SUBMITTED SEPTEMBER 2016
I made two trips to Montana this summer, in July and August. I did not find the treasure chest. Therefore everything I believe and know is suspect.
I did find a location which I believe fits the poem and other information from Mr. Fenn so well that I sent him two emails containing photos of the blaze (see below) and a third email with my complete solution (complete except for the chest, of course). Two hours after sending my solution on August 9, 2016, this appeared on Jenny Kile’s website Mysterious Writings (http://mysteriouswritings.com/forrests-surprise-words-what-you-know-for-sure/):
Surprise words from Forrest:
“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” ~Mark Twain
I don’t know if this was in response to my solution or not. But taking it at face value would seem to indicate that this is not the correct location. I’m not sure what to believe.
As I have gone alone in there
And with my treasures bold,
I can keep my secret where,
And hint of riches new and old.
Begin it where warm waters halt
Madison Junction, where the Firehole and Gibbon rivers
It was in National Park Meadows where the Gibbon and Firehole come together to form the Madison that the Langford-Washburn-Doane (August-September 1870) expedition conceived the idea of making the area a national park.
Formerly, this stretch held many three- to five-pound trout, but though some are still there, they are fewer due to warming of the water.
This warmth is due to the warming of the Firehole, which provides over 70 percent of the volume of the Madison at this point.
And take it in the canyon down,
Down Madison Canyon.
Not far, but too far to walk.
About 40 miles by road to…
Put in below the home of Brown.
An informational display at Baker’s Hole Campground describes how brown trout spawn at Baker’s Hole in the fall, and then grow for several months before moving down to Hebgen Lake, their “permanent home.”
From there it’s no place for the meek,
Ghost Village Road.
On August 17, 1959 a magnitude 7.3 earthquake struck the Hebgen Lake area, causing a landslide downstream of Hebgen dam (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1959_Hebgen_Lake_earthquake) and causing at least 28 fatalities. This slide formed Earthquake Lake, also known as Quake Lake. It filled in three weeks and inundated Halford’s Camp (http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/custergallatin/specialplaces/?cid=stelprdb5127785). Log cabins from the camp floated among the trees until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cut a channel into the slide to prevent a collapse and the water level retreated. This left the Ghost Village along the shore of the lake, and ghost trees in the lake itself.
The end is ever drawing nigh;
Drive to the end of Ghost Village Road.
There’ll be no paddle up your creek,
Beaver Creek, which meets the Madison where it enters Earthquake Lake.
Just heavy loads and water high.
You’ll be standing in the creek to retrieve the treasure.
If you’ve been wise and found the blaze,
An owl-shaped rock formation with an opening that faces the creek and is big enough for a treasure chest and the person who left it (44.853983, -111.365765).
Look quickly down, your quest to cease,
I searched the area for three hours on three separate days and did not locate the treasure. Other writings indicate that it should not be hard to find once the blaze is found.
But tarry scant with marvel gaze,
Don’t delay as other people may be in the area.
Just take the chest and go in peace.
So why is it that I must go
And leave my trove for all to seek?
The answers I already know,
I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak.
Should not require great effort to locate and recover the treasure.
So hear me all and listen good,
Your effort will be worth the cold.
You must stand in the creek to recover the treasure.
If you are brave and in the wood
Ghost Wood at Earthquake Lake.
I give you title to the gold.
When I first studied Mr. Fenn’s poem in detail I decided that there were probably many reasonable solutions that fit the clues. On my first trip in July I concentrated on the Madison River around Nine Mile Hole and Baker’s Hole. These places fit the first few clues but I never found anything that I believed was the blaze. On my second trip I found this rock formation but did not immediately recognize it. I thought it was very interesting and it had the right characteristics and I thought at the time “why is this not the place?” I continued on up Beaver Creek most of the way to Highway 287 before turning back. When passing the area on the way downstream, I thought “I should look at this from the other side of the creek.” When I did I immediately recognized the owl’s head formed by the center rock, and its body and wing formed by the rock on the right. If you’ve been wise and found the blaze. This is it.
I searched pretty thoroughly for about three hours total over three days. Three hours doesn’t sound like much when sitting at a computer at home, but in the real world with your feet in cold water and sitting on a rock hunched over hoping an earthquake doesn’t strike right now, it’s a long time. I searched in the water in front of the opening, within the banks on either side, and across the creek on the other side. Inside the rock formation itself I turned over all of the rocks I could move and poked around using only a rock and a stick. I decided that everything I’d read indicated that if you find the blaze it should not be hard to find the chest. So I did not do any excavation other than turning over the first layer of rocks, and pushing on others to verify that they probably could not be moved by an 80 year old man with limited time.
This location is a 25 minute walk from the parking lot at the end of Ghost Village Road. It is on level ground and does not require entry into the water until right at the formation. It’s a beautiful setting with a view of Earthquake lake where the Madison River and Beaver Creek enter. And what better place to rest your bones than Ghost Village, in the Ghost Wood.
After spending three days at this location I have a hard time believing it’s not the right place. But I did not find the chest, and so this may be own confirmation bias speaking. I suspect others have felt the same way about their solutions, but I have never seen photos of a site like this that are consistent with everything I’ve read about the treasure location. I know of nothing about this site that contradicts Mr. Fenn’s words.
My first two emails to Mr. Fenn contained photos of the blaze and an indication that I had not found the chest. I got no reply. In my third email containing the full solution, I said I believed that the chest had been previously found and not reported to him. Two hours later I found the Surprise Words From Forrest quoted above on Mysterious Writings. So I don’t know what to believe.
To me the relevant news to listen for is whether he says that more clues have been solved, or if he continues to maintain that no one has found the chest.
I had two fabulous trips to Montana and hiked places I otherwise never would have gone. I found that West Yellowstone has an excellent selection of ice cream shops (I recommend the huckleberry honey lavender from City Creamery). I found that there is no substitute for boots on the ground when deciphering clues.