Our First Search…


The following story was submitted by The Wolf.


My son Jordan and I arrived in C-Springs and rented a car and drove to the TAOS area. Our plan was to search the Enchanted Circle area of TAOS. We plan to hike, fish and of course pick up the treasure at some point do to my sure fire method of solving the poem. I first learned about the poem from the Today show. It took me 3 days of pretty hard work to get all 9 clues and I had some time on my hands because I needed Jordan to get the time off work. During that time I decided to research some cool hiking and fishing areas, as well as test my spot to see if I can find any back up spots. After I finished, I had amassed a total of 10 possible areas to search, all of varying clue solutions. This article covers my number two and three spots. I was so sure it was there I was already planning what to do with it, planning press releases, drafting a poem for Forrest, etc. Just like the three stooges writing checks just because they bought a lottery ticket!


My search began with Where Warm Waters Halt (WWWH). I was searching for such waters in the Wheeler peak area because a nearby mountain is called “Bull of the Woods”. I found this very small pond on the other side of the mountain that was spring fed. It was called Blake’s Lake (near Williams Lake) at about 13000 feet elevation. The interesting thing about this lake (other than it is named after my other son) is that at some point past the pond the water just disappears underground for a while and then reappears further down the canyon. Ah, what a wonderful fulfilment of the “Halt” criteria! If you follow the canyon down 4000 meters (that fits the too far to walk criteria) it intersects Long Creek (“The Long Ride Home” from the book) in the middle of the TAOS Ski Valley. I think maybe Fenn is using his humor here to use this area by stuffing it right under everyone’s nose. That would even explain why he knows whether the treasure is still there. Further to the strength of such an area is that it is owned by the village and my research stated that anything found on municipal lands, you can keep. I am thinking, that Fenn is a genius, he even thought of that aspect. Now I had to look for the Home of Brown, so a quick search in the village directory indicated that UPS (co-located with USPS) was right at that intersection between the two creeks. I think to myself, no one would ever think of that, and if you did, it would be so hard to associate. My secondary search area is now rapidly gaining strength.


200 meters up Long creek there is a fork in the creek which meets the “no place for the meek” for this climb is quite steep. I figured heavy loads could be the bridges crossing the creek and the water high are the cascades of small waterfalls along this creek. Now I just have to find the blaze. During this search I noticed the TAOS Ski Valley has a helicopter pad and the creek running below it led to Heli-pad Falls. Forrest mentions helicopters over 10 times in his book and he used a helicopter to get to his special spot in Vietnam. This either gives more strength to my area of perhaps the “brownout” effect produced by helicopters is the home of Brown. At this point I want to re-read the book to see if any other subtle crews come up. I noticed that the streets in the village mostly have animal names. As I read the book, I kept track of the number of times the 35 streets came up. Over half of them did at least once, but I noticed he talked about getting “switched” a lot. I noticed “coyote”, “Phoenix”, “Katchina” and “bull” were mentioned more than once. I found that these street names all occurred around the right fork of the creek (does not work for the “end is drawing neigh” theme but a heavy coincidence none-the-less. One word that keep suspiciously coming up was “Chipmunk”. I was initially disappointed until I looked at a different village map and found “Chipmunk Ln” right on the middle of all those other streets. It was like a bread crumb trail leading me up that right fork. The heavy loads must be all the bridges that cross the creek and the bread crumb trail ends at the “Phoenix-Switch back” road where it turns into “Bull of the Woods trail” (“in the wood”). I had that Eureka moment! He hid it under that road (perhaps a rock tunnel) and that is why he states “in the wood” because when you are in the tunnel you would be in (or under) the wood. Also no one would think of looking there and it would be easy for a 80 year old man to stash it. The Blaze has to be in that tunnel where the creek crosses the “Bull of the Woods trail”.


Now I am getting really exited. After we searched our primary area, we headed to the Taos Ski village at about 2:30; plenty of time to just walk up to that spot and pick up the treasure and still be back before dark, right!? We arrive and verify the clues, found the UPS store, etc. I drive up to the bridge and my heart sinks when I discovered there is no bridge, just a series of culverts. I park and look inside of culvert; nothing seen so I run up the creek about 20 meters and find a small cave – could this be it!? My heart races, I pull out my flashlight (aha, that is why he said to bring that) and remove the snow and I be “brave” and climb in. The cave has a small nook and a pile of dirt where he could hide/burry the treasure too – Mayday-Mayday-Mayday! Where is the blaze? The floor was covered in clear ice – this is the perfect spot but no blaze and no treasure. I return to the car and I fight back tears as I put on my sunglasses, I don’t want to let Jordan notice my sadness. At this point we decided to walk from the base up the creek and see where else it intersects “Bull of the Woods” trail. It is definitely not a place for the meek, the altitude is 10,000 feet and a lot of snow still remains and this up hill climb requires many stops to catch our breath. Finally we come to the creek-trail intersection and HOLY COW my heart stops, is this it? I look down at an aspen tree (“brave”) and there is the blaze a perfectly carved “F” right at the base of the stream. I look all around but there is no sign of the treasure. Please don’t tell me he buried it in that stream! I look around and find another blaze nearby – this one is an “cave man”, in fact this place is a mecca for blazes. Now I am not so confident. We continue all the way up to the snow line; we stop at the cascades and drink deep the aura of moment. Beautiful, calming sound of the gently rushing water – enough searching let us enjoy this for a while.



At around 6 pm, I decide to pack up and leave but I will check out Heli-pad falls for one last search. Jordan is catching a cold so he stays at the car. It is only 400 meters but it is almost straight up, slipping and sliding up the shale rock requires many stops to plot the next path and to catch much needed breath. The waterfall is spectacular but no way is anyone in there right mind climbing up here (especially an 80 year old man) thank goodness I brought my 406 Personal Locator Beacon just incase.

I start to get really depressed as I succumb to the fact this search is over, and my dream is dead; when I realize that this experience is all a part of the “thrill of the chase”, one must ride the emotional roller coaster to truly run this adventure. I quickly snap out of it and realize that tomorrow is another day and the sun will rise. Thank goodness we planned a lot of other hiking and fishing… now I will focus on spending time with our son. The adventure continues…

The Wolf

Go on to Part Two by clicking here

48 thoughts on “Our First Search…

  1. Love the ‘F’ on the tree; but, the blaze is not a tree marker. Good job on the brave. And the caveman looks alien 🙂

  2. Oh, and once you solve the poem you will only have 1 place to search. Lesson learned – if you have more than 1 place to search you have not been wise.

    • Mike et all,
      I have submitted part two of four of my adventure to Dal and he will post it on the weekend. The next part is will set up the rest of this thrilling quest. I learned a lot about blazes and this experience has now allowed me to understand what exactly the blaze is.
      The Wolf

  3. I’m glad you got to enjoy your trip in the end. Loved reading about it. Sorry you didn’t find it. Honestly. As much as we all want to find it ourselves, I will be thrilled for the person who finds it (if I don’t)… Because I will understand the exuberant joy they will have.
    It’s always so depressing not finding it… And not so much because we didn’t find the treasure, but we get our hopes up that WE were the ones to crack the code! :). I have so far only scoped out one of my locations in person. Beginning of March and there was too much snow. I knew that going into it, but I wanted to get an idea of where I was going. After I saw the area and realized how vast the outdoors can really be when you are looking for something so small…I started to realize I needed to decide on a few other spots while waiting for my favorite to be accessible. I’ve now come up with four spots, in four states. And that makes me even more excited. Because if I don’t find it when I go back to my favorite spot… I have 3 more to look forward to 😀
    I’m lucky that I live in Utah… Keeps within a 6 hour drive of every location I want to go to. I feel bad for those who have to travel a lot…. Makes it that much harder if you don’t find it. But is also easier to look at it as an adventure and a vacation that got you thinking and walking and just plain living life!
    I can’t even describe how much I’ve learned about history and geography in the last few months!
    Happy Hunting everyone!!

    (Now back to lurking every other day or so)

    • Thank you Megs you are are wonderful person! Not a lot of people think that way. Happy Hunting and I too would be happy for you if you found the trove!
      The Wolf

  4. Wolf – Such a great story. So exciting. Much better than FF’s memoirs. I wonder just how many trees with blazes exist – too many evidently. Sorry no treasure chest, but maybe next time.

    This FF hunt seems like a lot of guesswork that doesn’t pan out the way we hope. As you discovered, so many scenarios follow the clues, but the treasure just isn’t there like it should be.

    • Mike,Becky
      Thank you for your comments! My idea of the Blaze is quite different than carvings on Aspen trees, simply because trees are so vulnerable over time, how ever they is no mistaking they are fun to find.
      The Wolf

      • Hi Wolf, i like the way you think about that. On the trails, i too spied some great non-tree blazes. While i took note… i did not follow the line or follow my intuiton, in hindsight, silly me — oh the lessons i am learning out here on the search for forrest’s treasure chest…Happy trails.

    • Stephanie, James – Thank you; those were quite the coincidences and that is what makes this chase so challenging and so much fun. I believe one must endure several failures as it will make this final victory ever so sweet.
      The Wolf

      • Yeah he says you got to get out there…and I think you only see things once your there. We’ve seen dams with power lines going to them that we didn’t see till we were out there(Heavy loads).

        • Stephanie,
          I cannot emphasize what you say enough! I have 4 more search stories I can relay at a later time, where two of them lead to discovering either a blaze or resolving the missing clues. I consider myself quite proficient at google earth as I use it to design systems at my last job, but there is no substitution for ground work – period!
          The Wolf

          • I just had a blaze that wouldn’t have at all been searchable by google earth. It was interesting…we went to this USGS gage spot and there’s a perfect fishing spot there in the woods. So I’m looking around for a blaze and all the sudden I look across the river and there’s a brilliant sand color that shouts BLAZE. We didn’t have time to search that area as it was getting dark and our plane was leaving out before sunrise the next morning..so we intend to go back to it and do “some fishing”. I ended up looking on google earth and someone had pictures up on there and they actually called my sand blaze…rock formations. That was more exciting because of his photos with Skippy and his Dad and the rocks. Just need to wait till we can afford another trip and I want to check out the wooded area where that BLAZE can be seen at. Oh and I liked it was across the river because of his croc comment.

          • I have to say, regarding Stephi’s “heavy loads”, she was right on. When I saw for myself how those power lines dipped low nearly touching the ground and water in some areas, I though Stephi was clearly onto something. Thus, we started checking all the poles for numbers (you know of what I speak, Stephi LOL). But ALAS!!!! That wasn’t a blaze unless referring to an old blaze started by a power line (which there was in 2011). Needless to say, we searched the burn area too. Nada….I stil believe it’s in that area….somewhere.

        • James,
          It is true that the clues have to be in the proper order to solve the poem. That said, I use a probability based method to find my locations. That is to say solve the most likely ones first and then try and see if the harder ones are in the proper location to validate the solution. This worked very well with formulating my number 6 location – it was missing WWWH and HOB, but ground work on site were able to locate them. That said everyone is entitled to use their own method as long as they all line up and make sense in the end.
          The Wolf

      • Don’t look at it as a failure, I think the chase is comprised of 9 separate locations linked together by clues,potentially the chest could be at any one. I left some thoughts on the F blaze on John Pauls Blaze post.

        • James – you are so correct. I can’t believe I used the word “failure”; I should have used “set back” because you learn something new from everyone of those set backs.
          The Wolf

        • Hi Wolf, Mr. Fenn said that flexibility played a big part in deciding where to hide the chest, I think we can see that in the other mark. I think the other mark tells you about the blaze in your location and where to go next. But I wouldn’t leave that area, without spending at least 6-8 hours searching it thoroughly. The problem, with finding yourself in the chase some where, is not knowing the previous set of clues, from the previous location. That is why Mr. Fenn said it is best to solve the clues in the order the poem is written, so that the clues are in the proper sequence to understand them. HTH

  5. Wolf,Thanks for sharing your great adventure w/ us fellow searchers.Amazing pics and you had a good take on the poem.It is amazing how general and vague f crafted the clues.There are literally untold numbers of scenarios that could take you down a path only to learn perhaps it is the wrong path.I still love my original site because of its simplicity.I often wonder if I just stepped right over the prize.Welcome back and thanks again for sharing.

    • Ken, it was my pleasure as I have enjoyed other’s stories so much, and I hope this encourages others to open up because it is not all about finding the treasure, but rather the Thrill of the Chase and all of those experiences that go along the way.
      The Wolf

      • Hi Ken, What a great story and photos. Great map detail. Thanks for the post. I find these trip stories inspiring. wow, how would one walk on ice if the chest had been there? that’s out of my league- i guess some high mountain adventurers have the skills. I look forward to your next stories. I heard today some New Mexico org, maybe Tourism, put out a tell your true NM story for $5,000 prize. My first thought: I imagine our dear Mr. Fenn has something to do with it. *smiling*

  6. Wolf, that was very, very cool! Alas! Those of us who’ve sought the chest, find at last what treasure is best. So happy you enjoyed your trek with your son. What a blast! Love the cave too 😉

  7. Wolf, great story! Thank you for sharing. I love your interpretation of the clues. I also appreciate the honesty and emotion that you detail in your chase!

    • Canyonder – I really appreciate your comments! It was tough to eat the humble pie. Life is all about ups and downs but as I have always done in the past – find away to turn that negative into a positive – it makes life much easier to navigate with that approach.
      The Wolf

      • Wolf, I completely agree! I think that is why so many of the comments you make stand out to me. I am fairly new to the chase and have been trying to catch up on this blog for a few weeks. The people on here have really helped me to start to compile a list of search areas. I’m finally at a point where I may be able to contribute a few ideas. You have been a big help in my process. My three children are convinced that we will find the chest. I love their confidence and positive attitude. A couple of weeks ago we went on a hike 3 miles from our house that we hadn’t even considered before. It was a “practice hike” according to my 5 year old. All of us came home with special treasures and memories. Even if we never find it, I have gained so much already. I love that you experienced this with your son. Those moments will last much longer than the Thrill!

        • I am glad you are getting into this and I was able to help (and I will continue to do so). Very important to involve the family but manage expectations. It hasn’t been found in 3 years so the odds are not great, but the chase is more than the treasure; it is all about the experience and you want to share that with.
          The Wolf

    • Jeff – my number 4 spot covered the three coloured tea theme and if I have time I will tell that story later. I also have a good story about the Red river from the Rio confluence. I too thought that was thoroughly searched, but after seeing that terrain up close, I realize it could be there based on how difficult it would be to find it (multiple hiding places). This was not my search area but my fishing hole, but I did see the (a) blaze which no one ever mentioned before (it was really cool). Again another story for another time, but I mention it only to make the point I believe many people could stand on it, walk over it and walk right but the blaze and never know the difference. I have changed my mind on how clever this blaze is – that is to say it is difficult more than what people can imagine.
      The Wolf

      • That same blog i listed above talks about the movie Tinkerbell and the Lost Treasure. It says the blaze is a stone arch. I have read a lot about tree carvings it seems everyone has an idea what it is. That blog tries to put the blaze to f’s donation. But he keeps talking about tx so I think he missed the north of Santa fe statement. lol other than that it is interesting research on f. http://drquantum.blogspot.com/2013/05/forrest-fenns-money-blaze.html

  8. thanks for the story Wolf, I had looked around that area as well due to the ‘middle’ fork. there is also a ‘trident’ on the side of a hill near there at 500ft. so I always go with ‘the middle’ when looking at creeks, rivers, confluences,hiking trails and things at 500ft that I’m following by ‘flying’ over via google satellite.

    • Chosendiadem,
      The middle fork, etc on the other side was one of 10 others, but once on site, I could rule it out based on distance and difficulty – plus lack of a reasonable WWWH.

        • There is no obsession with “the middle”. It was chosen as a possible because it was on Bull of the Woods mountain.

          • I thought the middle was a reference to the middle of his trip between temple and YNP….or there are some middle lakes…I’d still like to find the one near Agua Fria one day lol..it’s fun to finally see your “only saw it on google earth” locations lol.

        • Thanks Wolf, and thanks Stephanie. It was Chosendiadem’s use of quotation marks (twice on the word middle) that threw me off. That actually sent me to checking my notes and rereading some of Thrill of the Chase to see what I had missed! I’m chalking it up to an overly enthusiastic right pinky finger. Although, Middle Fork Red River is looking mighty conspicuous.

  9. Just needed to add my thoughts…..I wrote to Mr. Fenn back in March, this year: — Original Message —–

    From: mcgonaglelois@aol.com

    To: forrest fess

    Sent: Monday, March 25, 2013 11:15 AM

    Subject: Re: The Thrill of the Chase- Possible Clues Found

    Hello Mr. Fenn, again. I have been working on this poem for about a week now, and have come up with only one conclusion, that’s it’s in your hometown of Santa,Fe. My clues thus far are: Start at either, Water St, Aqua Fria or the Santa Fe River, not really sure, then proceed down Canyon Road, then perhaps driving over to the Cathedral Basilica (which I believe, is the home of “Brown”, because of the Franciscan Fathers garb., also home of “God”). Now, the treasure can’t be there, no place for the meek, so keep going. Unless of course, you placed it in the crypt, at the Cathedral. Yikes, not going to look there either. Proceed down Palace Street, (no “place”) and maybe getting a little closer to the blaze and treasure. I pass the park, not sure if the water in there is the Santa Fe, or a creek, doesn’t matter, I’ll keep walking, don’t need a paddle anyway. Now I’m at the train station, (heavy loads?) and the water tower, (water high?). What the heck???? Do I get on a train or just stay here? I’m sorry Mr. Fenn, I’m not getting on that train, I’m staying right here. I’m exhausted just getting to this point. Maybe I’ll walk back to the park, sit a while, think, and have my sandwich…… So this is where I am at this point in your poem. I’m not sure if I ever physically, will get to Santa Fe, (being from Massachusetts) but I feel with all the maps and virtual tours I’ve taken, that I have already visited your beautiful City. I know I should be there, at the train station, to look quickly down, and perhaps one day I will….Bye for now, Lois. So my point is: If this helps anyone looking for Mr. Fenn’s treasure, this, is my contribution, and a different take. Mr. Fenn did reply to me, “if you read my book, you would know you are mistaken”. MISTAKEN. Mistaken a few steps, or really wrong? Doesn’t matter now, I’ll still continue “into my imagination”. Hope this helps someone not make the wrong turn, like I did. Just seemed logical, at that time. I can post another thought, but not now, it’s actually too funny but it will give away everything I’m working on. Hope it’s found soon, my brain is on tilt. My other thoughts are, that I previously posted, I do an “old neighborhood party” every year, where I grew up. I no longer live there but my reunion is in that town. Still dear to my heart. Good luck to all. Bye for now

  10. Hi Wolf, This is may seem off the wall, but what I see in the odd looking blaze on the tree is first, an angle blowing a trumpet, then it looks like someone defaced it, by adding a detail or two, to make it look like Kocopilau playing his flute. The first thing that came to my mind was Angle fire.

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