SUBMITTED march 2015
Finding Fenn Part One
The agony of defeat became excruciatingly painful. Months of research, consulting lawyers, appeasing ownership laws and devising the ultimate plan had just been wiped out by a single trivial event. I feel my treasure hunting career is rapidly coming to an abrupt halt, and we are not talking “warm waters” type halt either! The realization that I once again disappointed another family member had become too much to bear. I have just been dealt four cards and a joker and I must play them whether I like it or not. Wait! I did not travel all this way to fail; not on my watch! This maverick is about to make the biggest bluff, this million dollar poker game “The Thrill of the Chase” has ever seen. This will be the biggest gamble of my life. This will be our finest hour!
Now I suppose you are all wondering how I got into this mess. Well it all started back in the middle of May. Alex, my son, flew in from Winnipeg and we met at the Denver airport. We had not seen each other since Christmas so I was very happy to see his smiling face. He was the last remaining member of my family to accompany me on the chase and right away he was telling me all about the Denver airport and the beautiful murals painted on the walls. I guess the “research gene” runs in the family after all! We took a few photos together and then loaded up the rental car and headed towards Glenwood Springs, Colorado.
There was a freak storm that just pushed in and it soon started to snow. We drove almost to the top of the mountain where the I-70 entered the Eisenhower tunnel when traffic ground to a halt. At elevation 11,000 feet, it had begun to snow and some dumb truck ahead of us went off the road so they had closed the highway all the way to Vail. With no choice, we turned around and managed to get the last hotel room in Georgetown. We gathered some supplies for the night which included the Forrest Fenn recommended six pack of beer for our anticipated celebration. That night we discussed, with great enthusiasm, our fool-proof solution and I enjoyed listening to Alex’s very interesting interpretations of what each clue meant.
Alex wondered why I changed my primary search area of New Mexico to Colorado. I told him that I had been working on a key that would unlock the poem and tie all of the clues together. Since technically the opening line preceding the poem “… will lead to the end of my rainbow and the treasure” is part of the poem. In the spirit of finding Fenn, I felt I must solve “his rainbow.” Mr. Fenn hinted the searcher required a flashlight and that “a few were in ‘tight focus’ of a word that is key” drilled deep into my cognitive thought process when I was watching a movie on my TV wall projector. It malfunctioned and projected a rainbow across the screen. My concept is also sparked by quote, “… looking through the prism, of vodka raspberry and lime” from Edgar Allen Poe’s poem, The Raven Nevermore, which Forrest Fenn would later hint. I reasoned a tightly focussed beam of light from a flashlight onto a prism-like object created a rainbow. I was researching in New Mexico near the Hardy mine which produced Icelandic spar. It also produced beryl, a known product associated with rubies. Since I believe the chest and its contents contain information related to the clues or the hiding place, I became very excited when I realized that Hemingway developed the Iceberg theory of writing. Forrest made an obvious attempt to hint at Hemingway when he purposely stated Hemingway’s book, For Whom the Bell Tolls, was about World War I. Near the town of Dixon, New Mexico, there exists a mining claim called the Iceberg claim that contained optical grade Icelandic spar and it was originally owned by one Juan A. Brown of Embudo, New Mexico. The problem was I couldn’t make a solution work in that location despite the fact that Mr. Fenn placed a piece of that Icelandic spar in Rannelle Jacobson’s raffle prize jar. I became deflated when Forrest Fenn told Ali McGraw that the object I was so excited about was a crystal. Finally I capitulated and conceded that that object was just a plan old crystal but I was rejuvenated when I discovered Forrest had a very touching story, “Sunday kind of Love”. As a child, Forrest received a crystal radio built by Skippy and it did not have any batteries or speakers, so he would listen to the only channel it received late at night when he went to bed. His favourite singer went by the name of Fran Warren (Francis Wolfe) and when he met her in Las Vegas several years later, he told her that he fell in love with her as a child and he explained how special she was to him because Skippy’s radio brought back old childhood memories. I couldn’t help but to notice this story suggested a different meaning of what is “special” to Forrest. When I read about Fran Warren, I noted she sang Look to the Rainbow and participated in the film Abbott and Costello meet Capt Kidd and Finian’s Rainbow. The reference to “rainbow” and “Capt Kidd” suspiciously framed the poem in his memoir.
I noted the word “crystal” is derived from the ancient Greek word krustallos, meaning both ice and rock crystal from kruos, “icy cold, frost.” I concluded “crystal” could be the illusive “word that is key” that only a few searchers have been tightly focused on since it is the Greek word for “ice” or “cold” as in “your effort will be worth the cold.” There has been a lot of talk about the Roman and Greek connection to the poem and this appeared to be the Greek part. I decided to try a few “locks” and see where my new “key” would take me. Alex suddenly perked up and gazed at me with an inquisitive look that I rarely see. I had his attention at last, so I took the opportunity to continue the story.
I couldn’t find anything interesting in New Mexico but when I looked into Colorado, the state he seldom mentions if at all, it all came together. “Well Alex.” I said, “there is a Crystal River in a remote part of central Colorado that is linked to the 1994 movie Maverick. The movie begins in a fictional town called Crystal River and it is about a gambler named Maverick who wants to be the best and all of the country’s best poker players travel from far and wide to gamble for the $500,000, winner take all, prize.” We laughed as we recognize the similarities to our adventure, the thrill of the chase. But the word “maverick” really sinks in because he wrote on the dust cover, of the same named book, that one needs “enough confidence in a maverick.” The fact that he has verbally mentioned that he is a maverick and then gives this clue is something to get excited about! I concluded by saying, “It is getting late and we have an early morning tomorrow. I will explain the rest as we follow the clues to the treasure.”
The next day I cleared six inches of cold snow from the car and we headed out around 5:30 am. The weather wasn’t initially very promising, so I drove fairly slow for the first hour and once we were on the other side of the continental divide the weather started to improve. When we reached Glenwood Springs, we stocked up on supplies and gas, because where we were going the nearest gas and cellphone service is thirty minutes away. Communication with home base is very important when adventuring in the mountains but more importantly, being away from instant technology prevents Alex from reverting to his zombie like computer game mode. You know the look, the one where your child stares at you with eyes that look like a set of spinning pinwheels!
After we travelled ten miles south of the town of Carbondale we arrived at the start point, “where warm waters halt.” It was located at a narrowing in a very beautiful canyon pass. We got out of the car and the snow was falling at a moderate pace. The Crystal River roared by as I pointed to two small circular pools made of rocks on the river bank. “This is it?!” Alex asked with scepticism. I explained to him that Forrest is a very spiritual and sentimental man. He spoke very fondly of river bathing as a child in the Firehole River at Ojo Caliente geyser in Yellowstone. I reminded him of the Fran Warren experience and then stated that Yellowstone itself is too big of a hint, thus I reasoned it must be a parallelism of his special place that he stumbled across when flying his plane to random locations in the Rockies. The reason that there are two riverside hot spring pools or “hot pots” at this location explains why “water” in the poem’s clue, “begin it where warm waters halts” is a plural. If it was just one pool, then Forrest would have used the statement ‘warm water’.” Alex seemed to buy into this explanation but wondered how I equated warm water to a hot water spring when it is supposed to be just warm. “Good question,” I snapped, “well if you feel the water and note the river rocks funnel some cold river water into the pool and the mixing with hot water makes it warm and it is in this rock barrier pool that the warm of the water halts.” Alex seemed quite content with this explanation and his eyes were telling me this is too simple. Before he could get the words out, I explained, “ Well Alex, Mr. Fenn claims that too many searchers are overthinking it, so this is as straight forward as you can get.” Then I quoted an email from Mr. Fenn that Dal Neitzel posted after he searched the Manby riverside hot spring, “I wonder how many times Manby and Dunn swirled the warm water around their cold bodies on a February morning so many years ago.” I emphasized that Forrest used the word “warm water” in reference to a “hot” pot.
“But what separates this hot pot from any other of the thousands out there, other than the connection to crystal?”, he retorted.
“Very good question my intuitive son”, I replied. I began to explain to him, “President Nixon ran into big trouble during the Watergate Scandal and the Washington Post reporter, Bob Woodward was hot on his trail trying to put the clues together, just like we are here.” He started to give me that “where is my game boy? I need to tune out” look so I urged him to stay with me. I went on to say that these two reporters met in an underground parking lot with a secretive character named “Deep Throat” where he told him them to “follow the money.” Alex suddenly showed that teenage boy’s look of sudden interest and I naively convince myself that it is my exciting story telling that got his attention and not the interesting names of the characters in my story. I take out my copy of The Thrill of the Chase and open it to the chapter My Spanish Toy Factory. Since Alex loves money I thought he would enjoy hearing how the millionaire Forrest Fenn got his entrepreneurial start, but quickly regretted it when I realized that he started out making marbles and wooden tops in Spanish class, rather than paying attention. Oh, well it was too late so I continued. I believe this chapter contains some powerful hints that define the clues because Mr. Fenn hinted that we need to bring a sandwich. Many, including myself at first, took that comment literally but if Mr. Fenn is as clever as I believe him to be, he used that “sandwich” as marker or indicator to the hint. If so I believe the fact that the word “sandwich” appears in the first paragraph of this story he is hinting that there are hints in this chapter.
I questioned, “Alex when you read this chapter, Forrest mentions every coin but which?” “The Penny” he proudly announces like he had just received an “A” in his latest exam. “Thats right Alex!” I said with a proud fatherly smile, “And guess what this hot spring is called? That is right, ‘Penny Hot Springs’, so you see we begin following the money trail right here.” I throw in a few more examples of Forrest’s hint of money just for good measure, such as the fact he incorrectly spelled dollar like “doller” on one of his bronze jars and “for he who dies with over fifty dollars is a failure”.
We took a few pictures and I asked Alex to jump into the hot pot so I can take a few pictures and he gives me that “you know where you can go” look and he starts to hold his nose as he protests the sulphur smell that strengthens exponentially as we near the pool. I anoint Alex with the water from the hot spring and I ceremonially declare our quest underway.
Next I explain to Alex that we must now “take it in the canyon down”. He asks, “what is it?” and he points down stream. I told him that “it” is a kayak and that we were not going down canyon and he protests, “But the poem says we should.” I retorted that several people got the first two clues correct but went right on by the other seven. As he gazed at me with that “what the hell are you talking about look”, I quickly explained if you substitute “it” with kayak and realize that “down” as in “take it in the canyon down” is a preposition. Also realize that “put in” is a nautical term for where you insert your kayak and then you take it out of the river at the “take out” point down stream. The sentence in the poem reads more precisely: “Take the kayak, in the canyon down, and put it below the home of Brown.” Since we are dealing with a poem it is easier to understand the sentence in plain english, but it helps if you consider the fact he is telling you where to begin from the perspective that he is already at the home of Brown when he wrote it. Thus it reads, “Take (out) the kayak from down in the canyon and bring it (up stream) and put it in below the home of Brown.” Now that I have him totally baffled I tell him that “down” also means south so we head south and up stream.
So now for the next clue we need to understand how far is too far to walk, yet not too far. I explain to Alex that this whole concept is analogous to the story Mr. Fenn tells in the preface of his book too far to walk, where he floated in a rubber raft down the river and walked back. He defines that distance to be at least ten river miles. We jump into our car and trundle along the snow cover highway and stop at the town of Redstone and I laugh out loud. Sure the town name reminds me of the story Tea with Olga where Mr. Fenn talks about the three tea colours with one of them being red but logically the missing tea he is hinting at is “white” which I speculate to be the colour of the blaze. I laughed because not only is Alex still trying to figure out that “take it in the canyon down” clue but also because in front of the Redstone Inn is a tin soldier or a silver knight with a raven perched on his arm.
The significance of raven comes from Forrest’s hints to the Edgar Allan Poe poem, “The Raven Nevermore.” Alex wonders what is so funny and I explain to him how Forrest mentioned in one of his scrapbook entries the song “One Tin Soldier.” This is a very special song that brought me to tears when I first heard it. It is an anti-war song where the valley people want the hidden treasure that the mountain people are rumoured to hold. The King of mountain people tell the valley people that they are willing to share the treasure but instead the valley people wage war and kill all the mountain people and they roll the rock over and underneath it reads “peace on earth.” That message hit me like a ton of bricks. To experience the horrors of war in the name of peace can be hypocritical in so many ways and I am beginning to understand the message this quest is delivering. For trivia purposes and to impress upon my son I state this song was number one in Canada in 1969 but for some reason only 34th in the USA, we joke it is because Canadians understand peace better but concede it more likely that we just aren’t as brave. As I comment to Alex that the shiny knight is a good omen to our “quest”, I noticed several bee hive shaped “coke” ovens and we feel that we are hot on the trail when we discuss the coincidence of the frequent references to the coca cola and Forrest’s childhood soda pop lid collection.