‘Follow the rules’: Utah treasure hunters encouraged to leave ‘zero trace’ of search for $10k

Utah Treasure Hunt

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

(ABC4) – Dozens, if not hundreds, of would-be treasure seekers have hit the trails in search of $10,000 in cold hard cash that local real estate figures John Maxim and David Cline have buried somewhere along the Wasatch Front.

Armed with a cryptic clue and additional hints that have been posted on Instagram, those looking to score a memorable payday in the mountain have channeled their inner Stanley Yelnats (Shia LaBeouf’s character from the 2003 film, “Holes,” which was also a best-selling book).

Like the name of Yelnats’ friend in Louis Sachar’s story, those who buried the treasure and those who manage the land it could be on are hoping to leave “Zero” trace of the hunt in the wilderness.

So far, Cline has been thrilled with what he has heard about the positive effect the treasure hunters have had on the local environment.

“I’ve been just so impressed by the community,” Cline tells ABC4. “A lot of people are taking garbage bags to help clean up stuff that had been there for years, like aluminum cans and random plastic stuff they find up there.”

While it may seem somewhat troublesome to send a large influx of people into the woods to stomp around and dig holes in the earth, those who manage the lands where the treasure could be say as long as folks behave responsibly, this can be a very positive experience.

Devan Chavez, who works as the public affairs manager for the Utah State Parks Division, remarks that he has been aware of the treasure hunt and sees it as something similar to geocaching, which can occur in a state park with approval.

“It’s very, very good that a lot of people are getting outside and it’s very good that a lot of people are getting excited over things, but as far as these things happening state parks if anyone’s interested in doing something like that in State Park, I encourage all to follow the rules and do so safely,” he states.

Of course, should a treasure hunter create a hole to look for the money, it’s imperative to replace the dirt and cover it up completely. Chavez explains that an uncovered or unrepair hole on the side of a trail could easily result in a crash for a mountain biker or a twisted ankle as well. Diggers should also take caution not to disturb any wildlife in their search.

Citing the desire for Utahns to get outdoors that was evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, Chavez feels it’s a good thing to have approved events that can encourage people to enjoy the state’s natural beauty.

“It’s great, it’s fantastic, but in doing so, we want to remind everybody to if you’re going to go out and look for this treasure, whether you’re on State Park land, Forest Service land, or BLM land, research the area going to first,” Chavez says. “Find out if that area has any rule that you need to follow regarding trail usage and, make sure you’re leaving the area how it was before you got there.”

Cline agrees, saying that since the beginning of the hunt, which started nearly two weeks ago, he and Maxim have been reminding their hunters and followers to leave the land they explore even better than before the search began.

“We’ve encouraged everyone to have a zero trace hunt and actually, to make it even better if possible.”

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