La Caja Pueblo Ruins – Part III…

SUBMITTED January 2016


Continued from Part Two…

It was now December 8th, and I still hadn’t been able to get to the specific location where the Santa Cruz River enters the inlet. Looking at both Google Earth and TopoQuest, the La Caja Ruins site seems to be immediately above the cliff-face at that imaginary line.

I was positive Fenn didn’t hide the treasure chest on the ruins site…there was just no way up to the mesa top. So my dilemma still was: did he hide it on top the mesa edge not far from the Overlook Campground where he could sit out of view beneath a juniper tree and gaze across the river, imagining the puebloans from 800 years ago? Or did he secret it among the trees along the shoreline beneath the pueblo, where ancient artifacts may have fallen off the cliffside or washed over the edge during the past eight centuries? Did he take a boat to this particular spot to fish 40 years ago, or walk there from the Debris Basin and wade across the stream… and discover pottery shards or other ancient artifacts partially buried in the sand?


I woke to beautiful blue skies that Tuesday morning…my obsession with seeing this specific place, where the river entered the inlet, had not waned; in fact, it was worse than ever. I decided to make one last trip there…I would park at the Overlook Campground, and Molly and I would walk out across the ridge to the point where it overlooks the inlet. I knew from there I could see both shorelines, and search for the treasure chest if he did indeed hide it on top the mesa across the river, at some obscure place out of sight of others. The red arrow in the picture below shows you where I planned to go.


It was barely above freezing as we made our way to the turnoff to the Overlook Campground… no matter, though, I was psyched…I knew today was the day I was going to finally see this spot I’d been trying so desperately to reach. And then I saw it…there was a locked gate across the dirt road to the campground. My heart sank….I think I had tears in my eyes from the overwhelming disappointment. I could park there along the highway and walk the 1.5 miles back to the campground but that would add a lot of time and walking to our day, and I wasn’t prepared.

Quickly, I had to come up with a Plan B…I told Molly we wouldn’t give up…this day was our last chance of finding this place until springtime, and I knew my patience wouldn’t hold. We drove around to the main entrance to the Santa Cruz Lake Recreation Area and parked. I decided we could hike along the eastern shoreline again on the Laguna Vista Trail, and instead of stopping at the dead-end like last time, we would climb across the ridge-line towards the inlet, then scamper down the side to the lake edge where maybe we could see the confluence of the river and inlet.


This fallen tree was as far as we could go. I carefully stepped out onto the limb and slowly slid across the smooth bark, balancing precariously as I zoomed in with my camera…maybe I’d see something helpful in the picture later. From the middle of the tree limb, I squinted to see as best I could into the inlet and beyond…it looked like there was already a thin sheet of ice covering the inlet. In my mind I thought…today, this is where warm waters halt…


The hike back to the truck was quick and quiet…I was not especially pleased with another failed attempt trying to reach the imaginary line, the spot…But one positive thing did enter my mind…

Back in October, 10-yr old Thomas and I had made a 10 x 10 x 5 box, and then placed it 200 feet from the edge of the street. To my amazement, 200 feet was much farther away than I expected…and that little box was hard to see. I thought about the three trails I had hiked over the course of the last couple months there…I bet I was about 200 feet from the “spot” at the end of each trail. And another thing, the “spot” was not visible from the end of any of the three trails…Forrest could have secreted the chest there, or died there beside it, and he would not have been visible to hikers, or boaters. Few fishermen would have tried to wade across the river there, making it the perfect place…easy for him to get to but isolated… Is this where he found “solace in the solitude of the trees”?

Over the next couple weeks, I continued researching this area…looking for better “blazes” or anything that could help…using Google Earth to zoom in on the mesa top where La Caja supposedly sits.

I continued to study Scrapbook 107, one of the few I thought actually contained hints…I especially like the word “CruZ” that was formed by the edge of the envelope, the “r” in Mr, the “U” in the guy’s first name, and the “Z” formed by the layout of the pen, pen cap, and $5 bill.


I reread the stories in TTOTC, and studied each and every drawing…I remembered Forrest saying ”The hints are in the aberrations at the edges”…I was not one to previously believe the drawings in the book were of any help…but I knew it couldn’t hurt to look.

I noticed in the drawing on page 43, the woman’s boot that I circled is an aberration…it is not


connected to a person…is this a hint to the picture of the inlet to the lake, which also resembles a woman’s boot? Did Forrest add this to the drawing?


Then on December 17th, Dal posted the Air Force Interview. I reserved a block of time the following afternoon where I could turn off my cell phone, close the door to the library, sit back in my big comfy recliner, and listen attentively. Forrest did not disappoint…his stories were both informative and entertaining. In part three, he described with great detail ejecting from his wounded fighter jet that was about to crash into the countryside…but what stood out to me was his description of his landing spot…he called it a “karst”, to us a bluff or cliff. At that moment, I pictured the drawing on page 99 of TTOTC.

Back in October, Mindy posted a story on her blog about Diggin’ Gypsy. In that story Diggin’ talks about her discovery of Fenn’s treasure map. She surmises that Fenn is the one who drew this drawing, not the artist who drew all the other ones in the book. At the time (this was posted Oct 28th on The Fenn Hotspot), I looked at this drawing…this “treasure map”…I was impressed with the ideas Diggin presented…they were cute, clever. Then I closed the book and never looked at that drawing again…until Dec 18th.


I am not going to add to my story Diggin’s specific hidden gems she has shared with the world… you can go to Mindy’s blog to see each one. But the one she didn’t highlight was the “arrow” circled in red above. What if…Forrest did draw this picture? What if…the arrow points to his special place…both where he safely landed and where he hid the treasure? What do the ladders signify (look to right of red arrow)? Puebloans used ladders in their multi-story pueblos…

Now Diggin’ turned the book/drawing upside down to understand the clues…one small scribe says “FLY TAOS”. It appears the man wearing the large brimmed straw hat is wearing sunglasses (for the ArcLight?), and possibly carrying something. I studied this drawing for hours over many days…I compared it to pictures I had taken over the course of the last two and a half months…

Do the palm tree fronds or the propellers and “FLY TAOS” scribe represent this aircraft marker?


Or do the palm tree and man-in-shades dressed for a picnic represent the Overlook Campground with it’s covered picnic tables…a place for local folks?


In the drawing, it looks like a river runs between two mesa tops…does this suggest the area where the river enters the inlet to the lake? It looks like the arrow circled in red comes out of a formation shaped like the right-hump of my “M” shaped blaze, the cliffside just below La Caja.

Many times throughout the past five years, Forrest has mentioned the word “IMAGINATION”… Is “imagination” the word that is key?

In Diggin’s story she says “Forrest said he melded the memories of his experience in Vietnam with his favorite spot.” I do not know where she saw that written or if he said it to her. What if… he did? What if… he drew this particular drawing? What if …it is his secret “treasure map”?

To quote Shakespeare, sort of: “ To be(lieve), or not to be(lieve), that is the question?”

I never had time to get to the imaginary line separating the river and inlet before the last snow fell…I do believe that ultimately someone will follow their crazy idea…their vivid imagination… their “what if…” and Fenn’s treasure will be waiting for them…

Until springtime (nah, I won’t wait that long)… Cynthia


41 thoughts on “La Caja Pueblo Ruins – Part III…

    • Michael, I think he knew the way…if the gate to the Overlook Campground is open, you can drive there and park, and then just walk across the mesa top to the end that overlooks the river…both you and ff could do it. If he hid the treasure on the other side of the river along the shoreline beneath the cliff, I believe he would have used the Debris Basin Trail to the river and walked along the river to a spot where he could have waded across. As you know some of the “rivers” in New Mexico are actually small streams, including this one. There are deep pools here and there but mostly from what I saw, it would not have been difficult to wade across it. I just never made it before winter arrived. But I intend to still find the spot at the imaginary line where the river enters the inlet…gotta wait for the snow to melt…my engine is idling but not stopped.

  1. I would say your adventure is very exciting. You included great detail from pictures. And scrapbook 107 is my favorite. 🙂

    • Brad, If you mean the old Spanish ghost town near Chili, it is less than 25 miles between the two, as the crow flies. But since you’re not a crow, via roads, I’m guessing you’d have to add another 10 miles or so, maybe.

  2. Interesting Cynthia…..thanks to you…you’ve added to my book know.ledge….that arrow appears to be just to the left of a stump.

  3. In the EIS radio interview, Forrest mentioned that he and Concy Wood were on their way home from yellowstone when the bomb was dropped on Hieroshima
    Japan, maybe the JF drawing is representing the 2 bombs we droped and the devestation that was left.

  4. Page 98 Cynthia where he said he meld his thoughts into one 🙂 and mindy is the one that thought that said fly taos not me I think it says fly. Next word can’t say 🙂 Great story I enjoyed it 🙂

    • I see “Up you see it”, Upuceet.
      Maybe we have to look up to see it.
      It being the blaze??
      Also, in 1921 they renamed the Grand River to the Colorado River.
      Just my thoughts.

        • Guys, Maybe we need to combine your ideas….”up you see it” refers to “puce” which is the home of Brown. That works for my hoB and the treasure map per Diggin Gypsy if you turn it upside down. Now the “arrow” points up to the top of the mesa where the La Caja (hoB) sits.

          • The black arrow points up and white arrow points down look to the right of the white arrow you will see the black one 🙂 black arrow is the more important one

      • Has it been mentioned before that the envelope address has capital letters printed out till you get to what should be the city… which is in lower case.
        Just wondering if anyone noticed. I have no clue if it means anything…

        • Seeker, If you go to Forrest’s Scrapbooks and then to SB107 and click on that link, there are 354 comments analyzing that scrapbook. I can’t remember everything mentioned but I believe the upper case and lower case letters were discussed there. Thanks for the idea, though…

  5. Has anyone ever thought, and I am on a somewhat different mind set of clues; about Forrest using the exact location of his father’s grave stone placement? I know that is also in his location of where the exact spot is of the TC and it is important. Cynthia, you are, we all believe; so close, and all of us want to share and help and know that one of us finally figured it all out. You do seem on to something. Good luck It all seems like a huge dream sometimes and we all have found that we are reusing old clues and finding new ways to string them together to find a common thread. It is exciting and we all hope you are so careful wait until spring!!! Lets all work together and figure this out. See ya’ll in the funny papers!! Enjoy the chase, Ms. Girl

  6. Cynthia, I love your story and all the research and very cool clues you found!!! But, I am getting really worried about you being out there all by yourself!!!! Please try to take someone out with you next time you go! Especially if there is snow on the ground! I am sure there is some one who would offer to go with you just for the “Thrill of it” and not expect to share in the treasure if you find it! I know I would if I lived closer and if I could keep up with you 🙂

  7. I don’t think mr. Forrest drew the pictures. But may of had some in-put of the drawings.i also see things in that picture. The banana is under the leafs of the tree.he said he was not going to make it easy.but is not impossible. Even can stumble on it by accident i think.i like your ideas.i don’t think its high in the mountains. Like on a peak.thats a heavy load to put up there.

  8. Cynthia … very nice write-up, as were Parts I and II. I always look forward to your messages. A few random comments below …

    As a caver I know for a fact that the word “karst” has a very specific meaning. It is a kind of rock type that is porous, usually associated with limestone, and is ideal for formation of caves. Most of the ground in northern New Mexico is actually sandstone. There are no doubt some caves north of Santa Fe but that area is not as conducive to cave formation as southeastern N.M.

    Excellent observation of the woman’s boot on p. 99 sketch.

    The arrow on the p.99 sketch seems to point to a crevice; ladders are intriguing. Maybe that sketch means something; maybe it doesn’t.

    In your 2nd photo, your red horizontal arrow points to a spot. Can you see the mountains from that spot? From that spot where would “waters high” be found? I get the impression you have not yet been to that spot; so you would not know. But you need to prepare some alternate location, in that same general area, wherein those two questions could be answered in the affirmative.

    Keep up the good research.

    • Ken, Good questions…if I was standing at the tip of the red horizontal arrow, I could indeed see mountains…the Jemez Mts are west beyond Los Alamos. And the Sangre de Cristo Range is to the east. My “heavy loads and water high” was always the Debris Basin. I actually like the idea that the treasure chest location is instead along the shoreline on the opposite side of the river where it enters the inlet which is just below the pueblo. The poem fits better: As I have gone alone “in” there…the word “in” seems like it fits the canyon better than on top the mesa. Put in below the hoB means you have to wade across the river where the debris basin arroyo meets the river. The 3rd stanza then fits better too, imo. No place for the meek…no trail, maybe you will need to push willow branches out of the way. I think this entire 3rd stanza describes the spot you are at when you “put in below hoB”. If you’ve been wise and found the blaze (past tense), you already found it via GE or a map or prior knowledge of the area, so the “blaze” is either the ruins itself or the cliff face which to me looks like an “M”. Also, the ruins would encompass a sizable area above the ruin, so once the snow melts and I can get there, I would search the entire shoreline from where the debris basin arroyo meets the river all the way to where the cliff itself enters the water, and I can’t walk on ground any further. I checked it out today…very little snow on top mesa or the eastern and southern exposures, but still too much snow in the canyon and on north and western facing slopes. The lake is frozen…maybe I should just walk across the inlet now…hmmm. Maybe Fenn should have said “Begin it WHEN warm waters halt…” I will continue to keep an eye on this area…

  9. I saw Sarah Parcak on the Late Show the other day and thought I should share the info. She was talking about using infrared photos to find archaological sites and has won a TED prize for her research and made a point in her interview that there is stuff to be found almost everywhere she looks. Infrared photos sounds like it could be the key to all this.

    “She’s best described as the modern-day Indiana Jones. Using infrared imagery from satellites, she identifies ancient sites lost in time. In Egypt, she helped locate 17 potential pyramids, plus 1,000 forgotten tombs and 3,100 unknown settlements. And that’s in addition to her discoveries throughout the Roman Empire.”

  10. There was also an actual site Douglas Preston has written about in recent years that was found in Honduras using a helicopter equipped with Lidar and infrared imaging technology.

    Lost City Discovered in the Honduran Rain Forest

    The El Dorado Machine

    “Dorado” of course means gold or golden.

  11. It took me, a red/green color-blind person, some time to find the red arrow in the second photo. It’s funny how the most asked question in NM is “Red or Green?” I tend to prefer red myself. Yellow would have worked best for me in the photo though. But, alas, not to worry… though it took some time to find that hidden arrow, I did indeed find it. I would think that f wouldn’t be color-blind being a pilot and all. I’d bet he could pin point that arrow easily. I hope my colorblindness won’t hinder my abilities to find that chest. Back to the question of red or green. Doesn’t the mixture of red and green make brown? Could brown equal Christmas? Cynthia, you know what I mean, right? f, you know what I’m getting at, right?

  12. Cynthia,

    The “x” or “+” you found on the ground may be for aerial photography. Plus shaped emblems are placed on the ground, painted on pavement, or done like the one you found and are made to a specific measurement. That way an aerial photographer can re-size overlapping images so the pluses are the same size and know that he has now scaled the pictures to the same size. That way the photos from the aircraft (satellite) do not have to be made at the exact same altitude.

    Then, of course, another idea may be that you walked right past it and Forrest has hidden the chest right under the center of that cross. X marks the spot! (Did you look?) lol

    I really enjoyed the tale you have woven for us here in these three parts. You always keep us on the edge of our seat waiting for the next part to see how it comes out. Keep up the great search stories and stay safe!


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