The package arrived at my desk in a large and mysterious envelope. Inside was a dossier-style folder with an eye-and-two-moons-logo announcing “Mystery Missions presented by The Sonomist.”
Inside the dossier was a map of downtown Windsor, and page of artistically drawn out questions,15 in all. An attached statement invited myself and any children aged eight to 14 to undertake a Mystery Mission around the Town Green.
“Mystery Missions are clue-based scavenger hunts that reveal historic facts, pop culture quirks and fascinating finds in Sonoma County towns,” said the attached statement, which notes The Sonomist also offers two adult-only versions of its mysteries in Healdsburg.
Since I have a 9-year-old son, I decided to give this Windsor kids version a try, and while I won’t reveal any answers, lest you get cheated of your own scavenging experience, I will share our experience a few lessons learned.
The enclosed instructions recommended that this be a group activity, either a small collaborative group of kids working together or as perhaps competitive teams.
Since I wanted to concentrate on the process and take notes, my son and I set out solo, but in retrospect I do think more kids would have upped the fun quotient considerably.
The instructions suggest parental involvement for kids under 10, but that older kids could fly solo. I’d generally agree with that, depending on the kid — there are a lot of street crossings throughout the hunt so you’d want to know your kids use crosswalks and obey the rules of the road for safety’s sake.
The basic concept is as follows: There is a clue which prompts you to find its answer on your map, then use the map to navigate to the place you have identified in the clue, and then once at the location you will have another clue or question to answer.
The instructions suggest it will take about an hour to complete, and I would agree with that timing, even though it took us about 90 minutes. This is because the clues lead you past the playground on the Town Green several times, and at 9, you can’t just walk past a playground and not play on it. In other words, we took a few breaks.
The clues were tough, but not impossible, though some were definitely harder than others, and a few I think wouldn’t have been solvable by younger kids alone.
The biggest hindrance to our success is that fact that neither I, nor my son, have any inherent sense of direction or map reading ability. My personal familiarity with the Green and its surrounding environs generally got us through, but there were two clues that involved us doing a fair bit of walking and backtracking as we tried to sort out the map.
When you have finished your quest, you open a sealed envelope with all the answers and calculate your score (if you were doing competitive teams, the instructions suggest a combination of correct answers and speed as the “winning” factor). We got one wrong, which was a good score, but a little frustrating to a pair of perfectionists like us.
So what did the 9-year-old have to say about the experience?
“It was pretty fun. It would have been more fun with more kids. I liked learning the stuff about Windsor and being outside and going to the playground,” he said, adding he’d hoped there would be a prize. (The instructions suggest creating/bringing your own, especially if you are doing competitive teams. Mom fail. So we went to Moxie’s for frozen yogurt.)
If you want to try The Sonomist’s Wonderful Windsor for Kids Mystery Mission, you can get more information, watch an instructional video and purchase dossiers online at www.thesonomist.com.