Nevada UFO town cashes in on 'geocaching' game - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

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Nevada UFO town cashes in on 'geocaching' game

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About two hours north of Las Vegas is State Highway 375, also known as the Extraterrestrial Highway.

The only town on the road is Rachel, Nevada.

For the past twenty years Pat Travis and now her daughter Connie West have been running the only business there, the Little A'Le'Inn.

"The UFO activity started within the first year that we were here," Travis told FOX5.

As popular culture's interest in UFOs faded so did visitors to the area.

But now a different type of visitor is coming.

"There not coming out here because of UFOs or Area 51 or the Little A'Le'Inn," said West.

Instead tourists have returned to Rachel to probe for something else, which has them looking at the ground, not the sky.

"Geocaching is our primary venture, what we came out here to do," said Scott Fee, a geocacher from Alabama.

Geocaching is a type of online scavenger hunt, where participants use GPS devices to find containers called "caches".

"Inside the film can is the log sheet showing everyone's been here, someone even had an alien stamp on that one," said Fee.

Every cache in the world is listed on the Geocaching web site, and geocachers, as they're called, can log every find they make.

With about 1500 caches up and down Highway 375, this stretch of road has the most caches per mile in the world.

"This has become what some call the power trial of the gods!" said Fee.

When it first started in spring of 2010, the geocaching community flocked to Rachel

Many visitors came who otherwise may not have.

"I never knew Rachel, Nevada existed except for geocaching," Steven O'Gara, a geocacher from Los Angeles, told FOX5.

Business for the Little A'Le'Inn had never been better.

"From that moment on our rooms were booked, business is great!" said West.

"I had more rooms rented in the month of November than I've ever had in twenty four years," said Travis.

Visitors came from all over the country and the world.

"You're getting tons of people from Czechoslovakia region, from Germany, we had some people from Switzerland, Sweden," said O'Gara.

"Idaho, there's New Hampshire, Florida, California, Washington," West said reading out of her registry.

But in February, the Nevada Department of Transportation changed everything.

"I had some people from Ireland that had actually come out here to do the cache and they informed me that there were only 25 caches left on the highway," West said.

NDOT removed the caches, saying they caused safety concerns.

"But what was worse is they were being put in blind spots... so what we did is the ones that were in our right of way we pulled them out, whenever we saw them and they were in our way and in our work we pulled them out," said NDOT spokesperson Michelle Booth.

Then the Geocaching web site pulled the GPS coordinates off its site.

Business at the Little A'Le'Inn came to a standstill.

"Every one of my rooms were booked for the winter and then all of a sudden within 24 hours every one of my rooms were vacant," said West.

Furious with NDOT, West wrote everyone from Lincoln County Commissioners to the Attorney General to get the Geocaches back.

"But we ended up having to lay people off when they shut it down, because we had no business," West said.

West says businesses in Tonopah, Alamo, Caliente, Panaca and Pioche were also impacted, and some of her guest said they were even canceling their rooms in Las Vegas.

After five months on hiatus a compromise was reached.

"So we've worked with them and we've gone over safety policies where to put them where not to put them what we recommend and what we don't recommend," Booth said.

The caches were moved well off the highway and re-activated on the web site in August, and geocachers again flocked to Rachel.

"It's probably the best thing that ever happened, other than the alien technology that we have been blessed with," said Travis.

Now even more caches have been added, two different groups making the shape of a spaceship and an alien head when you log them on your map.

The Little A'Le'Inn now has anywhere from 50 to 500 visitors a day, the majority of whom are geocachers.

Without them, the Little A'Le'Inn might have closed its doors.

"My mom and I would have been out of business, I already know that," West says.

The only place you won't find geocaches around Rachel is where the Nellis Bombing Range boarder begins, the rumored home of Area 51.

To say you've gone geocaching here means major bragging rights, especially since you don't know who or what you might see.

"Area 51 just adds to the mystic of it all," said Fee.

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