The father and sons trio found the spike for what they believed to be the fifth or sixth time since the inception of the annual hunt, which is associated with Watertown’s annual Rails to Trails festival. The Hangartners found the spike on the Watertown-Mayer High School grounds, a few hundred yards from where they found the spike the first time 16 years ago, when Ryan was 5 and P.J. was 3 years old.
“Sixteen years, that’s pretty hard to believe,” Steve Hangartner said. “Ryan’s a little older, P.J.’s a little older, and I’m a little younger…looking, anyways.”
Sixteen years ago, the trio found the golden spike located in the brush alongside a trail still used by the Watertown-Mayer High School cross country team, very near the middle school. This time, the spike was located along a cross country path that is no longer used, an overgrown swampy area south of the football practice field and various baseball and softball fields on the school grounds.
“Ryan started yelling before we even got it,” Steve said of the moment they figured out where it was. “He yelled so loud I think everybody in town heard it.”
The Hangartners searched various parts of town as the clues emerged, eventually finding it Friday morning shortly after the release of the fifth clue. Various clues had them looking near the bridge downtown and then near the hockey rink as well.
Even on Friday morning, they spent some time in the wrong area, thrown off by the idea that the spike might be hidden under a Charter tower, as one clue hinted at, or along Quarry Avenue near the current cross country path, as other clues hinted. However, that’s when Ryan, a former cross country runner, had a realization.
“He used to run cross country, so he knew there was a bridge down there,” Steve said in reference to another clue, which hinted at a bridge. “Right by that swampy area, there used to a bridge. They’ve condemned it now and they don’t even mow it.”
The Hangartner’s were surprised to find the bridge gone, but what they found instead was caution tape and a sign to stay away. They knew they were close because one of the clues said to watch for a sign to change your way of thinking.
Eventually, Ryan located where the cross country path used to be, and after stepping over it, they found some sticks and a hole in the ground. The spike was located in a Gatorade bottle stuffed with packing peanuts.
“It was just too conspicuous,” Steve said. “Right away I said, ‘that’s been planted there.”
Here’s a look at all five clues that were released before the spike was found.
Clue No. 1
It’s been 21 years for this annual celebration.
Adults and Kids enjoy looking for the spike.
Activities in Watertown change with the seasons.
Be sure to have fun, but be safe too.
Clue No. 2
Two presidents will point you in the right direction.
You’ll enjoy spending time outdoors.
Just don’t forget to stop and smell the roses.
Rails to Trails is a family affair.
Clue No. 3
Many cities operate under a charter.
Taking the right trail is a bridge to success.
Watch for the sign to change your way of thinking.
You could come up with the grand prize.
Clue No. 4
The principle reason for looking for the treasure
is to track down your quarry.
There is a lot of racket going on under this field.
Dive in too deeply for the spike, and you’ll be rejected.
Clue No. 5
Haven’t found the Golden Spike yet?
Try going cross country to get it.
You can run around the block with your i-Pad,
And never see the forest for the trees.
Contact Matt Bunke at [email protected]