I’ve always loved a good treasure hunt. When I was a kid and my mom wanted us out of her hair for a few hours, my dad would take my brothers and me into the pastures near our house to “see what we could find.” He even got us a metal detector— making our treasure hunts that much better.
Most of the time we’d come home completely filthy with various bits of junk in our pockets, ranging from nails to an old horseshoe to random pieces of rusty metal. I remember being so excited to find a plain glass bottle my dad told me had probably once held some fancy lady’s perfume.
Today that same excitement presents itself when I find the perfect trinket at an antique store. Or whenever I find the most charming hole-in-the wall restaurant. Or a mural hidden behind a dumpster. Maybe it has something to do with my love of a good story.
I recently heard about something called geocaching— dubbed the world’s largest treasure hunt. Members of the geocaching community hide "caches" all over the world, to be found later by other members through the use of GPS coordinates. When I looked up how many caches were in the Baton Rouge area, over 700 popped up!
Unable to resist the pull of hidden treasure, I was in. But I also saw this as an incredible opportunity to further explore this great city. I downloaded the app, recruited a friend to come along, and off we went on our afternoon adventure.
We admittedly struggled for about the first hour because we were unsure of what we were looking for. Would it be obvious? Should we dig through leaves on the ground? What are the chances it’s in the sewer pipe?
Our first successful cache was called B.R. Drug Wars #5, a dirty white medicine bottle attached to a pole in the Walgreens parking lot, smack dab in the middle of Mid City. It might have been less than glamorous, but we were so excited to have finally found one that we couldn’t care less. Inside the bottle was a list of the names of other geocachers who had, over the years, also come across our momentary bounty.
Our next stop was downtown. We parked on a side street off of St. Charles Street and took off on foot. It was around 6:00 p.m. by now and the too-warm-for-September weather had cooled down to just perfect.
Strolling through residential streets, looking at the charming pastel houses of downtown Baton Rouge with a pink sky up above, I thought this might be treasure enough. It's a rare thing these days for me to have the opportunity to step away from my studies, my work, my friends and my routine long enough to enjoy a beautiful Baton Rouge sunset. But, then we found another cache! Well, it almost found me.
As we traipsed through the streets, getting closer and closer to the x-marks-the-spot, I looked up and spotted it right in front of me. This cache, called Cordova Square, was a shiny red capsule, hanging from a string on an electrical pole off the sidewalk. It looked so odd there! Like a tiny spaceship casually hanging from a shoelace. I wonder how many people pass right by it every single day.
We happily hopped back to my car, ready to take on whatever else we can before we lost the sunlight, when Camille, who had accompanied me, asked, “Have you ever been to Spanish Town?”
I hadn’t! It’s one of those places I’ve heard a lot about since moving to Baton Rouge three years ago, but had never quite gotten to. We made a few quick turns off of the general downtown area before reaching a series of narrow one-way streets.
We parked across from the Spanish Town Market and began our hunt anew. The kind of twilight clarity had Camille snapping pictures constantly as we walked past yellow, pink, and blue houses spilling over with plants and pink flamingo decorations.
We turned into a quaint senior citizen’s park, complete with raised flowerbeds and budding vegetables. We followed the coordinates all the way to the back to find Checkered Cache. Standing on a large ground checkerboard we began to scan the area.
There was an odd green hollow pole in the corner, with litter protruding from its center. I reached under the bottom for an odd looking white object, hoping I’m not grabbing someone’s old trash. And when I pulled it out, I still wasn't quite sure. What I'd found was an old, filthy, and quite sticky tic tac box with a magnet attached to it. I took off the top and sure enough, there was yet another list of Baton Rouge’s treasure hunters.
We walked back to the car; it was getting late and my phone was on 5%. I asked Camille if we should go for one more or call it a night. We gave the map one more look to see if there were any places nearby worth hitting and agreed to give it one last shot.
We followed the coordinates to our final location and found ourselves in front of the Capitol Park Museum and, as if by fate, at the very foot of the Louisiana State Capitol itself. The cache we were looking for was called The Musicians and we scanned the area around us for clues.
Then, we see it— the bronze statue under the trees, "Les Musicians" by sculptor Al Lavergne. It’s of two men in a horse-drawn carriage, one playing an accordion and the other a violin. I heard Cajun music in my mind as I ran my hands over every corner of the statue, looking for our prize.
Finally, mid-sentence about giving up, I knelt down and looked under the statue, ran my hands along the bottom of the carriage. Yes!! Yet another capsule, this one smaller, wrapped in metallic tape. We added LEGACY to the list of names that have found themselves here. We finished our adventure with a celebratory selfie in front of the State Capitol and began to make our way home.
Earlier, I told you that part of my love for treasure hunting was in finding stories in objects and in places. But there’s also a rare kind of treasure in the experience— the hunt itself. And today I’m ever grateful to add the treasures of an afternoon exploring Baton Rouge to my story collection.