I don’t spend a lot of time in Gig Harbor as it’s simply too far from where I live to warrant the trip. Perhaps my lack of familiarity with Gig Harbor is why I was so surprised to stumble upon an ancient Mayan temple on 50th Street Southwest. There we were, my chums and I, minding our own business when I suggested we go to an escape room. For those who don’t know, an escape room is an event where people pay money to be locked in a room for an hour. My friend, Damien Bamford, found Escape Hour Gig Harbor about a half hour from our very own Pierce College Puyallup campus, so we decided to head over there. The lobby of Escape Hour Gig Harbor is accented with all sorts of thematically appropriate decor: vines, stone carvings and odd symbols placed on aged doors. Lauren Watson, our escape room handler for the day, greeted our party at the front desk as she explained what we had just signed up for. For $35 each, we had thrusted ourselves into the center of a cursed mayan temple filled with deadly traps and ancient relics. Watson gave us our mission while she prepared our equipment, flashlights and a walkie talkie. The price of escape rooms in general can be frustrating. Escape room tickets cost less per person if the group pools their money together. One ticket for the Mayan temple was $45, but when my friends and I pooled our money together to buy our tickets, they came out to $35 each. It may be a small difference to some, but if you’re a frugal adventurer on your weekends like I am, it’s worth noting. As we designated who would hold our walkie talkie, Watson continued with her breakdown of our mission. The crystal queen and king had left behind relics inside the temple with their passing. An unnamed fellow explorer who had visited the temple before us, whom I proceeded to call Bamford’s uncle thereafter, and had gone missing inside as well. If everything went according to plan, my buddies and I would exit the temple safe and sound with the relics and Bamford’s uncle. Of course, nothing went according to plan. The main chamber of the Mayan temple was almost pitch black; we would have been blind without the flashlights. Using my escape room expertise, I immediately began touching every surface I could make contact with. Every second counts in an escape room, so a seasoned veteran like myself knows how important it is to comb the area as soon as possible. I got my hands on a journal left behind by Bamford’s uncle almost immediately and began reading it aloud to everyone as they fanned out around me. The journal was integral to our early minutes in the temple because of the warning on the first page. Bamford’s uncle was no fool, he warned us to keep our hands off of red hand prints and red markings that might have been present around the temple. For example just about any kind of potential door we could go through had a red handprint on it. In true escape room fashion, time began to move at a rapid pace as we began to gain access to other rooms and puzzles. When poison darts blew overhead, I questioned whether or not we had made the right choice when we decided to spend our weekend trying to save Bamford’s uncle. Once I had felt the skull of the crystal queen in my hand though, it all felt worth it. The final room our group gained access to was dark, but Bamford was vaguely able to make out his uncle sitting up against the wall. We crept inside the small room and eagerly anticipated our heroic rescue, but the skeleton in an explorer’s uniform appeared to be too far gone to save. After we looted the body and found some more clues, Watson came in over the walkie talkie to tell us we had run out of time. She said we only had two options before us: Sacrifice the skull of the crystal queen and safely get out of the temple, or press onward and risk tempting the temple’s curse. I wasn’t in any particular mood to be cursed however, and the other guys agreed. We hung our heads in shame as we had to return to Watson empty-handed; what was Bamford going to tell the rest of his family? It’s the strangest thing, but even though the adventure was fraught with (fake) danger and we ultimately failed our mission, we all had a lot of fun. Aside from one of us actually getting cursed and being bedridden ever since we went to Escape Hour Gig Harbor (coincidence? I think not.), the entire experience is sure to stay with us as a satisfying weekend spent.
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