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I am a Goonie

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HEY YOU GUYS!!!!! It’s the 25 Anniversary of the movie The Goonies, which is being celebrated this week in Astoria, OR.

Whenever I think of treasure hunts I think of The Goonies.

Ever since I got into the camping and recreation field I always dreamed of being able to build a camp that had a Goonie style hunt where a group of kids would get to find the under-ground passage, solve the clues, avoid the traps and stay ahead of the “bad guys” that were in pursuit. The under-ground passage would, of course, end with a spectacular water slide into a large pool of water or lake where they would find the pirate’s treasure.

Every year I would change the clues and traps, but would always end with the water slide.

I think most boys and some girls fantasize about finding a map that leads them to hidden treasure, and while the treasure is the goal we also imagine overcoming Raiders-of-the-Lost-Ark-like obstacles. We envision the journey to be the best part of the hunt.

So if you decide to hold a treasure hunt this summer make it awesome. It might not be Goonie-sized but I hope it’s imaginative and fantastic in every way possible. And if you are a counselor or unit leader put together a treasure hunt for one or two cabins. Let them find a dirty old map that looks like it could be a treasure map and go for a journey the campers will never forget.

Just for some inspiration go rent The Goonies (or you can borrow my copy).


Scott Arizala has a great story that I first heard when he spoke at an ACA conference, about campers and a treasure hunt that involved canoes, a camp out, wolves and ever-lasting memories. Here’s that wonderful story…


by Scott Arizala

So, there I was with a bunch of eight year olds and a junior counselor walking through the woods looking for “something to discover.”

“What’s this?!” an excited camper pronounced.

He found a bottle with a cork in it half-submerged in a natural bubbling spring. The rest of the group hurried to join him and we realized that there was something inside of the bottle. It was a map! We opened it and it seemed to be some kind of treasure map. Some strange markings appeared on it, but we could tell it was an island of some kind; there were some trails, a couple of distinct forests and an “X.”

As the senior counselor (and at the ripe old age of 19, the oldest by far), they looked to me to decipher what the map was for. I told them that when I was their age, a long, long time ago, one of my counselors had taken us to canoe around an island, something called “Animal Island.” As far as I knew that was the only island around. After some close scrutiny, one of the kids realized that the strange markings were actually a cryptic version of English and sure enough it said ‘Animal Island.’ The excitement was palpable and the fervor drove us to make a plan to find the island and unearth the treasure. Fortunately, I knew where the island was, so it was just a matter of getting there.

We sat down to figure out what we needed for our adventure. The kids came up with a list: canoes, a van, some food, a shovel, a compass, and other essential items. Within the hour we were on our way; little did we know that the adventure had just begun.

After a few missed turns and what seemed like an eternity on a two-track, we came upon the flooded creek and the first real steps on our journey. We got out of the van and lined up on the shore staring hopefully and with some uncertainty at the island in front of us. At that moment, two bald eagles circled high above the island and landed on the tallest tree overlooking their domain. The camper in charge of the map noted that they must be the eagles referred to on the map as the King and Queen of Animal Island. It was agreed that we must be in the right place. We loaded up the canoes and set off for the island and the promise of buried treasure.

There were several obstacles that we had to overcome in route to the island. First, we had to maneuver through the Dead Forest: a labyrinth of bleached white trees that jutted unnaturally from the bottom of the lake. Once through we took on No Man’s Marsh, which was an area so full of life that it looked like a thick mat of green, brown and black. Finally, we circled around the back of the island where we discovered the “ship wrecks” along the bottom of the lake. At last we had found a place to land on the island.

Once ashore, we made camp. It was nearing dinner time but none of us were interested in eating: there was treasure to find! We set out following the map. We found the rock shaped like a fish and followed were it pointed. Then we found the trees that lined up like an arrow, the ridge shaped like a snake, the rocks built into a pyramid, and the stone with a hole in it. We put the stone on the first branch of the tree with four parallel branches, and when we looked through the hole we could see an “X” that two fallen trees made in the distance. We were close!

When we got to the “X” we began to dig. About a foot down we hit something hard; it was a wooden box. In the box were ten pendants in the shape of Wolves and instructions to the finders. The instructions told us that we were the Wolf Brothers, the ones destined to find the treasure and take its meaning to the world. It instructed us to build a fire and wait until dark. We found our way back to the campsite and diligently waited for night to fall. The anticipation was thick, we could sense something big was about to happen.

After the sun set and the full moon rose enough to shed some natural light we sat around the fire and read on. “We the Wolf Brothers,” the instructions read, “are here to become a community, a family. It is our destiny to take care of the earth so that all living things can thrive. Each of us is bound by this sacred pact to honor the earth and all that live upon it.”

One by one we named an animal that we identified with and a way that we could help protect that animal and its habitat. We talked about the world that surrounded us, what the Dead Forest did for the lake and the fish, what lived in No Mans Marsh and why those animals needed that kind of dense environment. We talked about how erosion created the ridge that was shaped like a snake. Finally, we talked about what we could do at camp and at home to fulfill the “sacred pact of the Wolf Brothers.” Then, as if possessed by the moment, one camper got up, the others followed, and we walked down to the shore. Without hesitation we all began to howl at the rising full moon to accept what had been bestowed on us.

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