Credo: Private investigator and treasure hunter Jayson Wechter

Jayson Wechter is a veteran San Francisco private investigator who has spent two decades unraveling real-life mysteries. In 1988 he founded San Francisco Treasure Hunts, which creates clue-based treasure hunts with a San Francisco or Bay Area focus for corporate team-building, social events and tour groups. The 2010 Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt takes place Saturday. Visit www.sftreasurehunt.com for details.

Who has had the biggest impression on you in your life?

I had a very unconventional aunt who had a great sense of adventure and exploration. She went to college in the early ’30s when not many women went to college. She loved books and the arts; she played several instruments, painted, did mosaic tile work. When I was a child, she indulged my sense of curiosity and adventure.

What book or piece of writing has had a large impact on you?
Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” made me want to come to San Francisco. And there was a piece in The New Yorker that Calvin Trillin wrote over 30 years ago about a college classmate of his from Yale who had abandoned his tenured position as a philosophy professor to become a private investigator in San Francisco. It engaged me, and I thought I would like to do that work. I went to work for him, and 30 years later I’m still a private investigator.

Is there a golden rule by which you live?
Be curious, playful and diligent. Always carry a flashlight because you never know when you’ll want to illuminate the darkness.

Where, to whom, or to what do you turn to in dark times?
I take a bicycle ride. I’m happiest being on two wheels: bicycle and motorcycle. Or I go to the movies. I love the magical moment when the house goes dark, and the screen lights up and hundreds of people share the same dream for two hours.

Where do you find inspiration?
In the city of San Francisco. It is the great love of my life. And the treasure hunts I do. In part, the Chinese New Year’s Treasure Hunt is my way of celebrating the love of the city and sharing it with others. It’s a city that resonates with great stories and seems to bring out the best in people.

How did you start doing the SF Treasure Hunts?
I had done treasure hunts with a few friends as a kid. This is a distillation of different games I have played over the years. It incorporates scenes from my work as a private investigator, my love of San Francisco history and my interest in visual awareness and urban design.

What would you want most to hear your participants say about you?
That they had a fun and challenging experience. That they saw or learned something about San Francisco that was new. And that they grew as a team and became more cohesive.

How do you see your role in the world?
Getting people out of their daily routine and giving them a simultaneous intellectual and aerobic workout full of discovery and adventure that lets me share my sense of wonder about San Francisco with others. Pointing out the small details that they may not notice with the hope that outside the treasure hunt they may notice things that they may have overlooked.

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