HOLLADAY, Utah (ABC4) – Standing in front of a group of 25 or so would-have-been treasure finders on Wednesday morning, David Cline and John Maxim prepared to share the location of the $10,000 buried treasure that had gathered national headlines over the last two weeks.
At the base of the trailhead leading up to the private road where the Heughs Canyon Trail begins in Holladay, it had been just about 40 hours since Andy Swanger of Draper had found the treasure on Monday afternoon.
Prior to Swanger’s discovery — which included the $10,000 in cash, a heavy silver coin, and some fake plastic coins — the treasure lay buried in a small alcove a few hundred yards off the trail for 17 days.
Posting clues on Instagram, in addition to a cryptic poem that kicked off the hunt, Cline and Maxim walked their group of now-adoring fans step-by-by step through the hints that led Swanger to an unforgettable moment and a payday that he tells ABC4.com will pay off some bills and take his family of five on a trip to Disneyland.
The first part of the poem, “Begin your search where hikers rest,” indicated the start of the trailhead, Cline explained to the group. “Majestic slopes all facing west,” Cline said, clearly showed that it had to be on the Wasatch Front mountains, which face to the west.
Making their way off the pavement of the road and into the “tunnel of emerald green,” Cline and Maxim eagerly fielded questions from the fellow explorers as to how the treasure made its way up the mountain.
Walking past the “river, creek, or spring,” Cline laughed when remembering the effort that went into hauling a treasure about a mile and a half up the trail and off the beaten path at times. Not wanting to draw attention to themselves, the two real estate agents chose to bring the cash and chest in duffle bags during the heat of the day, when they figured no one else would be hiking. To extend the masquerade, Maxim wore a wig over his bald head, to serve as a disguise.
“It smelled so bad,” Cline recalls of the moment when Maxim removed his wig at the top of the trail.
Continuing up the trail, the group reached a fork in the path, where it splits between Heughs Canyon Trail and the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. Cline and Maxim explained that the bonus clue sent via email, which decoded into “Where sailors rest,” was meant to indicate the journey would continue on the trail left by the ancient lake.
The group pivoted up the Shoreline Trail and reached an awe-inspiring view overlooking the Old Mill Golf Course below. Maxim, a father himself, explains that the portion of the poem, “Begin to climb when your path swings north,” was a hint that any would-be treasure finders should venture off the trail when they see the course.
“Golf, swing, get it?” he asked in true dad-joke fashion.
From there, the journey to the treasure’s resting spot became increasingly difficult. Stomping off the trail and up the mountain, the group made their way towards what Cline called “a stone bear.” Upon reaching the bear, jeers are thrown in Cline’s direction that the rock formation more closely resembles a llama.
“Yeah, yeah, maybe you’re right,” he said, brushing off the playful ridicule.
A few steps down from the stone bear — or llama — Cline and Maxim stopped to inform the group that they had reached the spot. Cline climbed up a rock face to grab a trail camera he and Maxim had hidden there, lamenting that he had to come back to fix it a few times after a curious squirrel had knocked it over.
Once at the spot, and at the alcove where Cline and Maxim had hidden the chest and its contents under an old dead tree, the two took time to chat with their groupies about what they had enjoyed most about the hunt and took feedback about could make the next one even better.
One inquiring hunter asked what would happen, tax-wise, with Swanger’s winnings. While Cline mentioned that ABC4.com had done a story on the tax ramifications for Swanger, Maxim chipped in and added that he and his accountant had been working on a solution to ensure that as much of the money as possible remained with the winner.
“That was so hard, that guy deserves every penny of it. Kudos to him,” said Nathalie Ozberkmen, while resting on a packable seat near the treasure’s resting spot.
After a few moments at the site, and after taking a group photo on the way down, the group reconvened at the start of the trailhead, with Cline and Maxim sticking around to take a few more photos.
One member of the group, Duncan Stewart, pulled out a printed copy of the original poem and asked the two buriers to autograph it, which they did with a laugh.
“Don’t be dumb,” wrote Maxim in a happy, sarcastic tone at Stewart’s request.
While Stewart didn’t end up finding the treasure, and he says he tried frequently, he was still grateful for the opportunity that Maxim and Cline had created.
“This is like medicine for me. This is my church, getting outside.”
“It was great to meet everyone in person,” Cline said in conclusion.
Maxim couldn’t help himself from cracking another dad joke.
“The real treasure, as they say, are the friends you make along the way.”