$25,000 Utah Treasure Hunt is still on six weeks after first clue
Jul 1, 2023, 5:22 PM
SALT LAKE CITY — It’s still out there somewhere. Maybe in the mountains. Or the desert. Perhaps even the valley.
Wherever the $25,000 treasure is, only David Cline and John Maxim know for sure.
“We never could have imagined how big it has gotten,” Maxim said.
The two friends started the Utah Treasure Hunt three years ago as a way to give people something to do during COVID and feel a sense of adventure. It was $5000 back then.
“I remember Dave and I laughing when we hid the first treasure and as we were walking back, like you know, probably no one is going to do this, and we’re going to be wandering back up here in wintertime to grab our treasure,” Maxim said with a laugh.
However, the Utah Treasure Hunt was a big hit. The two have hidden a treasure every year since.
The prize money has also increased, thanks to some sponsors’ help, but a good chunk of it still comes from their own pockets.
“We wanted an adventure people could have in real life,” Maxim said.
The interest in the hunt has also increased so much that people got good at figuring out the clues.
“Last year, we kind of got embarrassed, I think. We did our hunt, and eight days later, it got found,” Maxim said.
So, this year, they spent three months writing the poem containing the clues to make it as challenging as possible.
“We debated every line of that poem,” Cline explained. “With the kind of blow-up of artificial intelligence, I knew the first thing people would do is just plug the whole thing into AI and tell me what this means. And so, every word and every line of that poem I put into AI just to make sure it was AI proof.”
The two also dressed in disguises when they hid the treasure chest. They started getting recognized in public because of the popularity of the treasure hunt.
“At Lagoon or Costco, people are coming up to us saying, ‘Hey, aren’t you the treasure hunt guys?” Maxim said. “Nothing would ruin the treasure hunt more than somebody just accidentally seeing us hide it. So, we borrow cars and then switch to another car. We have burner phones. We did everything we could to make sure no one saw us hiding it.”
More than the prize, though, what Cline and Maxim really love is hearing what the treasure hunt has meant to people.
“I think we started the treasure hunt for the kind of adventure and the fun, but we keep doing the treasure hunt because of the impact it has on so many people’s lives,” Cline said. “John calls it the real treasure and it is so true.”
They had no idea their treasure hunt would bring so many people together.
“We have got a relationship now. We’ve got baby conceptions coming out of our treasure hunts. We have families getting back together. We have people suffering from PTSD and sobriety and all those things,” said Maxim. “There was a woman last night who sent me a message. They had a suicide in the family, and they just hadn’t been able to get out of the house for months. Now she has been on 25 hikes with her daughter looking for the treasure. It has brought the family back together, having a good time. You can’t even quantify what that does for us?”
You can go to their current hints page for updated hints, clues, and information.
“Pass the grain tower that looks out to the west,” “hike to the tree that stands without bark,” and “get off the road at the airplane without wings” are among the lines in the poem that are clues to the treasure’s location.