Linda Weaver Clarke

Intriguing Escapades

Chapter 1

The Treasure Hunt

A smile tugged at April's lips, as she stood in front of her parents, ready to make an announcement. They always planned a family vacation each year and it was time to make plans once again. But this year was going to be different. She was going to announce an adventure... a treasure hunt. It wasn't one that she had put together, but it had been created by one of the professors at the college.

A few years ago the family enjoyed looking for Montezuma's treasure. It had been such a fun vacation. That was when she finally realized her true feelings for Matthew... her sweetheart and husband. How could she ever forget that vacation?

Her parents, John and Julia, gave her a nod to begin. John had the twins on FaceTime. That way everyone would be included in the plans.

"I would like to give a suggestion for our family vacation this year. Remember our little treasure hunt we went on a few years ago? Well, I think we should go on another one."

"That sounds fun," said Sharlene.

"What kind of treasure hunt is it?" asked Faith.

April had definitely gotten their interest. Turning to her husband, she pushed her wavy honey-blond hair over her shoulder and gave a nod. "Matthew can tell you about it. He knows all the details."

Leaning his forearms on his legs and clasping his hands together, Matthew grinned. "You're going to love this idea. It's going to be so much fun."

"Did you hide a treasure for us to find?" asked Faith excitedly.

"No, I didn't."

"What kind of treasure is it?" asked Sharlene.

"That part is a mystery. One of the professors at the college hid a treasure chest in the mountains. He wrote a poem with hints about where the treasure is hidden. Then he invited his students to participate. That was ten years ago and it still has not been found. He also created a blog about the treasure hunt where followers can make comments and ask questions. If and when the treasure is found, he will announce it on his blog." With a broad smile, Matthew said, "I checked his blog today and it still has not been found."

"What if someone finds it who doesn't know about the treasure hunt and doesn't report it?" asked Julia.

"Good question! Professor Brown thought of that. He left a note inside the chest with his phone number, asking whoever finds it to report their findings so it could be announced on his blog."

"This sounds fun," said Faith eagerly. "Where do we begin hunting?"

"Professor Brown told us that it's in the mountains of Washington County."

"But that covers a huge area," exclaimed John with stunned surprise. "Do you know how many mountain ranges we have here? What makes you think we can find it? Do any of his hints pinpoint a certain area?"

Matthew gave a sly grin as if he knew something they didn't. "As a matter of fact..."

Sharlene's eyes widened. "Have you figured it out, Matt?"

"Maybe. Most everyone has been searching at Zion National Park because the poem mentions a campground and hiking. That's what Zion Canyon is famous for. But I did some research, and I don't think it's there. I believe it's at Pine Valley Mountain. And I'll tell you why I came to that conclusion."

Taking three copies of the poem, he handed one to John, Julia, and April.

"This poem has clues and we have to figure out what they mean. But mind you, this has been going on for ten years and no one has found it. It may not be easy to find. So let's think of it as another adventure."

Julia nodded her agreement. "That's the best way to think of it. Otherwise, we will feel discouraged."

Holding up his hand, John said, "I have one comment. Actually, it's a reminder. I told you this once before when we were searching for Montezuma's treasure and I'm going to say it again. Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Understand? Don't let this go to your head. Let's just have fun. We can figure this out together and come up with some ideas."

The girls nodded, holding back a smile as he spoke. Their father didn't want them to think of worldly treasures above everything else.

"Yes, we'll remember that, Dad," said Sharlene with laughter in her voice.

"Very well, then. Let's vote on it. With a raise of hands, who wants to go on a treasure hunt for your family vacation?"

All hands went up, including Julia's. With a smile, John raised his hand. It was unanimous.

"All right then, let's plan on getting together in two weeks. The weather should be perfect in September, not too hot and not too cold. I'll get all the provisions we'll need. Remember, we only have a week to search for this treasure."

"This is going to be so much fun," exclaimed Sharlene. "Camping and bonfires and delicious food beneath the stars!"

Changing the subject, April said, "So... how are things up north? Ever since you two graduated from the academy, you don't come home as often. You must be very busy."

"Oh yes, work keeps us on our toes but we enjoy it," said Sharlene.

"Are you dating anyone?"

"No, but Faith is. She's dating Nick. He got in touch with her and they've been seeing one another ever since."

"That's awesome, Faith. Are things getting serious between you two?"

Faith sighed. "That's a hard question to answer. I like Nick, but he wants more from our relationship. More than I can give. Marriage is a big step and I'm not sure if he's the one I want to spend the rest of my life with."

"You have to listen to your feelings, Faith. That's what I did with Matthew."

"Okay, we'll see you in two weeks," said Sharlene.

After they hung up the phone, April and her parents looked at the poem with Matthew. Taking it, she read aloud.

Do not dawdle! Do not delay!

At a campground, you will stay.

Rest the night but be on guard.

The hike you make may be hard.

Follow the route... a course of direction.

The whippoorwill will guide your mission.

Nothing will go wrong... listen to its voice.

There's a fork in the trail... it's your choice

A memorial will show you're on the right track.

If not found in 3 miles, you should turn back.

If you took the right trail, look down below.

The gorgeous view was created long ago.

A valley between some hills you'll find.

Take in the beauty and rest your mind.

A drink from the Fountain of Youth is best.

Get on your feet and head northwest.

But wait! What is behind nature's curtain?

You will find a treasure chest, I'm certain.

The treasures inside are of great worth.

You will never find better upon this earth.

"The professor mentions a course of direction," said Julia. "I figure he's meaning a path or trail. But what is the bird all about? The whippoorwill will guide your mission. How will a bird guide us to the right path?"

"That was exactly what I thought, too," said Matthew. "I think that part of the poem has boggled many a mind. Even mine. Some were looking for bird nests in trees along different paths, while others were searching for the Whippoorwill Trail. So I did an Internet search for hikes and trails that had the name of Whippoorwill in the mountains of Washington County. There was nothing. I spent hours searching. Still nothing!"

Shaking his head, John said, "I've never heard of a trail by that name and I know this area pretty well."

Matthew smiled broadly. "Let me tell you what I discovered. Last week I was talking to a friend of mine who just returned from hiking at Pine Valley. He said that the Whipple Trail was amazing and it wasn't that difficult. That was when it dawned on me. Whippoor and Whipple are similar. Do you hear it? Whippoorwill sounds like Whipple Trail."

"Are you serious?" said Julia with stunned surprise. "They do sound similar. If you're right, the professor was pretty clever."

"We're taking a big chance because it might mean something else," said April with concern.

"I don't take chances," said Matthew with confidence. "Do you want to know what I did? I went to the ole guy and told him what I thought he meant in his poem, just to see his reaction. Professor Brown said he couldn't divulge a thing, but he encouraged me to go with my gut feelings. He acted impressed with my reasoning. Based on his reaction, I think I came to the right conclusion."

"Wow!" exclaimed April. "You are good at this treasure hunting stuff, Matt. When we were searching for Montezuma's treasure, you talked to the right people and figured it out."

"As you remember, I got us into a heap of trouble because of it. They spread the news of what we were doing. And that got the attention of Ted who tried to interview us. I felt terrible about it."

April laughed. "True. But in the end, you were my hero." When she saw his eyes soften, April smiled. "Now... how about the rest of the poem?"

Pointing to the next hint, he said, "When you see a fork in the trail, it's your choice. That one is simple. There's a fork and we must choose the right direction. We just have to watch for some kind of memorial to make sure we went the right way."

"A memorial?" asked April curiously. "What kind of memorial should we be looking for?"

Julia tilted her head as if in thought and said, "A memorial is a structure built to remind people of a person or event. It could be almost anything."

"Next..." continued Matthew. "A valley between some hills you'll find. This one might be tricky. I checked a map and there are a lot of valleys up there. If we choose the right valley, we're supposed to head northwest to find a fountain of youth."

"Mmm! I'm all for that," hummed Julia, as she pointed to her eyes. "I would like to remove a few of these wrinkles."

John looked at her incredulously and cocked his head as if to inspect her wrinkles. "Hmmm! Well... I wouldn't worry about it. You're more beautiful than ever. You age very well, if you ask me."

She smiled and kissed his check.

Pointing to the poem, Julia said, "It all makes sense. If we're wrong, we'll at least have had a fun vacation together."

"I'm bringing my fishing pole," said John with resolution. "There's some good fishing at the Pine Valley reservoir."

"Sounds good to me," agreed Matthew.

For the next two weeks, everyone made plans. If and when they found the treasure chest, the only person who had a key was the professor. But Matthew figured anyone could cut off the lock with an axe.

The professor would not divulge the contents of the chest on his blog. But he claimed that it was of great value... a treasure of great worth. The idea of searching for a treasure was exciting to everyone.

When the family finally got together for their vacation, the mood was full of intrigue and wonder as they thought about the treasure and what it might be.

After pulling into the Equestrian Campground, they unloaded their tents, sleeping bags, folding chairs, and two coolers full of food.

After their tents were set up and their camp was organized, John said, "I propose that we start hiking tomorrow morning so we can have enough sunlight to search. How about if we go fishing down at Pine Valley Reservoir this afternoon, Matthew? I brought two fishing poles with me."

"Great idea! I'm not much of a fisherman, but I'd love to go."

While the men headed for the reservoir, April stayed at camp and helped prepare an evening meal with her mother and sisters. They weren't interested in fishing. To sit for hours with a rod in their hand, waiting for a fish to bite, was quite boring to the Evans sisters. But John disagreed. He loved the quiet atmosphere.

As they prepared Dutch oven potatoes and chicken, they talked and discussed what the professor had done.

"Why did he do it?" asked Faith with a raise of her brow. "I can't figure it out."

As April cut the potatoes, she said, "Matt told me that Professor Brown wanted his students to step outside away from their computers and social media and have an adventure. He even extended his invitation to anyone else who wanted to participate. Some people wrote remarks on his blog about the adventures they were having, even though they had not found the treasure. He enjoyed reading their experiences.”

"That's awesome!" said Sharlene. "How old is he?"

"I think he's about seventy. He teaches part time, but rumor has it that he's thinking about retiring at the end of this year."

"What does he teach?" asked Sharlene as she placed some kindling in the fire pit.

"He teaches Sociology, the study of human behavior and social relationships. And he's an excellent teacher, too."

After Sharlene lit the fire in the pit and it had burned down to a bed of coals, April placed the Dutch oven onto the coals. Then she helped Faith cut the cantaloupe into slices. By the time the meal was ready, the men sauntered into camp with a bucket full of fish.

"We have tomorrow's dinner," announced John with a broad smile. "This young man outdid me."

Matthew shrugged his shoulders, as if it was no big deal.

That evening after everyone had eaten, they sat down around the fire pit to relax. While Matthew played his guitar, they discussed their plans for the next morning.

"We should get up bright and early and head for Whipple Trail," said John. "We need to make sure we have plenty of water in our backpacks, some lunch or snacks, and bug spray."

As Matthew strummed his guitar, he smiled. "I was just thinking about the last treasure hunt we went on and what fun we had."

"It sure was, wasn't it?" said April as she snuggled against Matthew. "If we hadn't been rummaging around in the attic, we wouldn't have found my great grandfather's treasure map."

"We were quite adventurous, weren"t we?" he said as he strummed the chords on his guitar.

Sharlene turned to him and nodded. "It wouldn't have been as fun if we hadn't done it as a family."

"Of course, searching for treasure can get you into some unpleasant situations," said Faith as she glanced at her sister. "April almost fell off a cliff because she took a wrong step."

"Oh yes!" exclaimed April as she shuddered at the memory of it. "I slipped and fell down a hill. Thank goodness I grabbed hold of a shrub, just as I slid over the edge. I was hanging there for quite some time before Matthew could get to me." Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and wrapped her hand around Matthew's arm. "I don't want to talk about it."

"Poor April," breathed Sharlene with sympathy. "Having acrophobia can be terrifying."

"I've never seen anyone that has fear of heights as bad as you," said Matthew as he patted her hand. "It was a scary situation."

"Oh yes!" April agreed with a vigorous nod. "And how about those guys who found out we had discovered some artifacts and tried to steal them from us?"

Faith sat back in her folding chair and smiled. "That was the most exciting week we ever had."

"Exciting?" exclaimed Julia. "The two things you just mentioned were terrifying."

Matthew broke into laughter and the girls joined him.

"Exactly!" he replied. "So why do we look at it as a great adventure?"

John chuckled but did not say a word.

Sharlene leaned toward April and said, "One of the guys I work with asked me if we do a family vacation every year. I told him that we try to get together whenever possible. Then he said that we must be a very close knit family to make time for each other, because he only visits his family every two years."

"Wow! I couldn't wait for two years to see you guys," said April with a shake of her head. "I teach a pottery class twice a week, so I told my students that we wouldn't have class this week because I was going camping with my family. One of the girls said there is too much drama when her family gets together so they don't plan vacations with one another. When she asked if we have much drama, I just laughed."

Faith broke into laughter. "Do we have drama? We're a bunch of girls. Of course, we have drama!"

"That's right. Just like other families," said April with a giggle. "Sometimes we have to stand back for a while and take a breather. There's no room for grudges. Holding a grudge can eat at us and ruin our relationship. I love my sisters and I don't want a silly argument to keep us from having fun with each other. Can you imagine all the holidays we would miss out on if we didn’' want to see one another?"

Faith shook her head adamantly. "I dont even want to think about it."

Matthew smiled and gave a nod. "You girls have the right attitude. Sure wish every family thought like that."

"How about you, Matt?" asked Julia curiously.

"I have a brother. But guys don't have much drama. After an argument, we just forget about it."

"Lucky man!" said John as he leaned back in his chair and folded his arms over his chest. "A household of girls and all their mood swings can either be entertaining or frustrating. If one of them borrows a shirt or dress without asking, I hear about it... especially if that sister spills something on it. If one of them snarls at the other for no good reason or if she is criticized for doing something dumb, I hear about it. And I can't take sides. That's forbidden. I have to be diplomatic."

Matthew chuckled at John's dramatics.

"It's not easy being a father to all girls," continued John with a sigh. "Trust me. You can't imagine all the times I've stuck my foot in my mouth with my daughters. Not only that... but I'm always late for church because of my daughters. They don't know what it means to be on time."

Matthew glanced at April and grinned, but he was wise enough to not say a word.

Glancing at his wife, John said, "When one of my customers found out I had all girls, he said: God bless you! I found out he only has one daughter and her mood swings drove her parents crazy. When I said it wasn't that bad, he called me a saint. Did you hear that? A saint!"

Julia smiled and gave a nod in agreement. "Face it! It takes a real man to have all daughters."

©Copyright 2005, Linda Weaver Clarke