Two men buried $10,000 treasure in the Utah wilderness. Now hundreds are on the hunt

·3 min read

With most Americans staying at home during the coronavirus pandemic, David Cline dreamed up a treasure hunt.

He wanted to bury $5,000 somewhere in the Utah wilderness. His wife told him to think again.

“I was thinking of what would be a safe way for people to get outside and enjoy some Vitamin D,” Cline told McClatchy News in a phone interview. “I came up with this idea of a treasure hunt, and my wife wouldn’t let me bury the whole amount that I wanted to do.”

He turned to his friend John Maxim, who decided to join him on the venture. Last summer, the duo, who both work in real estate, buried thousands in the Utah mountains and posted a clue — written as a poem on their website — utahtreasurehunts.com — and social media.

They were surprised with the huge turnout astreasure hunters packed parking lots, flooded the hills and even flew drones across the area to search for the prize.

After four days, the treasure was found. It was so popular that the duo decided to try again — with an even bigger prize.

A map shows the area where $10,000 is buried in Utah.
A map shows the area where $10,000 is buried in Utah.

This time Cline and Maxim buried $10,000 in the Utah wilderness near Salt Lake City, Ogden or Provo. They released a new poem on June 19 to help steer people in the right direction.

“Begin your search where hikers rest,” the poem begins. “Majestic slopes all facing west. Through the tunnel of emerald green. Follow the river creek or spring.”

A poem was the first clue of the Utah treasure hunt.
A poem was the first clue of the Utah treasure hunt.

The response this year has been even bigger, Cline said. He estimated that hundreds of people started searching for the treasure over the past week.

People from all over the country have traveled to Utah to look for the bounty, including from as far as Hawaii, Las Vegas, Colorado and Atlanta.

Seems that everyone thinks they’re Indiana Jones.

“He was messaging me and was so convinced that he knew exactly where it was that he wanted to fly in,” Cline said. “I was like, ‘Hey man, maybe just partner with somebody here who can go check with you.’ He said ‘no way,’ and he flew in from Hawaii.”

Search safely, treasure hunters

Rescue officials are urging people who go treasure hunting to be safe. At least one hiker has already been injured looking for the treasure, according to the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team.

Officials were called to the Ferguson Canyon overlook Saturday where a family of four had been looking for the treasure. A large rock fell on a 49-year-old man’s foot near the overlook, and he wasn’t able to walk back down on his own. Nearly 25 search and rescue members had to help the man down the canyon.

“Our team ran into several other groups of hikers all looking for the same treasure, most were unprepared to be in the backcountry and asked our team for water on the trail,” officials said. “Please make sure that you’re going into the mountains prepared.”

Luckily, the record-setting heat wave that is scorching must of the West has not reached the Salt Lake City-Ogden-Provo area.

Every Friday until the treasure is found, the organizers will release a new clue about the treasure. If treasure hunters tag them on social media, they could sign up to get the weekly clue a day early.

Cline said it’s hard to know if any of the treasure hunters have gotten close to the bounty because so many of the landscapes look the same.

“They have the same trees and rock formations,” Cline. “So I’m not sure. At least a couple have been on the right track.”

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