If you have done much Geocaching around middle Tennessee, you have probably seen one name coming up over and over again. If you are one of the lucky ones, you knew him and got to enjoy his signature charm and insights firsthand; even if you never met him, I guarantee you have felt his influence. When it comes to geocaching, there is a reason Joe “JoGPS” Armstrong was known as “The Godfather”.
As well-known as Joe was locally, you may not know just how much he influenced the overall game itself. JoGPS was a true “founding father” in Geocaching and his contributions are nothing short of legendary. His enthusiasm and passion for Geocaching and the meta game gave him a unique perspective and voice in crafting what would become many of the standards we now hold dear. His contributions to Geocaching are so vast and diverse that even trying to create a comprehensive list is nearly impossible, as he did so much, but we will try to hit some of the high points:
Building a Community...
As much as he gave to the game from behind the curtain, he began his service to his fellow geocachers as a player. In 2001, he contacted as many local geocachers as he could and put together a meeting at Warner Parks, (at that time there was no such thing as a “Geocaching Event” type) so people could put faces with the names they kept seeing in logbooks. That first get together on a cold day in January was the founding of the Middle Tennessee Geocachers Club, the second oldest geocaching group in the world. He never served as a club officer, preferring a position “behind the scenes” as parks liaison. Joe worked closely with many parks departments on the state and local level during his entire career, but his early works to create responsible geocaching policies with land managers created a template that many still follow today. In 2001, rather than accepting a ban on geocaches in Nashville’s MetroParks, Joe worked with them to create one of the first official Geocaching positive policies with a major metropolitan parks system. He then built on this success to replicate this geocaching-friendly system with Tennessee State Parks, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and TVA, and in doing so, helped to create a framework for parks policies across the country.
Giving Back To Geocaching...
Early on, Bryan, Hydee and Jeremy at Geocaching HQ recognized Joe for his enthusiasm and service to his local community. His work with local parks systems led to his appointment as one of the first Geocaching volunteer reviewers, a role that he enjoyed for many years. During these formative years, when the game was evolving rapidly, his keen insights into the game and human nature helped to craft and advise many of the guidelines and standards that we take for granted today. In addition to reviewing geocaches across the world and serving as a moderator in the forums, he was also instrumental in helping to choose, recruit and mentor a great many of the current volunteer reviewers. Reading through the guidelines, you can see his legacy in many places, from the creation of new geocache types to the 528 foot distance between caches, Joe was there. He had an amazing ability to foresee the direction the game would go and highlight issues in his own inimitable way. Like the time he placed caches at every exhibit in Nashville’s Grassmere Zoo, to point out that cache density was becoming an issue and there was no guideline that said he couldn’t; which eventually lead to all geocaches being at least 1/10th of a mile apart. Joe was always pushing the envelope and finding loopholes. With the best interests of the game at heart, he challenged us and Geocaching HQ to be better.
A Master Hider...
For most geocachers today, JoGPS is known for the creativity he exhibited in the caches he made, for himself and others. When you think of great geocache hiders in the Southeast you think of JoGPS and his Geo-Mojo series, including the most favorited geocache in Tennessee, Geo Mojo 6: Shadow of the Titans. In a day when you can order fake bolts and other “evil” cache containers from websites, it is truly amazing to look back 17 years and recognize just how many of these concepts originated in his workshop. The man was an absolute artist when it came to metalworking and it showed in his caches. It is a truly rare individual who can, not only, conceive of such remarkably deceptive caches, but who also has the ability to bring them to flawless execution. Whether it is the amazingly crafted container, the history of the spot or a stunning location, seeking an original JoGPS cache is always a treat.
In addition to creating his own amazing geocaches, Joe also worked to preserve the history of the game, often adopting older caches and then passing them along to new stewards. His preservation and recovery efforts saved many historic geocaches from archival over the years, including the recovery and revival of the “Southern Bowl” Project A.P.E cache in the jungles of Intervales, Brazil.
Joe was a strong believer in geocaching events as the best way to build community within the game. At events, Joe always extended a handshake and a welcome to nervous newcomers and old-timers alike. So it comes as no surprise that the guy who was organizing geocaching events before they were a cache type, was successful when he decided to create a “different” kind of event. In 2003, Joe put together GeoWoodstock, as a way to bring the most prolific cachers from around the country together to share stories and ideas. That relatively small event grew to become the world’s first Mega-Event and the first Giga-Event in the US, in addition to many other “firsts” such as, the world’s first event geocoin.
A Life Too Cool...
It is not possible to recount everything that Joe has done for his fellow cachers or the game, but I hope that this incomplete list will do some justice to his contributions. He was a force of nature, willful, stubborn, but with a good heart and a love for this game and community that cannot be questioned. I hope that as you’ve read this, a few smiles crossed your face. I know many of you have your own stories to tell and memories to share, so I'll sign off with this thought. Joe held himself and the rest of us to a high standard as he explored many paths trying to find what the game would become. He played the game within the game like few others, and even if you didn’t like him, you had to respect him. He was truly an institution and we are diminished by his loss, but he leaves a great legacy within the game and many friends; and that, as the man himself would say, is “Too Cool”.
Logging this virtual...
In order to log this virtual cache you MUST post a photo of yourself or your gps inside “the halo” and answer the following 5 questions. If you desire, you MAY choose to share a “Joe Story” of your own or post some pics of you and the Godfather. This is entirely optional, but if you have a memory, it would be too cool of you to share it.
1. Who was known as the “Godfather”?
A. JoGPS B. Joe Armstrong C. All of the above
2. What is the second oldest Geocaching Organization in the world?
A. Georgia Geocaching Association B. Middle Tennessee Geocaching Club C. TOM Creative Group
3. Why did Joe place caches at every exhibit at the Nashville Zoo?
A. To highlight proximity issues. B. Because he could. C. All of the above
4. Where did Joe travel to recover the Southern Bowl APE Cache?
A. Snoqualmie Pass, Washington B. Intervales, Brazil C. Chicago, Illinois
5. When did Joe organize GeoWoodstock?
A. 334 BC B. 2003 C. All of the above
Virtual Reward - 2017/2018
This Virtual Cache is part of a limited release of Virtuals created between August 24, 2017 and August 24, 2018. Only 4,000 cache owners were given the opportunity to hide a Virtual Cache. Learn more about Virtual Rewards on the Geocaching Blog.