Teams, trails, clues, lost realms and protective gemstones can mean only one thing.
Trek for Treasure is coming.
It's that time of year when Mark Pearson, manager of United General District 304's United Fitness Center, and his staff send teams of hikers onto trails in search of clues to unlock one conundrum after another.
The 11th Trek for Treasure, dubbed "The Quest - A Treasure Hunt," is based upon a tale of six realms, each inhabited by a different being — elves, dwarfs, dragons, mermaids, goblins and humans.
According to the tale, each realm safe-guarded a magical gemstone, but these treasures vanished during a great war among the realms.
If you have a team ready to trek, uncover clues and solve the mystery of the whereabouts of the lost gems, early registration is underway. It runs until May 15, with late registration May 16 to June 10.
The trek runs June 4 to Aug. 26.
For more information — including an intricately woven backstory — visit trekfortreasure.org.
"We are very excited about this," Pearson said. "This was actually the trek we had planned for last year in celebration of our 10th year, but due to COVID-19, we had to scale last year's trek back. We were really pleased with how well it went (last year), but we are looking forward to this trek."
Prior to the pandemic, the trek attracted about 1,000 participants a year.
A big change this year will be the crowning of six Trek for Treasure champions.
"This year, there will be six champions, one for each of the six realms," Pearson said. "This just offers more of an opportunity. We know the community loves this and we have a great time."
The general concept of Trek for Treasure has remained unchanged. Teams need to be of two or more people, though due to COVID-19 it's recommended larger groups be split into smaller groups to allow for better social distancing.
Teams choose the difficulty level of the hikes. Level I has easy to moderate hikes, while Level II has moderate to intermediate.
"They hike a specified trail we give them every two weeks," Pearson said. "They can do it at their own pace and their own convenience. Solve a riddle and then take a picture of their team at a designated area to prove they completed the hike."
Each hike provides the information needed to solve a series of riddles and obtain six illustrations. Within each illustration, a clue is hidden as to the location of the gemstone depicted in the picture.
As hikes continue throughout the summer, teams will determine one or more of the Final Challenge locations scattered throughout the area, and a series of cryptic verses will be issued to qualifying teams.