Editor’s note: Dave Orrick will be reporting on the Pioneer Press Treasure Hunt this year. Here are his thoughts on what to expect.

The Hunters are hungry, the Clues are queued and the Medallion is, presumably, hidden.

The 2017 Pioneer Press Treasure Hunt — a franchise since 1952 — will commence on Saturday, Jan. 21, with the publishing of the first clue in the early Sunday, Jan. 22, editions of the Pioneer Press.

They’ll also be online at TwinCities.com/TreasureHunt, and hunters can sign up to have the clues emailed.

Each night, a scrambled clue will be posted online around 10:30 p.m., with the actual clue posted around 11:30 p.m.

Note: Unlike in past years, the paper will not be distributing early copies of the printed newspaper at The Original Gabe’s by the Park.

At stake is $10,000 — and prestige, bragging rights and fame like no other.

Every hunt is different. This could be the year when it’s found on Day 1, or the first time it’s never found, in which case the money will be donated to a local charity, according to Lori Swanson, vice president of marketing for the Pioneer Press.

RELATED: Sometimes the Treasure Hunt goes down to the final clue

Could be they’ve put it in St. Paul, again. Or not, again. Somewhere where it’s been before? Or somewhere entirely new.

The variables are myriad. Enough to boggle the mind. (Speculation already began in the PiPress’ discussion forum a month ago.)

Let’s break it down.


The weather can define the hunt.

Scenario 1: Fair weather. Things could get crowded. There’s good and bad there. Good: Families can bring out the kids, and softies and newbies can wander the landscape, knowing that anyone, at any time, could strike gold. Plus, no frostbite. Bad: Could be mayhem. No way to separate wheat from chaff. Crazy things happen. Like when too many boats crowd over a school of walleyes, lines get crossed.

Scenario 2: Polar vortex. Lock up the kiddies. Good: If deep freeze builds character, only the characters — the medallion maniacs — will brave the elements for lengthy stretches. Bad: No chance of a 2-year-old crawling back to Mommy teething on a $10,000 prize — an image we’d all like to see.


We had snow. On the ground. As of Thursday, it was still there — but fading fast. The snow — and quality thereof or lack thereof — is big-time.

Point 1: You can’t hide a medallion (very well) in the middle of a grassy field. But you can hide it under snow. But not just anywhere in a snow-covered field. Experienced hunters know to look for spots in the field that one could triangulate with landmarks. After all, the clue writer has to tell you how to get there in the final clue, right? Except, the clue writer could just say “stand at the big oak and walk 10 meters on a NNW heading.” Maybe. There’s GPS these days (see below on that). Point is: Snow on ground, open areas in play.2017 Treasure Hunt Logo

Point 2: When did the hiding happen? If they hid it before the thaw and in the woods, it could be OK. But what if they hid it in a field that’s melting away? Would they re-hide? Eyeballs are already out for suspicious characters wandering the landscape with medallion-stuffed donuts. Would a last-minute re-hide suggest any specific locations? The mind can cramp up considering such things.

Point 3: If there’s enough snow on the ground — like if we get a fresh snowfall — you got shovels. Lots. Tossing snow everywhere. Maybe tossing the medallion. That’s a wild card. Chaos.

Point 4: If fresh snow falls — and forecasts suggest it might during the first week of the hunt — many will eschew shovels in favor of rakes. Smart move. Comb the fluff. But there’s a catch to that: There could be frozen crust under the snow. From the thaw-refreeze. Nasty stuff. Bust that stuff up and you’ve got false-positive pucks flying all over the place. Tines could be pinging with ice chunks. Could be a slog.

Point 5: Tracks. If it snows right before the medallion is hidden, the hider could leave tracks. Maybe. But if a fresh coating falls between the Day of Concealment and Hunt Day, bupkis.


There’s old-school and new school. Dead reckoners with secret notebooks and dog-eared maps, versus tech dudes who can orchestrate a grid-pattern search with GPS precision. There are trail cams and drones and night-vision goggles that could be used — perhaps illegally — to surveil the landscape in hopes of catching the hider. Do techies have advantages over prospectors? Is one park or another “due”? No smartphone app can answer such a question. Only the insight of sage hunters can. Would the PiPress ever affix some sort of geolocating piece of spy-tech to the medallion, so that the hider would know if it was moved? Could a crafty hunter detect that signal? Would that be cheating? Let’s not forget the technological Controversy of 2012, when some folks discovered they could gain online access to the clue songs in advance. Sooner or later, some cheater (it would be cheating, right?) will hack into the PiPress’ computers in search of advance intel. Would he or she find anything?


The treasure hunt is largely a team sport. Some teams grow and gel, while others atrophy. Some teams assemble annually for this hunt alone, while others have become what could almost be described as “professional hunters,” traveling the region for various scavenger hunts. Then there are wild cards, like Donald Trump and the impassioned political landscape. Could a longtime team suffer a schism between Trump supporters and Trump impeachers? You don’t talk politics or religion at the dinner table — and maybe not on the medallion hunt.


Who is(are) the clue writer(s)? Or, more importantly, will he/she/it be a familiar voice of verse or some newfangled puzzler of prose? The last known clue writer was reporter Jim Ragsdale, who died in 2014. Seasoned hunters grow accustomed to a certain clue writer, and not just because the writing is clever. You can get on a roll over the years. Or so it seems. Will this year’s clues be easy to decipher for veterans? Or will they just scramble the mind?

So many questions.

Copyright 2017 Pioneer PRess.