Want to make creations as awesome as this one?

Solve puzzles to proceed through this digital escape-room-esque challenge to locate the mystery photograph hidden for you by The Photographer.

Transcript

Living Desert Zoo & Gardens State Park

A digital escape-room-esque challenge

start

Photo Mystery

1

Puzzle difficulty: Medium
Suitable for ages 12+

Welcome

As you proceed through the story of the mystery photograph, you will be challenged with various puzzles. It is recommended that you have paper and a writing utensil with you in order to complete these challenges. Each puzzle must be successfully completed before moving on to the next part of the story.

Thank you for playing Living Desert Zoo & Gardens State Park's digital escape room!

Let's begin...

Click the next button to proceed.

Note: This escape room is entirely digital. None of the puzzles or props presented here are offered in-person at the park.

Introduction

Carlsbad, NM 2022

It’s October in Carlsbad. The weather is beginning to cool and you’re in need of a topic for your next story. You’ve been searching for something, anything to inspire your writing spirit, but so far you’ve come up empty. You sit at your desk, staring at the empty document open on your computer when you hear the distinctive ding of your email notification.

Click the next button to proceed.

Grateful for the distraction, you flip over to your email to discover a message from an unknown sender. Wondering what it could be, you open the email and read the message.

Click the computer screen!

After reading the email, click
the next button to proceed.

Greetings,

I am known as The Photographer. I spend my days taking pictures of plants and animals across the world, but my favorite place to spend my days is in the deserts of North America. I recently photographed an incredibly rare species that I think may be of interest to you. It would make the perfect topic for your next story.

I won’t give my photographs to just anyone, however. You must prove your worth by solving my puzzles and following the clues to the picture’s location. I promise the effort will be worth your while.

Best of luck,

The Photographer

As you finish reading the mysterious letter, you see that the email contains two attachments. Too curious to ignore this lead, you click on the files to open them. You are met with a password-protected document, your very first puzzle, and a set of instructions.

Your puzzle begins on next page!

Click the next button to proceed.

EXAMPLE

Password
L I V I N G D E S E R T

Follow the maze and gather the letters to uncover the password. Write down each letter on the correct path from START to your exit location (e.g. STATE PARK).

Example: If your solution is
START -L-I-V-I-N-G-D-E-S-E-R-T- STATE PARK, the password would be LIVINGDESERT.

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EXAMPLE

Follow the maze and gather the letters to uncover the password. Write down each letter on the correct path from START to your exit location (e.g. STATE PARK).


There is only one possible exit location and one correct path to get there!


When you know the password, click the next button to proceed.

START

STATE PARK

WILDLIFE PRESERVE

PROTECTED AREA

NATIONAL FOREST

Tip: Use the pen icon (likely in the upper right corner of the screen) to draw over the maze to help you trace your path.

Click on the correct password!

Password

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A P A C H E S I T G R E A V E S G I L A

Success! You discovered the password hidden in the maze!

The document unlocks and opens up to reveal a map of Gila National Forest and the eastern edge of Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests. The map is split into 12 boxes and is accompanied by a note.

Click the next button to proceed.

Congratulations on solving your first puzzle. The animal that I have photographed can currently be found in Gila and Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests in New Mexico and Arizona, however it used to live throughout the Chihuahuan and Sonoran Deserts. Locating this species out in the wild is no easy task, but there is another way you can see them up close.

In each numbered box on the map is a hidden letter. Write each letter in order from 1-12 to discover your destination. When you arrive, there will be a package for you at the Information Desk.

The Photographer

Click the next button to proceed.

Click on the hidden letters in each square.

When you have found them all, click the next button to proceed.

Congratulations on solving your first puzzle. The animal that I have photographed can currently be found in Gila and Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests in New Mexico and Arizona, however it used to live throughout the Chihuahuan and Sonoran Deserts. Locating this species out in the wild is no easy task, but there is another way you can see them up close.

In each numbered box on the map above is a hidden letter. Write each letter in order from 1-12 to discover your destination. When you arrive, there will be a package for you at the Information Desk.

The Photographer

Tip: If you are struggling to find the letters, click on the hint button.

If you're stuck, you can use these hints. For each box, I'll tell you what color the letter is.


1. Green (medium)

2. Blue (medium)

3. Gray (dark)

4. Red (dark)

5. Yellow (sandy)

6. Green (medium)

7. Green (medium)

8. Blue (dark)

9. Red (dark)

10. Yellow (sandy)

11. Green (medium)

12. Gray (dark)


Some of the letters are more difficult to spot than others, but your cursor can help you out. When you are by the letter, it will change from an arrow to a hand!


If you cannot find all 12 letters, go ahead and proceed to the next page to reveal the answer!

The hidden letters spell LIVING DESERT. In Carlsbad, NM there is only one place The Photographer could mean: Living Desert Zoo & Gardens State Park.

You gather your stuff and make the short trip to the park.

Click the next button to proceed.

You enter the visitor center and ask the Ranger at the front desk if a package has been left for you. They nod and retrieve a small box. You thank the Ranger and then move to a bench off to the side of the room where you can open the package.

You slide the box's contents onto your lap. Sitting in front of you is a smart phone.

Click the next button to proceed.

You press the home button to light up the screen.

The screen displays a pattern lock. You begin to look around for the necessary clue to get into the phone.


Click the next button to proceed.

Draw the pattern to unlock

When you flip the phone over, you find a Sudoku puzzle has been taped to the back. One section of the puzzle has been circled. You realize that the pattern to unlock the phone must somehow match the numbers in the circled box, so you set to work solving the puzzle.


Your puzzle begins on the next page!


Drawthe pattern to unlock

Super sleuths may be able to find the answer without completing the Sudoku grid!

Click the next button to proceed.

Super sleuths may be able to find the answer without completing the Sudoku grid!

Drag the numbers below (1-9) into the empty spaces in the grid. Each number (1-9) appears only once in each vertical line, horizontal line, and 3x3 grid.


After determining the location of each number in the circled grid, you will choose the matching pattern/solution on the next page.

When you've solved the puzzle, click the next button to proceed.

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Tip: Write down your solution before proceeding. Your puzzle progress will not be saved if you try to return to this page.

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We move!

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The numbers in the box under the instructions are movable. Drag them into the grid as you work on the puzzle.


For tips and tricks for solving Sudoku puzzles, visit this link.

Click on the phone with the correct unlock pattern.

Draw the pattern to unlock

Draw the pattern to unlock

Draw the pattern to unlock

When the phone unlocks, you see that there is an unread message. You can only assume that it's from The Photographer.


Click on the Messages icon.

00:00

The Photographer

You have done well to make it this far. Your final puzzle will be located at the place where you can dine while relaxing by the water.

The text references a location in the park. You pull out the park map to determine where you need to go.


Click the next button to proceed.


Look at the map and click on the location where you can "dine while relaxing by the water".

There are two areas with water. One is large towards the right side of the map and the other is small towards the left side of the map.


There is only one area that is food related on the map. Click in the area that the arrow points too.

Just outside the visitor center are a picnic area and pond. You approach the picnic tables and scan the area for any sort of clue. On one of the ramada posts, there is a camera trap facing the water.


On the camera are a label that says "Property of The Photographer" and a 3-digit combination lock.

Camera Trap by Hustvedt is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Camera_trap.jpg
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

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Click the next button to proceed.

The Photographer's phone suddenly chimes. When you pick up the phone, you see a new a text has come in.

The Photographer

where you can dine while relaxing by the water.

To open the lock and access the camera trap's photos, you must start by transforming one word into another.

. . .

Click the next button to proceed.

Write the word ENDANGERED

Follow the instructions in the text messages to transform one word into another.

You may write on a piece of paper or drag the letters to follow along on screen.

Insert an R to the left of the 1st vowel

Move the 6th letter to the last position

Change the G to a C

Replace the last E with the letters I O

Reverse the order of the 4th - 8th letters

Move the last D between N and R

Insert an I to the right of the 1st vowel

Change the A to a U

Swap the C and the U

Replace all Ds with Ts

Change the 3rd vowel to an O

Insert a D after the 1st O

. . .

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When you know the answer, click the next button to proceed.

We move!

The first instruction has been completed for you on screen. Each letter in the word ENDANGERED and the letters on the right side of the screen are movable so you can rearrange the letters as needed.


Here is an example of how to do the puzzle:


-Write the word ANIMAL

A N I M A L

-Insert an M after the 2nd vowel (in this case, the I)

A N I M M A L

-Swap the 1st A and N

N A I M M A L

-Remove the I

N A M M A L

-Change the N to an M

M A M M A L


Here the word transformed from ANIMAL to MAMMAL.

Click on the correct text response to send it to The Photographer.

The Photographer

What word did you transform ENDANGERED into?

CONSERVATION

REINTRODUCTION

RESTORATION

After following the steps to reveal the word REINTRODUCTION, The Photographer replies again.


What 3 letters in REINTRODUCTION spell the name of a color?


When you know the color, click the next button to proceed to the next page.


The Photographer

What word did you transform ENDANGERED into?

REINTRODUCTION

Correct.

Find the 3 letters in that word that spell a color. Use the numeric keypad on this phone to determine what numbers each letter represents. That is the combination.

Example: In the word RATTLESNAKE you can find the letters for TAN.

How many colors can you think of that have only 3 letters?


In REINTRODUCTION, 2 of the 3 letters are next to each other already.


Still stumped? Start with the colors of the rainbow.

Locate the numbers on the keypad that correspond with the letters in the color. Click on each number in the order the letters appear in the word.


Example: If the color was TAN, you would click 8 - 2 - 6

REINTRODUCTION -> __ __ __

(color)

Example: RATTLESNAKE -> TAN.

Each letter corresponds with a number. On the numeric keypad you can see which is which.


1: (no letters)

2: A B C

3: D E F

4: G H I

5: J K L

6: M N O

7: P Q R S

8: T U V

9: W X Y Z

0: (no letters)


You only press the number once for each letter, unlike texting with a numeric keypad.

Locate the numbers on the keypad that correspond with the letters in the color. Click on each number in the order the letters appear in the word.


Example: If the color was TAN, you would click 8 - 2 - 6

REINTRODUCTION -> __ __ __

(color)

Example: RATTLESNAKE -> TAN.

Each letter corresponds with a number. On the numeric keypad you can see which is which.


1: (no letters)

2: A B C

3: D E F

4: G H I

5: J K L

6: M N O

7: P Q R S

8: T U V

9: W X Y Z

0: (no letters)


You only press the number once for each letter, unlike texting with a numeric keypad.

Locate the numbers on the keypad that correspond with the letters in the color. Click on each number in the order the letters appear in the word.


Example: If the color was TAN, you would click 8 - 2 - 6

REINTRODUCTION -> __ __ __

(color)

Example: RATTLESNAKE -> TAN.

Each letter corresponds with a number. On the numeric keypad you can see which is which.


1: (no letters)

2: A B C

3: D E F

4: G H I

5: J K L

6: M N O

7: P Q R S

8: T U V

9: W X Y Z

0: (no letters)


You only press the number once for each letter, unlike texting with a numeric keypad.

You determine that the combination is 7 - 3 - 3.


You turn back to the camera trap and enter the numbers into the lock.

REINTRODUCTION -> __ __ __

(color)

Example: RATTLESNAKE -> TAN.

The lock pops open and you are able to view the pictures stored on the camera. You scroll through the pictures and see images of elk, deer, rabbits, and your final clue.


Click the arrows to scroll through the pictures.

Elk (Camera trap photo) by J. N. Stuart is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
https://www.flickr.com/photos/stuartwildlife/2591457364/
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

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The lock pops open and you are able to view the pictures stored on the camera. You scroll through the pictures and see images of elk, deer, rabbits, and your final clue.


Click the arrows to scroll through the pictures.

mule deer by J. N. Stuart is licensed under CC BY 2.0
https://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwshq/6659380181/
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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The lock pops open and you are able to view the pictures stored on the camera. You scroll through the pictures and see images of elk, deer, rabbits, and your final clue.


Click the arrows to scroll through the pictures.

jack rabbit by Bryan White is licensed under CC BY 2.0
https://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwshq/6492408189/
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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The lock pops open and you are able to view the pictures stored on the camera. You scroll through the pictures and see images of elk, deer, rabbits, and your final clue.


Click the arrows to scroll through the pictures.

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2022

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Click the next button to proceed.

The last file on the camera trap is a picture of the sign at the wolf exhibit. You reference your park map once more to determine the quickest route to your mystery photo and begin to make your way through the park.

2022

Click the next button to proceed.

When you arrive at the wolf lookout point, you notice a large envelope peeking out from underneath the sign.


Scrawled on the front is the word "Congratulations".

Congratulations

Click the next button to proceed.

Inside the envelope are a note and a beautiful picture of a Mexican gray wolf.


Click the next button to view the documents.

Congratulations

4. Living Desert Zoo & Gardens 4. Living Desert Zoo & Gardens State ParkEven though there are more wolves living in the wild now than were 20 years ago, it is still very uncommon to see them in their natural habitat. Wolves are elusive and still aren't abundant. You can see and learn about wolves at zoos, however. Many zoos, like Living Desert in Carlsbad, NM, are home to wolves and other endangered species. Living Desert is also one of the zoos that participates in the Mexican gray wolf Species Survival Plan to help wild wolf populations.

Now that you have completed my challenge, I hope you'll take some times to visit Living Desert Zoo & Gardens State Park. I hope you'll be able to spot the wolves there, but even if you don't see them, it doesn't mean they don't see you! Watch the fenceline as you go and you just might find a wolf looking back at you.

Until next time, The Photographer

The Photographer

Congratulations! You have proven yourself worthy to use my photo for your next story. I knew you could do it! Now allow me a moment to review the clues with you...


1. ENDANGERED --> REINTRODUCTIONIn the past, wolves were hunted to near extinction. Eventually scientists realized that wolves are very important apex predators. They started a captive breeding program to try to help increase the wolf population in North America. In 1998, the first Mexican gray wolves were reintroduced to the wild.

2. APACHESITGREAVESGILAMexican gray wolves were released into an area called the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area. It is located within Gila and Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests in New Mexico and Arizona.

3. Elk, Deer, and Rabbits! Oh my!Gray wolves' preferred prey items are large ungulates like elk and deer. If they are hunting alone, however, they will go after smaller prey items like rabbits or small rodents.

Click the next button to proceed.

Congratulations! You have proven yourself worthy to use my photo for your next story. I knew you could do it! Now allow me a moment to review the clues with you...


1. ENDANGERED --> REINTRODUCTION
In the past, wolves were hunted to near extinction. Eventually scientists realized that wolves are very important apex predators. They started a captive breeding program to try to help increase the wolf population in North America. In 1998, the first Mexican gray wolves were reintroduced to the wild.

2. APACHESITGREAVESGILA
Mexican gray wolves were released into an area called the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area. It is located within Gila and Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests in New Mexico and Arizona.

3. Elk, Deer, and Rabbits! Oh my!
Gray wolves' preferred prey items are large ungulates like elk and deer. If they are hunting alone, however, they will go after smaller prey items like rabbits or small rodents.

4. Living Desert Zoo & Gardens State Park
Even though there are more wolves living in the wild now than were 20 years ago, it is still very uncommon to see them in their natural habitat. Wolves are elusive and still aren't abundant. You can see and learn about them at zoos, however. Many zoos, like Living Desert in Carlsbad, NM, are home to wolves and other endangered species. Living Desert is also one of the zoos that participates in the Mexican gray wolf Species Survival Plan to help wild wolf populations.

Now that you have completed my challenge, I hope you'll take some times to visit Living Desert Zoo & Gardens State Park. I hope you'll be able to spot the wolves there, but even if you don't see them, it doesn't mean they don't see you! Watch the fenceline as you go and you just might find a wolf looking back at you.

Until next time,

The Photographer

Click on the bolded words in the letter for more info.

Click the next button to proceed.

Endangered: When a species is at risk of extinction


Apex Predator: An animal species at the top of the food chain with no natural predators of their own

Elusive: Difficult to find

Species Survival Plan (SSP): A population management and conservation program.


Learn more about SSPs here.


Ungulate: A mammal with hooves

Great job!

Thank you for playing the first Photo Mystery digital escape room! You have proved yourself to be a super sleuth!

We hope you will come visit us at Living Desert Zoo & Gardens State Park soon!

Start over?

Oops!

It looks like this puzzle stumped you. I'll give you another chance to figure it out.

The Photographer

TRY AGAIN