Rookie hunter nabs the big prize in V.C. |

Rookie hunter nabs the big prize in V.C.

by F.T. Norton
Nevada Appeal Staff Writer
Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

VIRGINIA CITY ” It was lucky clue number 13 for Carson City’s Ray Peternell on Wednesday morning when, on his fifth trip to Virginia City, he found the elusive Nevada Day Treasure Hunt medallion hidden in a bush above a fire hydrant on North C Street.

“You never think you’re gonna win,” said the married carpenter who plans to take his wife and three children to dinner with the $1,000 jackpot.

Peternell had been following the clues, which ran every day beginning Oct. 6. It was Wednesday’s reference to a tree of “lace” that lured him back up to Virginia City.

He went to the tree on North C Street he’d seen on one of his earlier visits that had shoes ” with laces ” hanging from its branches. Nearby was a historical marker of the Ten Commandments referenced in clue 12.

Peternell was not alone up there, he said. Another treasure hunter also was poking around in the sagebrush that overlooks the cemetery.

“At first light we were both up there searching,” he said.

While his competition searched on the east side of the road, Peternell looked across C Street and spotted a red fire hydrant.

He’d already looked everywhere else, he said, so on a whim he wandered over.

Almost immediately, he spotted a brown satchel.

“I knew right away what it was and yelled to the other guy that I’d found it,” said Peternell.

His competitor, a past winner, came over and shook his hand.

As Peternell made his way back to Carson City, he said, he passed another searcher ” evident by the way she was looking around ” and let her off the hook.

If that woman muttered disapprovingly under her breath at Peternell’s good fortune, she didn’t show it.

“She just told me congratulations,” he said.

Peternell’s luck was a relief for treasure hunter Jack Phillips of Dayton.

He was consumed with the hunt, he said as he stood under the shoe tree later that afternoon with his 9-year-old son Ben.

When he learned the jig was up, Phillips let out a sigh.

“Man I’m so glad it’s been found,” Phillips said. “It was driving me crazy.”

He said he’d been to Washoe Valley, Spooner Summit, Minden, the legislative ground, and at least four trips to Virginia City in his hunt. He said he “burned up” two vacation days and put 1,000 miles on his car.

“This year I was obsessed. It kept me up at night,” he said. “Man, once a year for this thing is more than enough.”

Peternell said he had never taken part in the treasure hunt before, but this year’s outcome has made him a fan.

“I learned a lot,” he said. “I’ll do it again.”

– Contact reporter F.T. Norton at or 881-1213.

Explanations of Treasure Hunt Clues

Clue No. 1

Lights, camera, action

Time to light the screen

To find this year’s treasure

Dare to follow your dreams

(This is simply an introduction that sets the stage for the hunt.)

Clue No. 2

Psst! The show’s

About to start

Grab a chair

Don’t miss this part

(The key word is “chair.” The treasure rests in a county seat.)

Clue No. 3

Misfits came and left their mark

In canyons, halls and flats

Trace their steps from morning sun

To where they hung their hats

(This clue narrows the search area to Washoe, Lyon and Storey counties. “The Misfits” was filmed in Nevada at locations such as Quail Canyon in Reno, Odeon Hall in Dayton, and Stagecoach Flats east of Dayton. A clever hunter would also find that, although most of the cast “hung their hats” at the Mapes Hotel in Reno, Marilyn Monroe preferred the Edith Palmer Country Inn in Virginia City.)

Clue No. 4

It lies within 20

Over hill, over dale

A lake that served plenty

One should read Ramsdell’s tale

(Within 20 miles of the treasure is Marlette Lake. In the late 1800s, an aqueduct system was built to feed water from that lake to Virginia City. New York Tribune reporter H.J. Ramsdell visited the area not long after its completion and wrote a story about how adventuresome folk would actually ride the flume in hog troughs. He, in fact, took a ride himself.)

Clue No. 5

He came out west

To fight and seek his glory

In films and in shows

Every picture tells a story

(Storey County is named after Captain Edward F. Storey who came to the area from Texas. During the Pyramid Lake War, Storey organized and commanded Company K, Nevada Militia, known as the “Virginia City Rifles.” On June 2, 1860, Storey was ambushed, shot, and killed. He is buried in the Virginia City cemetery.

Clue No. 6

A pancake was made famous

When two brothers died

Crop this scene out

And search to one side

(Henry Comstock, whose nickname was Old Pancake, is arguably the most famous man to strike it rich in the Virginia City area. However, it was actually brothers Hosea and Ethan Grosh who first found valuable ore.  Their initial haul of silver was worth at least $3,000, but both men died before they could profit from their discovery. The clue tells the hunter to search to one side of the outcropping in Virginia City where the main artery of gold was found.)

Clue No. 7

They couldn’t find their Coffee

So they saddled up to go

And rode for two full hours

For a little cup of Joe

(In the television show Bonanza, the sheriff was named Roy Coffee. According to Wikipedia’s listing about the Ponderosa Ranch, the horseback ride from the Lake Tahoe ranch to Virginia City, where the sheriff was normally found, presumably took two hours. “A little cup of Joe” refers to Ben Cartwright’s youngest son.)

Clue No. 8

The territorial view

Was a breath of hell

Map what survived

And not what fell

(The Territorial Enterprise newspaper called the Virginia City fire of 1875 “a breath of hell.” The treasure is hidden outside the area that burned.)

Clue No. 9

El barrio es donde


Feliz caza

Y buena suerte!

(The first line of this Spanish clue means “the neighborhood is where it is.” The treasure lies in the Mexican district of Virginia City.)

Clue No. 10

When Howard came out gunning

And put one man in the ground

His shot drew the southern line

Where the treasure can be found

(At the end of the movie “The Shootist,” which was filmed mostly in Carson City, actor Ron Howard kills the bartender who gunned down John Wayne’s character.  The “southern line” in this clue can be drawn from Howard Street to Cemetery Road in Virginia City. Hunters should look for the treasure north of that line.)

Clue No. 11

The key to this number

Is middle C

Note that an octave is missing

Oh where could it be?

(Streets that run north and south in Virginia City are mostly named by letters of the alphabet, although eight are missing – S through Z.  The treasure rests somewhere along C Street.)

Clue No. 12

Thou shalt carry on, Chuck said

Search ’round where 10 unfold

Finding the treasure just could be

The greatest story ever told

(At a roadside rest at the north end of Virginia City is a plaque bearing The 10 Commandments. “Chuck” is a reference to Charleston Heston who acted in both “The 10 Commandments” and “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” In the latter movie, Pyramid Lake north of Reno served as the Sea of Galilee.)

Clue No. 13

A tree trimmed

With fancy lace

Is near the treasure’s

Resting place

(At the roadside rest referenced in Clue No. 12, there is a tree adorned with old shoes. Fancy lace refers to the shoelaces.)

The Nevada Day Treasure Hunt is sponsored by Jesse Olsen of Sierra Electric.