Hunting for hidden treasure
By Amber George
Shimmering gold, sparkling jewels and priceless heirlooms often come to mind when thinking about a chest full of treasure. To the students involved in Northern Arizona University Geocaching (NAUGEO), however, treasure comes in the form of a Tupperware container stashed away in the wilderness. NAUGEO is a university club which attracts fellow “treasure hunters” in the search for Geocaches.
Geocaching is a recreational activity where people from all over the world hide containers in places such as neighborhoods, forests and anywhere else they desire. The hunters locate the “caches” by looking up their GPS coordinates on the Geocache official website. Once a cache is found, the hunter locates the “log” inside of the container. The log can be anything from a small notebook to something as simple as a piece of paper, and is signed and dated by every person who has found the cache. Participants can then go online and track which caches have been found and signed, as well as locate thousands more.
Connor Wienburg, a junior finance and economics major, is the original founder of NAUGEO.
“I wanted to start it mostly to get other students interested and aware of geocaching, as well as give everyone something to do outdoors,” Wienburg says. “Hiking is fun and all, but hiking for hidden caches is definitely better.”
Wienburg has been geocaching for many years, and once he realized there was no club for it at NAU, he was quick to get one started. Now that the club is in full force, the members participate in both day and night hunts.
“I enjoy the adventure and challenge of geocaching,” he says. “Every outing is different and always provides something new for us to see or overcome in order to find a cache.”
Kelvin Mahoney, junior marketing major, is also involved with NAUGEO and feels that “everyone should try coming out with [NAUGEO] at least once.” Mahoney enjoys that geocaching combines hiking, the outdoors and adventuring all in one activity, and he feels that it brings him closer to his friends involved.
Caches are hidden all over the world, and each one has something different to offer.
“I’m from Tempe,” Mahoney says. “So the biggest difference is that in [Flagstaff] you can drive a couple miles and be out in the forest away from civilization. In [Tempe] you have to drive many miles to get to the desert and the bright lights of Phoenix are almost impossible to escape.”
Ronald Pohl, a sophomore biology major, is the Vice President of NAUGEO. He, like Mahoney, enjoys being able to spend time outdoors while geocaching.
“The coolest cache I have ever found was at the base of Mt. Eldon,” Pohl says. “It was hidden under a large boulder that we had to dig out rocks around it to get to it. This was also the first geocache I found in Flagstaff with the club, which made it that much more memorable.”
To anyone who likes the outdoors, Pohl suggests they give geocaching a try. “You tend to see more then you would think when you go out. ”
There is never a dull moment with NAUGEO, as there are hundreds of geocaches hidden in the Flagstaff area, including the Historical Route 66. The group of geocaches along Route 66 were put together by Josh Noble, the Director of Tourism for the Kingman area. Nobel started using the activity to promote tourism and get people interested in the historical aspects of the route—while getting to partake in a fun activity.
Michael Russell , the Creative Services Specialist for the Flagstaff Convention and Visitors Bureau, has really enjoyed taking part in the Route 66 series of geocaches.
“I first saw geocaching as a way to get away from work,” Russell comments. “A stress relieving activity I could do on my lunch break to get away from my computer and stretch.”
Russel never imagined he would geocaching for work. “At one particular point, I was caught by the City Manager snooping around a city trash bin where one of the geocaches resides,” he explains. “It has been an interesting experiment and a joy to be a part of, but due to the secretive nature of the activity and the community of geocachers at large, it has been a little difficult to explain.”
Whether it is done with a group of friends, with the NAUGEO club or even by yourself, geocaching is sure to offer an unforgettable adventure.
“Geocaching brings together a community of people that have their own language and own way of doing things.” Russell says. “They pride themselves on creativity in hiding and finding these containers.”