The Ring Finders: Sonoma County metal detector hobbyists reunite people with their lost items for free

in News/Outdoor & Recreation
Kevin Tobin uses a metal detector to search for the lost platinum wedding band of a client at Old Vineyard Park in Windsor on Monday, March 7, 2022. Tobin is a member of the local chapter of ÒThe Ring Finders,Ó a group of metal detector enthusiasts who supply their service for free. (Photo by John Burgess/The Press Democrat

When I tell Woodrow Engle I’ve secured access to search for treasure at two old wineries in Sonoma County, it feels like we’re embarking on a “Raiders of the Lost Ark” sequel.

“I’ll see if I can find some old maps of the area and do a little research,” he texts.

By the time we meet up on a Friday morning, as the sun rises over the Mayacmas behind Alexander Valley Vineyards, we’ve exchanged over 50 texts about metal detecting, including a few about rumors of Spanish gold hidden in Chileno Valley. That’s in addition to an hourlong phone conversation.

To say Engle is obsessed is an understatement. A video game artist by trade, he once moonlighted as a semipro poker player and competed on the “Magic: The Gathering” pro tour.

“Anything with a puzzle or a strategy or anything you can dive into really deeply and spend a lot of time maximizing your performance, I love all that stuff,” he says.

He’s not alone. Engle and fellow Sonoma County metal detectorists Kevin Tobin of Sebastopol and Demian Garcia of Penngrove are all devoted members of The Ring Finders Directory, a global network of on-call metal detectorists who will literally find your ring (or car keys or cellphone) if you lose it, which happens more than you might imagine.

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