On Feb 14, 2001, I picked up my first GPS and went on a crazy hunt for a hidden container in the woods, which eventually turned into a 10 year saga filled with amazing adventures, mind-blowing events, and many lifelong friends. I could not have guessed that once I picked up my Garmin12, I would embark on a series of incredible life experiences based around an idea that the outdoors could be fun again.
I was introduced to geo-stashing when I read a 3 sentence article in Outside Magazine. The article was a little unsure of this new activity, but it published the Geocaching.com webpage and mentioned the potential of new outdoor activities. I was rabid for something new, and this fit the bill. I remember laughing while trying to explain this new hunting game to my roommate. “Im gunna go look for something weird, don’t know what I will find, but I am sure it will be strange”. It turns out it was a ammo box with a white golf ball inside, but it was enough to get me hooked.
At this time there were about 150 caches in Oregon, and geocachers were a ragtag group of funny avatar names. I came to know many people through the early GC forums; however we interacted mostly through the log sheets inside the containers. You could always tell a popular cache by the number of names and descriptions found in those data sheets, and it was a great deal of pride to be able to put your name before any of your GC friends.
I placed my first cache, and it was pretty popular. So popular that a trail developed toward the container and I removed it to avoid further damage. It is then I created one of the earlier multi-caches. Requiring hunters to find 3 different locations, and identify a unique aspect of each site got hunters to the final cache, where I hid a camera and goodies.
Oh boy, do I remember that camera. I would get many great pictures of successful hunters, then the occasional rude picture from a non-cacher person.. Then more rude pictures.. then more. So much that I stopped placing cameras inside caches due the high probability of lewd pictures located within.
I didn’t really meet another geocacher in the field until 6 months later at the cache called “Raiders of the lost cache”. At that time my method for finding caches was to forgo trails and head directly to the cache. As I bashed through brush and sticker bushes, I emerged into a clearing, visibly startling “Oregone”. As we exchanged friendly banter, tiny LED lights suddenly flashed in some bushes, indicating the cache location. This technical genius by “wit Camp” originally got me thinking that Geocaches could be so much more than simple coordinates to simple containers.
I started placing caches that required unusual behavior to solve. I wanted my caches to be unique, and I also noticed other people doing cool unique things as well. However it was not enough for me. I found too many “drive-by” caches. Little effort by the placer, made the hunt very un-fulfilling. I became uninterested in “normal” caches and my finds stagnated to about 160. I started to heavily gravitate toward geocaching based events.
There was a group of geocachers that started to form in the Portland Oregon region. We all realized early on that our group of friends was unlike normal friendships. We were a very adventurous group where were up for adventures in and around our area. We passed around a “Golden Spike” with the understanding that whoever had possession of the spike was responsible for the next adventure. To my memory, we went bowling, night caching go-karting, videogaming, bonfires and underground ghost hunts. Eventually we had a big campout and service project at the local state park called Champoeg.
The success of that first Champoeg event was a harbinger of amazing events the future had in store.
Portland geocachers wanted to have another event at Champoeg and so another was planned. Huge potluck, great friends interacting, and a humbling ivy pulling project for the park. It is also where I unveiled my very unusual kinetic cache called “The APPARATUS”. I built it from my sprinkler system and a timing device. I had everyone meet me by the bonfire, where my device dangled a little paper box over the fire. The device would release the box (and final solution) into the fire if the participants did not retrieve the clues within the hour and stop the device. Reading the reports that everyone wrote after the event indicated everyone had the time of their lives. It was very encouraging to see so many people enjoy my creation. I went on to create APPARATUS2 and APPARATUS3 in the series that became increasingly abnormal. This made me happy.
It also became evident that another creative cacher “fractal’ and I should work together on a combined event. He had created some amazing geocaches and events at the same time as me. We both realized the amount of joy we received from our friends solving our puzzles far outpaced our efforts needed to create them.
So we began to design the first of our greatest events called “Broken Arrow”. We had clandestine meetings, top secret plans, and covert signals to help us plan this event in complete secrecy. We wanted to create a device that would need to be solved in a very James Bond method. 5 wires needed to be cut in the correct order or the device would give a very audible detonation. We hid very technical mini puzzles throughout the park that each needed their own solution. Geiger counters, pagers, exploding chest die pack and awesome artwork. Probably best of all was our costumes. We each had our persona and became that person for the duration of the event. Silly accents and all.
When our friends were cheering our names at the conclusion of the event we felt on top of the world.
Fractal and I decided to create more events even more insane than the previous event. During our event “Warlords” we witnessed friends teaming up assemble trebuchets and fling balloons at human targets. Our event “Blood Bath and Beyond” had a incredible 6 month buildup, amazing props and a alien autopsy with a chainsaw!! ROWR! The events “Icarus” and “Holiday Bizarre” made me laugh along with the successes and failures. We even teamed up with a trio of creative cachers to create our own secret society and cult cache event called “C5”.
Other events emerged including our own FILM FEST, Iron Chef Competition, and Gong Show. The participants would look forward to Champoeg event all year, and as a result, the entire park would be reserved a full 8 months in advance. However the popularity of Champoeg began to outstrip our capacity to improve upon years past. We the organizers made the heart wrenching decision to pull the plug on Champoeg after its 8th year.
As the years press on, and popularity of the sport expands exponentially, I started the anarchy gnome and anarchy geocache series that broke every rule created by the now popular geocaching authorities. I am proud to say there were many fellow hunters who were far more twisted than I could dream of. I launched a geocache to the edge of space and have a couple of travel bugs that would get kicked out of any respectable home or office.
So, as I have now reached this 10 year milestone of this weird little game, I am currently involved with a hybrid geocache multisport event as well as continued thoughts of crazy and unique cache ideas. My friendships made through geocaching will last a lifetime, as well as all the scrapes, cuts, and bruises I receive when searching for those elusive containers.
What will the next 10 years have in store for me I do not know. I am only sure that it will be crazy and fun surrounded by friends and technology. I may even be able to break 200 finds!!
Thanks everyone. I hope to see you on the trail soon.