Beginnings, The First 10 Years...
The History of S*W*A*G - South West Arizona Geocachers
The story of Geocaching in Yuma, Arizona, started on May 3rd, 2000, when Dave Ulmer placed the first recorded cache in Beavercreek Oregon. Few people are aware that at least two people in the Yuma area were already using Global Positioning Systems (GPS) in their outdoor adventures.
One of those original adventurers, which we now call “cachers”, was known back then as Mzee & Associates. Today we know him as Gideon-X. In those first days Gideon-X used a backpack GPS to help two female Bureau of Land Management (BLM) interns map the high water line of Senator Wash. Gideon-X later came across an article about Geocaching in Outdoor Magazine and was immediately hooked. He bought his first handheld GPS, a Magellan 315, but soon faced a huge challenge. Geocaching was such a new sport that not many caches were available in the Yuma area.
After careful planning and review he headed out to find his first cache. Gideon-X was second to find a cache that was placed by Albondegas GC1A99. After that first tantalizing adventure he knew he needed to place caches of his own. October 2, 2001, Gideon-X placed his first cache “GC2034 Pilot Knob (North Quarry)” which had 71 visits in two years. Another one of his original caches “GCGQTE Old Town Yuma Cache #1” is still in place and very active with over 640 logged visits! The new sport was on the rise in the Yuma and Gideon-X found himself placing even more caches in the Yuma area.
The second original cacher in Yuma was jcriggs and he found his first cache “GC5825 Joe Henry” on October 21, 2002. While looking for his second cache “GCGQTE Old Town Yuma Cache #1”, he found this strange character, Gideon-X, doing maintenance at his cache site. They started talking and learned they both had caching in their blood. After finishing his cache maintenance, Gideon-X went across the street and waited for jcriggs to find the cache. Afterwards, they walked down Main Street allowing jcriggs time to find the other caches. A decision was made to meet at the new “Geocaching Office” otherwise known as Java Oasis.
Gideon-X and jcriggs would discuss current events and new caches placed in the area regularly at the “Geocaching Office”. During one of these conversations, it was decided that a Geocaching Event was needed in Yuma. The idea was to bring visiting and local cachers to one place so that names could be put to faces. jcriggs, Mzee, and the sun D.I.N.K.S would organize the first event. That event was called "Yuma AZ. Area Event Cache GCHKY2”. The first event was held on February 28th, 2004, at Mittry Lake boat ramp. A total of 6 cachers and/or teams signed the log and received a smiley. That represents about 35 people.
Yuma still had a limited number of full-time resident cachers but with the influx of winter visitors, as well as an increasing amount of caches available in the area, that number continued to grow and soon a second event was in the planning stages. A date was set for the second Yuma event. After many meetings at the local “Geocaching Office” the name was shortened to the "Yuma Az. Event #2 GCMQA5”.
The event was again held at Mittry Lake with organizers Jeep'en Jumpers, jcriggs, Mzee & Assoc., and the Happy Campers. It was shaping up to be another great event. Tri-Tip BBQ dinner, contests, and games such as "This Spot", which tested the accuracy of your GPS, became staples of the event. Prizes were given out for the best cache, best location, and best picture. This event also saw the start of the commemorative cache. The number of cachers and/or teams that got a smiley face for attendance was 35; that represents about 70 people. News of Yuma and its Geocaching events was quickly spreading throughout the caching community.
The third Geocaching Event, which was shortened to "Yuma Event #3 GCRC7R”, was organized by Jeep'en Jumpers, Gideon-X, and jcriggs, and held at Yuma Territorial Prison State Park. This event included Geocoins as one of the prizes, ceramic tiles to make your own Travel Bug (TB) bracelet, and a poker run in addition to the previous year's activities. Highlights of the event was a popular vote given to Attackchef based on a friendly competition between Attackchef and Bronco Busters as to who made the best Lasagna. A staggering 150 people participated in the event while 46 cachers and/or teams attended and received their smiley.
On December 15, 2006, South West Arizona Geocachers (S*W*A*G) came into existence, giving cachers living in the Yuma area a recognizable identity. There was another S.W.A.G group in Canada, so Jeep'en Jumpers contacted one of the group’s creators, and obtained permission to use the name with an asterisk placed between each letter of the abbreviation to designate the difference between each group. With this new name local cachers could claim caches out of the area, bring notoriety to Yuma, and continue putting on events for the Yuma area. With this new identity, founding members Gideon-X, jcriggs, Jeep'en Jumpers, and Bronco Busters were now tasked with preparing for the next year's event.
The next year’s event, "Yuma Event #4 GCZPHX”, was moved to Friendship Park. The event continued to build on the previous year’s successes with more games and great weather. Team 360 was there with the "Original Can of Beans" and it was also the first time wireless internet access was available at the event. Organizers and fellow cachers were on hand to download GPS's with information about poker run and local caches for all who needed help. The event saw visitors from San Diego and Phoenix attend. Logged cachers and/or teams totaling 90 attended, totaling about 200 people.
Continuing S*W*A*G’s winning formula for putting on events, it was decided the 2008 event "Yuma Event #5 GC17TN2” would be held at the citie's new Gateway Park. While featuring all of the activities of previous events, “Signal the Frog” hopped in as a special guest delighting kids young and old. The event concluded as a wonderful success with 114 cachers and/or teams in attendance, representing about 250 people.
Over the next five years, S*W*A*G was on the move. More and more people were finding the sport and when the winter seasons arrived membership went up drastically with the influx of winter visitors. More caches with a greater variety became available. During this time, one cacher had moved to the area and decided to start creating special themed caches. His caching name was lcpc28, and you can find his caches on the Barry M. Goldwater bombing range. lcpl28's caches were handmade and unique, most were made from wood. lcpl28 was a true craftsman and was the first to create a power trail in the Yuma area. Sadly, lcpl28 passed away in 2011 and is greatly missed.
The S*W*A*G group had grown to such large numbers, that Fivebales stepped up to create a spreadsheet a list of members. On January 10, 2010, Fivebales created the S*W*A*G users group on Facebook. Members use the group as a way to keep in touch, talk about adventures, and provide announcements. S*W*A*G was now having monthly breakfast meetings organized by Wayne43, with raffles and drawings to generate money to support the February event. Caches and the game started to evolve as more people joined. The format went from a traditional cache, such as ammo cans, to pill bottles and a wide varieties of containers. New cachers came in creating caches and releasing them in ways that challenged local cachers to travel all over the county. Several members sought that “First To Find” cache and were willing to do anything to get it. The change in game play made for some unique and challenging hides, and great camaraderie.
A Mega Event had been discussed for several years and the numbers were consistently growing toward that magic 500 number. It was decided a Mega Event could be held after the conclusion of "Yuma Event #9 GC38WJJ”, as our attendance proved we had the numbers. S*W*A*G's focus quickly changed to reaching numbers over 500, and making this the best event and only Mega event in Arizona.
The Mega Event
S*W*A*G was able to meet the goals they set, and hosted the first Mega Event in Yuma and Arizona: "Yuma Mega Event #10 GC3NGQQ”. Hosting the event was a proud moment for local cachers, and it made caching history because this was the only event that Dave Ulmer, the inventor of caching, had ever attended. Groundspeak Lackeys, Team 360 with the O.C.B, The Podcachers from San Diego, and the local television station were on hand for this momentous occasion. As always, a Tri-Tip BBQ was served, and over 1172 people were fed in less than 18 minutes with 7 serving lines! Logged attendance was 586 cachers and/or teams setting yet another milestone.
During the summer months local S*W*A*G members received some sad news. Del DeWolfe had unexpectedly passed away. Del played a huge role in the planning and execution of the Yuma Mega Event in 2012. He set up and maintained the website that was used to disseminate information about the event as well as keeping track of Geocachers who were planning to attend. Del also designed the S*W*A*G logo that has been used in many of projects S*W*A*G has done, including the decal used on many of our members' cars. Del is greatly missed!!!
With so many successful events logged and thousands of people engaged, the question soon arose: could S*W*A*G top it with "Yuma Mega Event #11 GC47GKW”? That remains to be seen…
Information provided and verified by:
- Gideon-X "Charter Member"
- Frog & Pollywog S.W.A.G Canada
- Red Buggy Man
- Bronco Busters