More on Drone Day…

January 23rd, 2016


This is about the drone activity in the search area that took place on Friday, January 22nd. 

For days since hearing about the on-going search, I’ve been thinking about ways of how I can be of help. I thought about the times I was working with the Travel Channel and being filmed for several days, with all the camera men and equipment. The most intriguing was the ‘Drone’. It followed us every where from a great vantage point, capturing great images from air. So I thought how helpful this tool would be.
Being that I am an IATSE 480 Union Member in the film industry, I have witnessed how extra-ordinary our New Mexico Union is with being involved and helping the Community, aside from its usual film business. So, I thought about my Union Sisters and Brothers and thought to reach out to them… particularly the Drone Operators. I have met a few expert Drone Operators. The best being “Tizz”. So I put out a call to Tizz and right away he responded with interest in wanting to help. He never heard of the Forrest Fenn Treasure, and it didn’t matter who it was, his interest was sincere in wanting to help find a missing person.
I also reached out to our Union main man and representative: Jon Hendry. Instantly he offered his help and support. He offered us lots of water, and the use of the large fully equipped Mobile Unit, to stage on-site to serve as our base operation, and anything else we needed, equipment, and volunteers. Jon also sent out an email blast to all Union Members requesting help.
At the time, conversing with Cynthia and Sasha, our next plan was to be set up at Cochiti Lake, bring in the “Drone Team” and search upstream from there. However, after I spoke to several officials at Cochiti Lake and head of departments in the Cochiti Reservation, getting our mission  Granted Access with a Tribal Escort all set up, I then drove down to Santa Fe with my dear partner; Billy (whom I tease at being my paparazzi, who documents all my searches) to have a meeting with Cynthia and Sasha, just after Cynthia and Forrest did their helicopter search.


We then decided it was not to our advantage to search upstream from Cochiti, since the drones must be within eye shot and signal fades after one mile. I learned some of the advantages limitations of the drones. Even the most northern high peaks of the reservation would not give us enough range to search the area of interest, being the river near and across Frijoles Canyon.
And it was also decided after Forrest and Cynthia’s report, the river was so low, we wanted to focus looking on land, on the east side, where Randy’s XX’s and —– marks were on his map.
Learning that it is nearly impossible to get to the mesa ridge with vehicles, I declined on Jon’s gracious offer of the Mobile Unit.
The community of TTOTC Searchers have been most heart warming and inspiring with all their dedication, that it has inspired me to reach out even more to my community for help. I spoke with my neighbor Cid, who is the owner of Taos local Market; “Cids”, and when he heard of the story and that I was bringing a team of searchers to help, he donated a bag of food for the searchers.
Tizz had called a couple of his friends that were on stand-by to come help us search. One of the guys is also a Drone specialist: Danny Nugent from South of Albuquerque, and his other friend; Sam (Savage) Bawcum is an International Search and Rescue Paramedic, who has been saving lives all around the world.  We all planned to meet up the following morning at the Santa Fe County Animal Shelter.
It was very Brisk and Breezy, as our Friday Searchers all gathered, piling on more layers of clothing, hats and gloves.Then off we went. Our posse then began the first part of our adventurous journey that took a large portion of the day, where everyone’s best skillful driving was put to the test. Some cars did not make it, and we piled in more equipment and guys in to Billy’s truck.  John Brown led the way, blazing down the road, kicking up dust, flinging mud. He obviously knew the road and the way to the top of the mesa.

DroneLaunch01 IMG_0437
After we finally arrived to our base camp, we gathered in a circle, as Tizz passed out radio’s, Savage went around the circle getting everyone’s name and their game plan, to know exactly who was going where. Cynthia announced our time to return to base would be at the latest 4pm, and departure was set for 4:30. There were 11 of us all together. We separated into 3 groups. Billy and I were with the Drone Team.

On our way to the Mesa location where the Drones were planning to launch, the way there was much more intense and vast than what appeared on Google Earth. The little dots of Piñon trees were indeed like a thick forest, who’s branches were very unforgiving, grabbing hair, hat, backpacks and clothing, preventing passage. In fact it even prevented visibility. The land was incredibly gnarly and wretched, covered with wicked cactus donning 3″- 4″ of needles. And if you didn’t step on cactus, it was then covered with volcanic rocks that made the footing entirely challenging the entire way.
I would notice Tizz, our main Drone Operator, flash here and there, amongst the piñon. He was there and then he wasn’t. I decided to call him “Flash”. His high energy never quit. He would sometimes disappear entirely. Not a whistle or word or radio would get a response. Billy calls him the “Lone Cyotee”. Billy, Sam, Danny came to the edge of the Mesa and marveled at the expansive and daunting views of the Canyon, peering in to the Frijoles Canyon….
Really? I thought. Did Randy really think Forrest would make two trips into this rugged and treacherous canyon with 22 lbs of treasure and box?


We were looking for Tizz and the launch location, and I don’t know what made us begin this slow crawling decent on the side of the mesa that increasingly became more and more challenging. “Just think like Spider Woman” I thought to myself as I was required to crawl with hands and feet, scaling the steep side of the Mesa walls. Every other step I took, a rock would slip out from under me and go flying down to the bottom. It was difficult to trust any rock what so ever.

Sam and I sat 50 or so feet apart, on stable rocks, taking a break, discussing possibilities. He then climbed up to continue looking for Tizz. Billy was off to my left, photographing the area, and I climbed closer to him, spotting a cave. I then crawled, clinging to rocks and branches, making my way over to the small cave. It was shallow. Much more than it appeared from the distance. I safely made my way back to Billy, and we rested on a large flat rock, hydrated and snacked when Cynthia and John came out from our right, making their way on the steep, sliding rock terrain. Cynthia paused to take photos of me, as Billy was taking photos of Cynthia.
Billy's photo of blue thing

This turned out to be more of a Photo Op than we expected it to be…. for what a couple of those photos unintentionally revealed later…
Then down the mountain Cynthia and John continued.  Billy and I began to continue looking for our team, and as we were walking, I heard in the distance the sound of Hornets….


Ah! That must be our drone flying around somewhere, cause there is barely anything else around making noises… and sure enough, the drone lead us to the launch location and we joined the rest of our team.


I learned a lot watching and assisting Tizz. One of the limitations of the drones is that it can only fly for 8-10 minutes, then return home and replace the drained battery for a charged one. So, the process takes some time to get plenty of footage. It was interesting watching the monitor and seeing that it gets best images in the shadows vs the bright light. Tizz directed the drone in front of a few little caves, perhaps a bit too high to reach on the rugged sliding rocks. We focused mostly on filming the small canyon just NE of where Randy’s flotation device was found.
Each time we attempt at returning to our area where we were keeping our gear to get more batteries or equipment, we seemed to loose our way directly there, the pinons again, disoriented us. We became aware of time and all of us were encouraging Tizz to wrap it up, though he  was on a roll and ignored our pleas. I radioed Cynthia, and she confirmed all the teams but us were back at base camp and waiting for us. I suggested I’d start to head back solo, since Tizz walks much faster than I can keep up, but all the guys, especially Billy, insisted we go together.
At last Tizz wrapped it up and we began heading back. “Just follow your shadow” said Sam directing us back to camp. More cactus, snow and rocks, our footing wobbling, except for Tizz. He bounced thru the woods and flashed here and there again. The rest of us began to loose our way again. Sam checked his GPS, got us back on track. Billy and I slowed our pace and lost Sam and Danny, though we’d holler now and then and get kind of close. Sam calls Tizz on the radio to get his location, Tizz replies “Just follow my voice!” Sam looks down puzzled at his radio with Tizz’s voice in the little box. Oh, I see, just follow the radio. More circling around more pinon trees and the light is darkening.
We understand well how easy it is to get lost and disoriented in that territory. We can hear the car engines in the distance leaving camp. We are still off to the left, now too much to the right. Whew! At last! Back at base camp where Billy’s big red truck is the only vehicle waiting next to his ceremony drum and bag.
We piled all the gear and headed down the deeply rutted slippery muddy road, with Tizz running in front of us, guiding our way down the path. We caught up with a couple cars, that nearly flipped over wildly sliding their way. There were some large impressive Bulls in the meadow on our left, stretching their necks up high to see the posse go by. Their eyes widely peering at the rare visit.
Tizz continued running ahead, then he noticed a set of footprints leading OUT down the road. It went on for about 1/2 mile til the road came to a fork then disappeared. Billy got out and photographed the footprint. Billy is size 11 and he placed his foot next to the print which appears to be approx size 13 and narrow.
As we continued slipping and sliding down the crazy road, flinging heavy waves of mud all over the truck, and then suddenly to our left, there was a small heard of beautiful healthy wild Horses! Billy got out to photograph them and the mares shied away as the Stallion came forward to defend his lady tribe.


At last, we made it out of the road, which took as much energy out of us as the hike did. All the cars and teams met once again at the Animal Shelter, and said our good-byes. A few of us met at Forrest’s home and shared our days and thoughts.
Of course, like all of you, we are filled with wonders and unanswered questions. As Treasure Hunters on TTOTC, we understand a bit more of the thinking, though at times, may not agree with it, and we are all still standing in the mystery of it all.
After we closed our meeting at Forrest’s home, Billy and I began our long and winding trip through the Box Canyon home to Taos. Bewildered and exasperated, Billy randomly chooses a few photos to send to Cynthia and Dal to update everyone on the blog.
Saturday Morning…. I wake with a message from Cynthia. “Kat, you gotta look at one of the photos Billy sent! One of the Blog viewers has noticed in one of the images a blue thing hiding in one of the ledges covered by a branch! We need the high res image to examine it!”
So I run over to Billy’s house and sure enough, there it is, Blue shinny fabric, like a sleeping bag or backpack. Right there below Cynthia’s feet, just below where Billy and I took a break on the big flat rock. Looking at the image blown up, you can see, it is not old fabric, it is intensionally placed and not been there long.

Billy's photo of blue thing
Interesting, isn’t it? How a trivial collection of small events: one leaning on a rock, two others pass by, another takes a photo and snap! Something more get’s in the picture and changes the story.
It show’s us how close we can be to something, and even if we are intensely focusing, we can totally miss it! And so, it makes me wonder, how many times have we come close to the Treasure, and totally missed it! Only this time, we were lucky to have Billy’s camera capture something hiding that our own eyes missed. We were focused on Cynthia, and missed the blue object peaking out at us!
I do hope that the continuing searchers can find our location. If not, I’ll have to return with Cynthia to recap and find our spot. It’s something, even if it turns out to be nothing, at least we have a sliver of hope.
As I close this entry, the full moon is shining brightly upon the wintery towne of Taos and the wild cyottes are partying it up!

73 thoughts on “More on Drone Day…

    • In the high res pictures, blue cuff looks like the end of a sleeve or stuff bag made of blue fabric. Not a boot. I could start an IV in Cynthia’s left hand…. from here!:-)

      • I wish to correct what I see in this picture. It is an optical illusion of the snow behind Cynthia’s foot. There is NO boot, fabric or anything other than snow there. I don’t want time wasted looking there or someone to risk injury.
        See “Plans For Sunday” , Jeremy P’s posts Jan 24 @4:16 pm and 4:56pm. Look at the layered pictures and visualize the “blue thing” as snow on the far side of the path behind her foot. It is not directly under the branches or behind the rocks. Don’t hurt yourself looking there!
        Thanks, Jeremy P !

  1. Fantastic story, Katya. Hope the spot can be found. Glad everyone made it out safely.

    May the moon continue to shine brightly and the wild coyotes sing their lullabies to you.

  2. Great story Katya! Could you send a picture of the footprint to Dal so everyone can see it? Do you have any other photos to post that examine the landscape? When people are in the photos, the cameras tend to focus on the people rather than the surroundings. It’s difficult for us behind the scenes on the phone or computer to assist when the photos are distance and of people. Just a suggestion. We want to help the best we can since we can’t be there with you guys. Thank you for all that you’ve done!

  3. Did photographs taken of his Murano show any sign of a backpack? I’m just wondering about possible items left on the ridge, if he took his gear you’d think you would find something? That terrain appears quite challenging to be traversing…maybe he climbed back in one of the rock caves along a cliffs edge, which may explain why the drones and helicopters aren’t seeing anything. Thx for the photos Katya and keep up the good work.

  4. Great update, Katya!
    I didn’t see anyone using binoculars!
    Also, when our SAR team worked, we circled large rock clumps, like the one where y’all stopped and rested and the cloth showed up.
    If you try to program your brain to search for any color not natural, it helps! Kind of like “policing” the grounds for trash.
    Also, (sorry), take a topographical map with you, as you hike/search, Mark the map with a highlighter every hundred feet. Then if something comes up in a pic, like the blue cloth, you won’t have to search for your route again.
    Since the terrain is so unforgiving on ankles, with eyes on the ground, hike 20ft, stop, then look in a circle, explore any small gullies and outcrops, Bush clumps, before continuing.
    Gosh, I wish I were there. I taught cadets SAR techniques and SO wish I could assist with a class to the volunteers! Not ragging that you guys aren’t rocking it, y’all are SUPER!
    Prayers for safety and success.
    ☆☆Something I thought of, has anyone thought of asking the Bonito Pueblo Medicine Man to do a “seeing”? I’ve read alot of stories how the medicine men can assist locating lost kids/livestock etc. It’s amazing. To them, it’s a very Spiritual science! F would agree to not “knock it”!

  5. Great story Katya! Thanks to all of you boots on the ground searchers. On Cynthia’s plans for Sunday post, pdenver wrote the following in regard to the photos with the fabric. Hope this helps. Thank you pdenver.

    pdenver on January 23, 2016 at 6:28 pm said:
    Hello Everyone. I’m hoping you’ll be able to assist me with Google Earth/Maps in locating the possible/approximate position where the above photo was taken. I believe the following coordinates are a good possibility when comparing the above photos to them.

    Across the way from Rito de los Frijoles

    35.752341, -106.258503 (mountain wall in the background shown in photo)

    35.749049, -106.259468 (slight bend in river shown in photo)

    35.753007, -106.244802 (possible position where Cynthia may have stood)

    I would love to learn your thoughts, please. Thank you.

    • Thank you for reposting this for me, Wendy. I hope this information may be of good use for the searchers to relocate the blue item. I truly do appreciate it. 🙂

  6. Great story and thanks for having BOG out there. I know so many want to search the East Rim and I thought it was good after seeing the footprints and pawprints that Eugene took a photo of and the Xs, but now after finding out that the Xs were only photo spots he took photos of Frijoles(thanks to Julie), I don’t think he did anything risky there. He was trying to find his way in to Frijoles. The prints were not theirs as SARs told us as they aren’t the right sizes for the two of them.

    Forrest told us as you said that the water is too low so it doesn’t seem like a water issue….so it has to be that he was going into Frijoles. He never brought Leo up to the East side….he wouldn’t have left him down there. I have a guy who’s going to search Bandelier/Frijoles with his drone today. Please if you can get yours out, please consider going there. He only has an hour at a time for his batteries. He’ll be there today if anyone wants to meet him. I can give you his number. I asked him to search from the falls that would be accessible from the river(I’m not sure which that would be or both) to the river looking at rocky areas rather then tree areas….hope you or anyone reading will try and get some drones out there and get permission to search there. I think we’ve trusted that the Bandelier Rangers searched Frijoles…and I’m not so sure they have done a thorough job or could even with the terrain.

    tyblossom at aol dot com

    • John Brown made the following post on my forum and I think it’s important to know about Frijoles.

      It’d be a job of work to search an area where his tracks both enter and exit.

      It might not be as bad as I think though.

      Bob Rodgers (Head of NMSAR) told me there is a working trail in Bandelier to the bottom of Frijoles canyon. He said it is not advertised but is publicly accessible. I have no idea about where that might be. He was not talking about the well-known but washed out main trail down. If one can find that one might have a fairly short hike down to the bottom. Otherwise the drone guys would have to haul their stuff from Ancho Canyon. That’s do-able but it wouldn’t be easy. It’s 5 miles on trail. The trail up Ancho canyon from the river to rim is steep. I wouldn’t do it in the dark. If you did SR 4 – Ancho-Frijoles-search Frijoles-Ancho-SR 4 you’d likely be in the dark on Ancho at some point. Not sure what the point would be gvien that the tracks were seen both entering and exiting.

  7. Great story of Friday’s search day. Do you know when the analysis of the drone footage will be made available? I don’t plan on any more searches until we find something more concrete to direct us where to look next.

      • Sorry, I see now that this is explained in detail in Cynthia’s 2nd post under Plans for Sunday, and the search will continue for the “blue thing.” I am amazed at the dedication (and energy level!) of Cynthia, Sacha and all the others involved in the search. You folks are amazing.

  8. It is fantastic if a search by drone or boots on the ground can be done of frioles canyon. I don’t want to discourage that, I hope any and all areas can be searched, but I don’t think personally that he is over there. I disagree that Randy stashed his raft on the east side, left his dog also on the east side, and then crossed the Rio grande. As a dog owner myself, I would not do that, in fear of my loyal friend trying to swim over to join me and watching in horror as he may be swept away. Frioles is accessible via roads and trails, so why bother with the raft trip? Randy needed to raft to a certain spot that was not easily accessible from up above. I am wondering about a cave in the embankment, topographically downhill from his hob. Any cave this time of year can become a den, for mammals, or rattlers. This is dangerous for Randy and for searchers, be careful. Just my two cents.

    • I agree Homebrew with your thinking about Leo and I think that’s what has thrown us all off. But he sent a text to his daughter saying the falls were dangerous. What’s the lesser of two evils? Keeping him on the other side(East) of the water so he will be forced to “stay”….or have him follow you through dangerous terrain(West side)? I believe the upside down raft is a sign that he was making a “home” for Leo to stay as well.

      • I think the raft was upside down to inspect the torn area. He may have even try to reinflate it, hence the foot pump in place.

    • I don’t believe anyone has searched in Frijoles Canyon from the falls down to the Rio. Seems like the next place to search to me, if you can get there past the barricades near the falls.

        • Stephanie,
          I don’t recall reading anywhere since the 15th? That anyone actually went that far down into the canyon. I know a couple of treasure hunters went to the north side under the edge and were able to look down into the canyon, then traveled to the end to see north & south of the Rio. I think that was Scott & Sacha?
          I had heard & saw pics of paw prints but not heard of them spotting them in Frijoles Canyon.

          After the search on Thursday this was posted:

          After search on Thursday
          So far, searchers have searched the site where Randy’s car was found, visually inspected the contents of the car, searched the site where his raft was found, along the river banks south of the raft location all the way to the lake, the river and the banks all the way from the car to the raft, the north side of Frijoles Canyon, the canyon walls between the raft and the lake, and part of the trail and mesa on the east side above Randy’s raft.

          I was assuming this was an overview of all searchers areas since it began.

          • I believe it was left up to Bandelier Rangers to check Frijoles because it’s NF property. I believe they or SAR were the ones who saw foot prints and paw prints that look like they could be Randy and Leos go in and come out of Frijoles.

            There was another set of prints up on the East Rim that we thought could be, but they turned out to later be believed to be from SAR.

            This is unbelievable to me that Bandelier won’t allow a drone for a missing person. It seems like no one is really searching where he intended to go search. I personally think he went in with Leo and saw Leo would get hurt and so he took Leo to a place he’d be safe and not follow Randy.

            Any thoughts on where Dave should go with the drone that could be helpful or how to get around Bandeliers no drone policy? Anyone know someone important to get permission for him?

          • Stephanie et al, the forest service does not have jurisdiction on the airspace above NF for UAVs or drones. They have to defer to FAA rules and I’m not aware of any FAA restrictions over bandalier. Here is a publication from the forest service with additional detail on this. From the attached link you should be able to move forward with plans related to drones and Bandelier:

          • three rocks I’m going to read your page right now with hope to find an answer. This is what was told to the family…

            Response to family….

            No fly zone. Illegal. Could cause damage.

            they said they did a through and extensive search and they found footprints that could possibly be Randy’s they looked like they came in and out.

            dave could fly his drone over the east side but not over the national monument.

          • Then they have to go over the head of the Park Superintendent directly to the FAA to get an exemption.

        • I must’ve missed this morsel…..where is it documented that foot and paw prints were seen at the bottom of Frijoles Canyon? And, there are pix? By whom? Can you please direct me to this info?

      • This is CRAZY. Just got this back from drone dave who went to Bandelier.

        Just got done talking with LizA Kent law enforcement ranger. Absolutely NO DRONES. Sorry.
        She explained she had spoke with Bob Rogers about this issue and informed him of the rules. She even said we can’t fly over their airspace even from the other side.
        Should I head to montoso or cochiti? What’s your thoughts?

        Thoughts? What should he do? Does anyone have any pull? That’s ridiculous. It’s not for a hobby, but a missing person.

  9. I don’t know where to post this. Please don’t laugh. There is a website called Animal Spirit dot org that does communication with animals. Maybe they know someone in the area who could get some info from the dog.

    Possibly he found some shelter under a brush pile or rock crevice and this is going to be difficult to find. Maybe he stuck his hand in a hole and got snake bit. I wonder why the dog had torn up paws. Did he leave him behind and he desperately tried to climb after him? Also the most logical path may not have been the one he took if he got delirious.

    I really hesitate to say this because it will probably be a wrong steer. I am no psychic and all I know about it says it is extremely unreliable and inaccurate. But I tried to see which direction he took from the raft. I came up with SSE. I don’t know why I came up with that direction and I wouldn’t give it any chance of being correct, but I didn’t get any response to the other compass points. This would be a last resort if all else fails.

    • Another potential fast route for resolution. Many people are gifted in communicating with animals. Seems the searchers are geared to doing all physical approaches before considering medicine people, investigative psychics, remote viewing or animal communicators. Logic does not always provide answers.

  10. Keep up the good work and let us see the results of the drones. God bless and keep the faith. You are all appreciated and continue the good work. Stay safe and warm, never give up. Waiting for updates. MS. GIRL

  11. Something really bothers me about the fake post claiming his body was found. What is this? It’s like someone was trying to say don’t look any more. I don’t know but it is very strange. Someone could get in big trouble for posting that. Why would they risk that?

  12. If I was a detective I would check his medical history. Parkinson’s disease can make people do mean stuff they wouldn’t normally do. Sorry for posting this but you really have to look at all possibilities.

    • Family reports he was healthy. He appears to be muscular and fit in shorts photo. That does not mean all aspects of health were good. I immediately noticed big dark circles under his eyes in the photo with ff and leo at book signing. Looked like some form of serious chronic health issue to me. Circles under eyes in other Randy photos are not as dark due to high exposure lighting but still visible. Wonder if family had his total health history.

  13. I wonder if the E on his map represents the shape of the drainages into ancho or chaquehui canyons. E could be F with a mirror in the middle, too?

  14. Katya, what a great article. I wish I could be there to lend a hand. You and the entire search group are doing an amazing job. Stay safe.

  15. Damn internet connection keeps eating my comment….

    Thank you for the images and the report. It seems to me that searchers are looking for Randy in the wrong area. Randy already searched the area for the treasure, via automobile; he then switched his search area, taking an inflatable raft. It seems to me that the best odds for finding Randy is up stream less than 2 miles, probably on the eastern edge of the river, at a spot where the eastern edge of the gorge meets the water. I am thinking of searching here, 15 days from now, if Randy is not found by then:

    I realize these areas have been searched already. I want to look at areas where a person must step into the river, on the east side, and where a person might choose to climb eastward instead of doing that.

  16. About those Size 13 footprints….made me think back to those 2 guys camping out that way that the earlier SAR footage picked up. I don’t suppose anyone ever got any info on those individuals or what they may have seen/heard/come across?

  17. He may have become separated from Leo, in the trees, maybe. So, he sets off looking for his lost dog, in the snowy wilderness, meanwhile, Leo has found his way back to the raft, and Randy could be absolutely anywhere. I lost my dog on a hike, once, and after searching, we finally found her waiting patiently, back at the car…

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