The weekend was three parts interesting and two parts surreal. As a Groundspeak Volunteer Reviewer I had been asked to be a speaker at this Pennsylvania Wilds Conference in Emporium. Cameron's a beautiful county, and we haven't cached there too often plus I have a pile of vacation time still to use. Top it off with about twenty new caches placed (and published) as part of the new Cameron County Geotrail and it seemed a no-brainer. The only slight hitch was I had a conference in Texas the following week where I was a speaker.
We debated a bit where to stay. I really like Coudersport and it has two good hotels with solid WiFi. The only drawback is the town is about 30 miles from Emporium. 30 miles between the two towns during a time of year when snow could happen at any time made the prospect of staying in Coudersport a bit of a stretch. I remembered Emporium as a nice, but smaller, town so we decided to stay at the Buttonwood Motel in Emporium. The Buttonwood was a nice place. It was clean, quiet and had a small restaurant attached that seemed a favorite of the locals (they have a good breakfast).
The surreal part started when we checked in. I asked at the desk if there was a password for the wifi. My question was met with a frown and an explanation that Windstream and had some grid failure and the motel wifi had no internet access. Since most of the town was on Windstream, there seemed to be very few other options (it's amazing how quickly something like numerous wifi locations becomes part of our everyday expectations). Since I needed to be on a plane Monday for Texas (and had some reviewing to do), I thought this was a little concerning, but figured Windstream would be sorted out soon and all would be well. Uh.... very bad assumption.
Those look like snow clouds in the mountains.
Next morning the Buttonwood said they were still down. :-( No problem, one of the conference organizers called the local country club where the conference was being held. The country club said yes they had a high-speed line with another carrier and were up and running. This was great until we got to the country club and I couldn't see their wireless connection. I believe it was set up so that outside users would not detect. Oops! None of the country club staffers had any idea of how the wifi worked except theirs was working. After trying... and trying... and trying, the staff set me up with a hard wire connection through their closed-for-the-season proshop. I spent about the first two hours of the conference taking care of travel arrangements,work issues, and finalizing my presentation for Texas the following week.
RedBat shares his geocaching knowledge with the conference attendees.
I was a little uncertain of what to expect at the conference. The name Cashing-In on Geocaching concerned me. In the end, it was a very good gathering. I was asked to give the attendees a solid understanding of the cache listing guidelines and some tips for placing a geotrail from a reviewer's perspective. I was also asked to spend about half my talk discussing geotrails from a cacher's perspective. Other speakers included two of the three public employees who were responsible for making the Allegheny GeoTrail a reality; one of the organizers of the West Bend Cache Ba$h; the organizer of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail GeoTrail; the organizer of the DCNR Legacy of Conservation Geocaching Trail; and the owner of the unpublished Allegheny River Wilderness Island Geo Trail. Wes of kcepenn gave a review of the work we put into the bid for GeoWoodstock and an update of the status of next year's event. In the end, the conference gave potential geotrail organizers and people just looking to attract geocachers to the area some solid, real-life information and shared experiences.
Many conference attendees got to hunt their first geocaches on the grounds of the Emporium Country Club. I'm not sure I would use yellow Etrex's in 2010 if I wanted to give a great memory of the hunt to a first time geocacher. Yellow Etrex's can be pretty flaky with signals. The participants looked a bit like a gathering of chickens moving back and forth searching for the temporary hides. They were pretty game for being outdoors on a really cold fall day.
There were some strange things at the conference. Cameron's tourism bureau is always a little interesting since they insist on calling the county the "Geocaching Capital of the World". For some reason, Cameron is convinced there are over "3000 caches" in the county when the real number is somewhere around 70. It must be something in the air which makes the locals near here miscount the number of active caches nearby. A few years ago we were on vacation in the area and met up with the local geocaching event organizer in a nearby county. For some reason, he was convinced we were geocaching newbies and wanted to share all his geo-knowledge with us. He also wanted to show us the "700 active caches" in his county. We already knew there were about 70 active caches about 50 of which we hadn't found.
They are probably still wondering why geocachers find this so much fun.
We had fun at the conference. It was great to say hello to a group of supportive friendly people. The conference organizers did a super job with the planning and execution. Back at the Buttonwood, there was still no internet in our room so we had to cut our weekend short. We later found out there was internet service at the Buttonwood. The place just has a weak wireless network and lots of blind spots. Take a tip, if you want to spend a few wonderful days in beautiful Cameron and Potter Counties and you need an internet connection, stay in Coudersport. You'll have a great time in both counties, you will see some super countryside while finding some nice caches, and your body will enjoy the reduced stress level of great internet service in Coudersport. Oh, and while you are there, please make certain your trip includes a stop in Benezette to see the elk. They are truly majestic animals. It is an amazing and peaceful site to see them wander into the fields in the viewing areas as sunset arrives.