My wife, Cynthia, and I have been creating puzzlers and treasure hunts since before we even met each other. We made a treasure map for guests at our wedding and a lucky person found and got to keep a pot full of Sacagawea dollar coins that we had hid in the West River.
We have made codes and maps and puzzlers for friends’ weddings and birthdays, and even stuck a cryptogram into a video we made (“Clues for Treasure Hunt: Sand on Fire” at youtube.com/watch?v=dv6p7Yrqr7M) which gives clues as to where we hid one of Randi Solin’s art vases.
I have had a crazy and winding career path. I jokingly say that I studied insects in college, so that I could end up teaching film. Closing in on two years ago, I took a job at the Brattleboro Prevention Coalition, which is working to prevent the harm caused by opioids, tobacco, alcohol and other drugs. In practice that means we do things like collecting unused opioids, for example, and getting them out of our communities.
What does that have to do with treasure hunts? Well, as part of my job, I am also working on a State of Vermont-sponsored health campaign called “3-4-50,” which encourages people to exercise. It turns out, that living (i.e. sitting in a chair for most of the day) is really bad for your health. So, working with other people, including Scott Kaltenbaugh and Shyla Foss, I have started to promote trail hikes.
But here is the funny thing. I have been joking about how my exercise is typing for the last 10 years. And that is funny/not funny. I mean, as a teenager, I used to spring up the Spellman Trail of Mount Monadnock like a wild goat, but the last time I came down the Pumpelly it was challenging for my knees.
And the White Mountains? Forget it. My last attempt was nearly a one-way ticket to Hades.
But recently, I have started hiking the trails in our area. Like, nearly every day. Not because I was finally motivated to get healthier. Getting healthier is good and all, but it’s not necessarily fun.
I am hiding treasures (mementos, really, often made of wood or other natural materials) and hiking in the hills and forests of our corner of the world, which is what I love to do. Actually, this has become a bit of an obsession, and I have started hiding these things around the world, even enlisting my friends to help when they go off to see family or on business trips.
Of course, hiking and hiding treasures is good for my health, as well as fun. Since I started hiking, I have been sleeping better, and have felt much more awake and alert throughout the day. This is how my doctor predicted I would feel, and he was right.
I have started taking photos of the beauty I am exposed to, on every hike. And for me, getting a regular dose of that, really matters.
This month’s puzzler is a word scramble and is relatively easy to solve. The treasure, a small stone egg of dalmatian jasper, fits snugly into a space that is 1.5 inches wide. It is relatively easy to find.
We only ask that you come to the treasure spot with a replacement treasure (not wider than 1.5 inches), preferably made of stone or wood. Consider making one, or purchasing one at Experienced Goods, the nonprofit thrift store in Brattleboro that supports Brattleboro Area Hospice, or More Than a Thrift Store in Westmoreland or Keene.
But be prepared, because you might end up not finding a treasure at the hiding spot. Someone else might find the treasure, and not replace it with a new one.
If you go, go in the spirit of giving, as well as receiving, and leave behind a little something for the next person to find.
And please let me know if you find it, by writing me at email@example.com. Enjoy, and good luck!
Rolf Parker lives with his wife, artist Cynthia Houghton, in Brattleboro. For more information about their treasure puzzlers, visit greenmountainartifacts.com.