NorCal Super Dead Drop explained

Update: The winning team consisted of Troy Steinmetz, Jesse Young, Daniel Jacobs, Ben Savage, and Kevin Petersen. Congratulations guys!

Wow this was a wild one. After two days there is finally a winner for the dead drop. This one focused more on physical challenges rather than on crypto puzzles. Some of these challenges posed quite a problem as they took people slightly out of their comfort zone. So let’s get into the details on how this one was solved.

Kaufmans Camera Store
In my initial blog post I told people to go over to the Flex Facebook page and become a fan. After that you would be able to see the an image of Kaufmans Camera Store in San Mateo. Clicking on the image took you to a Flash application with a larger version of the image and an input text field. What you had to do was to compare the photo to the actual store front. If you looked carefully you would notice that a sign with the word copies on it was removed from the image. That is what you had to enter into the text field to move on. Mike Chambers and I were actually hiding down the street from the store and saw the first few teams arrive. We’ll post some video and photos of that soon.

Soda Gulch
People were then led to another Flash application which contained a scrambled trail name. The actual trail name was Soda Gulch which is a trail in the Purisma Open Space Reserve. It is a beautiful set of trails that I have hiked many times before. If you had your audio turned on you would hear music of a guitar solo that was slowed way down. The song was Under the Bridge by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. So obviously the clue was located under the bridge on the Soda Gulch trail. Now there are actually three bridges on that trail so you needed to do your research before heading out. Many teams stopped at this point because they were scared away by the mountain lion warning signs. Understandable but it is no issue if hiked during daylight hours. The actual clue was some numbers that I screwed into the underside of the bridge. This is quite a hike and takes a couple of hours to complete. Once submitting the code 083 you passed to the next clue. The team that won actually performed a dictionary attack on most of the clues to get the answers which was cool. But you had to take photos at each clue so they still had to physically go to them all.

Treasure Island
The next Flash application had an image of some treasure and an island as well as a satellite photo. This was obviously a place on Treasure Island. Mike and I headed out there on Sunday to plant a clue. There is an abandoned military base there and I placed some more numbers inside an electrical junction box. You had to analyze the satellite photo and find out where it actually was on the island using Google maps. The winning team said that they were being eyed pretty closely by the cops during this clue. Below is a photo taken by the winning team.

Skaggs Island
During my research for this drop I came across a site describing an abandoned military base up in Sonoma county called Skaggs Island. This base used to crypto stuff during the Cold War. Sufficed to say, this was a great candidate. The next Flash application contained the Skaggs Island patch and the building number. The island is now used by the Navy SEALs to practice urban warfare. You can be arrested for trespassing on this base but hey, that’s half the fun. Here is a funny video I found of some kids getting busted. Mike and I passed through the south gate and walked for a couple of miles until we got to building 156. This building was torn to bits by SEAL artillery and was quite dangerous to walk around in. The building is also inhabited by a dozen or so huge owls. As we walked around in building they would freak out and fly out of the building almost hitting us. I decided to place the numbers on the outside of the building because it was somewhat dangerous on the inside. The winning team ran into some parolee on the island who showed them where the building was. Typing in 031 into the form took you to the last clue page. The photo below is the winning team at Skaggs.

Mare Island Roof
The final Flash application contained an image and text saying that it was at Mare Shipyard. This is another abandoned military base that Mike and I explored. This required analyzing Google maps to find out what building was being represented. The actual clue was the serial number of an electrical box on the roof. You go to the roof by a ladder attached to the side of the building. The lower part was covered in thorn bushes making it a somewhat painful ascent. The winning team said they saw a huge animal by this clue but are not sure what it was. The photos below shows the ladder that led to the finish.

The Missing Clue
There was actually one other clue that I didn’t include due to the fact that teams were having trouble in the beginning. On the Mare Island base Mike and I explored an awesome old electrical training facility. Inside there was actually crime scene tape all over it. This was a creepy place but Mike got some awesome photos there. The clue was near the crime scene. Exploring abandoned places was so much fun.

Congratulations to Troy, Jesse, Daniel, and Ben for solving this very interesting dead drop. You now know about some beautiful and scary places right here in the Bay Area :) .

São Paulo you’re next!
Lee

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