And speaking of names, you’ve probably noticed the name Patty Winter on our site. Patty is the Contributing Editor for Caching Now. You will get a little glimpse into what makes Patty tick, and why she loves geocaching! See that article right here in “Rhonda’s Corner.”
Here’s hoping now that it is spring, you will get back outdoors and find those treasures.
Meet Our Contributing Editor
As we at Berntsen International developed our plans for Caching Now
, we were lucky to find an experienced writer who is also an avid geocacher and benchmark hunter. Rhonda Rushing came across Patty Winter’s Disney Benchmarks
website, which features survey disks made right here at Berntsen.
Patty lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, and in the spring of 2007, she flew south to meet up with Rhonda and her husband, Bill, at Disneyland. The Rushings had some great conversations with her about the possibility of creating an online magazine devoted to GPS-based hobbies. Patty was immediately enthusiastic about the concept, so we were delighted to be able to enlist her talents as we developed this site. She is now the contributing editor of Caching Now, responsible for overseeing and editing all of our articles, as well as writing some of them herself. Here’s an introduction to our colleague in the Golden State.
How long have you been geocaching?
I found my first geocache about five years ago, in 2003. I had heard about geocaching for quite a while before that. My friends know that I’m inclined toward geeky hobbies, so a few people had mentioned it to me. Finally, my brother got into it, so one day while I was visiting his family in Napa, we went out and found some geocaches. I created the geocaching username “Wintertime,” which is the same as my Internet domain, and started logging my finds.
What is your favorite geocache that you’ve found so far?
Hmm, I’ll have to think about that. I like ones that help me learn something new. One that comes to mind is in a park in Palo Alto,
near a stand of redwood trees. What led me to visit the trees was the cache description, which mentioned that the redwood seeds had orbited earth in the space shuttle. And they came from El Palo Alto, the historic tree that gave the city its name. I thought that was very cool!
I’ve tried to make my own caches informative, too. I had one about earth meridians (longitude lines) that was actually on a meridian. I have a multi-stage virtual geocache about the geology of Yosemite Valley.
And a friend and I have a cache that educates people about a tiny town
in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada that’s owned by San Francisco and is part of the city’s water system set up after the 1906 earthquake.
As often happens with hobbies, I dove into geocaching heavily at first, then slowed down. I only have about 150 finds and a few owned caches, which isn’t very many, but that’s because I changed my focus not long after starting.
Changed your focus to what?
Benchmark hunting. I forget exactly how it happened; I probably saw the “Find a Benchmark” link on the Geocaching.com pages and followed that. Anyway, looking for survey marks caught my attention. And not long afterwards, I found out that it could even be a public service, with geocachers helping the National Geodetic Survey keep its database accurate. You won’t see all that many benchmark logs from me on Geocaching.com, but I’ve filed a lot of reports with the NGS. I’ve also found a lot of survey marks that aren’t in the NGS database.
Well, you already know about the Disney benchmarks! A few years ago, I started seeing mentions in both the Geocaching.com forums and Disney-related discussion groups about survey marks at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. There was no central source for information about those marks (at least, not a publicly available one), so I decided to make a web page about them. With the help of some devoted folks in California and Florida, plus a number of other people who have spotted marks during their vacation trips, we’ve collected information on more than 25 disks at Disneyland, and more than 70 “Mickey disks” at Walt Disney World. I’ve been to all the ones at Disneyland, and quite a few at Disney World.
The other benchmarks I’ve been looking for are U.S. Geological Survey disks not included in the NGS database. A lot of USGS benchmarks are, but there are thousands and thousands of others that aren’t. I’ve made Yosemite National Park my pet project for benchmark hunting, and a nice man at the USGS sent me copies of old reports about the survey marks in the Yosemite area. Not just ones placed by the USGS, but also some from other agencies that they looked for and reported on. So I’ve been working my way through that list, too.
Has your benchmark hunting taken you anywhere special?
Well, as I just mentioned, I’ve been spending time in Yosemite looking for benchmarks. I usually go to the park a couple of times a year anyway, so the benchmark hunting hasn’t actually taken me there. But I often extend my trips by an extra day to do more benchmarking. Also, last summer a couple of friends and I did a two-day backpacking trip along the Old Tioga Road specifically to find benchmarks that had been placed in the 1930s and ’40s. Most of those marks hadn’t had reports filed since 1957, so it was fun to do that trip exactly 50 years later. Part of the road is still in use, and a couple of the marks along that stretch were missing. But on the part that’s now a trail, we found all of them. So we were pretty pleased with that.
Also, sometimes when I’m visiting other areas I take a little time to look for survey marks. Of course, I make sure to visit some of the Disney marks when I go to Disneyland or Walt Disney World. I haven’t made any trips out of central California just to look for benchmarks, though. Hmmm, I’m going to Ontario this summer to soak up some Shakespeare and visit Ottawa again, so maybe I’ll try to find some in Canada!
You mentioned that you’re attracted to “geeky hobbies.” Besides geocaching and benchmark hunting, what others do you participate in?
These days, it’s mostly benchmark hunting, but I’m also a licensed amateur radio operator (callsign N6BIS), and I do some hamming occasionally. You know how some people turn “pro”? Well, I used to be a professional radio engineer, so I went “am”! Oh, and although I don’t do much amateur astronomy these days, I’m still very interested in astronomy and space. I was at the very first space shuttle landing (STS-1), the launch of Sally Ride’s first mission (STS-7), and the launch of the first amateur radio operator on the shuttle (STS-9). I’ve also traveled to Canada, Kenya, Hawaii, and Mexico to see total eclipses of the sun.
I do have some non-geeky hobbies, too. I attend a Shakespeare reading group once a month at my local library, where we take turns reading different characters in one of the plays. None of us are trained actors, so sometimes we stumble our way through unfamiliar words. But we have fun, so that’s the important thing. And I like to go hiking with friends in the hills of the San Francisco Peninsula.
Do you mange to find time for some real work occasionally?
Yes, occasionally! I’ve been a freelance marketing writer in Silicon Valley for more than 25 years. My first client was Apple, and I still do work for them. Over the years, I’ve also written pieces for Symantec, Microsoft, Adobe, and a lot of other high-tech clients.
What sorts of pieces?
I write what’s called “marketing collateral,” which can be just about anything that isn’t documentation or advertising—although I’ve done a bit of each of those, too. Mostly product brochures, data sheets, white papers, software packages, stuff like that. You can see some samples on the professional section
of my website.
I also occasionally write magazine articles.
Those have mostly been either travel or science articles. I did one about a solar eclipse in Mexico in 1991 that was both a travel story and a science story. Others have been about Alaska, the Eastern Sierra Nevada, the space shuttle, and amateur radio.
Caching Now is fun because it’s like writing for a magazine, except because I’m the contributing editor, I get to work on more than just my own articles. We’ve already gotten some fascinating stories from both professional surveyors and hobbyists. And because I help plan future articles, I know that we have more really great ones coming up!
Patty Winter, our contributing editor, lives in Silicon Valley, where she writes marketing collateral for clients such as Apple. An avid benchmark hunter, she is especially interested in Disney benchmarks and the survey marks in Yosemite National Park.
Originally published on June 10, 2008.