Mill. Prizes and assistance were contributed by Fisherman's Marine and Outdoor and Coffee Rush of Oregon City.

Tour details and passport will be published for the general public the day after kickoff, on Sunday, June 17, via clackamashistory.org, Geocaching.com and GEOregon.com. The tour runs through Oct. 16, or until all prizes are distributed. There is no charge to complete any part of the tour.

The Saturday, June 16, kickoff includes free museum admission. The Museum of the Oregon Territory overlooks the Willamette Falls, 211 Tumwater Drive, in Oregon City. Call 503-655-5574 for more information.

Roxandra Pennington is the program director for the Clackamas County Historical Society.