This page and the history is a continuing work in progress. From what I can see there is not a clear identifiable trail in the old forums of the “who’s, what’s, where’s, why’s and when’s” of how the Northern Virginia Geocaching Organization was formed. I started this project on December 31, 2018 and plan to keep adding to it over the years. – Awesnap
Legend has it (as told by Bocco) is that the idea for NoVAGO may have started forming in 2005 when Jennifer and Ron Smetek (TeamRJJOCA), Dave Prebeck (rufnredy), Amanda Deen (BAJA Clan), and Marty Larson (flyingmoose) teamed to take on Blood & Guts. Networkcacher and Flydad may also have been involved.
The NoVAGO geocaching.com profile page was created on January 12, 2006 and The CITO at Scott’s Run held on January 21, 2006 was the very first formal event conducted under the new NoVAGO banner. Over the course of 2006 the NoVAGO that we know today was formed. Robert Kilimowski (robert) of the MGS (and former reviewer) built the NoVAGO website. When he created novago.org, he made it similar to the Maryland Geocaching Society’s website which he also designed. By the end of 2006 bylaws were laid down, and a vote for officers was held, and NoVAGO we know now was Officially Established on January 1, 2007.
The 2007 NoVAGO meeting minutes are the first mention of this organization hosting Quarterly Pot Lucks. These became the Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter events. These would be placed in varying locations in Northern Virginia and alternate between Saturday and Sunday giving everyone a chance to attend.
NoVAGO’s first logo appeared in the forums in late 2006, as well a second logo with a cardinal. I asked Bocco about the logo and they replied “The officers posted a thread on the NoVAGO website for a competition for the logo. My design was inspired by the high number of puzzle caches in Northern Virginia. The counties of the NoVAGO region are represented as a puzzle piece. The “O” is a compass rose which is intended to symbolize the navigation required for Geocaching. I made up the slogan, “Caching the Capital Region and beyond.” The cardinal is mine. It is the Virginia state bird, so I thought it would be fun to turn it into a geocacher.”
Sometime in before 2007 there was a vote to find out what the best geocaches were in Northern Virginia 2001-2005. This vote appears to be pre-novago.org website and there is much known or written in the forums, but there is a bookmark list of the results. In February of 2007 NoVAGO opened the nominations for the best caches of 2006. This was the start of the Cache Awards as we know them today. To see a list of NoVAGO Cache Award winners please visit this LINK.
In 2009 NoVAGO united some of it’s best cache hiders and put together it’s first Annual Series.
The “2009 NoVAGO 12 Days of Cachemas” was inspired by the 2008 Cachemas series in Richmond, VA and headed by Cphug184 who described the event like this “Starting December 25th through January 5th, NoVAGO cachers will release a daily cache each of which will have a clue to the final 13th cache. Each cache will be patterned along the lines of the 12 Days of Christmas song. No cache will be more than a 3 Terrain and 3 Difficulty. Caches can be of any type (puzzle, multi, traditional) and size. The locations range from all over NoVAGO-land. West (Plains/Marshall), North (Algonkian) East (Old Town Riverfront) and South (Lorton) and places in between. Inspired by a similar series in Richmond. Look for the caches put out by 12 NoVAGO cachers starting December 25th!”
Also the idea of NoVAGO’s first geocoin started forming in the forums in 2009. Flying Moose, WWCD, Sue Cat (of Team Vinny & Sue), Gaiterman, and Bocco all had a hand in working on the coin project. The 2009 the coin had funding, a creative direction, and Bocco started creating the artwork by October of that year. The artwork for the front of the coin was first shown on the NoVAGO forums in December of 2010. It had already been decided that the back side of the coin would be used to create a puzzle cache and would not be shown until it was “in your hand.” On February 28, 2011 the new coin shipment of 250 geocoins was delivered and went on sale at the Going Green (St. Patty’s Eve) at $10 each. The mystery cache associated with this new coin was called the NoVAGO Coin Cache and it was published on the 29th of that month in Fairfax, VA.
For years Prince William Forest Park was adamant against geocaches being placed in the park. Around June of 2011 Reedkickball worked a deal with park authorities where only NoVAGO could place and maintain geocaches in PWFP. In July of 2011 the summer event Camping Event at PWFP was held in the park and seven geocaches were published with it. A few years later in 2014 DerekTiffany and Chaseclan2.3 worked with the park to add 6 more geocaches.
In November of 2014 NoVAGO’s first pathtag was released. It was designed by DePhogration and LPYankeefan of the Maryland Geocaching Society worked to secure The Geocoin Store’s support in producing it. The success of the first tag led to a contest to design the second coin in March of the next year. That contest closed in April of 2015 with Awesnap’s design “A nod to the beautiful Occoquan River” winning with 63% of the votes.
Five years after it’s first united caching series, Cachemas was brought back again with The Twelve Days of Cachemas 2014. It was this series that started the organization into hosting a yearly annual series. As of 2018 there have been six series placed including a Murder Mystery, How the Grinch Stole Cachemas, Survivor, and a Tributes series. To learn more about NoVAGO’s past annual series go to this LINK.
In 2016 new NoVAGO president K8Ydd first act was to have NoVAGO start sponsoring quarterly CITO’s. With more environmentally focused events in would better support our organization being an environmentally aware organization and enhance our relationships with local communities, County, Regional, and State Parks, as well as National Parks located throughout Northern Virginia. Also if a geocacher wanted to host CITO’s on land or the waterways, remove invasive plants, work on habitat restoration, perform trail maintenance or trail building, or perform tree plantings NoVAGO would be there to support them. Whether it was to supply bags, grabbers, gloves, getting the word out, and helping out with land owners. In addition DePhogration created a NoVAGO CITO banner and logo for geocache pages to support our initiative and also show that local cachers are still a proud member of NoVAGO!
In 2017 NoVAGO prepped for it’s 10th birthday under it’s bylaws and elected membership. The Thanks! 10 Years and Counting! event was held in Fairfax County on January 14th, the 10 years anniversary of the first official NoVAGO hosted event back in 2007. Officers purchased a birthday cake and released it’s second geocoin to celebrate a decade of being an active orginization. Along with the NoVAGO X Geocoin NoVAGO released it’s 3rd pathtag (both designed by DePhogration). It was this year that NoVAGO stopped hosting winter and summer events. It was felt that with the 4 quarterly CITO’s, the annual Thanks event, and the spring and fall events NoVAGO had a strong presence.
During a June 2017 visit to Geocaching Headquarters, NoVAGO Secretary Platoaddict proposed to Groundspeak if NoVAGO could get a lab cache for the launch of our annual series. When Groundspeak found out that our organization was turning 10 years they awarded us three Lab Caches. Zippy Finn and Serrabou created these lab adventures and placed them in Burke Lake Park for NoVAGO’s 2017 Fall Event. Titled Hauntingly Familiar: NoVAGO is TEN” consisted of the Pavillion Spider Hunt, The Madman’s Lab, and The NoVAGO Graveyard: Tombstones. These Labs were only available for one day.
In 2018 the geocachers of NoVAGO went Survivor crazy! Our annual event had tribes, tunnels, tree climbs, and tons of headbands. One of the most memorable events that NoVAGO has ever hosted was the SURVIVOR18: Eating Challenge.An large audience formed to watch contestants battle through a disghusting menu consisting of Molded Jell-O Spaghettios with wasabi peas, Mexican pickled sausage, Fermented bean curd, 皮蛋 (Century egg), Korean Silkworm Pupa, Garden Cream Wafers Durian Flavour Wafer, and Surströmming. The last course of live biting superworms had only had 4 cachers left standing: CacheClown76, Awesnap, The Unstealthy Monkey, and the eventual contest survivor Serrabou. This unique event would go on to win the 2018 NoVAGO award for Cache of the Year.
In 2019 Groundspeak released a limited number of Geocaching Adventure Lab credits to various geocaching organizations around the world and NoVAGO was lucky enough to have been one of the chosen. These new adventures were similar to the “lab caches” that are usually available at mega events, but will be in place for a much longer time, perhaps even permanently.
NoVAGO officers reached to a few places, but it was the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle that showed the most interest. Public Affairs Officer Awesnap and Vice President Nothereeither, both military veterans, met with the museum staff and chose the locations. On April 9, 2019 the NoVAGO gets Gung Ho at National Museum of the USMC Adventure Lab went live, with a bonus cache that was placed in nearby Locust Shade Park.
In July NoVAGO was awarded a second set of Adventure Labs that we placed around Washington, DC. Since 2006 the Northern Virginia Geocaching Organization has had “Caching the Capital Region and Beyond” in our crest. With this Adventure Lab the Officers strived to take geocachers around DC and show off a few things they may have missed during past visits. All of these locations were approved by the National Mall and Memorial Parks supervisors of the NPS.
In 2019 a new geocoin was developed for the Cache Across Northern Virginia (CANV) annual series. The coin would be sold at $15 piece, but geocachers could earn $.50 off the cost of it with every CANV geocache they found.
2020 was a tough year for NoVAGO, geocaching, and the world when COVID-19 forced much of the population into quarantine. On March 23, 2020 Virginia Governor Ralph Northam mandated that All gatherings of more than 10 people are banned statewide. Almost all Virginia geocaching events were disabled, retracted, or archived in accordance with this mandate. Geocachers were trapped in their homes and bored. Luckily Serrabou and Zippyfinn had a fantastic idea and the Geoquarantine Scavenger hunt was born!
This 10 round scavenger hunt started on March 18, 2020 and was run in on the NoVAGO Facebook page. Geocachers comb through Geocaching.com log photos to find pics of funky cache containers and cachers wearing sunglasses. Also participants were encouraged to find items in their homes, dress up, as well as construct crafty paper ammo cans and reproduce album covers. Awards were given to cachers with the most points, and all participants received a cool Geoquarntine pathtag!
With the active quarantine until summer, NoVAGO could not hold it’s Annual Spring Picnic event. This especially impacted how the 2019 NoVAGO Cache Award Winners were announced. So NoVAGO Director Awesnap recorded a series of 18 award winner announcements starring his 6 year old daughter Sneaky_Molly and released them two at a time over a 9 day period in April.
State restrictions on events loosened by fall, and NoVAGO’s 6th Annual Hauntingly Familiar Fall Eventheld on October 24, 2020 at Northern Fauquier Community Park in Marshall, VA. This was NoVAGO’s first Community Celebration Event and was donated by NoVAGO Secretary Pfenix. Because of COVID-19 the usual “buffet style” potluck NoVAGO usually hosts was restricted to individually wrapped items and wearing of masks and social distancing was requested of the picnic goers. Despite the pandemic fears, this NoVAGO event had 39 people log as attended, and we received no reports of anyone getting contracting COVID from the event.
After the popularity of their Survivor18, ZippyFinn and Serrabou kicked off a new collaboration style Annual Series in October called NoVAGO OLYMPIAD2020. Here teams were formed into three countries (Greece / South Korea / Jamaica), given bibs to wear, and competed for the highest medal count. Medals where not only earned by caches found, by finding additional magnets that were hidden around the region, and by log photos that where Geocaching Headquarters in Seattle. Closing Ceremonies were held on April 24, 2021 in Woodbridge, with Greece placing 1st with 31 medals, Jamaica in 2nd with 19 medals, and Greece in 3rd place with 7 medals earned
In April 2021 NoVAGO announced that it wanted to develop a new path tag. We reached out to our members to submit designs, and they in turn submitted six entries. When all 63 of the votes were tallied up on June 15, it was clear that The Unstealthy Monkey won with her “Virginia is for Geocachers” design. Tags where unveiled in time for our Fall Community Celebration Picnic at Vint Hill.