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$25,000 Utah Treasure Hunt prize found by out-of-state visitor

Posted at 5:24 PM, Jul 17, 2023

BOUNTIFUL, Utah — Buried over seven weeks ago, the Utah Treasure Hunt $25,000 prize has finally been found.

Organizers John Maxim and Dave Cline say this is their 4th annual hunt, but it's the first time it was found by someone who came in from outside the state.

It was found by Chelsea Gotta, a 38-year-old woman from Pella, Iowa. She came to Utah on three separate occasions, uncovering the $25,000 treasure chest of cash Sunday morning in Mueller Park in Bountiful.

"So it kind of started just lying in bed one morning just scrolling on Facebook," Gotta said. "I’m like, 'Oh, Utah? Too far away.' But then it just kind of stuck in the back of my head… And I’m like, 'You know, I’m gonna go for this.' So like three trips out there and I finally brought it home. So, ha!"

Gotta spoke to FOX 13 News on Monday after pulling over on the side of the road in Nebraska, already driving back home to be back at work Tuesday after her busy weekend trip hiking and exploring and searching for that treasure.

“Alright guys, here we are in Bountiful, Utah!" the organizers said in a video posted on their Instagram account this past weekend, explaining the clues that led to the discovery of the hidden treasure.

"I’m just a normal person, and as a little kid I did treasure hunts in our town," Gotta said.

She said her family couldn't afford to go to their local amusement park, so when the radio station did a treasure hunt for tickets, she jumped right in, tried to put the pieces together, and won.

"Me and my sister would ride our bikes all over town, clear out to this reservoir… We joked about it yesterday and they were like, 'Do you remember that?' and I was like, ‘It was in the back of my mind the whole time.'"

Her 16-hour drive to Utah came after going back and forth on whether or not she should still be searching for this prize, but multiple online clues had her researching at home and believing she knew where to try this time, at last going off the trail and beneath a group of trees.

"He said a few swipes of the hand, you know, so I started swiping with my hand and I couldn’t find anything, so I kept swiping, and then a couple more swipes and I felt these nodules on the top of the chest right here. And I just fell over. I quit even digging at that point — I was like, 'OH MY GOSH, I JUST FOUND IT!" Gotta laughed explaining, "And that’s when I was like, 'OK, you found it. Now just breathe.'"

It was an exciting time for her, realizing at last that she had found it, and with just hours to spare before having to return back home to Iowa. But for others who passed her on the trail, there was more concern about whether or not she was hurt.

Polly Jones of North Salt Lake was one of the first people to spot Gotta with her new treasure.

"She was crying and I thought something was wrong with her," Jones said. "And so I said, 'Are you OK?' And she said, 'Yes, I just found the treasure!' And then she sat it down, and I knew when she said that this was that treasure that everybody’s looking for."

Jones, at 67, said it was a reminder for her of all the good in the world, and she was so excited for Gotta after hearing her explain how hard she had been working to find it.

"She opened it up and showed me the money! She was so sweet, just telling us her story and how hard she had worked. She really worked hard to figure that out. I’m really happy for her that she found that — it’s great. I walked away — it made my day. Just made my day," she said.

Gotta said she learned so much on this adventure but was most inspired by people she met, like Jones and others she encountered living their best lives outside surrounded by nature.

"Get off the couch, people. Get out there and live your life! Just seeing that older generation out there just living so free, it was so inspirational," she said.

And as for another treasure hunt in her future? Gotta says by next year, she might be ready again — apparently, a hard habit to break.