SUBMITTED BY CLAYTON, SHERRY & BRIELLA IN DECEMBER 2013
Here is the story of our summer family treasure hunt of 2013. We first heard of the story on the radio in the summer of 2012. Since then we’ve been hooked. I personally have spent at least 60 – 80 hours looking at Google maps, reading Forrests’ books and his and Dal’s website blogs and other treasure hunters’ searches. After narrowing down where we think it may be, my wife and I made plans to go to West Yellowstone in early August 2013. It is our 20th year anniversary making this a very special journey for our family and for my wife who has been battling Stage 4 Peritoneal Cancer. So on August 7th my wife and I, our baby girl Briella (3 years old), packed up the car and left Folsom California for a great adventure of a lifetime.
West Yellowstone is a great little town. Full of life and everyone seems very pleasant and upbeat just what we needed in our life. It’s the kind of comical little town where upon entering we are greeted by a crazy old station wagon with blow horn attached to the top blaring out “Its Rodeo Time.” Our daughter pointing and laughing, apparently a rodeo was going on down the street later that evening. We were thinking we might attend, but we had a treasure chest to find. We stayed in the Central Yellowstone Motel, which had great cozy beds the kind you just fall asleep in just minutes and when morning arrives you never want to get out of.
It was already Thursday and we just arrived and we were leaving Sunday so time was of the essence. We had a lot of ground to cover. We quickly entered West Yellowstone after checking into our motel. Sometimes things don’t look as they appear on Google maps and we wanted to narrow down our search areas so tomorrow the 9th would be direct hunting time. We were just blown away by the parks beauty. Pulling over every few miles to see elk, buffalo, pristine rivers, waterfalls, steam vents all the while passing through intermittent thunder showers along the way. I had brought my fly fishing gear (as I was wearing my weighters all the time, figured “worth the cold” meant I was to get wet), but after seeing the Madison River I knew I had to fish it as well. It was just a whole different world; we could see why Forrest speaks so highly of this majestic place. It is truly a place every American should see in person at least once in their lifetime. Pictures just do it no justice at all.
We quickly woke up the 9th and proceeded back into the park as fast as one could with a 3 year old. Soon I found myself crossing the Madison and Firehole Rivers a number of times with bear mace and radio in hand communicating with my wife and 3 year old as I went. At times I was over a mile or two out from the family surrounded by dense forest out near the Three Brothers Mountains following creeks and so on. Thinking back now, I don’t think Forrest would have done this. We looked and looked all along the Firehole River and that too didn’t add up with the poem. We remember thinking in a photo of the Firehole Falls there is a little depression on the other side that maybe Forrest crawled up in and deposited the treasure in. You know “heavy loads and water high” seemed right before seeing it in person. Do you really think he may have crossed the Firehole and walked back up to the falls and then crawled in there, I thought? I would have, if that was my “Blaze.” So off I went with my wife shouting “you’ll be swept away” as I proceeded on laughing. Again, Forrest would not have done this I soon found out. So we proceeded to the north east part of the park. There we saw all kinds of buffalo and my wife Sherry came at least two feet (face to face) from the safety of inside the car. This great beast could have easily knocked our car over, again thinking in retrospect this too was a bad idea. I hiked out toward Grizzly Lake, and crossed many creeks along the way up and down from this point, again nothing matched up. We went into the Lamar Valley and saw Ranger Browns Cabin and walked down to the river, again it didn’t add up. No heavy loads, or water high to be found.
On the 10th we drove towards Hebgen Lake. We passed Grayling Creek and quickly turned left up this dirt mountain road. We drove and drove up it; we’d stop at creeks and look around and finally came to the end. It was really secluded like much of everywhere we went and it was about 3pm when we decided to head back. On the way I thought you know there is another place I’d like to check before we leave. Forrest spoke of this canyon in his book and I’d like to take a look at it as it was on our way back to town anyways. We found the old dirt road and proceeded up it. On our way three cars passed, one being a white GMC van and I though hmm, I knew Dal was in the area because I had read it on his website, but proceeded on anyways. We approached the end of the road and saw a small creek in the distance of the beginning of a trail head. We got out and read the posting, “bear, moose, mountain lions in the area carry bells and make a lot of noise when proceeding into the forest.” It looked exciting and we quickly decided to come back tomorrow morning as it was getting dark. On our way down the dirt road we approached a little turn out and saw the same 3 cars that passed us earlier. A camera man and women holding a boom quickly turned their head our way. Our windows down enjoying the sweet Montana mountain air, I leaned out making eye contact with Dal sitting on his bumper looking very defeated for the day’s hunt – I shouted to everyone “ you guys find the treasure today.” They all smiled and laughed, the women holding the boom said no with a big smile. They looked like they were busy, so we just proceeded back to our motel.
I emailed Dal when we returned to the motel just to confirm it was him, he quickly emailed back and said yes and apologized that he couldn’t talk then as they were getting the last shot before the sun was going down. He wanted to meet up the next day. I told him we were going into the canyon again in the morning and we quickly agreed to meet around noon. He knew of a great little spot right on Hebgen Lake and would give details the next day.
Next morning we drove up the canyon. At the end of the road there were six sleeping bags with some young kids probably in their early 20’s trying to sleep. Looks like maybe the wild life might have got the best of them and felt the safety of their cars around would protect them. So we prepared with our one can of bear spray, our radios and my weighters on. All this while trying to remain quiet as the hikers were trying to sleep. Briella walking towards them saying “they close eyes.” We decided I’d be first Briella between us and my wife bringing up the rear. The trail was pretty easy to walk. My wife Sherry had to take breaks every now and then, just coming off chemo not long ago. There were berry bushes everywhere, a perfect Grizzly feasting area, but no signs yet…
We came to some rock out croppings with a little stream running by them. We then heard a low toned growl coming high up above our heads. We looked up and about 200+ft there was a small cave. My wife is an absolute picture nut and always has multiple cameras, ipad, and phone camera. She quickly grabbed her trusty 35 zoom camera and steadied her arm on a tree side and zoomed in on that little cave. We saw some eyes looking back at us. We counted three sets; we could easily see two small sets and one big set hovering above them. It was freighting, but they were far above and it was a sheer cliff above, so we didn’t feel in any danger.
We looked around and decided it was time to head back to meet with Dal. We met up with Dal at this cozy little bar/restaurant right on the lake The Happy Hour Bar. We had a great time sharing our story with him and he sharing countless stories with us. It was Sunday and we needed to get back so we said our good bye’s and snapped a couple pics and started our long 14hr drive back. Oh, but it doesn’t end here…
We get back Tuesday and start thinking about everything we saw and the poem. My wife and I begin to get really excited about a place we saw and decide we may go back next weekend (only three days away now). Are we insane? Well, if it’s there, then no we aren’t, that was how easy we talked ourselves into it. I am self employed and have partners. They are well informed from my research this past year, and I share with one of them what I’m thinking and he too can’t sleep and wants to go.
So Friday August 16th we rent a car (Briella won’t be accompanying us this time and stays with my mom), we arm ourselves with another can of bear spray and a shovel and begin at 6pm the long 14 hour drive back to West Yellowstone. I, my wife and my business partner get just past the Nevada border into Utah at 4:30am when we have to get some sleep and pull into a little motel (The Amber Inn) and sleep for exactly 2 ½ hours before back on the road again. About 2 hours from Yellowstone my partner is driving when we see some highway patrol lights coming fast up behind us. I think he was going 79 in a 70mph zone. This officer still had braces on his teeth, he was so young. I’m clutching Forrests book on my lap reading it again, while he was writing up the ticket. “ He said let’s try and keep it under 70 now” I (not paying much attention) said, “ok Officer well keep it under 75” he quickly said “no its 70” we all laughed and we were on our way again.
Needless to say we didn’t find it, but we are not done searching by a long shot. I can tell you the drive back was long and miserable “what were we thinking.” We got to look a total of 5 hours in Yellowstone, before heading back and arrived back in Folsom on Sunday at 7am just in time for my business partner to attend his sons pancake breakfast and my wife and I to sleep before our 3 year old was to be unleashed back upon us……We are far too young to be faced with the challenges set before us. Maybe just maybe this whole treasure hiding helped Forrest beat it and if we keep hope alive maybe this treasure hunt will help her beat it too. Thank you Forrest and Dal for helping make these memories possible for my wife and I. We will be heading out next summer.