Armed with GPS apps installed on their smartphones, cache destinations with clues printed out from the geocaching website and trinkets to exchange, eight members of the Try New Things Club (TNT) embarked on a geocaching adventure Saturday afternoon in Downtown Tampa.
Geocaching, an outdoor treasure-hunting game that uses GPS-enabled devices to track hidden treasures, or geocaches, that are hidden at particular GPS coordinates in waterproof containers, started in 2000, but in recent years has become more popular with college students.
Johamary Pena, a sophomore majoring in environmental science, said the idea of the geocaching adventure came from a members suggestion on Facebook.
In January a member posted a link for the group to check out, Pena said. The post resulted in a lot of interest and so we decided to give it a try.
Though there are many geocache locations on the USF campus, TNT tried a new location to increase the level of adventure.
One of only two people in the group to have tried geocaching before, Taylor Philipson, a senior majoring in health sciences, said the environment plays a big part in playing the game. She has previously hunted in Hillsborough River State Park and found 10 of 15 caches available there.
I think searching in the city is harder because there are a lot more people in the city, Philipson said. I think the high traffic leads to a higher probability of people messing with the geocache, making it a little harder to find.
A difficulty rating explaining how hard it is to find, is posted along with what size the container is the players are looking for. Some caches have been in locations for years, while others may have been moved or damaged by individuals not familiar with the game.
But the game does not go without controversy. According to groundspeak.com, a geocaching website, there have been times where the hidden containers were mistaken as possible explosive devices and bomb squads were called to investigate. Other geocaches were hidden so far off the beaten path that they have resulted in people accidentally dying while searching.
Though the difficulty levels ranged from 1-5 on Saturday, the group did not face much success with their searches.
The first task was to find the starting location on a map. The second was to begin the hunt for the Walk in the Park geocache. The geocaches difficulty was rated 1 and was said to be in a small container.
While walking in circles in front of the Florida aquarium, the group of participants realized they were in the wrong location and decided to move onto the next geocache. Though they began with a rocky start, most of the group remained optimistic.
But after unsuccessfully attempting a few different geocaches, even trying a different geocache app, the group decided to call it a day.
Though the group did not succeed in what they originally set out to do, all agreed the trip was still a successful experience.
I was expecting it to be a little easier than what it ended up being, Pena said. But it was cool, we did get to meet new people and discover new locations. So it was fun even though we didnt find anything.
Some members made light of the situation.
Just imagine if we were pirates on the search for treasure, and food, and stuff, Michaela Williams, a junior double majoring in mass communications and sociology, said.
Then we would die, Michaela Bridgeman, afreshman majoring in biology, jokingly replied.