Utah Treasure Hunt organizers, search and rescue experts concerned for hunters’ safety

Utah Treasure Hunt

(ABC4) – While the response to the treasure hunt that he and his friend, John Maxim, organized has been “incredible,” David Cline still starts his day full of concern about the frenzy burying $10,000 in the Utah wilderness has caused.

“I wake up every day worried that something’s going to happen to somebody,” Cline tells ABC4.

Wanting to motivate folks to get out of their homes and re-experience nature was a major driving force in creating a treasure hunt for the second year, and in doubling the stakes from last year’s $5,000 prize. However, inspiring others to get outdoors does carry an inherent risk; Cline is conscious of that and posts safety reminders and tips every day.

“These mountains, they’re gorgeous and beautiful, but it can get dangerous quick if you don’t really take proper precautions or get in a situation that maybe is outside of your skill level,” he explains. “So we just want to make sure everybody stays as safe as possible.”

Over the weekend, the treasure hunt had its first recorded incident, at least to Cline’s knowledge. Salt Lake County Search and Rescue responded to a call in which a 49-year-old had injured his foot and was unable to make it down a trail in Ferguson Canyon. Luckily, the man was not alone and was with his family of four. A crew of over 20 rescue members took over five hours to help him down the canyon.

It wasn’t reported which type of footwear the person in need of rescue was wearing, but experts state that choosing the right boots can make the difference between an incident-free excursion in the outdoors, and disaster.

Scott Hammond, a search and rescue veteran and professor at Utah State University who has written several books on the topic, states that choosing the proper footwear is vital when going out to explore – or hunt for treasure – in the wilderness.

“The single most important things is the right kind of footwear,” he says.  “Flip flops, and even running shoes can sometimes be a problem. You want something to support your ankle, something cool, and will give you the support you need.”

Hammond states that it’s not an uncommon search and rescue practice to bring an extra pair of boots for the person to wear while they are being escorted down the trail.

If a person chooses to leave to hit the trail and leave their car, even more a distance as short as 100 yards, Hammond recommends they bring all the essential items with them. It’s much better to have it and not need it, than the alternative, in his words.

Things like proper clothing, a bit of food, and some emergency tools should be brought along in a small pack at the very least, according to Hammond. Water, especially during the increasingly hot summer months, may be even more important.

“You need a gallon of water, not a quart of water. You need gallon of water if you’re going to be out there very long in the heat,” he implores, while also saying he personally wouldn’t go out treasure-hunting in the middle of the day.

Over the weekend, Hammond was working on recovery efforts for a near drowning at Pineview Reservoir, but heard rumblings of another treasure hunt-related rescue other than the one in Salt Lake County. He is expecting similar calls to become more and more often throughout Utah, Salt Lake, Davis, and Weber Counties as the search for the treasure ramps up.

In his experience, being motivated by something, like say, $10,000 in cash can serve as an impetus for poor decisions.

“Greed is a real powerful motivator, sometimes makes people stupid, real stupid,” he cautions.

Cline echoes his reminder for all those would-be treasure finders to keep what has been a pleasant phenomenon a happy experience and to avoid any tragedy.

“Everyone’s having an amazing time. They’re rediscovering, you know, the mountains and rekindling kind of the love they have for nature. It’s been absolutely amazing but, just a huge reminder to everyone to stay safe.”

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