Dec 30, 2023

$10,000 treasure hunt underway in the Utah wilderness; weekly clues posted on social media

by: Austin Facer, Nexstar Media Wire

Posted: Jun 24, 2021 / 05:33 AM CDT

Updated: Jun 24, 2021 / 05:33 AM CDT

UTAH (KTVX) – Somewhere in the Utah wilderness, just off a hiking trail in the northern part of the state, a treasure chest containing $10,000 in cold, hard cash is buried, waiting to be unearthed.

Given an obscure, cryptically written poem as a clue and a vague idea of where the chest could be, hundreds of people have already headed to the great outdoors in search of the reward. The activity's organizers, John Maxim and David Cline, say that their self-funded treasure hunt has already received national attention. Some people are planning on flying in from as far away as Atlanta and Hawaii in search of the prize.

Maxim and Cline have been through this before. Last year, they buried $5,000 in the mountains, and it was found in four days.

"The whole idea was last year, you know, people had just been locked inside for like a long time so we wanted to do something fun for the community to safely get outside and do something and so we just cooked this whole idea up," Cline explained.

After posting the poem on their Instagram accounts, word spread that a good-sized sum of money was up for grabs. When the winner called Cline to inform him that he had found the chest, he described the hills as "crawling" with people looking for it. The parking lot near the trailhead was full, cars were parking on the street, at the nearby church, and drones were flying in the air in search of the easy payday.

"It was chaos," Cline says.

This year, the stakes have doubled, and the interest is even higher. Maxim estimates that after posting the video introducing the hunt on Saturday, he has received well over 1,000 direct messages on Instagram with folks posting videos of their search and clamoring for more hints.

"It gets pretty wild," he states. "And the thing is, everybody thinks by DMing me that I’m going to give them some special clue. We just kind of respond with ‘Nope. Wait for the weekly clues.’"

The hunt began with a video of the burial (which Maxim clarifies did not take place in the spot where the money actually rests below the earth) and an image of a clue, given in poem form. The two, who both work in the real estate business, say it took months for them to draft a poem that would be intriguing and suggest a feasible place to look while also not giving too much away.

They both also have clarified that while the chest is buried in the woods, they have made it as accessible as possible for hunters, saying most people over the age of 12 should be able to reach its location without much trouble. A weekly clue drop on Instagram will also help point the treasure seekers in the right direction.

The privately funded stunt has tapped into a community of treasure hunters that Maxim and Cline weren't even aware of beforehand. Many of their DMs on Instagram have come from moms and dads, geared up with mini shovels and headlamps for their children, ready to find a small fortune together. So far, it has been an overwhelmingly positive experience for many and no safety issues have been reported.

"I’ve gotten so many messages from families that are like, ‘My kids had so much fun looking for the treasure and even though we didn't find anything, we found some amazing hikes that we’re so excited to go back and explore,’" Cline states.

The hope is that the chest, which contains the money, a large silver coin, and some plastic party coins, for effect, can be hidden for most of the summer until it is found by a lucky hiker. The duo also plans on making the next hunt even bigger, but admit that they will likely have to work out a few logistical issues and perhaps develop some sort of fundraising to avoid dipping into their own pockets again.

"Maybe in the future, we can create a community around ideas like this and maybe start selling t-shirts or something, and then 100% of the proceeds would go to the next one," Cline proposes. "I don't know if my wife is going to let me continually bury money."

As for whether or not Cline or Maxim are willing to divulge the location to an inquiring reporter, both chuckle and decline.

"Loose lips sink ships," Cline laughs.

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