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Jan Natale and Marvin Calhoun

Jan Natale and Marvin Calhoun, winners of TDN's Search for The Great Pumpkin.

TDN’s “Great Pumpkin,” hidden at the Castle Rock bike park, was found Tuesday by treasure hunters Marvin Calhoun and Jan Natale and redeemed Thursday afternoon for a $500 prize.

Even though some controversy surrounded the pumpkin’s discovery, “It was a thrill to find it,” Calhoun said.

The couple said they’ve participated in TDN scavenger hunts for seven or eight years, and even met each other through treasure hunting.

Calhoun, a landlord who lives in Vancouver, started his own treasure hunt in 2008, and even puts on scavenger hunts during Christmas where guests search for their own Christmas ornaments.

Natale and Calhoun said the treasure hunts let them explore new places, solve puzzles and learn local history. The prize is nice, but Calhoun said they do it for the challenge of discovery.

“One thing about treasure hunts: we learn a lot about history and lore,” Calhoun said.

Natale, a retired writer and personnel representative who lives in Ridgefield, said it was her first time in Castle Rock, and Calhoun said he loved traversing Lake Sacajawea and exploring Longview.

And “what a beautiful city it is,” Calhoun said.

They started discussing the location of the TDN pumpkin the day the first clue came out. A clue referencing rushing water and fishermen sent them to the Willow Grove Park and Boat Launch, but by Sunday they had narrowed their search down to Castle Rock.

Hunting around the Castle Rock bike park, Calhoun peered under a large concrete slab, he said, while Natale was throwing away a pear.

That’s when he saw the small plastic pumpkin. He waited to grab it because he wanted Natale to “find it first” too.

“He yells, ‘Jan, get over here!’ ” Natale said. “I said, ‘I want to throw this away first!’ ”

Claims to the pumpkin became disputed, however. A Longview woman, Heather Santamaria, claimed in a TDN Facebook post that Calhoun stole the pumpkin from her. According to Calhoun, Santamaria approached him after he found the pumpkin and aggressively asked if he would share the prize with her, since she’d been searching in that area earlier. Calhoun declined, and the couple left.

Later that day on Facebook, a woman named Darlene Johnson claimed she saw Santamaria find the pumpkin and ask Calhoun for help reaching it, after which he “walked off with it, snickering.” An extensive row ensued on Facebook, with some writers accusing Calhoun of theft and others questioning Johnson’s credibility.

Neither Johnson nor Santamaria responded to requests for comment over Facebook.

As for the prize money, the couple said it’ll go into a treasure hunt fund they use to fund future searches. Calhoun and Natale will be in Florida next week, searching for treasure that’s attained an almost mythic status among treasure hunters: one of the 12 hidden treasures alluded to in Byron Preiss’ 1982 book ‘The Secret.’ Only two of them have ever been found.

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