September 6-8

Woodbooger Geocaching Events – Norton, VA

Day One

  • 57 geocaches found – 52 mystery caches as part of new geoart and 5 traditionals
  • 11 FTFs (First to Find)
  • 1 event attended
  • 1 event cohosted

The Woodbooger weekend has become one of my favorite times of year. Held annually in Norton, VA, this is a series of geocaching events a, new geotrail each year, and lots of great fun planned by the Woodbooger Crew – many of whom are members of New Cache Order (nCo).

2019 marked the third year for this awesome weekend, and as with the past two years I made plans to camp at the Flag Rock Campground on the mountain above Norton.

Sometime during the preceding week, Yumahokie (Karen) sent out a message to nCo members saying, “Who is going up to Woodbooger Country Friday morning to log the geo-art?” I had a decision to make. I had just had Monday off for Labor Day. Going up on Friday would mean missing another day of work during a very busy time of year in my office. It didn’t take long to decide. I was all in.

I had told Rudekoolaid (Angela) that she could ride and camp with me for the weekend. She was happy to go early, so I made plans to pick her up at her home Friday morning at 7:45. We were to meet Karen in Norton at 9:00 to be ready for the new geoart to publish.

Geoart is a series of geocaches that, once found, created a piece of art on your geocaching map. Typically, the caches are not placed in their position on the map. Instead, they are puzzle or mystery caches that you must solve in order to learn the actual location.

Completed Geoart on my map.

We arrived in Norton a few minutes before 9:00 and met Karen at a fast food restaurant. As we walked in, my phone started notifying me of the new caches that were publishing. There were 52 new ones in all. We sat down in the restaurant and ate a quick breakfast while figuring out the answers to the multiple-choice questions for each new cache. All of the questions had to do with the history of geocaching or terms related to geocaching.

Once we had them solved, we piled into Karen’s vehicle with a plan. She would drive, Angela would navigate, and I would “jump” – get out at each location, find and log the cache. We decided to call ourselves Team RAY (rudekoolaid, antbedy, and yumahokie) so I simply wrote “RAY” on each log sheet. At a few of the locations, either Angela or Karen would get out to help me look.

We were FTF (first to find) on nine of the geoart caches. There were several other teams and individuals also out searching, so we tried to avoid following anyone else’s route. Occasionally we ran into some of the other cachers at a cache. It was good to see caching friends and meet new friends as well. It was a day full of laughter and fun.

We stopped on the campus of UVA Wise to have some lunch in the student center. There was a traditional cache right outside, and we spent more than a few minutes looking for it before Karen came up with the find.

Along the way we logged a few additional traditional caches that were on our route, including a couple of new ones that had not been found yet. We finished in time to drive up to the campground and claim a campsite for the weekend before heading to the first event.

We had planned to camp in the spot right next to the bath houses where we have stayed the last two years. In fact, we had an event scheduled there for later that evening. However, someone had beaten us there and claimed that spot, so we had to take the one next to it. This turned out to be a spot with more space for the crowd we expected later, but we were afraid it might cause some confusion for folks coming to the event and expecting it to be at the other site.

Hosting this event had fallen on us by default. Our good friend BackWoodsAng (Ang) had planned to host it. However, on Wednesday he had contacted Karen and I to let us know he was in the hospital! Late Monday night he had collided with a deer while riding his motorcycle. The deer did not survive, but thankfully Ang did. He spent several days in the hospital being treated for a broken clavicle, some puncture wounds, and a lot of nasty road rash.

To be honest, when he first sent me the message, I thought he was kidding. Once I realized he was serious, I was very concerned, and more than willing to take over hosting the event for him. we would miss having him around for the weekend, but were just glad he was alive!

Back at the camp site, we hung Angela’s nCo flag to signify the location of the event. I texted Ang and asked him to put announcements on the cache page to guide people to the right location.

Flag marking event location

We then drove over to the location for the first event of the evening, a cookout hosted by the Woodbooger Crew. They had prepared hamburgers, hotdogs, chili, baked beans, potato salad and yummy homemade deserts. There were probably 90 to 100 people there, and still food left over.

The organizers invited people to come forward and tell their funniest geocaching stories. A cacher I had met earlier in the day, half of millasmommies12, was the winner by far. She told a hilarious tale of their misadventures going for a cache while on an RV trip. It involved getting stuck in the mud, having to spend the night on some deserted road, and paying dearly to have the RV towed out the next morning. She was a great storyteller, and had everyone rolling with laughter.

My story had garnered a fair amount of laughter and applause, and my friend sewatt (Sally) decided I deserved a second place prize. It was a beautiful tapestry throw that came in very handy later that night when the temperature dropped.

Angela, Karen and I left the cookout a little early to get ready for our event at the campground. By this time Melissa (one third of the caching team Mandalorian Steelers) had joined us. She was also going to camp with us for the night.

Back at the campground, I got a fire started using the wood that VA_Woodbooger had delivered for us. I knew my mother, the ultimate fire starter, would have been proud of my fire building skills.

Starting the fire

People began to gather well ahead of the published start time of 9:00 pm and I was glad we had made an early exit from the cookout. Karen left soon after the start, as she was spending the night at home. Throughout the rest of the evening, cachers came and went, about 70 in all. 54 caching profiles logged that they were in attendance, and some of those are teams of two or more cachers.

Eventually the crowd dispersed, and it was just Angela, Melissa and me left. I had already prepared my bed in the camper of my truck, and had set up a bed in the cab as well. The back seats of my truck fold down, providing nearly as much sleeping space as a double bed. This was where Melissa was planning to sleep. We both invited Angela to join us, but she insisted that she would sleep by the fire in her zero gravity chair.

As I mentioned earlier, I grew cold during the night, and took advantage of the extra warmth provided by the throw Sally had given me. I was sleeping soundly when I felt a tapping on my head a little after 3:00. I awoke to find Angela asking if she could crawl in with me. She had heard something howling and decided she wanted a little more protection than sleeping by the fire. We slept well the rest of the night, and woke up ready for another busy day.

Day Two

  • 2 events
  • 24 geocaches found
  • 1 FTF (First to Find)

We all woke the next morning feeling refreshed, and Melissa drove us down the mountain to downtown Norton for the day’s activities. We arrived at the farmer’s market just in time for the third event of the weekend, a kick-off at the Farmer’s Market. The Woodbooger Crew handed out passports for us to use as we hunted caches on the new geo-trail. Each cache would have a code word written inside the logbook or on the log sheet that we would need to enter on our passport to show we had found it. The completed passports would earn us a custom geocoin.

Everyone milled about, anxiously waiting for the new caches to publish at 9:30. As the notifications started rolling in on our phones, Team MS RAY (Mandalorian Steelers (represented by Melissa), Rudekoolaid, antbedy and Yumahokie) set out in Karen’s car in search of caches.

The caches for this year’s event had been created by many different geocachers, many of which are members of nCo. Karen knew exactly where to find the cache built by BackWoodsAng and we headed directly there to be first to find it.

Ang had built a huge structure to house his cache. He had just loaded it on his truck with the help of LakeBum (Rob) on Monday and delivered it to Norton. It was after returning home that evening that he had his deer encounter.

SPOILER ALERT! The following paragraphs and photos describe some of the caches we found in detail. If you have not yet found them and don’t want to spoil the fun, scroll down until you see SAFE TO READ AGAIN!

The door was secured with a padlock, and we used the combination provided to open it. I volunteered to be the one to crawl inside to retrieve the cache. As I entered, I immediately saw an ammo can in front of me. I grabbed it and opened it only to find a note that said “STRIKE ONE”. I laughed, showed it to the others and set it aside. On a shelf above it was a second ammo can. Upon opening it I read, “STRIKE TWO”. Clever, Ang. I turned back toward the opening and saw another shelf above the door I had entered through. On it was a huge metal ammo can. I lifted it down, opened it, and finally found the log book and swag. This was just the first of many fun caches we would find throughout the day.

Our next stop was for the cache that I had created. I had used an idea I got from a mystery cache in Bermuda. My cache was called “Shake it Like a Polaroid Picture”. To learn the coordinates for the cache, finders had to click on a photo on the cache page. This takes them to another page with a photo that looks like an undeveloped Polaroid picture. Code is embedded in that picture that allows another picture to appear when you shake your phone. It only works on cell phones, so users are warned to not pick up their home computer or laptop and shake it.

I had tested this on a few different versions of iPhones, and had asked friends with Androids to test it on their phones as well. It worked in all the tests, although some models of iPhones required some of the settings to be changed. Unfortunately, some folks still had problems with it the day of the event, but there were plenty of people around to help out those who couldn’t make it work or who were caching with a GPSr unit rather than a phone.

A member of the Woodbooger Crew, mtnmanva, had built a nice wooden box for my cache to reside in. Once the finder used the combination to open the box, they found a Polaroid camera inside. The log book was inside the camera in the film compartment. Folks who had used this kind of camera in the past had an easy time accessing the log book. For those who didn’t, I had printed out the instruction Polaroid provided for changing the film.

My favorite photo of the day – new photo technology vs old.
Photo courtesy of Karen Davidson

Also included with the cache was a box full of swag – multiple copies of ten different photographs printed to look like Polaroid pictures of the Woodbooger himself having fun in a nearby park.

I had come to Norton a few weeks before and met up with biblemanrick (Rick) who gamely donned the furry Woodbooger costume on a sweltering hot afternoon for a photo shoot. A group of us had a great time coming up with different activities for the Woodbooger to be doing – swinging, playing basketball, sliding, playing hopscotch, lifting a lamp skirt to look for a geocache, etc. Karen had come up with another great idea that day, and several cachers sat along a rock wall staring at the cell phones, looking oblivious as the Woodbooger walked past.

Swag pictures
Photo courtesy of BeautifulRacket

The swag seemed to be a big hit with many of the folks who found the cache. Some chose a favorite picture or two while others opted to collect the complete set. Fortunately, I had printed enough to last all day. when I visited Norton several weeks later, I checked in on the cache and there were still several photos available for cachers who weren’t able to participate in the weekend’s events.

The third cache we visited used a Pac Man theme. The creator had built a maze on a swivel and finders were required to turn it this way and that to maneuver small balls through to the opening at the end. Once they had retrieved the three balls, they had to count the number of teeth on each one to determine the three digits for the combination log that would allow them to access the log book.

Solving the Pac Man puzzle.
Photo courtesy of Melissa Davenport

Whenever a cacher with a premium membership finds a geocache, they have the opportunity to award it a favorite point if they really liked it. The Woodbooger Crew kept track of the number of favorite points awarded throughout the day, and that evening gave a prize to the creator of the cache with the most favorite points. There were many great caches to choose from, but this Pac Man cache deservedly won the most points. I was proud to learn that my cache came in second!

As I said, there were many more great caches to be found in the geotrail. I am not going to go into detail on any of the others, as it would take forever to finish this post. However, here is a gallery of some of my favorite photos of the day. As you can see, my geocaching friends, including Pete and Signal, make great models!

SAFE TO READ AGAIN!

After completing all of the caches in downtown Norton, we made our way up the mountain toward Flag Rock. By this time, Karen had left to attend a family wedding so it was just Melissa, Angela and me.

We passed up three of the caches that were along the road up the mountain, instead driving to the parking area for the reservoir. From here we began a hike that took us down to and around the reservoir.

At this point, I must explain a little bit of my friend Angela’s background. On January 7 of this year, Angela suffered a major stroke. There are all kinds of God-things about her story that are better saved for another telling. Suffice to say that she was in the right place at the right time to get the immediate medical intervention she needed to make a huge difference in the amount of damage done by the stroke. Regardless, did not believe she would be able to walk again or perform many normal activities.

After 24 days in the hospital and a rehab center, Angela walked out under her own power. She has done outpatient therapy in the months since and made huge improvements. She told her therapists that she had no desire to walk on a treadmill, but that if they took her geocaching, she would walk all they wanted. They also allowed her to use solving geocaching puzzles to improve her cognitive skills.

Angela still has limited use of her right arm, and uses a cane while walking for stability. However, she joined us in hiking almost a mile on the reservoir trails in search of caches. This was not on nicely paved, level trails, but on rugged paths filled with rocks and roots that threaten to trip up the most able-bodied hikers. She is a warrior!

Rudekoolaid – the Warrior!

When we reached the far point of the reservoir, I knew that crossing the dam to the other side would take us up some steep and more challenging terrain. I encouraged Melissa and Angela to retrace their path back toward parking while I crossed over to log the caches on the other side of the reservoir.

Indeed the terrain was steep on this side of the reservoir. I met a few other cachers along the way, and we all moaned about the heat and the steep trail. But the caches were worth visiting, especially this one – a film canister in the woods:

One of the caches on this side of the reservoir required two people to open. However, I am resourceful, and managed to open it on my own. I won’t divulge my secrets here, but if you are really curious I will share privately. I later noticed in reading the online logs that another cacher I know also managed to open it on his own. I messaged him, curious about his method. It was different from mine but equally effective.

As I was logging the last cache, I got a text from Angela asking if I was nearly finished. She and Melissa were already back at the car. I wondered how they beat me since I was really hustling. I learned once I got back that they had gotten a ride up the hill from the reservoir to parking.

We drove to the Flag Rock area to log some more of the new caches. There were more fun caches there, including this one called “Boogity, boogity”:

Ethel! Don’t Look!
Photo courtesy of Melissa Davenport

We also took time to take photos with the Woodbooger statue.

Hey Woodie! Look at the camera!

By the time we had finished here, it was nearing time to return to the Farmer’s Market for the wrap up of the morning’s events. First, we stopped at the entrance to the recreation area to log one more cache for the day – the one built by Angela. It was not a gadget cache as many others were, but it was important to her to create something of her own design. Her cache was named “You Can Do It” which is the attitude that has helped her make such amazing progress in her recovery.

We skipped the last three caches along the road back down the mountain for the time being. We had enough points on our passports to claim our coins, and decided to leave those caches for the next day.

Back at the farmer’s market, we collected our beautiful coins and then did a little shopping with the vendors. We then waited for door prizes to be awarded. I would estimate that 75% or more of the people present won a door prize. Area businesses and individuals had donated a ton of merchandise for them to give out. I ended up with a lovely bottle of Big Foot wine.

Pete and Signal earned their geocoins!

We had not eaten lunch, opting to just snack throughout the day so that we could keep caching. The evening event at the Woodbooger Grill was not set to begin until 6:00 and it was not quite 5:00. Knowing how busy the restaurant gets during events, we decided to go early and eat before the event started. We weren’t the only ones that did this. The back rooms were already full of geocachers.

Melissa left for home after eating, so Angela and I had to hitch a ride back up the mountain to our camp site. Fortunately, our friends Reis’s Pieces (Scott, Amy and their two kids) were on our way up and glad to give us a ride. I got to ride in the back of the truck with their dog. She wasn’t much of a conversationalist, so I found myself talking to myself during the ride.

Back at the campsite I started a fire again. Our friend SpongeBob Cachepants (Kelly) came over and sat around the fire with us chatting well into the night. Since Melissa was gone, Angela took her place sleeping in the truck cab and I slept in the camper.

Day Three

  • 1 event
  • 3 geocaches
  • 1 epic travel bug delivered

Sunday morning dawned on another beautiful day. We broke camp – which is much easier to do when you are truck camping rather than tent camping – and drove up to Flag Rock for the last event of the weekend.

This was a Cache In Trash Out (CITO) event – an opportunity to give back to the community that had welcomed us for the weekend. The 35 or so people in attendance picked up several bags full of trash. Collecting the most was one of the youngest in attendance. She won a prize for having the fullest bag.

The cleanup crew
Even the Woodbooger is a good citizen.
Photo courtesy of Kelly Moore

After the event, Angela and I made our way back down the mountain, logging the caches we had missed the day before.

How to Catch a Woodbooger

During the previous days events, we had agreed to take with us one of the larger trackable items left behind by other cachers. This was a three foot tall plaster leg from a Santa mannequin.

As we were driving home, Angela and I cooked up a scheme. We would drop this trackable at Ang’s house. We decided that since his leg was in such bad shape from the accident, we would offer him a new one.

We stopped at Food City and bought a bouquet of flowers, balloons, a duck skeleton (because he loves little rubber duckies), and a stick of beef jerky on which we wrote “Deer Jerky.” All week he had been telling people who asked if he needed or wanted anything, Ang would tell them, “deer jerky.” We used the hollow leg like a vase for the flowers and arranged everything else around that.

We pulled into Ang’s driveway and called to let him know we were there. He came out to meet us and seemed to be touched that we had thought of him. Ang loves a good giant trackable dump more than anyone, so this was the perfect opportunity to pass one along to him.

When I dropped Angela off at home, we were both exhausted but had had an epic weekend. I’m already looking forward to next year’s events.

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