If you ever find yourself in the Chicago area with some time to kill, I hope you will take a detour to Wheaton because it is a geocaching mecca! A quote from Forrest Gump perfectly describes my time here,“…Mama always said ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.’” My decision to veer off the beaten path to explore this small Illinois town truly paid off with all the wonderful discoveries I made.
As a book lover and book club founder, I couldn’t wait to explore the local library and neighborhood book store, especially since there was a puzzle geocache at the Wheaton public library. This geocache is so perfectly camouflaged in a gigantic reference book GC2D1G1 (Stack of Stories) it was definitely worth the hour it took me to find it. What would a non-geocacher make of this book if he unknowingly pulled it off the shelf? (During my hunt, I ended up finding someone’s car keys before I found the cache!) Wait, it gets better! The library also houses Cafe on the Park, which may be the best place around to grab a cup of coffee and a home made doughnut for breakfast. I enjoyed taking my time to sit and enjoy the view of the garden outside the cafe windows.
Even though there is no geocache at Prairie Path Books, it is worth mentioning because the shop is so cute and cozy I felt as though I had stepped onto a movie set. I was pleasantly reminded of the book store owned by Meg Ryan’s character in You’ve Got Mail. In addition to the well curated books, the store offers unique greeting cards (which I bought a stack of) and a nicely stocked children’s section. I would spend a pretty penny here if I lived nearby.
Moving on to to GC48ZDN (Blanchard Hall) situated a few blocks away, I was introduced to the beautiful campus of Wheaton College where Blanchard Halls sits proudly overlooking the school grounds. Not only is this building listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is also recognized for its contributions as a stop of the Underground Railroad by the U.S. Department of the Interior. How lucky was I to accidentally stumble across such a significant piece of American history?
Wandering farther onto campus, I walked into the Marion E. Wade Center looking for GC31TE8 (The Wardrobe). As I looked around, I noticed J.R.R. Tolkien’s desk, on which he wrote The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. There was also a desk that once belonged to C.S. Lewis and several interesting displays related to the Lord of the Rings series and the Chronicles of Narnia. The pièce de résistance was the inspiration for C.S. Lewis’s book, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. I couldn’t contain my excitement when I opened the wardrobe’s doors, hoping I would be magically whisked away to Narnia.
GC45WNJ (Perry Mastodon) led me across campus to the Meyer Science Center, where on display are the remains of an 11,000 year old mastodon which I just learned resembles a wooly mammoth, but is not to be confused as being the same animal. The Perry Mastodon was discovered over 50 years ago in the neighboring town of Glen Ellyn and was given its name because it was found on the property of Joseph Sam Perry, a U.S. Federal District Court Judge. Also in the science building are a Foucault pendulum, a greenhouse, and an astronomical observatory open to the public for special events such as a lunar eclipse.
Because I made quick work of my last Wheaton geocache GC3V17C (golf n’ popcorn), I got to have some fun in the sun with a round of miniature golf at the municipally operated Clocktower Commons Mini-Golf & Skate Park. The GEO and I had a blast playing a quick round before heading out of town.
Hard to believe all of these cool spots can be found within one square mile of each other and easily walkable. I can’t wait to go back for another visit and see what else Wheaton has to offer.