Back in June of 2013 I was contacted by an assistant producer from the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) in London.
Emma, was interested in creating a TV story about Forrest’s Treasure that would include a searcher as well as Forrest. The story would be part of a larger series about treasure around the world. Emma’s voice sounded young and delightfully British. We chatted on the phone for awhile and then she wanted to know when I was going to be headed out to look again for the treasure. Mid-August in the Yellowstone Region was my next planned outing. Emma thought that period and location would work for her group as well. In the next few days we struck an agreement whereby a BBC film crew would fly from London and come along for a day with me as I searched for Forrest’s hidden millions.
As the date approached Emma needed to know what the film crew should pack along in the wilds of Montana. I suggested long pants to protect legs from pokey underbrush. Long sleeve shirts to protect arms from intolerable bug bites. Plenty of water and oh yes, bear spray, since we would be in the finest and most bear populated grizzly habitat in the lower forty-eight.
“Bear spray”, repeated Emma. “What is that? Some sort of foul smelling scent you spray all over yourself that the bears don’t like?”
“No”, I replied. “You spray it at the bears when they get too close,. It’s like Mace.”
A quiet moment followed.
Then Emma asked, “How close do grizzly bears get before you spray them?”
“Twenty-five feet or so”, I responded.
Another quiet moment.
“I was really hoping to keep them a bit farther away than twenty-five feet.” Emma added.
I left Lummi Island on August 7th for a two day drive to Yellowstone Country. It was warm and blue when I left the island.
On the 10th of August my job was to make camp and have coffee ready in the morning when the BBC folks arrived at the farthest place we could bring vehicles, up the road, near my spot. My spot is located north of Hebgen Lake, near West Yellowstone, Montana. In a broader sense it’s a somewhat well searched area but I believe the precise spot I’m interested in had been passed up by many others. I felt good about the area. I could get here by following the clues…yet another spot Forrest’s poem could lead me…Number 41 in my accumulated search locations to date.
The area was resplendent with about two dozen different prairie and creekside wildflowers still in bloom. At 7am the sun was just beginning to heat up the lodgepole pine along the creek and they, in turn, were beginning to release that incredible scent of sweet pine that fills the great outside here on warm summer days.
The crew arrived after stopping in town to film Dallas Campbell, their presenter, what we would call the host or reporter in the USA, purchasing a can of bear spray at one of the local shops on Yellowstone Avenue. My cowboy coffee was boiling, the fire was hot and although no bears had been spotted near camp, there were reports of them in the area, including a sighting the previous day of a mom and cubs a mile or so below us.
Dallas and I chatted for awhile over black coffee about my involvement in the treasure hunt. My impressions of Forrest and my thoughts about the kind of place Forrest would have hidden his cache.
What I sensed about Dallas was that he was very enthused about the treasure hunt. For a guy who has traveled the world and been involved in some of the finest science and technology television programming ever made, Dallas is a down to earth guy. He is not stuffy or “above” the common man, like so many TV personalities in the States. He is a pleasure to be around and a joy to treasure hunt with.
This was not Dallas’ first treasure hunt by any means. He hosted the incredibly popular BBC series, Egypt’s Lost Cities, where he used satellite technology to hunt for previously undiscovered treasures among the ruins of ancient Egypt’s sphinxes and pyramids. He was also host for a number of other BBC and Discovery Channel series about science, the environment and technology before starting this new series about world treasures.
Dallas likened the hunt to a fairy tale. Not unlike Little Red Riding Hood trying to get to grandma’s house along a path fraught with distractions. Or in another example, like the yellow brick road of Dorothy fame, where we all try to follow the path to find a treasure only to discover that we already had the real treasure, all the time…family and friends.
The rest of the crew were likewise very experienced and a delight to spend time with. Sophie, the series director, producer and writer was the producer for one of the BBC’s most popular reality TV series, Last Woman Standing. Where five British, female athletes traveled the world to compete in indigenous sports. On our location, Sophie watched every shot the camera recorded and imagined how everything would edit together. She supervised the entire crew and in the end, she is the person responsible for making sure the events of the day unpuzzle into a clever and intriguing story.
Julius is the team’s delightful and savvy cameraman and director of photography. A remarkably cheery fellow, responsible for a slew of technical gear and, in the end, coming back with world class footage for each story in the series. His Red Epic camera and support gear, batteries and monitors and tripod weighed nearly as much as me. Julius has several BBC series behind him including work with Sophie and Dallas all around the universe.
Phil is the sound recordist with the team. Responsible for not only all spoken words but also natural sound and ambiance. Very few TV viewers appreciate the contribution good sound recording makes to the overall loveliness of a high quality production. Even in our simple case, it’s not an easy task to get clear sound from a couple of guys walking in a stream torrent or climbing up hills and as far apart from each other as several hundred feet. It’s an art form and technological feat that most viewers just take for granted.
Emma is the series assistant producer and in the USA would probably also be called the production coordinator. It is her job to line up all the participants and locations for all the episodes. She spends almost all of her time worrying about what is going to happen next. She is the company planner. Without Emma the story ideas remain just that…ideas. She makes things happen…on time…on budget! So, for example while the crew was chasing me around in the streams and under rocks, Emma was calling Australia and London lining up what the crew would be filming in a day or two. Making sure that everything from flights to bear spray were not going to fail. Some day, Emma will be a series producer and director. Be nice to Emma!
This geographic spot was new to me. I’d never searched here before but I’d been nearby. The poem led me directly to this spot just as it had with so many others I’ve examined. The difference here was that I felt I also knew what the “blaze” was before I had even seen the spot. This was a new experience. In every other location I’ve searched I always felt I would have to identify the blaze when I got to the area, but not here.
This place was along the fault line of the 1959 earthquake that shook out Quake Lake and dropped most of the area south of the fault 15-20 feet. A giant snap that killed, frightened, destroyed and changed. One geologic mini-event that lasted just a few seconds but still has repercussions some 55 years later.
My sense was that the blaze could be the place where this particular creek crossed over that fault line and plummeted 15-20 feet downward. Although I had not seen the place I imagined it to be a picturesque waterfall. And below the waterfall…directly below the waterfall…. might be Forrest’s chest.
This was the spot I intended to go to with the BBC crew. About a quarter mile hike from where we would leave our vehicles at the end of the road, this seemed like a good place. The broader area is the setting for a story in Forrest’s book and the location is inside the Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone…no place for the meek.
Everyone was in a good mood as we headed up the trail. Six of us. The crew humping enough TV gear to finance a small war if sold at market value and armed with enough bear spray and handguns to start one.
Within minutes we left the trail to get closer to the creek as we marched toward the fault line. Proof that we were in grizzly bear territory was evidenced by a camera attached to a “bear tree” in a small opening in the woods. I think its presence increased everyone’s awareness of the fact that we were no longer the top predators where we walked.
As we approached the line I could hear the rush of water increase. The creek was getting noisier. We were closing in on the fall, but it was a tangled mess below. Logs, stumps boulders all tossed about like toys in a child’s room. A minefield of potential ankle twisters and shin wackers. When Dallas and I finally got to the base of the fault it was not what I expected. Not a lovely fifteen foot cascade over a stone ledge surrounded by hanging mosses and a transparent pool at the bottom suitable for storing a bronze chest. Instead it was a rubble canyon through dirt and gravel. Made over fifty-five years of high water and low. It was unattractive, unappealing and not a likely resting spot for Forrest’s treasure. I was very disappointed. I could only stare at it, like an unfulfilled parent, mesmerized by what it had failed to become.
Like good soldiers we poked and prodded in shallow pools and surveyed the rubble as best we could looking for hidey places. None were discovered.
We decided to push onward, up the creek without a paddle and see if we could locate a better place not far from where we were. Above the fault the creek was a series of small cascades and pools as it weaved it’s way through walls of lighter colored granite. If it was to be up here we would have to locate a suitable blaze.
All told, Dallas, Sophia, Emma, Phil, Julius and I spent several hours above the fault examining the creekside. Imagining blazes. At one point things got particularly exciting as we discovered a neat cavern behind a small cascade with rocks that appeared piled by hand to conceal what might be behind.
In the end, my dear friends, the chest, if here, is still wild and free, available for any of you to better my location and discover. But I must warn you. The Brits and I scoured the creek and it’s neighborhood relentlessly.
There is another creek, older and lovlier…not far away, where I spent the very next day searching with relatives of Forrest and a charming journalist and novelist by the name of Porochista Khakpour in a location dictated by Forrest himself in a whimsical moment of teasing his kin into taking up the splendid chase.
More to come…