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Despite a year of anxiety, disappointment, and grief, 2020 presented unexpected opportunities for adventure, happiness, and personal growth. Discovering treasure hunting was one of those bright spots. It’s a way of getting outside (sometimes with my dog), keeping my body and mind active, staying safe by socially distancing from others, and discovering new places, whether in my neighborhood or another state.
The Candyman’s Gold Ticket Treasure Hunt
This all happened because late in the summer, I heard about a man giving away a candy factory through a nationwide Gold Ticket treasure hunt. Of course, I wanted in. An opportunity of winning a candy factory brings my childhood dreams to reality.
Growing up, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl was one of my favorite books. “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” starring Gene Wilder remains one of my favorite films. The premise of a kid from an extremely poor family gifted a magical and mysterious candy factory by finding a golden ticket in a candy bar reminds me anything is possible.
A Lucky Finder Will Win a Candy Factory!
David Klein, affectionately called The Candyman, founded the popular Jelly Belly ® jelly beans. He left the company years ago and his life is featured in the documentary, “Candyman: The David Klein Story.” Over the years, he created more sweet confections, like Sandy Candy® Edible Sand Art with Candyman Kitchens.
Klein has several candy factories and is giving his Hawthorne, Fla., factory to the nationwide Gold Ticket finder. To participate, hunters had to purchase a $50 entry in a state hunt and solve a riddle (or two or more) and find a Gold Ticket (in the form of a necklace) worth $5,000. Each state was limited to 1,000 participants and hunts began in October and ended in December. Over a quarter of a million dollars was given out to adventure seekers and the hunt to win the candy factory will be held in May.
“The Candyman’s Treasure Hunt The Orb Travelers” New Book, New $100,000 Treasure!
Although registration for the hunt to win the candy factory is over, Klein is offering more hunts including a premium hunt with clues in a digital book called “The Candyman’s Treasure Hunt The Orb Travelers.” The treasure finder will receive a $100,000 annuity paid out over 20 years. Those who preorder the book have access to pop-up virtual hunts. The book costs $35.98 and will be electronically delivered March 27. Learn more and order the book on www.thegoldticket.com.
I participated in hunts in Georgia and South Carolina – well, I didn’t make it to South Carolina before the hunt ended. Although I didn’t find gold tickets, I had great adventures. This included seeing some of The Walking Dead set in Senoia, Ga., stumbling across the quirky Barbie Beach, and watching sunrise from Jekyll Island. Joining The Gold Ticket Facebook Group helped me maintain sanity during these uncertain times. It’s a source of positivity and pure joy. Best of all, Klein frequently posts, beginning each post with, “This is the Candyman…,” and shares something about his interesting life and sweet journey in confections.
Beyond the Typical Treasure Hunt
After telling a friend I purchased entries into two hunts, she suggested I investigate treasure hunting closer to home.
Over the years, I heard of José Gaspar’s buried booty somewhere in the Charlotte Harbor area. There’s also debate whether Gaspar, also known as Gasparilla, was real or fictional, and if treasure exists. Chasing after a fictional pirate’s treasure doesn’t appeal to me.
I turned to social media for help on ways to find treasure and several friends shared their quests for tangible and intangible riches. I discovered a bevvy of options for thrill-seekers. Some use high tech devices, others require puzzle-solving skills, and all involve fun. These activities are ideal for solo adventurers, couples, and families. Following is a sampling of what I’ve discovered.
Catch the Cache – Geocaching
Geocaching is a 21st century treasure hunt. Participants hide items, commonly called caches. Clues and hints with latitude and longitude coordinates are posted online. Searchers use global positioning systems and problem-solving skills to find the cache. Caches typically contain a log sheet or book and a small takeaway item for the finder. They’re in waterproof containers which can be just about anything ranging from plastic food storage tubs to old film canisters and faux tree branches to cast-iron animals. Find them in Florida, across the U.S., and throughout the world.
“I walked two miles, crossed a swinging bridge, forded an ice-cold Tennessee mountain brook and scaled a 30-foot cliff face on my birthday a few years ago to find a geocache” said Pete Corradino, owner of Everglades Day Safari in Fort Myers and geocacher since 2004. “It was the second most dangerous hide I found, only because there weren’t alligators in the water on this one.”
Getting started is easy! Central Florida resident Jillian Davis has geocached since 2003 and started with friends, then solo, and today, she enjoys it with her husband and son. She advises beginners to “start simple, no need to jump in with fancy equipment and tools. A cell phone and a pencil or pen are all you need to go out and have some fun. We do carry around extra zip top bags, pens or pencils, duct tape, and swag to trade now.”
“When writing your log entry at the geocache or online remember to be kind. There are people that spend time and energy placing these caches and often reading what is written,” Corradino added.
A quick search on Geocaching.com indicates there are more than 450 caches within a 10-mile radius of my home in North Port, Fla. Caches may be easy or difficult to access.
Train the (Pocket) Monsters – Pokémon Go
If you’ve been in a public area and seen people wandering with purpose with smartphones extended, there probably playing Pokémon Go. In fact, just the other afternoon, while walking around the lake at the Venice campus of the State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota, I watched a member of a family stray from the group and head for a tree.
“Are you playing Pokémon?” I asked.
“Yes,” the mother answered. Apparently, the entire family of five play.
Nintendo introduced the world to Pokémon (for pocket monster) in the mid-90s as a game for Game Boy. The augmented reality mobile game launched in 2016 and allows gamers to become trainers and navigate the real world to search and capture Pokémon. When one appears within the smartphone application, users throw Poké Balls to capture and collect characters.
Available for Android and iOS devices, the game is free and fun, however, viewing the world through your smartphone can be distracting. Stay aware of your surroundings especially around roadways and be mindful of where you’re searching for characters. When the game launched, some Pokémon characters were on private property or in places inaccessible 24 hours a day. Players pursuing these characters were charged with trespassing. Learn more about the game by visiting www.pokemongo.com/en-us.
Use Your Noggin and Not Tech – Letterboxing
Before geocaching and Pokémon Go, there was letterboxing and a couple of centuries later, it’s still going strong. Letterboxing dates to mid-1800s England. It’s part orienteering, part craft, and part problem-solving.
Letterboxes contain a logbook and rubber stamp (oftentimes handcrafted) and hidden in publicly accessible areas. When a finder locates the box, they stamp the logbook with their stamp and use the letterbox stamp to make an impression in their notebook.
During my travels to Georgia, each time I stopped at an interstate rest area, I visited AtlasQuest.com to search for local letterboxes. Unfortunately, I could not find any active letterboxes but locally I found them in a park, grocery store parking lot, and cemetery.
Amanda Jesse-Lombardi of Bradenton has been Letterboxing for 15 years, geocaching for 11, and playing Pokémon Go for three and finds all appealing for different reasons.
“Letterboxing is challenging because it does not use the aid of GPS. You simply have to rely on the clue and your brain. The discovery of a hand carved stamp gives an element of surprise,” she said. Jesse-Lombardi has engaged her daughter in these activities and participates alone or with friends.
“Geocaching is easier than letterboxing when you have a small child, but it isn’t nearly as satisfying,” she explained. “Pokémon is just something fun that can be done while you are going about daily life. The characters are cute, and it encourages people to get outside and walk!”
Of the three, she says letterboxing is “the most culturally rich.” She’s discovered new things about the area she lives, explaining, “Letterboxing often will focus on a historical aspect of an area, and I learned a lot about yellow fever in Palmetto, Florida from the Letterbox series there.
“All in all, each of these activities encourage something other than sitting on a couch, which is a great thing! In addition, they can be done anywhere you are, so you can take them on vacation,” Jesse-Lombardi said.
Read Between the Lines – Treasure Hunting Books
Art dealer and author Forrest Fenn hid a treasure chest worth $1 million in the Rocky Mountains more than a decade ago. He wrote a poem with nine clues in the memoir, “The Thrill of the Chase.” At least five people died during quests finding the loot. In June 2020, Fenn announced the treasure chest was found in Wyoming in the same spot he hid it in 2010.
Here in Southwest Florida, award-winning outdoor writer Bob Bramblet hid 100 cull peace silver dollars with an estimated value of $2,000. Clues are in his book “John’s Treasure,” published April 6, 2020 and on Amazon.
“I enjoy treasure hunting and have looked for things like Native American artifacts or military artifacts. I have found some really interesting things including cannon balls, insignias, buttons, and pottery,” Bramblet said when asked why he hid treasure for others to find.
“There is something in the human condition that makes us curious and have a desire to find treasure whether your hunt is on the beach for coin, under the water for shipwrecks, or at a yard sale for that overlooked item. In the end, the least you find is time with your family and friends!”
I read the book and perhaps, overanalyzed the clues, and set out on an adventure one weekend searching for John’s treasure. Although I did not find what I was searching for, I returned home with fire ant and mosquito bites, a bag of trash collected along the way, and memories of discovering another part of Florida. That made the trip worthwhile.
Bramblet told me readers reach out asking whether they interpreted the clues correctly, but he will not respond to them. He did say, “people have searched all over the state, some being closer than others. Some seem to be extremely close. The thing to remember is that not everything is a clue, but there are clues that don’t appear to be clues, so you can never be sure!”
As long as the book is available on Amazon, John’s treasure is still out there.
Treasure in Unexpected Places – Art Abandonment
Have you ever found a painted rock? I remember spotting my first one in an I-75 Florida rest area.
Art abandonment is the practice of artists leaving their art in public areas as gestures of random acts of kindness. Sometimes, artists leave clues on their social media pages and other times, they don’t and it’s an unexpected treasure for the finder. These can be painted rocks, paintings, or small sculptures in any medium. The Art Abandonment Facebook group is a place where artists post photos of their art and finders log their found treasure.
Treasure seekers in New Orleans can follow the #NOLATreasureHunt hashtag on Instagram. When they read clues, they’re led to unique treasure by creative artists.
While visiting the Vietnam Wall of Southwest Florida in Punta Gorda last fall, I noticed a small red, white, and blue quilted heart hanging from a historical marker. Pinned to it was a small note with one side stating, “I need a home.” The other read, “I found a quilted heart!” and listed the website www.IFAQH.com and hashtag, #IFAQH.
The website explained the “I Found a Quilted Heart” project. It began in January 2014 when three sisters and their spouses hiked Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. They spotted a small, quilted heart with a note reading, “I need a home.” From then on, they’ve shared and encouraged volunteers to place quilted hearts around the world with the goal to brighten the finder’s day. Finders are encouraged to log their finds.
Where Will You Find Treasure?
In reality, treasure is all around us. Mother Nature has blessed us with wonderful gifts, like seashells, fossils, and edible plants. No matter which quest you choose, before setting out on a hunt, know the rules. These include entering public and private lands, digging on public or private property, obey all laws, stay in well-lit areas, and practice safety. Importantly, have fun!
When you’re out and about, you may intentionally find treasure, or it may find you.
Resources for Treasure Hunting
I Found a Quilted Heart