Looking back on the infectiousness of the 2018 hunt

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The hunt has been over for nearly two weeks now. Rob scored his third Winter Carnival Medalllion find just after the 12th clue came out.

I was destined to be a weekender this year. With schedule changes at work I just couldn't get the time off. So, settling for nightly meetups in the bar and Friday night, Saturday and Sunday afternoon digging was the plan.

As they always do, however, plans changed.

By the time Saturday rolled around everybody knew it was Harriet Island. Of course everybody knew it was there in 2003 as well, and this hunt was bringing up some really bad memories of that red herring. By the time the Nagasaki Road clue came out, we're sitting there trying to figure out how we could fit the Plato clue to Como, just in case, but fortunately that one was for naught. 

I'd said before the hunt that I'd gladly be out through the 11th clue, but would call it a hunt if we got to the 12th clue and watch from the comfort of my bed.

Again, plans changed.

Sunday night. Monday night. All of a sudden its Tuesday night, and we're out there until the clue comes out. We didn't get any closer to the puck. It was a night.

The only problem was, I was once again hooked. The adrenaline was pumping like crazy. I made a decision.

The last times I was really out when it went to clue 12, 2003 and 2004, I'd sat in line at the Pioneer Press waiting for the newspaper so I could call the clue out into the park. I was going to be at Harriet Island when the clue came out. Observing. The night the "who hears a who" clue came out in 2003, I remember the line of cars up Wabasha, across 6th and then 94, and up Lexington to get to Como. Observing that from the air would have been amazing. Observing the mad rush on clue 12 would have been just as amazing.

Or so I thought.

On Wednesday afternoon, I came home from work, grabbed a quick bite to eat and decided to take a nap.

Don't worry, I had the alarm set for 8:30 so that I could get to the park in time for the clue to come out and be strategically positioned with a decent parking place. Again, to observe. I'd never seen the 12th clue mad rush, let alone taken part in it.

Miraculously, I ended up with a spot in the west parking lot of Harriet Island. It was surprisingly dead. There were sporadic headlamps here and there, but the sound of locusts traditionally associated with the final night of the hunt wasn't there. People must have been taking a break before the mad rush. Ironically, I was unknowingly parked within 50 yards of the coveted puck that night.

Cluey and me2 were warming up in their van, parked next to mr mn mikey. Having spent the time hunting with me2, I made my way over. Kitch was patiently waiting at Shamrock's for the clue to let us know what it was. When the scrambled clue came out there were 6 of us in that van. Bundled up as much as we could get, a good word to describe it would be "tight".

The scrambled clue came out. This was it. I was gonna be part of the mad rush I'd said I wasn't going to take part in. We unscrambled it as best we could, grabbed our hunting tools and left the van for the stage. We looked for the only trees we could find in the east parking lot that were shaped like v's. We moved snow. We chopped ice. We moved more snow. We chopped more ice.

And then me2's sister met up with us and said she heard someone had found it. Sure enough Brassmonkey (and his impromptu crew of Cooler fame), turned it up under a huge snowbank at the far end of the other parking lot.

Less than 150 feet from the van.

It was over. People started to head home. 

I did it. I was there for the mad rush. Unintentionally at that.

We didn't find it that night, because we picked the wrong side of the coin, unscrambling one line of the clue. It happens.

What I did find, however, was a renewed fervor, a renewed infection for finding this thing. For the camaraderie of it. For the highs of being so close. And the lows.

Having it back in St. Paul after three years in greater Ramsey County helped that a lot. The trek from Apple Valley to Bald Eagle/Otter Lake at the north end of the county is a long one.

I've said for quite some time that I'd love to one day be a Vulcan, and one day I'm sure I will. One of the requirements however is that Vulcans must miss work for the duration of the carnival. Missing work? Yeah, generally no problem there. I was able to get time off last year to hunt, and honestly I think I spent more time out this year than i did in Keller.

Missing the hunt however? I don't quite think I'm ready to give that up. This year, this Harriet Island hunt (a hunt for which I think the Pioneer Press redeemed themselves after 2003), reassured me of that.

Sure, the 10 grand would be nice. If anyone ever found the thing and didn't know what to do with the winnings they could certainly give them to me.

But in the end for a lot of people, myself included, the goal is to outsmart the clue-writer. Sometimes the thing is found "too early" with dumb luck. This year though, the press got us, and they got us honestly. Nobody touched that pile of snow until 10:30 the night the scrambled 12th clue came out. Nobody. Why? The general consensus of the masses was that they'd be foolish to put it in a snow bank in a parking lot, even though they told us they did right under our noses in several clues!!!! They practically gave away the park in the first clue, and no one picked up on it.

There's always a few clues that aren't great. A few that when the meanings come out make you think "well that's a bit of a stretch". This hunt was no different, e.g., the 2-3-2 clue. But none of the clues brought out anything that wasn't directly related to the park (as opposed to a school a good distance away from Como). You could debate the Irvine/Walnut Street clue, but it makes sense, and you can see it from the park.

I heard more than one person this year say this was the most fun they've had on a hunt in a long time. I wholeheartedly agree.

Some people think we had a new clue writer this year (some people always say that though). If we didn't, I offer my congratulations. You've graduated to a new level. Keep up the good work. If we did get a newbie. Holy cow. I don't think you realize how big the shoes are that you need to fill. Because you made them that way! Also, keep up the good work (and don't let the compliments go to your head)!

This hunt really is infectious. It gets in your blood, screws with your mind. This year proved that for me.

And because of it, I'm definitely looking forward to next year.


Some general thoughts

I've always subscribed to the school of thought that you really need to get out there and scout things out. You're not likely to put a hoe or a shovel into snow on clue 1 or 2, but you at least need some bearings.

Treasure Chest and I were talking about it this year as we often do. She wondered why I wanted to go out looking early on because you don't really have an idea where to look. She's right. But there are some things that you can't see from Google Maps; you actually have to be there to see it. Walnut street from the glib ghoul this year is one of those things. The 2-3-2, while obscure, was another. 

This goes to something I've said for years. No one ever found the medallion while sitting on their sofa. Or in front of their computer. Or whatever. The only way to find it is to get out there and look.


20 years!!!

Wow! We made it to 20 years. Yes, the Cooler Crew really formed 20 years ago on a cold Sunday morning in Chair-O-Key. A lot has changed since then.

Back then we knew each other only by screen name. Some of us still use those names; some of us only know other people by those names. As our online community has evolved, a lot of those screen names have gone by the wayside though;  for many of us, the group isn't just about the hunt anymore. For many of us the group isn't on a Pioneer Press Water Cooler-like discussion board anymore. We get together for weddings, and funerals. We get together to celebrate graduations, and birthdays and friendships, or to put on a flash mob surprise proposal. We get together to have a game night, or to watch the Vikings. We're more than just treasure hunters. We're lifelong friends; some of us managed to become life-long husbands and wives.

But still, some of our traditions continue strong! We still have the Predig Gig and the Rehash Bash, and both are incredibly well attended. Thankfully the Rehash has evolved into an indoor potluck instead of an outdoor one.

We had 60 people in the group pic at the Predig, with likely more than that who had to leave before the picture, and 47 in the Rehash pic, where a lot of folks ended up leaving before the picture. Pretty awesome turnouts if you ask me.

As always, the smorgasbord and the prizes were awesome! And so were the organizers!


The next 20

After 20 years I think its safe to say we're not going away. As I discover them, I'm continuously adding hunts to this site across Minnesota and Wisconsin. I've even got leads on hunts in other parts of the country too, which I'll add as time allows, but since they're not local, they're not a priority. I'd love it if we could find enough to fill up the calendar from January 1 to December 31 of each year. We're getting there this year. The only month last year we didn't have anything at all scheduled was November.

And let me tell you, I did the math last summer. While the prizes vary from $100 to $5000 depending on the hunt and the festival, the total purse for last year was in the neighborhood of $18,000 in cash or other prizes. That's nothing to sneeze at. But more importantly these hunts provide a way to hone your skills. Sure, you're not going to pick up St. Paul landmarks to put to use for the big show, but solving the clues helps you think outside the box, a skill that directly translates to searching for any medallion.

For those keeping score, this blog entry marks the 1700th entry on this site.

Until next year, when I have a site status update to report, happy hunting! You dig?