Geocaching cop uses hobby to rescue hiker

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by ERIC WILKINSON / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on December 20, 2012 at 6:37 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 20 at 8:01 PM

You never know what you'll come across when hiking the trails of Western Washington. That's what Tom Wenzl loves the most.

Wenzl, an avid geocacher, is always on the hunt for hidden treasures. “It's a lot of fun,” said the Mount Vernon patrol officer. “It's like the biggest Easter egg hunt in the world.”

Typically when geocachers are out on the trail, they're looking for cheap trinkets stashed inside tree trunks. But a few weeks ago, Tom Wenzl ended up on the trail of something much more valuable.

Brenda Johnston was lost on Mount Vernon’s Little Mountain. She had strayed onto an unfamiliar trail and got disoriented when the sun went down. “I couldn't get out,” she said. “I kept trying, and I kept feeling like I was getting more and more lost.”

Johnston did the right thing. She called 911 and stayed put.

It just so happened that Officer Wenzl was on duty. He got the latitude and longitude coordinates of Johnston’s cell phone call from the 911 dispatch center, plugged them into his geocaching app, and started searching.

“The other officer walking with me asked if I was sure where we were going, and I'd show him, 'She's 1/10th of a mile directly that way!'”

Within 30 minutes they located Johnston, shaken but safe. “I was so relieved,” she said. “I’d never even heard of geocaching before this.”

As far as geocaching goes, Wenzl said this was one of the easier finds, but definitely the most rewarding.

“You're looking for thimbles normally, and now you've got a full-sized human who can actually talk to you when you get close. I’m just happy it worked out," he said.
 

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