Editor’s note: Geocaching HQ staff are joining geocachers at Mega-Events around the world to celebrate and share the adventure of geocaching. Amy Faulkner, attended the 11th Annual Geocaching Hampton Roads Picnic (GC42NJJ). This is Amy’s account of her trip.
I recently traveled across the country from Geocaching HQ in Seattle, WA to Newport News, VA to attend the 11th Annual Geocaching Hampton Roads Picnic (GC42NJJ). This Mega-Event looked really interesting from the get-go but I certainly had no idea what a trip I was in for.
Upon arrival Friday evening for the event’s Meet & Greet (GC4FDA7), I was barely in the parking lot of the event venue when I was asked by a fellow geocacher to stop my car so they could take a picture of the trackable code I had placed on the window. As weird as this may sound, it was a refreshing welcome to the event and it gave me the comforting feeling that even though I was 3000 miles from home I was right where I belonged. The excitement as I walked in to the event only grew. I met the event organizers (more on them later) and attendees from all over the United States. I listened to some great geocaching stories and received my awesome registration pack that included a lunch tote, a t-shirt, a water bottle, a pen with a stylus, a geocaching hat and so much more. I had so much fun, but this was merely a glimpse of what was in store.
At the end of the event I set out for dinner with some fellow geocachers that are also the worldwide geocaching community reviewers for North Carolina and Tennessee. Although I had not met MonkeyBrad, NCReviewer and Dogwood_Reviewer before, we had exchanged a few emails prior to the event and decided that we would grab some dinner afterward.
Occasionally around Geocaching HQ or out in the game you hear that “geocaching makes the world smaller.” I have heard this in regards to folks getting out and exploring places they normally wouldn’t have and geocachers exchanging stories about similar experiences they have had in finding the same cache, but what happened at the random restaurant we chose for dinner is one of those exemplary stories that you almost can’t believe. Picture this: as the group of us sit down to dinner, our waiter approaches the table in the overly exuberant waiter style and introduces himself. He’s super friendly, he tells us the specials, asks for our drink order, makes a suggestion on a good beer to try and heads off to obtain the drinks. As he returns with the beverages, he inquires as to why so many of us at the table have on geocaching shirts. This was quite observant on his part as we were not sitting there in matching uniforms but in various different geocaching shirts.
We explained that we were in town for the event. We discussed with him where each of us traveled from and then, when the waiter did not ask us what geocaching was we inquired if he was a geocacher. Read carefully, here’s where it gets interesting… Our waiter then tells us nonchalantly that he’s “been a few times” and he continues to tell us that he once found a geocache in Chattanooga, Tennessee that required him to paddle out to it and he was one of only 40 some people to find it since it was placed in 2006.
Around this time I happened to glance across the table at MonkeyBrad to see a perplexed look on his face. He asked the waiter if the name of the cache was Island Booty and the waiter enthusiastically said yes. MonkeyBrad then explained that he was the co-owner of that geocache and the entire table erupted in laughter and cheer and sounds of disbelief that our waiter, who barely identified himself as a geocacher, had such a great and vivid story that he shared with us in the middle of Virginia about an elusive geocache that he found in Tennessee.
After a great dinner and a lot of geocaching stories we turned in for the night with great anticipation of what the next day and the big event would bring.
The morning started off with an event called a Muffin-A-Go-Go II (GC4AF43) right outside the camping area at Newport News Park. As geocachers arrived they would grab a brown bag that included the muffin flavor of their choice. My muffin bag simply included a muffin (it was delicious) but some also included special instructions that challenged the muffin holder to participate in some of the big event’s activities. I did not have the luxury of spending a lot of time at this event as I had to get over to the main area and assist with the setup of the Lab Caches that were going to be tested at this event.
Newport News Park is a park rich with history. Many Civil War battles took place in the park including the Battle of Big Bethel and the Battle or Burnt Chimneys. The organizers of the event set up the Lab Caches to take geocachers on a journey through the park while learning about its history. In addition to the Lab Caches, there was a plethora of activities from an Ammo Can Toss, a GeoSurvivor competition for teams of two and an egg hunt that tested a participants’ pure luck in choosing an egg that contained the coordinates for a cache that could possibly contain a prize. There were also a few works of art and pure craftsmanship that blew me away. The event’s photo wall and the handmade giant picnic basket event log simply cannot go without mention.
The community volunteer reviewers and I sat on a panel discussion in the afternoon which really started some great conversation about the game that continued on throughout the day with everyone I chatted with. I had so many great conversations and met so many amazing people it truly made the event memorable, but the real heroes in creating such an awesome event were the “purple shirts” that organized the event and ensured that everyone had a good time and felt like part of their geocaching family. I’m excited to go back next year.