SUBMITTED JULY 2015
The following sets forth part of the story of my family’s searches for Forrest Fenn’s hidden treasure and our opinions or beliefs, so if I forget to mention something as my or our opinion or belief, read that into what is said.
We’ll just start with a simple thank you to Mr. Forrest Fenn for getting family members out in the wood. We have been interested in the Thrill of the Chase since about the first of April 2013 when my wife, who probably now regrets ever mentioning it to me, told me of Mr. Fenn’s first appearance on the Today show where he gave out the first additional clue, “The treasure is hidden higher than 5,000 feet above sea level.”
The story is not necessarily reported in the chronological order that clues were interpreted or searches made, but more or less as constructed in the poem.
Mr. Fenn recently said in answer to a question on Ms. Jenny Kile’s site “I doubt that anyone will find the blaze before they have figured out the first clue.” This confirmed my belief from about the second day of our chase that we had found a key to the poem and the hidden location of “Indulgence”. To find the blaze you have to have been “wise”, a widely neglected clue, and I believe that Mr. Fenn, in fennspeak, was telling us where you need to begin, in the middle of the poem where the past tense is used. I had been looking at some blogs online the weekend after my wife told me of the Chase and came across a brief mention of Molly Brown and houses in Leadville and Denver. Looking at a satellite image of the Leadville area, my wife could hear me yelling “Holy sh**, there’s an f**king owl there!” To paraphrase Paul Simon, it’s all happening on the owl, we do believe it, we do believe it’s true. Have you ever looked at a topographic map or satellite image of the Mosquito range? Looks like the Wise potato chip owl.
But, why Molly Brown? Knowing that the chest was loaded mostly with gold, it was likely that the poem had to do with gold as the “riches new and old”, where it was found, when (in the past and when it is found there again), and by whom, not uranium (as some people have asserted (e.g. Germanguy, Ritt)). (How can it be, that uranium you see, when gold is the relevant, sought after element? Marbles, really?) After a very little bit of research it became clear that the relevant Brown was not Molly, but her husband James Joseph Brown, who’s engineering prowess was directly responsible for the gold strike in Leadville around 1893 (smudged postmarks over the treasure chest pictures in The Thrill of the Chase anyone?) at the Little Jonny Mine (old outhouse?). It was obvious, at least to us, we had the intended home of Brown and we began to focus on the area as our one and only search area.
Having the home of Brown, we did not really need to know “where warm waters halt” (what we believe to be the 2nd clue, as the first stanza appears to be an introduction and other hints). Again, with only a little research, the Continental Divide (CD; where cold waters begin) in the region around Fremont Pass is unique because a single mountain range, the Tenmile (too far to walk?)-Mosquito Range, is divided in name because it is split onto opposite sides of the CD, the only such mountain range in the USA (thus, the use of the plural “waters” in the poem, the Blue River, a tributary of the Colorado River, west from the Tenmile portion, the Arkansas River east from the Mosquito portion). Take it (your quest, your car, your pickup, whatever) “in the canyon down” then means take CO state highway 91 from Fremont Pass (near one eye of the owl, Mt. Arkansas; elevation 11,318 feet), along the head of the owl, down to Leadville (famously at 10,200 feet above sea level).
As an aside, we would mention if you head north on CO 91, rather than south to Leadville, you get to Copper Mountain. Interesting that copper can develop a green patina or form red or black oxides (tea with Olga?). Or, in the greater Leadville area, one can find Carbonate Hill (black?) and Iron Hill (red? rust).
The Brown family had a number of homes in the Leadville area, in Stumptown in the mining district east of town (also northeast of Toledo Street), on Breece Hill near the Little Jonny Mine, on the north side of east 7th Street near the current Leadville, Colorado & Southern Railroad station, and on west 9th Street. So, keeping with the thought that the owl was key, we believed that the mining district, which is on the face of the owl, was the site to look and that put in below the home of Brown, in many of our interpretations, meant take a left onto 7th or 5th Street, both south of the north side of 7th street out to the mining district (“no place for the meek”—mining, high altitude, snow, cold). Both these streets were probably the old routes for the steam engine trains into and out of the mining district (no paddle up your creek (rails); heavy loads (ore) and water high (for steam engines)) that hauled the ore (heavy loads), an interpretation in line with at least one reported origin for “up the creek without a paddle” being the transport of wounded British soldiers up Haslar creek from Portsmouth harbour by tramline in the creek to the Royal Naval Hospital. We also thought that the old railroad grade should be near, or follow, a creek so that there was a juxtaposition of the two to form the basis of the clue. More recently we thought “deeply” and have used the route of the Yak tunnel as the “creek” as it was used both to haul ore underground on rails and for drainage (no paddle up your creek, heavy loads and water high); the “creek” runs under Leadville (below the home of Brown) and at least two homes of Brown (Breece Hill and Stumptown), runs directly beneath the search area, and ends east and to the left of the search area.
However, the elevation of the mining district ranges from about 10,900 to 12,400 feet above sea level, so at this point we need to address the 10,200, 10,000, 12,200 feet owl in the Rockies and the self-appointed fact checkers out there. They would say that Forrest Fenn has said, and that we are taking as fact, the treasure is “Located above 5,000 ft and below 10,200 ft.” However, Mr. Fenn never said this (if you do not count the mistake of parroting back 5,000 to 10,000 feet during the Ohio radio station interview in May 2015) because two statements made in two entirely different situations have been combined in a single “fact.” As I mentioned earlier, the 5000 feet statement was intended as an extra non-clue clue and appears factual. The statement reported as made to a reporter over lunch by Mr. Fenn around December 2013 that “The Treasure is hidden below 10,200 feet” was, I believe, an off-the-cuff inside joke with himself that Mr. Fenn regretted ever saying when it was put out there to the public. Convinced in our belief that Leadville was the home of Brown, the below 10,200 feet “fact” only bothered me for a few minutes until I found the context and manner in which it was stated. This was clearly confirming that Leadville was the home of Brown in view of the “below” portion of the statement (he did not say lower, for example) and how below appears in the poem (“below the home of Brown” = below 10,200 feet = below Leadville (the Yak tunnel or at least south of a house of Brown in Leadville); a simple logical substitution), but the statement has also been the biggest misdirection in the search for most people. The Chase is all about one man’s legacy so, after seeing how it had been accepted as a fact in an incorrect sense, we believe that Mr. Fenn spent a year and a half trying to rectify the misdirection in order to not appear a liar when the chest was later, in our belief, to be found above 10,200 feet above sea level. He started posting an onslaught of scrapbook, speedbump, etc. entries, in some of them literally screaming LOOK UP HERE (more on this later). Then came the Ohio interview and then came the other “mistake” on Forrest Fenn day in Santa Fe (29 May 2015) that the treasure was hidden below 12,200 feet. We believe that Mr. Fenn was trying, with great finesse in playing the old age card, to finally get a factual “fact” out there with the 12,200 feet upper limit. From the above discussion, both below 10,200 feet and below 12,200 feet above sea level fit our solution well and are not contradictory when taken in proper context. If you cannot accept this as a possibility, read no further.
As one example of the scrapbook hints we would mention the shower tile images and contrast the dog with our owl.
This brings us back to the face of the owl. However, when I first tried to zoom in on the owl in Google or Google Earth, a fluffy white cloud was planted right over the area. I recall, could be wrong, that, before saying Google Earth and/or a good map might be useful, Mr. Fenn originally said something to the effect that Google Earth would not be helpful in the search because it doesn’t have the resolution to go down far enough for one to see the chest. He couldn’t say that in the image on Google maps at that time a cloud was centered over the search area, could he?
I went looking for an alternative view and the best image I could find, and still can find even after recent Google map updates in which the cloud is gone, was the aerial view on Bing maps. This only convinced me more that we had a, if not the main, key to the solution and the architectural context of the poem. The poem, in our opinion, is drafted from the perspective of a former pilot and art dealer trying to describe a scene, frozen in time, constructed both by nature and inadvertently, or possibly with intent, by man and viewed from a high altitude. No hidden codes or ciphers or anagrams or coordinates or uranium or brown trout to be found. Included in the “picture” are, for example, multiple omegas (colophon) (and actually at least double double omegas bracketing the search area), a woodsman inside old railroad grades, now roads (no paddle up the creek?), in a “V” shape (going in peace?) on the lower portion of a hill lined with tree stumps (“environmental” illustration on page 146 of The Thrill of the Chase), a large bird in a crescent shaped nest (“environmental” illustration on page 146 of The Thrill of the Chase), all on the face of our owl (wise) and below a notch (blaze?; also somewhat omega-shaped and containing the Omega Mine group) in the second eye, Prospect Mountain, of the owl.
The “look quickly down” is, in our opinion, a multilevel clue referring to both the eye of the owl that possesses either a notched or a white-streaked blaze and the focus of the woodsman, one incarnation of “you” in the poem. Since the woodsman, “you”, is and always will be already at the blaze, this, in our opinion, also explains the use of the past tense, “if you’ve been wise and found the blaze”. This interpretation also fits well with Mr. Fenn’s quotation of T.S. Eliot:
“We shall not cease from our exploration
And at the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time”
However, since the woodsman appears also to already be going “in peace”, and what could be the blaze is large (long-lasting and not feasible to remove) and does not precisely point to the treasure chest as many have assumed, our various solutions have focused on where (along which “creek”), in what direction (still gazing or not (“tarry scant”)), and how far “down” (south or downhill?) you as the woodsman should “look quickly down your quest to cease”.
Our first searches focused on the omegas that the woodsman may be looking at to the south (down), since if the chest were inside the omegas, the “end” (omega) would be “ever drawing nigh”. At least the one southern omega was also formed by the old railroad grade at the end of 5th Street, has a creek cutting through it, and thus was consistent with our interpretation of no paddle up your creek, heavy loads, etc. Nothing was inside the omegas that we could find. Another possibility involved the large discarded tire along the old railroad grade extending west from the one southern omega that can be seen in the satellite images (“I’ve done it tired”). My wife suggested that the woodsman was still gazing with “marvel” at the chest, so this led to several exhaustive searches inside the V-shaped departure zone and uphill therefrom. The woodsman could have been standing in place, looking in the general direction of the nesting bird, or not, and looking downhill. Large area there, and no luck. For example, downhill from the nesting bird is a pit, surrounded by trees on the periphery, having a mine entrance, tires, and an alcove on the pit wall that could have fit the chest, looked like it once had rocks positioned in the front of it, but held no treasure. Other possibilities took into account the position of the woodsman relative to the bird in the “environmental” illustration, being further up Little Ellen Hill where the tree stumps can be found above the Fortune (riches new and old?) Mine, facing in the direction of the bird, or not, looking down (south or downhill?), then taking the chest and moving before being frozen as going in peace.
There are many old railroad grades (creeks?), many places within the blaze that the woodsman could have been, and many directions that the woodsman could have looked.
Our last two trips focused on the Yak tunnel as the “creek”, last August checking along the route of the tunnel above the Fortune mine, and the last week of this June looking on the head of the bird formed by the mine deads, in what looked like the region of the ear of the bird, and then below the tower (diving tower?) still at the mine. To make a long story short, below the tower, above the Yak tunnel route, in line with the edge of the notch in Mount Prospect, the owl’s eye, in view of the “woodsman” if he raised his head at his current position, on a tree stump lined knoll, and in earshot of the “nesting bird”, there were two curious 4 foot stakes in the ground. How do I know they were about 4 feet long? Because, hoping that the chest had not been wired to the stakes at ground level and that I was first to the spot, that the stakes might be a combined marker and lifting mechanism for some sort of slip case that the chest was buried in, I bought a post hole digger, came back the next day, and I dug around them. I dug and dug, even past the point of knowing that they were not attached to anything, just to make sure there was nothing buried beneath them. Obsessive, huh? There was nothing, other than rocks and foliage, above ground and nothing, other than rocks, dirt, and sand, below ground in the region of the stakes. These were very special stakes because of the length and the fact that there was very little evidence of decay such as rust. We believe that this may have been where the chest had been located. No reply has been received to an e-mail sent to Mr. Fenn about these special stakes at this precise location that fits the poem.
For those of you that think there have been no hints in The Thrill of The Chase or scrapbooks, we would, respectfully, disagree in view of some of the examples already set forth above. Further, we have pasted some of the scrapbook images paired with our, or should I say Mr. Fenn’s, “picture”. A picture can be worth a thousand words.
At the time most of the above story was being written, in mid June 2015, we had made four trips from the east coast to Leadville with no luck and we did not plan to add to the story, whatever the result of our final trip at the end of June. However, the presence of the stakes at a precise solution point of the poem prompted us to add these findings to our story and to e-mail Mr. Fenn. There is still no response.
Our goal in posting our findings is to help someone with a new, or alternative, perspective on the Chase and the poem, perhaps aiding in finding the chest, so that we can all end the obsession, the extra vacation spending, and go back to our lives. I also made a promise to my wife, and to myself, that the trip this summer would be the last. I keep promises and putting our interpretations out there to the world is a form of closure.
If this helps in the successful end of the quest, please keep in mind where the information came from (the poem, book, scrapbooks, and us). The family wouldn’t mind at least a few double eagles.
Go in peace.