In pitch black, with walls and low ceiling of cold, damp stone, and floor wet with inches of water flowing like a stream, they question what form of mass lunacy has possessed them to venture far underground, bent over with aches and pains. But then...they spot a metal tag with an imprinted code.
Up, up, up along rustic trails, over rocky terrain and through forest undergrowth, they wonder why they follow one another, each step bringing more muscle fatigue, huffing and puffing toward some unknown. But then...they encounter a container with hidden clues.
This is the reality of what many have grown to love and 'hate' about the infamous, highly favored, D5/T5, St. Louis area, legendary geocaching adventure known as 'The Architect' (GC4CQ0V).
Published on August, 26, 2014, this Forest-Ghost (Ethan Rogers) and Curlycue109 (Julie Rogers) geocache was inspired by Ethan's love of adventure and finding hidden places. Indian Jones was another of his inspirations, but a Mississippi geocache he experienced, called '3 Degrees: BLACKOUT' (GC1KFAD), might have been the final catalyst. Upon his return, he knew he wanted to create a similar thrill in St. Louis. Ethan recalls spending the next couple years searching for tunnels around the area. "In 2014, Julie and I spent the good part of a year designing the cache (layout of stages, puzzles, story, containers, and finding the rest of the tunnels). The process was very difficult, but the final product achieved my goal of creating an epic adventure that would bring geocachers down in the tunnels of St. Louis."
'The Architect' has done just that with the warning "Do not attempt this cache during rain or when rain is forecasted, as St. Louis tunnels contain floodgates which can open unexpectedly during rains and will raise water levels very quickly." Nonetheless, starting the night it published, Spongy163, C3GPS, brantole and Robcyn teamed up to face tunnels, stinky sewers, PI, insects, tough hill climbs, and brainstorming sessions over difficult puzzles to finally conquer 'The Architect's' challenge and achieve their well-deserved FTF. They were proven worthy and became the 'Guardians of the Cup'! Since that first find, many others have braved the adventure in large groups, as couples and sometimes even solo (not recommended) to sign that elusive cache log. As of this publication, there are a two groups still making their way to the final and one that just recently conquered this quest.
At 9 AM on January 7, 2023, Iamgrateful, Mike Fitz, Cootieman, Geokid12, deancmeredith, Swelgus, Candyce54 and K-TEAM, along with FTFer brantole (moral supporter), ventured into the darkness their first time and didn't stop the craziness until they completed their grail expedition on January 8, taking only 14 field hours. When asked what enticed them to gather and conquer 'The Architect' at this time, Iamgrateful (Cynthia) said, "We started planning this adventure over a year ago with a core group. We wanted to attempt it in the winter, and knew this would be more fun with the right-sized team."
That team had much to say in their geocache log entries. Mike mentions his muttering curses directed at a certain 'couple' for the devious puzzles, cuts, scrapes and general pain inflicted, while Cootieman reiterates it's not for the faint of heart. Candyce, thankful for the group, explains they had sewer rats, puzzle-solvers, note-takers, hikers and general support, while K-TEAM appreciated the hides, hikes and views! Swelgus acknowledges the cache was a lot of work, and Geokid12 says it was both physically and mentally challenging, but might be his most favorite. Deancmeredith complimented the creators for the well-constructed adventure and was convinced it should not be attempted solo after falling on his bottom in a slippery tunnel. Besides giving the cache a favorite point, he said he enjoyed the various tunnels the most. He added that "during the long hikes and in the car, it was fun to get to know the other cachers better" (some of whom he'd known only by geoname), "as a trek of this much time affords a great opportunity to learn something about all the others on the quest." When asked how it felt to be done with 'The Architect', Cynthia declared a sense of accomplishment for the team having completed this epic Forest-Ghost D5/T5 adventure. She recommended future seekers of the grail take pictures of EVERYTHING and be prepared to get wet and dirty!
Two more groups are currently gluttons for punishment by 'The Architect' adventure cache. For over two years (hit-n-miss), TerriBikes+, rogbarn, Phantom1692, and StacyBassoon have been pursuing the coveted grail. For a few adventures, FTFer MrsSpongy came along for the fun. Mean Gene joined the teams quest part-time also, but completed it on his own for his amazing 25,000th find in April 2022. Finding days when the core foursome were available and the weather cooperated was an additional challenge, besides the myriad of physical and mental labors with this cache, but one this team chose to face. Having accomplished 90% to date, the team has only to surmount their final obstacle to conquer this amazing quest at long last.
Another team that just recently started their adventure consists of Treasure Isle, mathmanbill, nan-d1955, BnDMoritz, JoeBum, JanS03, ProdiGC, sokrkx, vorlon40, HiddenCrazy and LB2FIND. They've braved their first series of tunnels and puzzles and Part 1 hike, and have plans to continue Part 2 explorations in the near future. They'll be joined by TheOliveofSTL (who began his quest a year ago) when they start Part 3.
Is your interest piqued? Are you worthy? Do you have the stamina, intelligence and bravery to follow the Knights Templar's (now Freemasons) challenges and ciphers hidden in tunnels and hillsides around St. Louis? They vowed their secret would never get into wrong hands, so only worthy guardians will be able to conquer the test of 'The Architect!'