The Arizona Treasure Hunt has been an annual tradition since the Phoenix section of the IEEE initiated the Hunt in 1951. The Hunt had been an annual event in the Chicago area and with the development of the electronics industry in the Valley, many transplanted Chicagoans (mostly Motorola engineers) persuaded the Phoenix section directors to sponsor a Valley version. It has run annually since then without missing a single year!
In the early years, The Hunt had a definite engineering flavor, but over the years it has evolved and is now more reflective of the social nature of the event. While there are still some occasional clues requiring engineering, math or science knowledge and proficiency, the bulk of the clues relate to current events, pop culture and general knowledge. This evolution has made it more enjoyable for participants of all professions. Historically, each of the 78 six-person teams consisted of three husband-and-wife pairs, but present-day Hunts have consisted of more diverse teams.
OK, so what is The Hunt?
The Hunt is an incredible evening filled with puzzle-solving, teamwork, desert-searching, map-navigating and creative driving. The basic idea of The Hunt is quite simple: solve as many clues (or puzzles) as possible within the given time period (approximately 5 hours). There are a total of 26 clues, labeled A through Z. The committee places the clues in open desert areas which have been traditionally bounded by Bell Road to the south, the Cave Creek-Carefree area to the north, 19th Avenue to the west, and 148th Street to the East. This is roughly 300 square miles.
Teams consist of up to six people who drive throughout the Hunt area in a single vehicle. Usually the vehicles are full-sized vans or minivans. Teams find clues one at a time, then solve the puzzle located at each clue site in order to find the location of the next clue site they are to visit. This process continues throughout the duration of The Hunt. At the end of the evening, all teams check in and the team with the lowest average time per clue is declared the winner.
To make finding clue sites even more fun, The Hunt begins at dusk and ends between 11:00pm and midnight. Yes, flashlights are highly recommended equipment for hunters.
So why do people participate in The Hunt?
Well, because it’s a lot of fun! Running around in the desert at night, solving puzzles with your friends and competing just for the sake of competition drives teams to return year after year. Naturally there is an awards ceremony held at the conclusion of the evening. During the ceremony the top three teams are recognized for their stellar performances. The third place team are declared the unoffical runners-up, the second place team becomes known as the “real winners” and the first place team earns the title of “suckers who have to help plan The Hunt for the next three years”. That’s right, the winning team gets the honor and privilege of serving on the Treasure Hunt Committee!
A committee plans this thing?
That’s right! The Treasure Hunt Committee consists of the 18 people that comprised the winning teams from the previous three Hunts. Making The Hunt happen is a lot of work, but thanks to a process which has been honed over 60 years, the workload is spread out across well-defined roles. And yes, it’s fun to come up with clues to inflict on fellow hunters.