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Love Love Braga: A Mega-Event full of Love, Community, and Geocaching

 

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High-Five for an awesome Mega-Event!


“All you need is love,” The Beatles

100espinhos, a small but dedicated geocaching team from Portugal, had an important revelation back in 2014: the world needs more love and geocaching is one way to help spread it.  For the past several years, they have fully embraced the movement, throwing three 500+ geocacher events— all full of “Love Love.”

“We organize these Megas because we love geocaching and believe that the game brings  immense joy to people’s lives,” said Tiago, one of the 100espinhos. “There’s nothing more powerful than friendships, smiles, and love.”

And it worked. Through their events, they’ve created an inspiring community of geocachers, all dedicated to the game and the love initiative.

100Espinhos Team
100Espinhos Team

In August, I was lucky enough to experience the latest edition of the Love Love Mega series, GC60WBP.The event I attended was held in beautiful Braga, a historic and postcard-perfect city in northern Portugal. It was a long journey from Seattle to Braga but after two six hour flights and a three hour train ride, I had arrived in what I considered geocaching paradise. The event would be four days jam-packed with geocaching activities, Signal the Frog, Lab Caches, mini-excursions throughout the city, and plenty of love-filled community moments. I felt like I was twelve years old again, off to my favorite summer camp… not sure what to expect but unbelievably happy to be there.

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Love Love Braga

Whatever your geo-heart desired over the next four days, Love Love provided. The main event space was in a large auditorium where daily workshops, trackable exchanges, creative container competitions, vendor shopping, and dance classes took place. There was an ongoing CITO initiative where used bottle caps were collected (tampinhas in Portuguese) from event-goersall bottle cap proceeds went towards a wheelchair for a little girl battling a rare disease. In addition to the main space, there were side events planned every day throughout the city where you could take in the city’s main attractions while geocaching. If you didn’t feel like participating in one of the planned outings, you could relax at the swimming pool or visit a nearby museumall free of cost. Everything was very well organized and laid out, all I had to do was embrace the love and have a grand ol’ time!

Carly, Signal, and Tiago
Carly, Signal, and Tiago

Every day was a treat, but the meal times were my favorite. I truly enjoyed the time I spent relaxing, sipping on vinho verde, and chatting with different groups of geocachers while tasting the local cuisine. Their geocaching stories and dedication to the game truly inspired me. Note: There are so many epic geocaches in Portugal that you must plan several return trips to experience them all.

Making a splash at a T5 cache
Making a splash at a T5 cache

Other highlights from the weekend included a fireworks show, meeting the VP mayor of Braga and an Olympic athlete who had just returned from Rio, taking 500+ photos (no exaggeration), CITO-ing, trying Peddy Paper for the first time, finding two T5 caches (one in a cave and one on an island), high-fiving Signal (many times), eating way too many Portuguese pastries and making lots of new friends.

  • The event begins and Signal greets attendees!

After the event, I spent a couple days in Lisboa, eating more pastries (I’m currently detoxing) and wandering the streets. I also had the opportunity to meet the incredible Portuguese reviewers for a nice dinner. For being a relatively small country, Portugal has nearly 40,000 active caches, and the community volunteer reviewer team does an amazing job supporting the growth of the game and the community.

The Portuguese Reviewer Team!
The Portuguese Community Volunteer Reviewer Team with Carly

What more can I say? My trip to Portugal was very special and one that I will never forget. The community, the hosts, the country, and the geocaching adventures were extraordinary. To fully understand “the love,” you must experience it for yourself. Next year’s event is in Oporto (August 11-13th), another magical city in the north. See you there!

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Love Love Volunteers!
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Last Call For Fall CITO Events 2016!

Cache In Trash Out® Week is almost here! CITO Events are a chance for geocachers to give back to their local spaces and communities, and may involve tree planting, litter pick up, or even habitat restoration. From September 17–25, you can even earn a special souvenir by attending one.

It’s not too late to submit a CITO of your own. Check out this blog post for tips on hosting your own CITO. But remember: CITO Events must be submitted at least two weeks prior to the event date.

Ready to get your hands dirty? Check out CITO gear from Shop Geocaching.

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16 Years Later

On March 24, 2009, Jon Stanley (username: Moun10Bike) stood on 5th Avenue in downtown Seattle, WA. He snapped a selfie before walking into the nondescript office across the street. It was Jon’s first day at a new job.

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Jon’s first day at Geocaching HQ.

“I took a selfie — perhaps my first-ever — of me arriving at Groundspeak on my first day working here,” said Jon. “I was told I was employee #28.”

Jon had a long history with the game before joining the company behind Geocaching.com, now known as Geocaching HQ. He first met Founder Jeremy Irish in 2000. Over lunch, the two discussed software that Jon had provided for an early version of the website. “The community was small then and I was in the same geographic area,” Jon said. “So it was natural that we would end up getting together.”

Jeremy realized that Geocaching.com’s traffic would quickly outgrow the website he’d started as a hobby site. In 2000, he partnered with two co-workers, Elias Alvord and Bryan Roth, to start a new company. With the proceeds from selling 144 geocaching t-shirts, they began to scale the website to keep up with its growing audience. The three founders continued working at their day jobs while managing the website on the side.

Cathy Hornback (username: Prying Pandora) first met the founders when they spontaneously showed up at her Cache In, Trash Out® Event. “I almost peed my pants when they just showed up. No warning.”

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Cathy with Geocaching.com Founder Jeremy Irish in 2006.

Today, Cathy wears multiple hats: player (she’s going on 15,000 finds), volunteer reviewer, and Community Volunteer Support Coordinator at Geocaching HQ. “We exist because one guy had a crazy idea to hide a bucket of trinkets for other people to find with their newly accurate GPS receivers. Then another guy (Jeremy) had the gumption to build a website to list them all,” said Cathy.

Cathy first met Jon in 2005 while looking for the same geocache. Five years later, she joined him as an employee at Geocaching HQ. “We exist because of our community’s engagement,” Cathy said. “Without them, there would be nothing.”

Jon and Cathy were welcomed on their first days at Geocaching HQ by another long-time geocacher, Annie Love (username: Love). “I still pinch myself daily that I get to work here,” Annie said. “Geocaching was my hobby before I started working here and it’s a dream to get to do something I love for work. Sure, I sit at a desk most of the time, but getting to help people with this game for work is pretty awesome.”

Annie joined Geocaching HQ on January 29, 2007. “My first job was to work as the receptionist at the front desk, answer phone calls and emails about the game of geocaching.”

When Annie started, there were a dozen or so employees and 353,685 active geocaches. Today, Geocaching HQ has 74 employees and the website lists nearly 3 million geocaches hidden all over the world.

Annie, now Partner Programs Manager, said, “We really listen to our community. We might not be able to make everything to perfection overnight, but we definitely hear the wants and needs of the community and apply that directly to what we work on.”

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A company photo taken in June 2007, shortly after Annie and Jenn started.

A few months later, Jenn Seva (username: MissJenn) joined Geocaching HQ as employee #17, having previously served as a Community Volunteer Reviewer. “I started as a player of the game in 2001. I’m lucky enough to have combined my hobby and my livelihood without ruining either one of them.”

Now Senior Manager of Tourism and Travel, Jenn said, “Geocaching HQ is different than most other companies because we are made up of employees who want to be here. We want to delight our community and encourage people to go play outside. I don’t feel like just an insignificant cog in a giant wheel.”

Jon, Cathy and Annie feel similarly. “You only need to talk to the founders or any employee to see that we are passionate about the game and keeping people engaged with a fun and rewarding pastime for years to come,” said Jon. “While we may seem to move slow, it is not because of a lack of desire to improve things, only that we are a lot smaller than people know. I see our purpose to be good custodians of the game and provide the tools and means for people to have and share these experiences and adventures.”

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A company photo taken last summer.

Sixteen years later, Geocaching HQ remains a strong, independent organization on a mission to enable adventure, exploration, and discovery. We are led by our original founders and we have no outside investors or influences who would maximize profits at the expense of the game. 

Annie said, “The community creates the game. We want to create the best tools to play it.”

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Have questions about Geocaching HQ? Post them in the comments below.

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Petrified Forest- Route 66—Geocache of the Week

Traditional
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by PEFO Ranger
Difficulty:
2.5
Terrain:
1
Location:
Petrified Forest National Park, United States
N 35° 03.067 W 109° 48.319

Today is the US National Park Service’s 100th Birthday! In addition to the NPS offering free entry into all National Parks this weekend, Geocaching HQ has created a Find Your Park GeoTour where you can explore geocaches placed by the National Park Service and their partners.

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We want to highlight a fun, car-themed geocache that was hidden by a Ranger in Petrified Forest National Park. Besides, what’s more American than a road trip on Route 66?

Made popular by the Nat King Cole Trio song “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66” and the 1960’s TV Series, Route 66, the road spans from Santa Monica, California to Chicago, Illinois. Along Route 66, you can visit Petrified Forest National Park, which was established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. Petrified Forest National Park was created to protect large deposits of petrified wood and other fossils from the Triassic Period, which makes this park Dino-Mite! Over 10,000 years of human history can be found in the park, including over 800 archeological and historical sites.

Things to know about the geocache:

  • There is an old car sitting in the roadbed of the previous road.
  • This place is a popular spot to visit, so watch out for muggles taking pictures!
  • This is a “TNLN” geocache, which means “Take Nothing; Leave Nothing”. Bring a pen, sign the log, and save your cool swag and trackables for a different geocaching experience.
  • Please respect the rules and regulations of the park and the resources it was established to protect.

While you’re in Petrified National Forest, check out other caches the PEFO Ranger has hidden:

Thanks PEFO Ranger for hiding some super fun and informative caches and also for serving our National Park Service.

And I’ll leave you with a seemingly relevant dinosaur joke:

What do you call it when a dinosaur has a car accident?

A Tyrannosaurus wreck!

Make sure to share your experience with the community by using the hashtags #FindYourPark and #Geocaching while on your National Parks adventure this weekend.

Continue to explore some of the most amazing geocaches around the world.
Check out all of the Geocaches of the Week on the Geocaching blog. If you would like to nominate a Geocache of the Week, fill out this form.

GeocachingRoadtrip

GeoTour Spotlight: Heritage Hide’n’Seek in Ontario

GeoTour Name:

Heritage Hide’n’Seek

Location:

Northern Ontario, Canada

Number of Favorite Points:

143

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Photos by S. Hansen.

You remember the first time you took your kids geocaching like it was yesterday. Their excitement at finding the cache and rifling through the goodies it contained was likely what kept your family looking for more geocaches. But now your babies are off to college or university. As they spread their wings and take flight, they will be putting to use the skills and lessons you taught them over the years.

Geocaching may have taught your family some things to, such as persistence. If at first you don’t find the cache… take a deep breath, review the description and the hint, and keep looking. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help, either. Geocache owners and geocachers who have previously found the cache are happy to help. Most importantly geocaching creates a sense of belonging, whether it be simple family bonding or feeling part of the world-wide community of geocachers.

So, as you pack your car to take your big kid to college or university, why not re-live those joyous memories and go geocaching together one last time by making a road trip out of it. There may even be a GeoTour along the route, which will let you earn a prize for your efforts.

For example, if you are heading to Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, participate in the Heritage Hide’n’Seek GeoTour. Here are some geocaches which may appeal to students going into various programs:

We’d love to hear about your geocaching experiences as you head off to college or university this fall. Why not share them with us?!

What geocachers have said:

Jakehound mentioned he was “In Thunder Bay to drop my son off for school & had a few hours on a beautiful Saturday morning to get some caching in…enjoyed the adventure. TFTH

Clodhoppers found HHS-What’s in a Name and wrote: “Went to Thunder Bay to pick up our son and take him home for the summer. He is attending Lakehead University. He took us to some sites while we were there. When he was younger he used to enjoy caching. TFTC.

Additional Information:

Logo_GeoTours_Main_vFINAL_060116_1200x950_150dpiFind more about the Heritage Hide’n’Seek GeoTour here.

Note: All the above information was provided by the GeoTour host. Copy has been edited by Geocaching HQ.