Harkayee Treasure Hunt calls hikers to Wells Gray

Cash prizes of $1,000 for both the Family Hunt and the Adventure Hunt

Dave Simms tries to make sense of plant references in the Harkayee Treasure Hunt by reading Plants of the Southern Interior.

Dave Simms tries to make sense of plant references in the Harkayee Treasure Hunt by reading Plants of the Southern Interior.

David Simms

Nearly anyone who lived in the Kamloops -North Thompson during the late 1980s will likely remember the search for the Golden Skull. The search went on for years, driven by cryptic clues and full page maps published in local newspapers.

With each new map, there would be at least one section removed from the search area in order to heighten interest, build excitement and narrow the focus.

Designed to attract people to the Clearwater/Wells Gray area, it succeeded. The hills around Clearwater were literally crawling with people hoping to discover the Golden Skull, with its rumored value of $100,000. The event had a huge quotient of fun, for participants and onlookers alike.

The theme for this year’s Harkayee Treasure Hunt, also a skull hunt, is similar. Both of these hunts were supposedly derived from a letter written by Bob Quaker, a Clearwater backwoodsman who grew up in the 1930s.

Although the motivational enticements this year include cash prizes of $1,000 for both the Family Hunt and the Adventure Hunt, the reason for holding the hunt is to get people out into Nature so they can enjoy seeing more and learning more about Her. The clues are plant based. Some numerical manipulations are also required. This is designed to ensure a balance of neurological activity within the skulls of the participants.

In contrast with the clues given out in the original Search for the Golden Skull, the Harkayee Treasure Hunt clues actually seem quite manageable.

In order to whet your appetite and to determine whether the Harkayee is really for you, a shortened version of Treasure Wells Gray is available online, at http://wellsgraypark.info/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/A-FAMILY-TREASURE-HUNT-CLUES-.pdf.

The full Treasure Wells Gray booklet costs $10 and is available at the Wells Gray Info Center. Treasure is well worth the price. Not only will Treasure treat you to the engaging, and most playful, writing of naturalist Trevor Goward, complete with background information regarding the Legend of Harkayee but, you will be served enhanced clues that are absent from the free version of Treasure.

Armed with Treasure, a copy of Plants of Southern Interior British Columbia  (also available from the Info Center) and a good pair of hiking boots, you’ll be ready for the challenge.

Regardless of which version of Harkayee you enter, whether you do it alone, with that special person, or with your entire family, a good way to start is to read Treasure, then to decide which of the 10 hikes – most will take 2 ½ hours – you’ll do first.

Note the clues. Then, refer to Plants of… in order to bookmark the relevant pages and make an educated guess at the plants referenced in the clues for your chosen hike.

If you’re really keen, try applying the numerical tests to your plant hypotheses to see whether they fall within the spectrum of reasonable answers. Then, get out onto the trails. Double-check your plants. Pay close attention to the landmarks on the map.


If you keep your eyes wide open and, if you’re really lucky, you might find the Harkayee skull. If you find it, try not to be disappointed. The skull for this event’s celebration of Wells Gray World Heritage Year is not gold. It’s made of clay, fashioned by Mindy Lunzman of Kamloops. An identical bronze version of the skull will be auctioned this autumn.