Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Hunt is On!

This isn't about food or gardening...But I wrote about the Medallion Hunt last year, so here's this year's first segment.

I haven't been this excited about headgear since my orthodontist announced he was removing the awful contraption from my teeth.  Who'd have thought that 15 years later I'd be thrilled to strap a headlight to my face at 10pm on a Saturday night and venture into a gloomy hollow?  

I'm not exactly an outdoorsy person.  I overheat very easily when physically exerted; my usual light olive complexion turns beet red with green streaks framing my mouth.  In the winter I shiver in our chilly 62 degree house, donning wool socks and slippers as soon as I slip off my snow boots.  I think something is wrong with my hypothalamus.  But for several days in a row I've voluntarily braved below zero temperatures for hours at a time.  I start with the base layer of insulation and build up from there: First the moisture-wicking socks, organic cotton leggings, and Cuddle-duds.  Then the thick organic wool socks, recycled polyester lounge pants (they don't breathe and that means I stay warm), and my favorite thrift store sweater.  Last come the snow boots, snow pants, winter coat, 2 scarves, hat with ear flaps, and Minnesota Mittens (made by special needs workers from recycled sweaters- get 'em at Mississippi Market).  

Then I pack a bag with headlamps, thermoses of hot tea, emergency warming pouches (made with wind power!), a sharp hand plow, and my trusty Blackberry (the modern girl's treasure map).  I pick up Mike from work and we stop in at Dunn Brothers for some fuel: decaf soymilk mochas.  Yes, decaf.  I'm a lightweight when it comes to stimulants.

The cold hits my exposed nose as soon as I step out of the car, but frozen nose hairs and foggy glasses won't stop me from hunting for the St. Paul Winter Carnival Medallion.  

What is it about this event that captivates every cell of my being for 12 days of January?  Is it the prize money?  Ten thousand dollars is a lot of money, for sure.  And I've basically already spent it in my daydreams.  But I think I'd do this for twenty bucks and a chocolate bar.  

Maybe the prestige?  Treasure finders get featured in news stories, online profiles, and become legends among hunters.  Some are hated and some are loved, but they are known nevertheless.  I don't think that's it, though.  The idea of having my photo taken with matted hat hair, a headlamp, puffy snow pants, and snot frozen to my face just isn't that appealing.

I've stayed awake until 2am, woke up early before work, skipped my yoga classes, and rearranged my work schedule to fit in more medallion hunting.  I've spent more time deciphering clues and tracking down references to obscure St. Paul landmarks in the past week than I've spent baking, knitting, or watching CSI.  What exactly is this thing that has come over me?

The only way I can explain it is the thrill of the hunt.  Now, the closest I've ever been to hunting is sitting next to my dad at Catfish Corners with my pink Snoopy fishing pole dangling over the stocked pond.  And this vegan gal is not about to don some blaze orange and take a life in order to eat dinner.  But is this adrenaline rush, this feeling of excitement, anticipation, and pure delight what keeps hunters waiting patiently in their deer stands?  

Last night, as Mike and I drove to a cold, gloomy park at my usual bedtime, he commented, "I wouldn't have thought you'd be into this Medallion Hunt."  Yeah, no kidding.  A few years ago I mocked the hunters digging in seemingly random snow drifts and searching like their lives depended on it.  I packed this Medallion Hunt away on a mental shelf along with Lord of the Rings, choose your own adventure books, and those fantasy role playing games I abhor.  

All it took was glancing at a few clues to get me hooked, though.  What the message board hunters call "noodling" (following the clues' less than obvious hints back to landmarks, historical references, or people, usually via the internet) is really just a euphamism for research.  And lord knows I love an excuse to do some research.  Throw in my passion for Nancy Drew, CSI, and any sort of mystery and you have all the prerequisites for a medallion hunt addict.  

Now, as I'm in the thralls of the hunt, I wrestle with going about my usual routines of cooking, cleaning, and working when the medallion is still out there, just begging me to find it.  I've considered using vacation time to clear work responsibilities out the picture so I can focus on what is really important in life: Tracking down clues and finding that medallion.  Luckily my family is equally obsessed, so I don't need to forgo spending time with them to fulfill my need to hunt.  The kids have mastered Google Maps this year and their little brains think just abstractly enough to be worthy helpers to the cause.  Mike actually went to work today on only one hour of sleep: He spent the night researching St. Paul gangsters and historic kidnappings, all in the name of the medallion.  

Will we actually find this treasure?  Realistically, the odds are pretty slim.  Heck, I'm not even a native St. Paulite- Why should I win this most rewarding St. Paul adventures?  There are plenty of folks that deserve it more than us, people who have been medallion hunters for decades and paid their dues.   

But that won' stop me from trying.  I'll keep noodling, donning my winter gear, and staying up past my bedtime until this prize is found.  Really- I shouldn't even be writing this.  I need to get my gear on and get out there.  Someone could be out there, right this very second, digging in my spot...


aTxVegn said...

Oh how interesting! And you totally deserve the prize. Good luck!

Jess Shambler said...

That sounds like so much fun! I see that someone (not you) found the medallion, so condolences, but maybe next year! I wish there were something like that in nyc.