Search and rescue tied to hunt for $10K treasure prompts warning from authorities

Members of the Salt Lake County Search and Rescue team help an injured hiker get down from Ferguson Canyon on Saturday, June 26, 2021.

Members of the Salt Lake County Search and Rescue team help an injured hiker get down from Ferguson Canyon on Saturday, June 26, 2021. (Salt Lake County Search and Rescue)



COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — A 49-year-old man suffered a foot injury that required him to be rescued over the weekend while searching for a $10,000 treasure, authorities said.

Crews were dispatched to Ferguson Canyon shortly before 7 p.m. Saturday. Salt Lake County Search and Rescue officials said the man was hiking with three members of his family, searching for the $10,000 treasure when a large rock fell on his foot near the canyon overlook and made it impossible for him to walk back down on his own.

About 25 search and rescue workers were dispatched, and crews helped get the man down the canyon and back to the parking lot by midnight, the agency said. But it wasn't the last they heard about the treasure, which was placed in an undisclosed location along the Wasatch Mountains between Ogden and Santaquin earlier this month.

Wayne Bassham, a commander for the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office, told KSL TV on Monday that the injured hiker was one of more than two dozen hikers who narrowed in on Ferguson Canyon in their search for the treasure this weekend. He said the canyon has a lot of switchbacks and cliffs that can make it tricky.

"Most of the people up there Saturday were not prepared," he said. "We had several individuals asking our rescuers for additional water."

It's worth pointing out that search and rescue teams all across Utah have experienced upticks in calls in recent years completely unrelated to the treasure. For instance, the Washington County Search and Rescue team reported an all-time high in rescue calls last year, according to St. George News. The outlet also reported Friday that there have been 83 calls already this year.

Zion National Park officials also reported a recent spike in search and rescue calls, especially during the June heat waves.

However, the treasure-related incident prompted Salt Lake County Search and Rescue officials to remind people about hiking safety in the outdoors. That includes the "10 essentials" for hiking.

As noted by the National Park Service, those are:

  • Navigation: Bring a map, compass and GPS system, and learn your route before you begin your hike. Learning how to use a topographical or relief map is as important as a compass.
  • Sun protection: Bring sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat to minimize sun exposure. Long shirts and pants also help protect against the sun.
  • Insulation: Bring a jacket, hat, gloves, rain shell and thermal underwear for possible changes in weather conditions.
  • Illumination: Bring a flashlight, lanterns and headlamp, especially at night. It's also important to pack extra batteries.
  • First-aid supplies: Bring a premade kit and update the kit to replace components that have expired.
  • Fire: Bring matches, lighters and fire starters to create a fire if necessary. Of course, make sure you're in an area where fires aren't banned due to drought-related measures.
  • Repair kit and tools: Duct tape, a knife and scissors are key components of a repair kit. A multitool that also includes a screwdriver and a can opener is another useful item for a repair kit.
  • Nutrition: Pack an extra day's supply of food. Salty and easy-to-digest snacks, such as trail mix or granola bars, are recommended.
  • Hydration: Bring lots of water. Drink before you feel thirsty, especially in hot weather and while you're active outdoors.
  • Emergency shelter: Bring a tent, space blanket, tarp and bivy in case of need.

In addition to those tips, the team encouraged people to not hike alone and to let family or friends know where they are and when to expect them back from their hiking trip.

The individuals behind the treasure said that it still hasn't been found. John Maxim and David Cline told KSL TV previously that the treasure isn't in a dangerous area and it's not dangerous to get to where it's hidden. "A 10-year-old could do it. We did it in our flip-flops. You don't need carabiners or ropes or anything like that," Maxim said Friday.

"If anyone feels like it's getting a little bit dangerous, we say it's probably not there," Cline added.

Several hikers took their shot at Ferguson Canyon again Monday. One of those was Cody Latimer, who said he "had a pretty good theory" about its location over the weekend. He and his friends returned Monday with water and flashlights in preparation for their hike.

That's exactly what Bassham encourages hikers to do. He said he doesn't want people to avoid hiking altogether; he just wants people to be prepared.

"We're glad that people are getting out and they're hiking around and they're exercising," he said. "If they need our help, we'll be there."

Contributing: Tania Dean, KSL TV

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