January 19th, 2016
Today was a day I will not soon forget.
We did not find Randy today. I know that so many of you thought and prayed that we would. That is why you are reading this. Rather than get your hopes up, I figured we should start there. But, we did find more information, and I will get to that soon.
There are no words to describe the most wonderful group of people I have ever met. There are no words in the English language that can tell you the amount of kindness, caring, sacrifice, dedication, and motivation that I saw in my fellow searchers today. Not muddy roads, nor threat of explosive devices behind fences could deter our searchers.
We met at the designated place this morning. I had 10 wonderful people appear to help look for Randy. Cynthia and I had already decided that if no one else showed up, we would go. We were wonderfully surprised by the turnout. The first star of the day went to Elizabeth. She is a volunteer at the Santa Fe Animal Shelter, and a hunter of the Fenn Treasure. She knew that she couldn’t go searching, as she had a shift at the Shelter, but that didn’t stop her from helping. She showed up with mounds of food for everyone. I think I counted 4 bags, with everything from granola bars to apples, and some naughtier fare like chocolates. Elizabeth stayed with us for an hour, until we headed out. She joined us again later for dinner, but I will get to that.
DaisyMae will be mad at me for telling, but she was there today, as well. Actually, she was the first one there today, and she doesn’t even live in New Mexico. I was happy to see her smiling face greet me, and the first thing she said is ‘Do you need any help?’. I told her I had some stuff to make a sign. She got to making a huge sign that said Search Party, and I taped it to the historical marker near the road. The last time I saw Daisy at dinner, she was still wearing her big beautiful smile, but anyone with any sense could see she was exhausted.
Next, Slurbs rolled in with his big pickup truck. I actually knew Slurbs already, because I once had coffee with him and his very lovely wife and son. He is one of the nicest people I have ever met. While I was going over the search plan with everyone, he saw that I was shivering, so he went and got an extra hoodie and put it on me. He is always thinking of other people before himself, and I hope I can learn to be more like him.
Mike, and his better half Heather, came next. They had a 4WD Subaru and had obviously been driving quite a bit in the last 24 hours. They are also not from New Mexico, but rather from very near where Randy lived. When they heard what happened, and we were going to look, they grabbed their necessities and drove all night to get here. When they came to dinner, they looked war torn and ragged. Mike has a very interesting and incredible story, but I will let him share it with each of you, in his own time.
The next star, and maybe the biggest one, might belong to Eric E. Griego, of The Griego Agency, Private Investigators, LLC. He has been a private investigator for 25 years, this week. He has been in contact with members of Randy’s family, and was able to obtain those pictures Randy sent to his friend, two weeks before his disappearance. We received those pictures, just before we left, and they told us volumes. We were able to determine the location those pictures were taken. That told us we were looking in the right place. Eric’s investigative skills continued to keep us in new information all day. We couldn’t have done as much as we did without him.
Katy came next, and she seems very nice. I am sad to say that we barely spoke today, as we searched two different sides of the river. I did see her again at dinner, briefly. I hope that one of the other searchers shares more about her with you all. She deserves a star of her own just for showing up.
The last arrival to the group was Scott. He hopped out of his pickup truck wearing full hunting camo gear, and I knew he was my Huckleberry for today. I knew that my hike was the hardest, and I wanted to take someone with me who had more experience in the mountains than I do, and he was my guy. He was my search partner for the day. Scott is a very nice person, lucky for me. He also has an amazing story, but I don’t think it’s my place to share this one. He is a recent Fennatic, and only heard of Forrest’s tricky treasure 2 months ago. Scott had never met any of us before, and had never even heard of Dal or Stephanie or Sacha. He only knew of a Facebook page. He heard about our search, and next thing you know, he has packed all his gear and is meeting us to help.
After we went over our search areas, strategy, and safety concerns, we split up and headed out to our respective areas. Cynthia and Radcrad drove all the way back into very muddy roads, all the way to the east side of Monteso Peak. By that time, Cynthia’s tires were spinning in place more than they were moving the truck. She was worried she would get stuck, and not make it to the airport on time to meet the airplane for the aerial search. She told Radcrad she had to turn around. Radcrad told Cynthia that he was not going anywhere. This was the spot he needed to search, and he was going to search it. And, search it he did. He came prepared with a book of all the sections of the Rio Grande broken down, showing each canyon and eddy. It was a thorough book, and he was still studying it at dinner. That man has more perseverance than anyone I have met, and I admire him for it.
Cynthia broke off from the group to meet her pilot in Santa Fe. She rode in a very tiny but very luxurious airplane, but I don’t think it was all giggles for her. I saw them in the sky, and the maneuvers he was pulling would have my lunch on his windshield in a heartbeat, but not Cynthia. I think she really is made of gold. Cynthia has her own story about her flight today, which she will share with all of you soon.
Scott and I searched the west side of the river, on the north side of Frijoles canyon. We drove all the way to Bandelier National Monument, paid the $20 entry fee, and headed in. (On a side note, my next quest is to write someone a letter about a $20 day use pass for a park I partly own). Scott and I wanted to try to look down into Frijoles canyon, and see what we could see. Unfortunately, the road there was anything but easy.
We were able to find a service road gate to get us closer to the mesa top. We parked and followed the road past the gate, on foot. We arrived at the water treatment plant, and walked around it. We got past the fence only to find snow, ice, and crumbling lava rock beneath out feet. We couldn’t stand directly on the top of the mesa, because LANL claimed that area as theirs. So, we followed along just under the edge, and spent over an hour hiking through the grueling mess of rockslides. We finally came to the end of Frijoles Canyon, and could see both directions on the Rio Grande. Scott and I hiked and glassed with binoculars for the next two hours. We saw nothing, until the end of our trip, when we saw some divers getting ready to enter the water at the mouth of the canyon. For a while, we thought someone professionals were on the case, and there were there to help us. It wasn’t until later that we discovered that we were watching a survival drill that had been scheduled for months.
Eric led a group of searchers to another area, nearer Randy’s car. The original insertion point was blocked by a gate. Eric used his best judgement and decided that they should find another way in. They drove to where Randy parked his car, and were very surprised to see Randy’s car still sitting there. Luckily, Randy does not have tinted windows. Eric was able to see the full contents of his car, even in the trunk, and he took great pictures. What he did discover concerned us greatly.
In Randy’s car are all the essentials you would need for an overnight stay in the woods, in good weather. There was a jacket, a coat, a sleeping bag, a lunch with a sandwich, several gallon jugs of bottled water, a map, food for Leo, Leo’s bed, and Randy’s shoes. One thing that bothered everyone is that Randy’s car was still sitting where he parked it, despite reports to the contrary. Looking at the contents of Randy’s car, it would not appear that he set out with camping in mind.
Finally, but certainly not last, Geydelkon and John Brown have been looking for Randy since before we even tried to get together. They have had their boots on the ground longer than anyone else, and deserve their own story altogether. I hope they tell it.
At the end of the day, we all met up at the Blue Corn Café in Santa Fe. The meeting time was set for 4 pm, but not one searcher showed up on time. Every one of them was late, dragging themselves in only when the mud or sun wouldn’t allow them to continue. Much to everyone’s surprise, they were treated to warm meals by Forrest Fenn himself. As each searcher straggled in, you could see the exhaustion on his or her face. Hair was disheveled, jackets were hanging off, and eyes were downcast. There was always a surprised smile when they walked in and saw Forrest. But, you could see their hearts hung low from not finding Randy today.
We did not find Randy today. Actually, we didn’t find a single trace of him within a 3 mile radius of his car or his boat. We found no sign that he ever attempted to climb up any wall or canyon. All we found of Randy was his car, where he left it. I can’t tell you how sad we all are, and how it hangs on each of us that we found no trace of him today.
But, you should also know that no one has given up on finding him. Radcrad vowed to look every day until he is found, even if no one else does. Cynthia and Katya are working on getting drones in the sky, to get to areas we can’t reach. Others are calling friends with horses to check areas too far to hike in a day. Everyone has ideas on where we can still look.
There was one honorable mention that I would like to make. His name is Nicolas, and he was a Ranger who stopped by to see if we were the group searching for Randy. I told him that we were, and next thing you know, he is helping us go over maps. He met with us at our rally point, helped us know how to access different areas, and even told us where to go and who to talk to if we needed access to any of the Tribal land surrounding us. He even offered to open any gate in his jurisdiction for us, if we needed it. His enthusiasm and helpfulness were such a welcome surprise.
Also, I have one last shout out to the volunteers at New Mexico Search and Rescue. They are a wonderful organization, and they were the ones that discovered Randy’s things. They provided us with information on where to focus our search efforts, and without them, no one would be looking for Randy.