Living just over an hour away West Bend, Wisconsin, the Geocaching Capitol of the Midwest™, a geocaching paradise is quite literally in our back yard. With over 800 registered geocache containers hidden within a 15-mile radius of downtown, West Bend is a fantastic area to try out the sport or see how many finds you can get in one day. With caches ranging from winter-friendly to kid-friendly, challenging, and accessible only by boat, West Bend offers something for everyone.
A few weeks ago now, West Bent put on its 4th annual West Bend $1000 Cache Ba$h™ weekend—a geocaching mega event—we booked a hotel room, recruited some friends, and headed west. With 604 teams from near and far logging their attendance, the $1000 Cache Ba$h easily met the criteria for the mega-event (500 or more teams simultaneously logging in at a geocaching event). One of seven 2011 mega-events in the United States and 15 in the world, the West Bend event calls Regner Community Park its permanent “ground zero” (some mega events like GeoWoodstock move locations from year-to-year).
Upon registering at the Regner Community Park pavilion, participating teams were given an official program, playing card, and entry forms for geogolf, geocacher bingo, and a voting ballot for the Creative Cache Container Contest. Named the $1,000 Cache Ba$h because of the $1,000 in cash and additional prizes awarded on the second day, raffle tickets are awarded to teams based on the number of finds (the sixty-six new geocaches launched for the 2011 event contained a stamp or code word to be recorded on the playing card and verified by official event volunteers for additional tickets).
With planned opportunities to be social (like swapping pathtags and trackables at the Friday night “meet and greet” ), the stealth and mystery normally associated with geocaching was mostly impossible with 1300 other people crawling through the woods following the same coordinates entered on your GPS device. Despite a mostly rainy forecast, poncho-laden masses of people were seen heading, single-file, into and out of the woods. This photo (taken moments before Mother Nature pulled the plug on the giant bathtub in the sky) shows one team waiting for another to sign, stamp, and re-hide an otherwise cleverly-hidden container as our team gets in line.
Having never attended a mega event, and an otherwise social person, we loved the opportunity to meet other geocaching families and talk to people from neighboring states and halfway around the world. Side events, including a post-bash party at an area pub and grill and a Sunday morning pancake breakfast hosted by the Wisconsin Geocaching Association added to the weekend festivities.
While waiting for the prize drawings and group photo, the kids snacked on popcorn and tried their luck at opening the treasure chest. Vendors from Magellan, Geomate.jr, Leave No Trace, and Firemonkee’s Cache Closet had tents and tables, and Groundpseak had even sent a Lackey away from Lilypad for the weekend. A weekend to remember, and plan for in 2012, we are proud to have the West Bend $1000 Cache Ba$h mega event souvenir on our team profile. For more information, here’s a link to my pre-event story in the Wisconsin State Journal. You can also find West Bend Cache Ba$h on Facebook and Twitter.