The Nevada Day Treasure Hunt website generated more than 100,000 unique hits last year, so Northern Nevada treasure hunters likely will be eager to get started when the 10th annual hunt kicks off next week.
Every weekday, starting Monday, for 15 days - or until the treasure is found - the Nevada Appeal and its website, www.nnevadaappeal.com, will publish a clue about where to find this year's hidden medallion. It could be anywhere in Carson City or the counties of Churchill, Douglas, Lyon, Storey, Mineral or Washoe.
Because the Appeal does not publish on Mondays, the Monday clues will be available only online.
The first person to find the treasure will get a $500 prize. If the winner also registers at www.nvdaytreasurehunt.com before finding the treasure, he or she will be awarded another $500.
Laurie Olson and her family have hosted the treasure hunt through their nonprofit, Where In Nevada, since moving to the Silver State from Portland, Ore., 14 years ago.
"In Portland, the Oregonian (newspaper) had a similar hunt going on during the annual Rose Festival, and my son said, 'Hey, we should do that here,' so we decided to give it a try," Olson said.
"Our mission is to get people interested in the history of Nevada and to help them become aware of the area they live in," she said.
"It's a lot of fun to do as a family, and we've had teachers write to us to say they've used the clues as tools in the classroom. Some people look forward to this all year long."
The treasure - a small acrylic square containing the Nevada Day Treasure Hunt medallion - is inside a leather pouch and hidden on public property, Olson said. It will not be buried, and searchers won't have to climb or do anything physical except walk up to retrieve it. The prize was found in Carson City's Riverview Park in 2009 and at Fort Churchill in 2010.
The clues are rhymes that include cryptic bits of Nevada history, geography and other fun facts. They lead searchers to locations across Northern Nevada, picking up a bit of local lore along the way.
Retired state archivist Guy Rocha said he receives calls every year from treasure hunters trying to decipher clues.
"They'd enlist my help. They were all enthusiastic and had all sorts of theories, but I'd be very nice and kind in letting them know that that's not what the state of Nevada pays me to do," Rocha said.
Olson advises any prospective treasure hunters go to www.nvdaytreasurehunt.com to register on opening day, read the FAQs and, for newbies who want to get a feel for how the Olsons' minds work, read past clues, which contain explanations for each.
"We can't answer any questions after the hunt begins," Olson said.
Players should limit their searches to daylight hours and take care to not trespass onto private property.
"Some of the hunters are very diligent and determined to win," she said. "If they think they're in the right area, they'll scour under bushes or anywhere they think it might be."
One year, the prize was found after only the third clue, but last year, it got to the 14th clue.
"We had a repeat winner a couple of years in a row, but the rest have all been unique winners," she said.
Ray Peternell was that repeat winner, taking home the prize in 2008 and 2009.
"I did it by being persistent and doing a lot of research during the contest," Peternell said. "Last year I didn't participate because there is such excitement, and I felt kind of bad winning two years in a row, but this year, I'm going to try again. My son (17) and daughter (13) help me, too."
Peternell said he usually sees other searchers out there every year.
"There's this really sweet little old lady, about 75 years old, who calls me every year to talk about the clues. She wants to find it so bad, and I really hope she wins," he said.
The person who finds the treasure should bring it to the Nevada Appeal, 580 Mallory Way, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday-Friday. If the treasure is not found by 5 p.m. Oct. 21, the contest is over.
Players also must be 18 by Oct. 3 to participate.