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Benchmark Hunting at Joshua Tree National Park

by Rhonda Rushing, Editor in Chief

I have been learning about geocaching over the past few years and I have definitely “caught the bug.” Oh, how this pastime delights the would-be explorer, hiker, geographer, detective, and land surveyor in me!

Right now I’m taking special pleasure in “Benchmark Hunting.” I guess that’s understandable since our family’s business, Berntsen International Inc., makes bench marks for land surveyors around the world. In fact my whole family has enjoyed this activity for years before the dawn of recreational GPS! 

This past March, I visited California’s Joshua Tree National Park with my father, Phil Peterson.   We enjoyed the opportunity to explore new places and test out newly learned skills. Being Wisconsinites, we savored the warm California sun. 

We were ecstatic to find a survey marker on our way through the park.  When stopping briefly to take in the scenery and read an informational sign, I spotted what looked like a sawed-off metal witness post to a survey marker.  Climbing a little way up onto the rocks proved to be rewarding.  There was a National Geodetic Survey (NGS) marker that had been set in 1974.  (see photo)

I’m finding out that geocaching is a fun way to get out and make new discoveries! For instance, I had never seen a Joshua tree or a Cholla cactus. I learned that this park is believed to be the transition zone between two types of desert: the Mojave and the Colorado deserts.  The Joshua trees begin to be found at 3,000-ft. elevation level and indicate the Mojave Desert. Cholla plants at lower elevations indicate the Colorado Desert. If you would like to learn more about Joshua Tree National Park log on to:

I hope that you too will “catch the bug” and explore new territory with geocaching!

Originally published on September 15, 2007.




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