Saturday, 17 March 2012

10th Annual Texas Challenge - Ray Roberts State Park

N 33° 22.811 W 097° 01.973

From the event page: For 10 years, the Texas Challenge has become THE annual geocaching social event of the state of Texas. The contest itself has grown into a weekend of activities for both people wishing to participate in the challenge and those people who wish to only casually attend! Last year’s attendance was over 300 people! 

The 10th Annual Texas Challenge MEGA coin

The West Texas team began planning our trip to the Dallas Fort Worth area around the first of the year. Very few of us had ever attended a Texas Challenge before so we were going mainly on the rumors and chit-chat we had heard from past attendees and speculation as to what to expect. Being the smallest team registered with only about 30 Challengers we knew we had an uphill battle ahead of us. Also, as if that was not enough the weather forecast appeared to be going south as we approached the weekend. Regardless, we saddled up and made a wet drive over six hours to Denton, Texas just north of DFW. Along the way we found a few caches, ate some great burgers at Red Robin in Abilene and hoped for a break in the rain.

Friday night we arrived in Denton to moist ground and drizzling rain. We checked in at our hotel (thank goodness we didn't plan to camp) and drove to the park for a Friday night icebreaker and early registration. The park was already busy with cachers, there were swag bags, tee-shirts, vendors, and best of all.... FREE dutch oven cooked cobblers in all kinds of flavors. Definitely high on my list in the cold weather. The hosts were kind enough to cook burgers for us all and we socialized with old friends and made many new ones. As the evening ended, we drove back to our hotel still hoping for less rain and warmer temps.

Sunset over Lake Ray Roberts

The next morning we awoke early and had some breakfast in the hotel before driving out to the park. The rain was absent and the ground had dried somewhat which was very good. I had elected to get a breakfast ticket for that morning but in the end I was glad I had eaten at the hotel. Our team assembled under one of the many picnic pavilions and began to discuss strategy. At 9AM our leader Travis was given a USB stick with coordinates to 120 unpublished geocaches hidden throughout the park. They ranged in difficulty and terrain, from a container under a tree, to climbing a tree, to swimming out to an island )no one on our team was that brave). There were also Mystery Caches that involved doing tasks like darts, and disk golf. We were all given scorecards to track our finds and at 10AM sharp the flood gates opened and we spread out to divide and conquer. 

Tools of the Geocaching trade
Travis and I started in the northern section of the park. We quickly racked up four First to Finds (FTFs) before meeting all the other cachers that had the same idea as us. Luckily, one of those FTFs were scooped from another team that missed locating the cache. In each of these virgin containers we found FTF Pathtags which are very nice little metal coins minted just for this event. Our biggest mistake came next when we decided to stick to the trails and hoof it down to the southern unit of the park. Despite only being 1 mile as the crow flies, it ended up being over two miles on a horse trail with very sandy soil. Also, about the time we entered in the trail the rain started again. At first it was a very light mist, but soon enough there was a steady downfall leaking into all our clothes and gear. Undeterred, we continued, and climbed a tree or two with shoes quickly becoming blister-creating buckets of water. After 15 finds and a few misses we made our way out of the thick to the nearest First Aid point where we could turn in our scorecard. Unfortunately West Texas finished last this year when the scores were tabulated, but despite the rain and cold I think everyone had a good time... well as good a time as you could have in 44F weather with rain and mud and wind :P

Just a few of the braze souls who made it through the storm

Sunday morning we met back up at the park to eat some breakfast burritos and pick up litter all around the area we occupied for our event. Many bags of trash were collected and very little of it was created by geocachers I am proud to say. We always like to leave things better than we found them. After this CITO event we gathered up everything and made the long drive back to Midland. Since it was day light savings we lost an hour of sleep, but luckily the rain finally broke!

The slightly soggy remains of the West Texas Team - Post event

For a geocaching event to be considered a Mega Event over 500 geocachers must attend, these events take loads of organization and are few and far between. Almost 800 people had posted their intent to come to Ray Roberts State Park March 9-11, 2012. In the end terrible rainy weather reduced the total to just 575 fearless rain-loving crazy people.