Recently, I wrote a story in the Tribune about geocaching, where regular people use GPS technology on their smart phones to conduct treasure hunts. While doing a little hunting with Trib photographer Joe Johnston, I left a few “treasures” behind at different locations. One of the items was a Pismo Beach postcard I had addressed to myself.
Last week, the postcard finally arrived. The note on the back began, “I found your card at the golf course in Morro Bay.” It was signed by Cindy Shanks of Mesa, AZ.
Curious to know more about my fellow geocacher, I did a little research. Then I sent her an email.
“I am a retired teacher who loves to travel and take pictures,” Shanks, 63, wrote in response. “I found Morro Bay on a trip up the coast in the early 1990′s. I am an ocean person and fell in love with the small town feel and the beautiful scenery in Montana Del Oro park and along Big Sur.”
Shanks, a graduate of Eastern Illinois University, spent 36 years as a kindergarden and first grade teacher. Since then, she’s become a writer who has spoken to groups across the state due to a chance encounter.
While hiking near her home in October of 2008, she came across a sheep drive. After researching the history of the drive, which included some 2,000 animals, she learned that sheep had been making the annual 220-mile trek from the warm desert to the cool mountains on that trail for over a century. Inspired to teach others about it, she wrote a childrens book — “Emily Walks the Sheep Trail,” about a lamb who follows the herd.
Since then, she has written two more and is currently at work on a fourth book about the annual trek. Turns out the timing was pretty good. After well over a century, the sheep drives are now just another facet of Arizona history.
“The sheep were sold last summer, and the 130 year old trail has ended,” Shanks wrote. “Now I use my pics and the story in a powerpoint to share the history all over the state. It has been a really fascinating experience for me.”
Last spring, Shanks was delivering books to Washington state when she learned about geocaching.
“I went out that afternoon exploring and found my first treasure – a large labyrinth to walk through with dinosaur toys on the ridges,” she wrote. “The creator was sitting under a tree nearby – a fascinating Frenchman with multiple caches in the area. I have found some in Albuquerque, in Denver and in Morro Bay this summer. It is just another way of exploring an area and finding something challenging and new.”
She stopped in Morro Bay during a summer trip that included detours in Denver, The Tetons, Yellowstone and finally San Francisco, where relatives live.
“I was heading to San Fran for the 4th and decided to go by way of Morro Bay and spend a few days working on the pictures for the 4th book about the shepherds on the sheep trail,” Shanks wrote. “I went to Morro Bay for a few days to work and enjoy the ocean.”
Find copies of Shanks’ books here.
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