The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

What is Geocaching, Anyway?

With a school as intellectual, esoteric, and obsessed with scavenging as UChicago, perhaps the strangest thing about geocaching was how long it took to take off on campus.
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Carlos Sole
The UChicago Geocaching team.

Nestled deep within the University of Chicago, amid gothic architecture, academic rigor, and many a student publication group, is a hidden treasure in the UChicago Geocaching Team. 

For anyone unfamiliar with the sport, geocaching is the 21stcentury equivalent of a treasure hunt. Participants use GPS-based technology such as a smartphone app that gives them coordinates — or, occasionally, a puzzle that they can solve for coordinates — to help them find treasures hidden around the world. Once participants have the coordinates, they can use a tracking feature from the app to locate their chosen “cache” — any sort of hidden container containing a logbook inside. Once an individual finds the cache, they open it up, and sign their name on the logbook, proving to anyone in the future that said individual found it.  

The participant is then responsible for placing the logbook back in the cache and placing the cache in the same place they found it. Provided that participants abide by this rule, the cache can be found by as many future people that wish to find it, making the game a never-ending, self-perpetuating cycle. 

UChicago’s geocaching group was founded in 2021 by Amelia Orwant, a first-year at the time, who began geocaching the previous summer as a way to go outside during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“I got really into geocaching during the pandemic. It’s a great way to explore things, and an activity to do with your friends that’s not just sitting outside,” said Orwant. 

For Orwant, her passion in geocaching not only comes from the search, but rather the opportunities the activity presents. Geocaching allows individuals to explore new areas, and oftentimes tells the history of the area as well.  

“[In the summer of 2021,] I was traveling to Portugal… but [there were] lots of things shut down because young people hadn’t had the vaccine yet. And so [me and the person I was traveling with] were like, ‘yeah, let’s geocache around,’” Orwant said. “Oftentimes geocaches teach you things. For instance, from the cache here at the [UChicago] quad, I learned that the architect of the quad is from the same town in Massachusetts as me.” 

Following the summer of 2021, Orwant wanted to continue her passion for geocaching in college. Orwant would sporadically geocache with friends here and there, and ever since then more and more people have joined them, leading to a makeshift geocaching group here at UChicago.  

“We went geocaching a little bit here and there our first year, and I mentioned it to a lot of people. I had other people say, ‘Oh my gosh, I do this too!’ I started thinking we should get together,” Orwant said. “I made a mailing list and made it a club.” 

Since then, the group has expanded to about twenty to thirty participants, and they geocache as a group throughout the year. Typically, a normal session will consist of the group meeting up on weekend mornings, taking transit to a general area, and then trekking by foot and geocaching around said area for the morning. In winter months the group continues, although there is an unsurprising drop in its numbers. 

The group geocaches all around the Chicago area, ranging from South Chicago to Evanston to everywhere in between.

“I’ve placed several [caches] around Hyde Park myself,” Orwant told The Maroon. “Caches are everywhere. Anyone has walked by hundreds in their lifetime, probably. Before it was under construction, there was one in Botany Pond, and there are a few on campus, with two on the quad.” 

If anyone is interested in finding the two caches on the quad, solving puzzles, making friends, or wanting a good excuse to go out and explore, feel free to join the geocaching list-host by emailing orwant@uchicago.edu.

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