The things they carried

St. Paul Pioneer Press - 01-18-2009

Experts dispense a treasury of medallion-hunting wisdom


A horde of searchers wielding shovels, hoes and rakes will start scouring parks and public lands in Ramsey County today as the Pioneer Press Treasure Hunt kicks off.

But if history is any guide, the hunters also will be armed with dictionaries, IPhones, ladders, GPS devices, laptop computers and chicken wire in their quest for the elusive medallion.

We talked to a handful of veteran hunters to learn the things they carry into the field, what they've seen other people using and what they think are the essential tools of the quest.

Jake Ingebrigtson, a 29-year-old St. Paul resident who found the medallion in 2007 after only three clues - a record time - said he thinks there are three essential reference materials.

Two are books.

"St. Paul Parks: The Treasure Hunter's Guide" by Steve Worthman is a map book of possible hiding spots for the medallion available at

"Pioneer Press Treasure Hunt History" by Jesse Anibas gives you the background and explanation of past clues. It's available at

Finally, Ingebrigtson suggests novice hunters watch the DVD documentary about the hunt, "No Time for Cold Feet,", to get an idea of what it takes to fine the prize.

"Google Maps; it's helpful to a point," Ingebrigtson added, but there's no substitute for a sturdy shovel, an ice pick and a hoe.

"People have tried this and that, but the bottom line is you have to first get out there, and you have to dig," he said.

Terry Knapp, a 62-year old Roseville resident, said he has searched for the medallion since the contest started in 1952, with the exception of the time he was fighting in the Vietnam War. He's part of a team of searchers called the Camo Crew, known for their oversized hoes.

Knapp said the handles on their hoes are about 7 feet long, ending in a digging blade about 9 inches wide. They have to be special-ordered, and cost about $75.

"We're not fooling around here," he said. "You have to be a pretty good-sized guy to handle that thing."

Anibas, who wrote the book on th treasure hunt, searches for the medallion accompanied by a Rubbermaid bin full of other reference materials like maps, a dictionary, a history of St. Paul and "A Knack for Knowing Things," a collection of essays from the late Pioneer Press columnist Don Boxmeyer.

Oakdale resident and lifelong medallion hunter Cathi Hogan said she was born Jan. 28, and she often gets treasure-hunting tools for birthday or Christmas presents.

"I've gotten a rake for my birthday and a hoe for my birthday," she said.

This year, she'll be using the same shovel that helped her find the medallion in 2001.

"It's a plain, old shovel, like the one you dig a hole with. It's a spade, I think," she said.

"Sometimes, you just kick the snow around with your Sorel boots," said Worthman, author of the treasure hunt park map guide.

The hunters have seen almost everything else being used, like chicken wire contraptions used to sift the snow. "Those people never find it," Worthman said. "They're too stationary. They build processing plants in one place."

Knapp has seen people schlepping extension ladders to parks in the misguided belief the medallion would be hidden in a tree.

"I've seen a snow blower. I've seen a leaf blower," Anibas said.

Flamethrowers would work good, but those aren't allowed," Worthman said.

When the Pioneer Press started hiding a nonmetallic medallion, hunters gave up using metal detectors. But Ingebrigtson said he once came across someone claiming to use an infrared detector.

What's most amusing are the people who seem to get a last-minute case of treasure hunt fever and dash inth the fray grabbing the nearest tool they can find. It could be the windshield scraper from the car, a broom from the kitchen, even flatware from the dining room.

Literally down on their hands an knees with a table fork," said Anibas.

Of course, there's the hockey stick guys," Worthman said.

Worthman, however, said there's one thing you should leave at home if you want to join the hunt.

"Don't take the kids," he said. "It's such an addition, I don't want my kids caught up in it. "It's like smoking."