Follow the Trail Solution

How It Works

There are three parts to the puzzle. Teams collect the data from all the signs along the trail, then have to figure out how to record the data and decode it.

Letters and Numbers

Teams will need to collect the letters and numbers (collectively called characters) in the order as they see them on the trail. There are 100 characters, each in different colors: red, orange, yellow, green, or blue. Throughout the characters, teams should see three hints that will help them solve this futher. These hints start at 1-based index 37. The first one will read "GRID". At index 43, the hint is "TENBYTEN" or "TEN BY TEN". Teams may get this confused with "TEN BYTE". They need to read the end "N". At index 55, the hint is "MATRIX". Putting the hints together, teams will need to construct a 10x10 matrix/grid of the characters they found going from left to right, top to bottom. The first three characters in the top right should say "OEG". Below is an example of the grid teams should have constructed with the corresponding colors:

Next, teams will need to look at the grid for a hint of how to solve it. The first three columns contain their instructions. It reads "ONEREDLETTERTHENORANGEETC" or "ONE RED LETTER THEN ORANGE ETC". Thinking colors, teams should know that the rainbow colors are, in order, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Due to the puzzle being at night, the indigo and violet colors were excluded. Teams will need to read the grid from left to right, top to bottom to search for the answer. They will find the first red character, then the first orange that proceeds the red, then the first yellow that proceeds the orange, and continue. Once the team has reached the blue character, they will wrap back to red and continue reading.

The answer, once completed, should read "ROTATECW". Teams should read this "ROTATE CLOCKWISE". Teams will now rotate the grid 90 degrees in a clockwise direction (the top left will now be the top right) and read the grid as they did before start with the first red color. Teams will continue to rotate the grid until all 4 positions have been read. The final phrase will read "ROTATECWLOCATE3316OLDHARTFORDROAD". Below is a picture of all the grids and their text extracted from each rotation:

Teams should remove the "ROTATECW" from the message to get "LOCATE3316OLDHARTFORDROAD" or "LOCATE 3316 OLD HARTFORD ROAD". Teams will now need to locate 3316 Old Hartford Road in Lake Stevens, WA. The address is the All Seasons Storage facility, located about 1/2 mile from the trail head. But they shouldn't leave yet... there is more data to be found.

Symbol Location

Teams should notice symbols placed on several posts throughout the trail. These signs are located to the right of the characters described above. The signs will be aligned with certain characters on the trail (perpendicular). Teams should read the characters on the trail, in order of the posts, to reveal "GOINSPECTUNITB57" or "GO INSPECT UNIT B57". Unit B57 is found inside the All Seasons Storage facility at 3316 Old Hartford Road in Lake Stevens, WA.

Symbol Matching

Teams should notice symbols place along the trail. These symbols are located to the left of the characters (both the symbols and the characters will be on the trail). Using the symbols on the signs to the left of the trail, teams will match the symbols on the posts, in order, to the symbols placed on the trail and then back to the character to the right of the symbol. This will reveal "GATECODE6744STAR" or "GATE CODE 6744*". Teams will use this gate code to enter the All Seasons Storage facility at 3316 Old Hartford Road in Lake Stevens, WA.


Teams did not enter anything for this puzzle. They instead went to the storage locker. Inside, they found an actor (the sister) who gave them the code DIXIE.

Design Notes

The original Follow the Trail was inspired by a Microsoft Intern Puzzle Day t-shirt puzzle. After several playtests, the puzzle was change to its current form but keeping the symbols and colors. A C# application, written by Oz, was used to determine where each character should be arranged by showing each grid rotation, allowing each character to have its color set, and the text phrase extracted from each rotation based on the colors.

GC Notes

When the staff arrived at the Machias trailhead for the setup, the parking lot was closed. An old train station walkway (located at the trail) was used instead of the actual trail. This was happening at 2:00 AM in the pouring rain (Welcome to the Northwest). In order to verify the symbols and characters, Oz used a moving blanket and his laptop walking along the trail with Jen and Teresa calling out the symbols and characters one at a time. After the puzzle was setup, we stopped at a McDonald's for dinner/breakfast before teams arrived.

For teams that solved the pre-game meta-puzzle, it told them that bringing colored pencils would be useful. This was the puzzle for the colored pencils. The bums were not the puzzle for the colored pencils. The bums wanted crayons.

In the beta test of this Game, one fearless friend Shannon agreed to staff the storage area, sight unseen. Little did she (and the staff coordinator) know, but she had agreed to crouch in a 5' x 5' "room" during a night that dipped into the thirties. This was the worst staff role of the beta.