Warm Springs Part One…



The Woodsmans Solution


When I first looked at this search area on a map it seems an unlikely spot, but with all the apparent connections to the poem I wasn’t just going to ignore it.  If you follow the line of thinking presented below I think you will agree this solution seems plausible and checks many boxes from the list of requirements Forrest’s quotes have set out for us.  Equal parts logic, imagination, and serendipity converged to put me on this track and hopefully you will find that this is one of the more straight forward approaches that have been put forth to date.   This solution comes with a “word that is key”, a coherent over-arching theme, a “one foot in front of the other” path, and, most importantly, no numbers, ciphers, anagrams, codes, jumbles, symbols, coordinates, or letter cherry picking of any kind.  It is a 100% poem-based read, and if I mention more than 1 connection to the book feel free to slap me.  It unlocks Fenn’s use of literary-style allusions to hide the clues and best of all these allusions are something everyone’s kid would relate to.  So put away your magic decoder rings, sit back, and prepare to be pleasantly surprised (I hope).

Where Warm Waters Halt

Forrest has been thought of in many ways and called many things but I believe at heart he is an outdoorsman.  I see some of myself in him. I too worry that I use the word “I” too much and I end a lot of my sentences with prepositions to.   I grew up in New Mexico but now live in Colorado.  When I was in elementary school my folks would boot me out the door in the morning and my friends and I spent countless hours roaming the canyons of northern New Mexico, climbing trees, chasing imaginary bad guys, teasing rattlesnakes with a stick (trained professional-don’t try this at home), and rolling over those logs.   The only rule was don’t get hurt and be home for supper.   I was hunting elk when I was ten, and loved the family camping vacations 4 wheeling through the Rocky Mountains and exploring ghost towns and mining claims.  My father had a collection of books about “Lost gold and buried treasure”…I read them all. I’ve hiked, camped, and hunted in New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana and consider myself a woodsman.

As an outdoor guy I was thinking, how would a woodsman go about creating this clue and could it be based on something an outdoors person would have observed?  I stumbled through all the low hanging fruit like everyone else (YNP, Mammoth Hot Springs, Firehole river, Madison river, etc).  Too easy…..gotta have something better.

What if the answer is more like a riddle with a solution that has both a generic and a specific part?  Being a researcher, I though perhaps the best way to solve this problem was to break it down into two simpler pieces.  For instance: a) where does water halt, b) add warm back in later and see how that modifies the result.  Weeks later I was thinking about a fall grouse hunt I did with a friend a couple of years ago.  We got into a tight steep-sided valley that ran down from the top of a larger mountain.  The birds loved this area because it was dark and shady and had a small creek running down the middle that allowed all their favorite plant foods to flourish.  With my friend hunting one side and me hunting the other we worked our way upstream, bagging birds, and climbing ever higher on the mountain.  All of a sudden I realized the water had disappeared and along with it the birds.  Wait a minute….I thought I was paying attention so what happened to the creek?  Circling back I was quite astonished to realize how abruptly the water just appeared out of the ground.  One minute it was a flowing creek, next gone and dry.  Could this be a candidate for how water is perceived to halt (especially if you are in the woods)?

I know what you’re saying…. there are millions of streams and creeks…shouldn’t there be a hot springs involved….how does this help unless we know what stream?  To me, logic dictates that the poem must contain information that identifies a specific location.  F said “not every noun is a clue” so what about those adjectives…”warm” for instance.   But before you can understand why this makes sense I have to touch on another part of the story so more on “warm” later.  Suffice it to say, for the moment, I would ask you to believe the origin of a stream could also be considered where water halts.  Didn’t F said to “begin at the beginning”.


Last year’s search had led me to a Wild and Scenic river known as the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone just outside of YNP on the east side.  If ever there was a spectacular canyon with panoramic views and the perfect mix of remoteness and accessibility, this is it.  Most people drive right by and have no idea what’s there except a small glimpse from the bridge over the intersecting Sunlight Creek Canyon.  I like it so much I might ask to be buried there.  The only problem was that right from the beginning I found myself struggling to force the clues into place.  The solution didn’t flow well and, with boots on the ground, it just got worse.   Yes there was water high, no place for the meek, too far to walk, canyon down, but WWWH wasn’t clear and HOB was even more desperate.

I took a few months off from the search after that and tried to regroup my thoughts.  I told myself there wouldn’t be any more searches without better clue fits, and I developed a half a dozen criteria to better self-assess future solutions with a little more critical thinking.  But as you all know a fella can’t stay away from this obsession too long and after a while I found myself browsing through the materials I had collected from the last trip.  Suddenly there it was staring at me from the pages of the Shoshoni National Forest Visitor Guide….a paragraph on the Tie Hack Memorial and a picture of a log flume in a slot canyon.    In part it reads:

Tie Hack Memorial: “ Between 1914 and 1946, Scandinavian loggers produced over

10 million hand-hewn railroad ties. Located approximately 12 mi/19 km northwest of

Dubois, Wyoming, along the Wyoming Centennial Scenic Byway, the Tie Hack Memorial is

dedicated to the hard-working men and their families whose sweat and toil contributed to

the first transcontinental railroad linking our country from coast to coast.

Ties were made from trees hacked and cut by hand, hence the name “tie hack.” Tie hacks

were a special breed of loggers who could quickly fell and limb a tree, and fashion the tie

down to the specifications demanded.

In the early days, ties were delivered to the railroad by floating them down the Wind

River on the annual “long walk to Riverton.” This walk took place just after the Wind

River peaked in spring runoff so the ties would move swiftly downstream, but it was

dangerous and difficult. Wooden water channels (which can still be seen in the area) called

flumes were built to carry logs down steep canyon sides to await downriver transport.”


Screen Shot 2015-07-18 at 1.18.28 PMFigure 1- Warm Springs Creek Flume

My mind was racing now.  This one small PR statement which I had previously glossed over was now connecting my mind to familiar phrases like “heavy loads, and water high”, Brown (wood), “no place for the meek”, “brave and in the wood”, well….. you know them by heart.

Where the heck is Dubois, Wy?

Dubois sits on Hwy 26 just east of the Wind River mountain range part way between Lander and Moran Junction.  Although it’s probably not considered a preferred access route to YNP today it used to be when Lander had rail service for tourism and was considered one of the gateway cities.

As the brochure states, the period between 1914 and 1946 was the boom era for the tie hacks.  Some timber activity began in 1906, but major logging didn’t begin until 1915 with the Wind River Timber company.  The railroads were pushing their territories into the west, the mining industries needed ore hauled, and later during WWII, railroad ties were in high demand.  Wind River Timber was bought out in 1921 by Wyoming Tie and Timber and supplied ties for Chicago and Northwestern Railroad Company.  At one point railroad ties were referred to as “Green gold”.

I highly recommend the book “Knights of the Broadax”, by Joan Trego Pinkerton.    It’s out of print but I scored a used autographed copy off Amazon.  Joan lived and attended school in DuNoir as her father had been hired as the accountant and pay-master for Wyoming Tie and Timber.  It’s a fascinating insight back to a simple but brutal way to earn a living and the writing style is very Fenn-like in certain respects.  It was said that a good “hack” could cut between 20 and 50 ties a day and make up to $5….considered very good wages at the time.


Screen Shot 2015-07-18 at 1.18.07 PMFigure 2- The Wind River log drive.

The Solution

Let’s cut to the Chase (pun intended).   Although Dubois gets credit for the Tie Hack memorial, the bulk of the tie hack industry was centered around the settlement of DuNoir about 15 miles north and west of Dubois in the foothills of the Wind River Range.  DuNoir was actually the logging camp set up by the Wyoming Tie and Timber company to harvest railroad ties near Warm Springs mountain.  In those days it was not practical to haul timbers out of the woods so it was very common to build flumes to float wood to market.  In this case, the major flume system was built in Warm Springs Creek adjacent to DuNoir.  Told you “warm” would pop up again.

A literary allusion is an indirect way of describing something without really addressing it directly.  It’s kind of like a metaphor but not really the same.  For instance, when that steamy romance scene in the movie cuts to the image of a speeding locomotive disappearing into a tunnel….well you know what that means without all the blanks filled in.  So imagine, if you will, that Forrest’s poem is a subtle allusion that essentially describes the historic tie hack industry surrounding Warm Springs Creek and a word that is key is “wood”.

“Riches new and old” = ”Green gold”, the tie industry (hint)

  1. “Begin it where warm waters halt” = the headwaters of Warm Springs Creek
  2. “Take it in the canyon down” =follow Warm Springs Creek down canyon
  3. “Not too far but to far to walk”= the flumes were long and the distance from headwaters to DuNoir was about 10 to 15 miles via back roads
  4. “Put in below the home of Brown”= enter the actual canyon below DuNoir the logging camp “home” of wood
  5. “From there is no place for the meek”= the canyon is steep, deep, rough and so were the Tie Hacks who built the flume..no roads or trails
  6. “There’ll be no paddle up your creek”= you can’t travel up a flume but people did ride them down to town (see fig. 3)
  7. “Just heavy loads and water high”= the flume was built high on the canyon walls and carried huge loads of timber down to the Wind River every spring

“If you’ve been wise and found the blaze”=  I really wasn’t sure but I suspected there wasn’t a blaze in the sense most people attribute it to.  I’m saying this really isn’t a clue just a reference to the “path” formed by the clues or essentially Warm Springs Creek water course.

  1. “Tarry scant with marvel gaze”= view of the Natural Bridge (read on).
  2. “Look quickly down”= duck your head as you enter the hiding spot (arch/tunnel)

The treasure chest has to be somewhere and, in the context of this solution, if there is no actual blaze, then there’s got to be an obvious place in the canyon to start looking.  Enter the Natural Bridge”.  Towards the bottom of Warm Springs Creek and a short distance below DuNoir is an unusual geographic feature.  Apparently an ancient rock slide blocked off the canyon and the river eventually hollowed out an arch under the limestone debris.  With no other option available, the old timers routed the flume right through the arch.  Half arch/half cave and open on both sides this cavernous feature reportedly comes complete with stalactites and stalagmites growing in it.  It’s sounds quite spectacular.  When the flume was abandoned the portion inside the arch was said to be “petrified” by dripping calcium rich water.


Screen Shot 2015-07-18 at 1.18.16 PMFigure 3-An illustration from H. J. Ramsdell’s article about his “wild ride” down the fifteen-mile V-flume with James Flood. (not Warm Springs)

Other considerations

Forrest told us to “ask a child” about the poem.  I interpreted this to mean that a child can relate to the imagery of the poem.   Hopefully most of you have already jumped to the same conclusions I did but just in case:

  • The Tie Hacks were known as “Knights of the broadax”.  Kids like stories about knights.  Knights are brave and in the wood.
  • Flume rides are a classic of almost any water or amusement park.
  • There is a picture of Forrest and siblings riding a log in the book.  There’s my only nod to TTOTC.

No formal trails are shown in the canyon.

The closest point from a dirt road to the natural arch is about 1 to ½ mile cross-country on foot….a reasonable balance between remote and accessible.  It sounds interesting as hell to me but not on the “Things to do list” at the Dubois C of C.

One of the things I asked myself to do after the last failed search was have a darn good reason why Forrest would have spent time in a proposed search area.  In this case there are actually two pretty good ones:

  1. As mentioned before, this is on the way to Yellowstone and was once considered a gateway route out of Lander.  Young Forrest could have easily been traveling with his family along the Wind River when the log drives were in progress mid-June, and could well have stopped into DuNoir to look around and become fascinated with the place.  When Forrest was ten years old this industry was at its peak.  I’m sure this would have made a huge impression on me if, as a kid, I’d seen a river of timbers floating down to market.  Some may argue that this is an unlikely route to take but I might disagree.  When you’re traveling at 36 miles per hour a twisty scenic mountain road might actually be preferred.
  2. There’s another more recent reason for Forrest to be familiar with this area…the Frison Institute.  I’ve only heard this connection whispered about once or twice before on the blogs.  Associated with the University of Wyoming anthropology and archeology departments, the Frison Institute promotes research and educational programs in those fields.  More specifically this entity was formed after the discovery of the High Rise Village in the Wind River Range adjacent to, you guessed it, Dubois.  And guess who sets (or did sit) on the board of directors and was a major philanthropic donor?  Dubois is also the frequent host of the Frison Institutes fund raising dinners.  Kind of a convenient reason for a certain someone to be in the area no-questions-asked if a little annual look-see was called for.  The High Rise Village also gives “rise”, if you will, to some other interesting solutions but I couldn’t make it work and gave up in that direction.

So that’s the story of the proposed solution but please stay patiently tuned for Part II- Boots on the Ground with a few cool pictures.

I thought, perhaps, this was a more straight forward interpretation than what’s generally been presented.  However simplicity may be relative.  Let me know if you don’t agree…I’m not seeking accolades.

69 thoughts on “Warm Springs Part One…

  1. Really interesting solution. Looking forward to Part 2. I’m heading to the mountains N. of Santa Fe tomorrow. Hope to have a story with a happy ending in a few days.

  2. Marvin,what an interesting solution! I love hearing about the info you uncovered about the RR ties, flumes and history of the area. Those flumes just boggle my mind. I live in the gold country in CA and I love to hike around and find remnants of the flumes built around here. The work that went into building them is astounding–the amount of material, the physical challenges of the locations, and of course the sweat and tears to get them in place–simply amazing. Can’t wait to hear the rest of your story. I’ve wondered about that area and spots nearby although I was unaware of the information you provided about the area so I’m intrigued with your work. Very interesting interpretation! I don’t think I’ll be able to go there anytime soon so I look forward to your pictures. We are impatiently waiting for more……

  3. I realize you’re not looking for accolades……too bad. I like your solution and well written story. You brought up some really interesting history. I’ve always liked the idea of the chest being in the Winds……The Frison Institute was talked about here a few years ago. Fenn is not in the picture but he’s listed as a board member below the photo.

    Looking forward to part II.

  4. Nice thinking. I have not posted for some time but still in the search. Just wanted to share.. have been to Dubois several times in the past and it is such a beautiful area. But that was before I knew about the treasure. IMO and if not overstepping any rules, I always use the Stagecoach Motor Inn as a base to explore. Good fishin in the area also but beat the rodeo celebrations or you end up at the rest stop. If memory serves me, and it may not as it has been awhile, there is a bighorn sheep museum in the area also. But your ideas sound good and I wish you luck! Lookin forward to more from you.

  5. Marvin, by the way, I like your idea about wwwh being where a creek begins. Do I understand you correctly that the creek you were following in the first part of your story began with a “spring”? I would have been surprised too!

    For anyone looking in YNP, you might take a look at the Firehole river headwaters (I forget the name of the lake). and down river from the lake, I think there is a cave there before the first hot spring/geysers start. The wwwh could be just above the first geyser.

    • Raven,
      Yes it was essentially a spring. Water just “appeared” in a small bed of gravel and then turned into a pretty nice stream fairly quickly. Must have been some other feeder springs in the bottom I didn’t notice.

      • I really like your Warm Springs solve Marvin! Can’t wait to read part two! I could totally picture Forrest’s special spot having a natural spring just “appearing” out of no where… Thanks for sharing…

  6. “I know what you’re saying…. there are millions of streams and creeks…shouldn’t there be a hot springs involved….”

    “Warm” may not be that important in its defining water. Example: In my sink warm waters stop at my stopper. But so does cold water.

    Just a thought, perhaps waters stop at river banks, shores, dams or several places. I would hope this clue wold lead to something more specific, but perhaps this leads to a ‘word that is key”?

      • Henry,
        Perhaps, but warm is a word that causes me problems. It’s not an absolute temperature….it is just a relative temperature (ex. when an object is at a slightly higher temperature than something else it’s warmer). So a bowl of frozen water could be said to be warmer than a bowl of liquid nitrogen.

        Does he mean what feels warm to the touch? This still poses problems because the human sense of temperature isn’t absolute either. We sense heat transfer (not temperature) so something that is actually at room temperature might feel cooler…..the bronze statue in his gallery for instance.

        • That bronze Statue could be a huge clue? Temperature wise? Same temperature as the room but felt much colder. The wind makes things feel colder too.

  7. If this is a successful post then it will be my first. I have been following this blog for quite a while and enjoy very much reading tales of the quest. Marvin, this is a wonderful solve and you have a way with words that makes me wish I could write like that. It amazes me how many great solves there are that so well satisfy the poem.
    My personal story is similar to yours, and I have been using a line of logic similsr to yours now for about a year and a half, and have 6 solves that I like to one degree or another. Just last week I thought about a new type of hiding place that will work very well and satisfy Mr. Fenn’s comment about a possibility not yet considered. So I expect to concoct another half dozen solves before my next chance to hunt.
    If I could only get beyond a hunch!

    I think about so many possibilities for the word that is key, and for now I am hooked on “in”. Probably by next summer I will have some other key. And I wonder if the key actually unlocks part of the solve disguised in the poem?

    I made two trips in 2014, one in May to NM on the Rio Grande, and one in June with my son up near Yellowstone. We had two destinations picked in June but underestimated what it would take to navigate rough trails and lingering snow. We had a wonderful time flyfishing and hiking, well worth the 4,000 mile round trip.

    Maybe I will find a way to go back next year, or maybe I will find a way to move out to the Rockies and become a full time hunt junkie. Until then I will keep just dreaming of adventures that wait and treasures that hide.

  8. Marvin, Nicely written story. Did you arrive at the Tie Hack connection from the CW Bookstore comment made by f? He said “he was more of a hacker”… So that ties in neatly doesn’t it? 🙂

    • I don’t remember that quote so no. As stated, it was just a change connection with the Shoshoni National Forest brochure. Does it “tie in”? I assume that’s intended as a pun, but I wouldn’t have tried to use that as a hint. I tried very hard to just stick with the poem so call me a poem purist.

      • Well Marvin, he uses the word “hacker”, so take it as you will. If you want to hear him say it, go to the ff 10-22-13 Collected Works bookstore video, and at about 1:30 in, you can listen for yourself.

  9. So as a discussion point, what do people think of the “theme” style solve that links all the clues together vs a solution that just has essentially standalone clues?

    Any opinions?

    • Marvin, I think the theme based approach is the way to solve the poem. It is what he meant when he said you should see the big picture. I think that was his purpose of putting the poem in the book. The book establishes the theme or context you needto solve the poem.

      Question: do you or anyone else have a source for the quote “Not every noun is a clue?”

      • Jack,
        I have that citation somewhere but it may be on another computer. If someone else doesn’t answer I’ll try to look for it tomorrow.

        My gut reaction is that it was in a “6 Questions” on Jenny’s site.

        • Hi Marvin,
          You have written a very good solution. IMO – you have exposed a very important clue concept. The theme based solution is the way to go. I adopted it with my latest solution that I wrote of and I am convinced it is the only way to prove the poem. One just has to figure out the correct theme…

      • Jack,
        Found it. Forrest posted on Dals blog June 6 2014. He was addressing the “panic” at that time that someon had found the box and/or that some folks were getting special information.

        The main excerpt was:
        “I would like to reiterate: Please go back to the poem and look at maps for your answers. Not every noun in TTOTC is a hint. If you can’t solve the first clue you should not spend your money searching. My guess is that the person who is successful will very quietly solve the clues and walk to the treasure with a smile on their face.”

        • Thanks Marvin. I thought maybe he was referring to the nouns in the poem. But this is still a significant quote IMO.

  10. I’ve given this area a glance because of the names of a few nearby (not far, but too far to walk?) places: Warm spring creek, little warm spring & creek, bear creek and geyser creek just to name a few. If nothing else, I’m sure learning a lot about historical and interesting places and people. My wife asks what I’m gonna do with all this knowledge! I think F wrote he worked on the poem while Peggy watched Dancing with the Stars, so I kiddingly tell my wife I’m gonna hide a portion of my (our) fortune somewhere West above 5,000 feet and leave a poem for my heirs to go find it! Have a suggestion on a clue verse to rhyme with “riches new and old worth about twenty-dollars”? Although a bit long, but not too long to read – your topic is well-written and very interesting. Thanks much for posting.

  11. I like the thoughts and some of the research Marvin, but I disagree with the home of Brown part. I was just there in that area this past week, but not for the treasure, for fly fishing. I will be sending my adventure to Dal this week hopefully. The Wind River wasn’t our only stop.

  12. Great read I can only imagine the past and the thrill and danger involved. The men and women of those times really knew how to pull up their boot straps and face the bull with open arms. Thanks again for the read. True entertainment

  13. Way back a couple years ago or so, I searched this area. It was a hard one. I did see other searchers there too. No one else and snow on the ground. I learned alot. Heavy Loads and water high….Warm springs, and other things in the poem. But one major thing. Did not fit. Can you guess what it might be?

    • Hi Lou Lee,
      Of course there are many reasons why my clues may or may not fit. I’d love you hear your spin on what specifically doesn’t work for you.

      • No home of Brown. Its a very interesting area. Lots of big Bears there. But not the home of Brown. Too many if you think it means home of Brown Bear.

        • Lou Lee,
          Maybe i didn’t explain it well in the write up but there is a HOB. I don’t think HOB is a thing, I think it is a place….so not Brown bear, trout, etc. F told us the clues refer to places.

          If you look up the word brown, one of the most frequent descriptions is “wood”. So for this solution the HOB is the DuNoir lumber camp where the wood/rail-ties were stacked prior to transport down the flume….kind of where they lived or resided. DuNoir is then a very specific place….the home of wood.

          • Good point. But if you were to be duckn your head in there you’ d see nothing IMO. Though the tunnel system is long very likely just gravelly trailings.

          • And Noir is black or dark or night so he did say to bring a flashlight, where do we eat the sandwich? Lol or sandwich is also a fly fishing method of a tied fly

          • What I said has nothing to do with what you wrote at all. Just talking. I do believe the Home of Brown is a place called Brown. I just like to talk about the Bears. LOL…….I went all around DuNoir. I pondered every aspect of the word and lumber camp connections to all also. Despite that I am not the best writer, I know lots of stuff. 🙂

            Lou Lee, a treasure hunting prospector from Whoville

  14. Marvin, Thanks for sharing your story and solves…one of the best ones of late. Wouldn’t you consider the flume to be a structure though? Looking forward to part two. cynthia

    • Well IMO the “not associated with any structure” comment was meant to apply to the final location of the chest not necessarily things along the way. So the thinking was that the flume was mostly the path/blaze leading to the area where the chest was located.

      You could also argue that the flume will likely be gone in another 100 years and is not the permanent clue we’d like to have, but the history of the flume would persist for quite some time.

      • Marvin –

        I agree about the structure – after all – a road is a structure and very similar to a flume, as it carries things along. We all know he drove his car and then hid the TC.

        So, structure is most likely referring to the end spot.

        I enjoyed your story – just love the history of it and looking forward to part 2 – when can we expect that?

  15. interesting story,but I think ,you are throwing us off, marvin fenn was your dads name ,mr. forrest. and marvin candle , used lots of names , you know about DARMA.the not true story.came the tv series Lost.oh I do love your stories and you mr. forrest.can’t wait until part 2 to start.

  16. Hello, lurker here. Just wanted to say that this solve got me really excited. Great work. The flumes would explain a lot of the clues and wording–just too good. However, I’m finding the HOB connection to be the weak point with this solve. I feel like the capitalization of Brown makes it more literal than metaphorical. I could be wrong, but for me the HOB clue has always been a way to indicate a specific point for the general area of WWWH and where to “put in” along a long body of water which might otherwise be difficult to determine where to start. Looking forward to part two though! For me, this is the best solve I’ve read.

    • hoB might be there somewhere as you pointed out the “B” would give more specific directional information.

    • Thanks Melon,
      Part two is posted so I guess I can say that I now have a new prospective on HOB. I agree that the capitalization points to something different than what was portrayed here.

      I like the way you think.

      • And, I, the way you think. Thanks for sharing. I’d like for more people to share the specifics, pictures, and the like of their solves, even if unsuccessful. Honestly, I’m interested in checking out the area of your solve just to see those still-in-place plumes. Amazing.

  17. i think what has been surmised and described here is merely a metaphorical trip to a place where the treasure lies not. Though, I do admire the magnificent strength of my ancestors who wielded their heavy-duty axes for the “good” of old USofA….notwithstanding the painful knowledge of how the RR’s buried the marvelous buffalo herds. so, adios for now

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