The Tri-Cites are located in Eastern-Washington and include Richland, Pasco, and Kennewick. I came here for a work project and worked all day. So what do you do if your work day is over and it’s still bright outside? Yes, I looked for some geocaches and accidentally found one of the Geocoin Challenge Caches. So I checked out the description and printed the passport to log the caches. The designers of the challenge were smart and added punches to some of the caches instead of the code words. Otherwise, groups could from and spread out to find different caches without actually finding all of them or just passing on the keywords to friends.
The Mega Event which goes along with this challenge was just the week before I arrived and I just had missed it. So there were the caches still available to find and I was hoping that there would be still coins available.
This is the 9th annual Geocoin Challenge and this year it was under the theme “Taste of the Tri-Cities”. Well, there were actually four cities as they added West Richland as an independent entity. In each city, they placed 8 traditional caches and to qualify for the coin you had to find at least 7 caches in each city. This would add up to 28 caches out of 32. But this also leaves a very small margin for caches to disappear or being blocked by muggles. As you can see on the challenge passport, the cities are categorized like on a menu in a restaurant.
- Pasco: Appetizers
- Richland: Side Dishes
- Kennewick: Main Courses
- West Richland: Dessert
Every cache is a menu item in the corresponding category and the code word you have to write down is actually a price for that specific menu item. So I wonder if they went around the city and you really can find these food-items for this specific price, maybe even all of them at one specific restaurant.
So I got ready and headed out to find my first cache. When I started it was just after 5 p.m. and I headed to the first cache location with my passport. The cache of my choosing was in a parking lot near the Yakima River. The parking lot was very busy with people enjoying the river. The cache was hidden on the far side of the restroom building in the parking lot. However, a muggle decided to set up shop close by within direct view and it would be not very stealthy to get this cache now. Lucky there was another cache just within walking distance from the parking lot. I headed over there and there were no muggles around. Just a few people in the nearby trailer park but they were distracted otherwise. So I made the dive into the bushes and hoped to find my first cache of this challenge. Little did I know that these caches would be easier to find than expected. I thought because you earn such a great coin and that it would be better protected from muggles, that it has to be hard to find. So as I went through the bushes unseen from other people searching for it, I decided to check the difficulty and terrain rating and I started way too hard. I got back on the nearby trail and started from scratch walking towards ground zero. There it was. Right in front of my face and for a geocacher obvious enough but even muggles could see it while walking by but probably not paying attention. I opened the cache and noted the code word. After that I hide the cache again as I found it.
That’s it. One down and only 27 more to go. As I headed back to the parking lot, the muggle was still occupying the space close to the cache and I decided to just continue without this one and eventually come back if I am not able to find another one. I had to make sure I would find at least 7 caches in each city. I had downloaded all geocaches to my smartphone to be able to search for them if they are in an area without cell reception and I wouldn’t be able to download the description. The next few caches were super easy to find and once you know what to expect it was easy to spot them. As the coordinates of all the caches were almost always spot on and satellite view does help a lot. I loved how obvious this caches were places and had the Geocaching logo on it or a sticker. It’s amazing that people who don’t play just ignore this pieces in the scenery completely. I came across the first cache which required me to punch my passport. Of course, I left it in the car and right when I got back to the cache to use the punch, first drops of rain hit my passport. Only I could get so lucky. Well, either way, it was a cool cache box and only a few small drops hit the passport. West Richland was the first city I completed from there I went on to complete the city of Richland. Going back to the passport and how it is categorized as a menu, my “eating” habits are terrible. This would mean I started with Desserts followed by Side Dishes, then Appetizers and last the Main Course. To my luck, it doesn’t matter in which order I have to find the caches. This makes it also a little more economic in regards which cache to get next within a city. I tried to minimize driving as much as possible. At the BBQ-cache in Richland, I met some fellow geocachers. I drove straight up to the cache, as you really can’t miss it in the parking lot and they parked right next to it. It was obvious for what each other was going for. We talked a little bit and they told me that they were just finishing up the extra caches they didn’t found yet after completing the challenge already. From them, I found out that there were only 11 Geocoins left and that changed my strategy.
I was planning on finishing Richland, which means I already had 50% of the passport completed and then the rest tomorrow. There would be only a four-hour window to pick up the caches on Sunday. Because of all that, I decided to keep on going and eventually finish the other half of the passport. Unfortunately, the sun was getting lower and lower. I continued on over the Columbia River to find caches in Pasco. All of them were easy to find but I had to log a “Did not find” for the one near the Tri-Cities Airport in Pasco. It was supposed to be Tupperware in bushes but nowhere to be found. Even the logs showed that the previous cachers couldn’t find it. The sun had already set but it was still bright outside. I walked back to the car and a security guard drove up to me and asked me if I am Geocaching. I told her yes that I was and I am on my way out right now. She told me that this was private property and that I am actually trespassing right now. So I told her the caches were put up by the city, as I thought according to the owner’s name on the cache detail page. She said it doesn’t matter who put it there. I asked if there was a sign which said I can’t go here and the only sign she pointed out was the one down the road which said “Port of Benton”. For me, this doesn’t mean I cant go here. It might be true that it is private property. There are many places in town which say Port of Benton, some of them even have restaurants on there. So is this trespassing too when I go to eat? Every airport is private property and I would trespass every time I fly somewhere. Either way, I didn’t want to start an argument with her and eventually getting my whole caching plan delayed. I got back to my car and drove off to the next cache and the last one to complete the Pasco section of the passport. It’s now 10 p.m. and I finished 3/4 of the challenge which makes me pretty happy. I went back to the hotel and planned my following day.
The pick-up location for the Geocoin won’t open until noon. However, it would be a nice and sunny Sunday. Lot’s of people will probably go outside and enjoy the day, I thought. My plan is now to leave at 6 a.m. and finish Kennewick. Leaving early was a great decision as almost no one was around and I could pick up all the necessary caches to finish the passport without a problem or big muggle interventions. The cache near Clover Island went missing unfortunately and I was a bit nervous that if another one would go missing, I can’t finish the challenge. Everything worked out in the end and finished Kennewick within 2 hours.
I was also the first one to set up camp in front of the building to pick up the coin. I was there around 11.15 a.m. and waited for it to open to be hopefully early enough to get one of the leftover coins. Shortly before noon, another geocaching-couple showed up with their passport in hands.
The gates to the Parks and Recreation office opened shortly before noon and I was the first one to hand over the passport and receive one of the last Geocoins.
I made it! The first Tri-Cities Geocoin in my collection and another successful challenge accomplished. But wait the story is not over here.
There is a bonus cache to be found for which you need the Geocoin to decipher the coordinates of the bonus cache. Deciphering was easy, it would give me the final location of the bonus cache and also the code for the lock on the cache box itself. This is the best Geocoin I ever have seen, an interactive Geocoin. The little disc in the middle is held in place by a magnet and turns to decipher the bonus cache.
Soon all Geocoins for the 2018 challenge will be gone but you can still go and find the caches. Here is a list with all the caches including the bonus cache.
It was a great challenge and took me about 7 hours overall to complete the whole challenge. This is by far easier than some of the other challenges or GeoTours I completed in the past. The Visit Utah GeoTour is still the most challenging one I ever finished. Next year I try to be here for the actual Mega Event and meet all the other cachers. After all, this challenge showed me a couple of awesome places in the Tri-Cities area, which I would have missed otherwise. Even so its a very popular challenge, I only met fellow caches once during the time I was out to finish the challenge myself.