About dal

dal is an occasional filmmaker, writer and photographer who lives on an island in Washington State's Salish Sea.

My Total Eclipse Search in Thistle Creek…

SUBMITTED OCTOBER 2017
by Hoblin

 

 

As a 5th-grader in 1979, living in the midwestern US, we learned about that year’s total eclipse in school.  We made pinhole viewers in class and were allowed outside at the appropriate time to view the shadows that they made.  It was pretty cool, but I was envious of those in the Pacific Northwest that were in the path of totality, and I decided right then and there that I would definitely get myself to the right place for the 2017 eclipse.  I even saved the next day’s newspaper to remind myself!

Fast-forward to 2012, when I first heard about the Treasure Chest while living in Ohio.  Intrigued, I studied the clues for a few days and tried to solve them.  Living so far from the search area was daunting, though.  Unless I had a perfect solve, it just wasn’t practical for me to fly out to the Rockies on a hunch.  I bookmarked the poem, and put the search in the back of my mind, only looking into it once or twice per year.

Two years ago, I realized that I missed the mountains, and decided to move back to the Denver area, where I had lived in the late 1990s.  My request for reassignment at work was granted, but with planning the move, the treasure was the last thing on my mind.  A few weeks before my move, I was at the dentist’s office, and in the waiting room I came across an article in Outside Magazine about the treasure hunt.  Wow!  I would soon be living in Colorado, and almost any search area would be within a day’s drive of my new home!

After my arrival in Colorado, I had a few days before I had to start work, and I decided that I had to spend a day in the mountains, coupled with the treasure hunt.  I spent a day searching the Brown’s Canyon area, but found myself just hiking around without any direction.  Still, it was a day with spectacular views, affirming my decision to return to the Rockies.

I didn’t search at all in 2016, but that Spring I looked into where the path of totality for the eclipse would occur.  I was excited to see that it passed through the Grand Tetons.  I would be able to combine my eclipse trip with a search in Yellowstone!  I was dismayed that nearly every hotel in Wyoming was booked for those days 18 months in advance, but I was able to make a reservation in Gardiner, Montana.

As the trip got closer, I thought that I would be able to narrow down my search area.  Instead, the more I looked at maps and read clues, the more directions my mind went.  If you follow the Firehole River south, it heads toward Goose Lake, which is next to Feather Lake.  Goose feathers are “down”, as in a down pillow.  Was this the “Canyon down” in the poem?  I just kept coming up with more and more possibilities!

On August 20, the day before the eclipse, I arrived in the Grand Tetons.  Making my way toward Yellowstone and my hotel, I passed by a place with exceptional beauty on the Snake River named Oxbow Bend, and decided that it would be the perfect place to view the eclipse from.  There was a small parking lot there, enough to hold about 20 cars, so I didn’t know if I could actually get a spot there the next morning, but I was determined.

Looking at a map of Yellowstone that night, everything suddenly clicked in my mind.  Because it is “too far to walk” between the first two clues, you are driving.  Therefore, the first two clues refer to “towns” rather than geographical features.  You are driving the road from Madison Junction (where warm waters halt) to Canyon Village, and then taking it south (down).

From there, you “put in” below the Mud Volcano (Mr Fenn said to “show the poem to a child.”  If you ask a child to name some things that are brown, “mud” is a likely response).  This leads you to LeHardy Rapids (he also said that “you have to use your imagination” that hearty is the opposite of meek).  You definitely can’t paddle up a rapids!  My confidence was growing.

On Eclipse Morning, I got into my car at 1:30 AM to beat the traffic, and headed toward Oxbow Bend.  I was the only car on the road!  It was amazing to zip through the park, going the speed limit the entire way, which is unheard of if you’ve ever experienced Yellowstone traffic.  I saw deer and a fox, and the steam coming off of Sulphur Cauldron in the 32-degree weather was awesome.  Plus, my drive took my past Canyon, past the Mud Volcano, past LeHardy Rapids.  Would I actually see the eclipse and find the treasure on the same day?

I arrived at my desired parking spot at 4:45 AM, with three or four other vehicles getting there before me.  I got out of my car to view the night sky.  At high elevation, miles from any city lights, you can literally see every single star in the sky, and it is breathtaking.  Because of the cold, I retreated to my car, gazing out the window at Orion, waiting for sunup.  In the dark, I was hoping that my location was as spectacular as I had remembered from the day before.  Well, the sun did eventually come up and my memory had served me correctly.  This was where I would be viewing the eclipse from!

By 6:00, the parking lot was full.  There were about 40 people gathered there, and we all got to know each other a little bit as the hours passed.  During this time, I was able to take photos of the mountains to the west, chat with people, and watch the pelicans in the river.  A park ranger showed up because a mother grizzly with two cubs had been spotted in the area, and he was there to monitor the situation.

At 10:17, the moon made first contact with the sun.  We all donned our eclipse glasses and looked toward the sun in the east.  A few moments later, someone shouted “Look!  Bears!”  We all turned around to the west just in time to see the three bears emerge from the water on the far bank of the river.  I reached down for my camera, and in that brief instant they had all disappeared into the woods.  It was as if the wise mother bear knew that if she waited until exactly 10:17, she would be able to lead her cubs across the road and into the river unnoticed!

The eclipse itself was amazing, and well worth waiting 38 years for.  We were rewarded with almost two minutes of totality from our location, and words can’t explain what a truly incredible experience it was.  The ranger was familiar with the bears’ habits, and knew where they were most likely to emerge from the forest, although he couldn’t predict when.  I thought about waiting around after the eclipse with my binoculars to get a better look at them, but I had a treasure to find!

I hopped into the car and headed toward LeHardy Rapids.  I parked, walked down to the river, and began searching for the blaze.  Unfortunately, the road went right alongside the river.  I could hear a constant flow of traffic whizzing by, and it became apparent that the location was not remote enough for Mr Fenn to lie down for eternity with the chest.  Also, the only blaze I could see was a long, thin stretch of white rocks in the middle of the river, which was in plain sight of anybody nearby.  My map showed that there was a stream feeding into the opposite side of the river named Thistle Creek, but I couldn’t locate it visually, and couldn’t tell from my map exactly where it was.

I spent the next few days exploring the Firehole and Madison River areas as well as the rest of Yellowstone.  I saw elk, moose, deer, bison, and a coyote, and I enjoyed the nightlife in Gardiner.  All in all, it was a pretty great trip.  Plus, I got to see the total eclipse, and fulfilled a promise that I had made to myself when I was ten years old!

After returning home, I spent some time researching some of the places I had looked into in Yellowstone, including Thistle Creek.  I had always been intrigued by Mr Fenn’s comment that if you don’t know where to begin the search, you might as well stay home and play Canasta.  As others have pointed out, “canasta” is the Spanish word for “basket.”  Imagine my intrigue when I learned that American star-thistle is also known as basket-flower!  How ingenious, I thought, of him to give a clue to the end point of the search while making it sound like a clue to the beginning point!

I then looked into LeHardy Rapids, and found that while most maps label everything north of Fishing Bridge as the Yellowstone River, most geologists actually consider LeHardy to be the official boundary between the lake and the river.  So if you are traveling south toward the rapids and Thistle Creek, the end of the river is definitely drawing nigh.  Mr Fenn has said that a knowledge of geography would be helpful.

I then found a few other things that made Thistle Creek seem like a logical solve:

In “The Thrill of the Chase”, page 91, Mr Fenn states that “The sound of the rushing water was stronger than the noise of the idling engine.”  Well, if I was on the far side of the rapids, the sound would drown out the noise of the traffic from west side of the river.

TTOTC also mentions Miss Ford.  I’d have to ford the river to get to the creek.

in TTOTC, page 111, the words “DO NOT TOUCH” are capitalized and in bright red type.  Because of its sharp spines, thistle is a plant that you DO NOT want to TOUCH.

While Mr Fenn has stated that rappelling down cliffs, as well as other activities that an 80-year-old couldn’t do while carrying the chest, would not be necessary, he also said “It is always a good idea to wear a personal flotation device when you enter fast moving water.”  I found it curious that instead of telling searchers not to enter fast moving water, he instead offered safety advice for doing so.  Hmm . . .

I decided that I had to go back to Yellowstone and search Thistle Creek.  Late summer would be when the water flow was the slowest, so I returned in mid-September.  I would drive to Cody, Wyoming on Tuesday, retrieve the chest on Wednesday, and drive back to Denver on Thursday.  I captured a screenshot from Google Earth of the location of Thistle Creek and saved it to my phone.

I bought some wading pants online, and went to my local fishing outfitter to acquire wading boots.  The clerk offered advice about the three brands of boots they carried, and I avoided telling her that I wouldn’t be using them for fishing!  As it turned out, they only had my size in one of the brands, so those were the ones I bought.

I came home, ate lunch, and figured that I should try on the boots with my wading pants to make sure everything fit.  Well, what happened next blew my mind.  For the first time, I noticed that the photo on the box of wading shoes was taken from the exact same place where I had watched the eclipse!  Definitely, definitely a good omen.

I arrived back at LeHardy Rapids, consulted my Google Earth map, and with my binoculars was able to find where Thistle Creek emptied into the river.  I put on my wading gear and started across the river.  Well, I made it about 12 feet.  The river bottom was rocky and slick, and I didn’t have a flotation device.  I simply didn’t feel safe.  Instead of the 50-yard trek across the river, I would have to take the back way in, hiking 3-plus miles across land through bear country.

I drove to Fishing Bridge and started north along the Howard Eaton Trail.

The trail started along the northernmost part of Yellowstone Lake, then veered into the remnants of a forest fire.  The next generation of trees was about three feet high.  In 20 years, hikers here will be traveling through a dense pine forest at this point.

It took about an hour to reach LeHardy Rapids.  From the overlook, I could see a dozen people on the boardwalk across the river to the west, but I had the entire east side of the river to myself.  I continued the hike to Thistle Creek, and then departed the trail to follow the creek down to the Yellowstone River, searching for treasure as I went.  Because of downed trees and steep banks, I had to cross the creek a few times on the way down.  I felt like I was brave and in the wood!  Of the four million visitors to Yellowstone this year, there was a chance that I was the only one to hike down the banks of this creek.

I made my way down to the river, and at the point where the two met I was looking high and low for either a blaze or a treasure chest.  I wondered if the people on the other side of the river were looking at me, wondering why this crazy person was poking around the waters.  I slowly returned up the creek, searching under rocks and logs along the way, making sure to stop and survey my surroundings every few feet to see if I could discern a blaze.  In all, I spent an hour exploring the stream.  This is the view of Thistle Creek emptying into the Yellowstone River.  As you can see, there is no paddling up this creek!

At one point, a bright orange marker on a tree appeared in view, marking the Howard Eaton Trail.  Was that the Blaze?  I looked quickly down, and then above, below, around, and across at this point.  No such luck.  Eventually, I reached the trail again.  I followed the creek east for a while past the trail, but it was difficult.  The creek was surrounded by hip-high tall grass, and there were football-sized “boulders” hidden underneath.  I began worrying that this would be a terrible place to suffer a twisted ankle.  And then I thought about bears.  And then I thought about the weather forecast of a chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon.  Again, I just didn’t feel like I was being responsible at this point.  From my location, Thistle Creek would soon split into two forks, and each would go another mile.  There was no way for me explore them both in their entirety and return to the trailhead safely before dark.

I took the trail back to my vehicle at Fishing Bridge, happy.  I had just spent three hours in the park and seen only three other hikers during that stretch.  I experienced amazing scenery and overcame my fear of bears.  I took the path down the creek that very few have taken, and I gave the search my best shot.  I spent two nights enjoying the nightlife of Cody, Wyoming, chatting with both locals and tourists.  On the drive home I had a great time, and great meal, at The Forks tavern in Livermore, Colorado.  In summary, I didn’t locate The Treasure, but found my own treasures along the way.

My three takeaways from this adventure:

1)  If you are in Gardiner, Montana and want a cheeseburger and a beer, there is no better place to go than the Two-Bit Saloon.

2) If you are driving through Yellowstone in the middle of the night, there is no better CD to listen to than Neil Young‘s “Harvest Moon”.

3)  I still kinda feel like the treasure may be on the banks of Thistle Creek, but that I somehow overlooked it.  For safety reasons, only explore this area if you have a companion.

Hoblin-

My Perfectly Imperfect Solution…

SUBMITTED September 2017
by CAMILLE

 

I began my search in August of 2016.  For some reason I began by looking at a map of county names in Wyoming and my eye immediately went to the name “Hot Springs”.

And so I began with Where Warm Waters Halt being the westernmost tip of Hot Springs County Wyoming. This was also spurred by looking at Forrest’s map and following the declination lines.

Take it in the Canyon down – from the tip of the county you follow the south fork of Owl creek into one of the most remote canyons in the lower 48 (or so says the gentleman at the BLM office in Worland WY).

Not far, but too far to walk……I have, since the beginning, thought that the first two clues must be determined by looking at a map.  This was confirmed for me with the discussion about the little girl in India.  So you are definitely not going to be walking from the tip of Hot Springs County as that is too dang far.

Put in below the home of Brown.  Hmm….must admit I poached some information here, and started researching George Brown, fellow board member of Forrest’s at the Center of the West Museum in Cody, Wyoming.  I came across George’s obituary (he passed away in 2013 at the age of 83)…..(two can keep a secret if one of them is dead), and found that he was the manager of the HooDoo Ranch for 40 some years; a big operation just south of Cody.  I also saw that he has a great-grandson named Forrest.  Interesting!  So George was a live-in manager at the Ranch.  My bet was to take a bead on the ranch house and follow it due south to find where it crosses the South Fork of Owl Creek.  Voila!  The location is at a flat area just at the point at which the canyon starts to get scary.  That must be the place to park the car, why yes, I can see tracks right near the creek from my eagle eye Google spy.

Still working out my solution from home, I see that From there it’s no place for the meek, yes, a dang scary canyon, The end is ever drawing nigh  – yes, you must cross that creek to get to the other side.  There’ll be no paddle up your creek – on Google Earth you can see that the creek is not one to be navigated with a boat. Just heavy loads and waters high. I determined the heavy loads to be the carrying of the treasure and the waters high as a hint that you will need waders to cross the creek. (you can also see from the cover of Forrest’s book that the shadow is wearing waders). From the start I believed that the reason Forrest made two trips from his car was because he needed one trip to pack in his waders, and then the second trip to bring in Indulgence.

If you’ve been wise and found the blaze, well hey, you are in Owl Creek after all, how much wiser could you be?  I figured the blaze was just something to be found on site that would clinch the location for you.  Your effort will be worth the cold – another hint that you need to wade the creek.  Otherwise what on earth would be cold?  We’ve been told not to search in the winter and to wait until the snow is gone. If you’ve been brave and in the wood – well, it just so happens that if you cross the south fork of Owl Creek at the longitude of the HooDoo ranch, you are on the Wind River Indian Reservation, hence “brave”.  Also, on Google Earth you can see that the north side of the creek at that point is barren, and the south side is wooded.

Ok!  This sounds like enough data for me to take a trip to Wyoming.

Here are some views of the trip:

Along the 50 mile drive from Thermopolis out to Owl Creek on a BLM road that crosses private property via easements.

Washakie Needles looking to the Northeast

Approaching the canyon

The parking place at the end of the two-track road where you get out and walk in ½ mile- easily doable twice in an afternoon

South fork of Owl Creek looking east.  No paddle up this creek – easy to wade

This last picture was taken at the exact coordinates of the longitude of the HooDoo ranch house.  Looking across the canyon from the Wind River Reservation side there is a large rectangular chunk that has fallen out of the wall.  Looked like a blaze to me!

Blaze on Owl Creek

It was a grand adventure, which included:

  • The realization that we absolutely had to have a four-wheel drive vehicle
  • That the only place to rent a jeep in Wyoming seemed to be an outfitter in Cody; about 100 miles from the search location
  • There is a locked gate on the BLM road that goes out to Owl Creek
  • With a keen eye to research I was able to secure that gate code
  • The jeep had a rattlesnake bite kit in it – just in case
  • Getting to the parking site on the creek in fine order, if not a bit muddy
  • Crossing the creek far too soon as once on the ground I became incredibly disoriented, even with a GPS, learning that Google Earth and actual earth pretty much don’t look anything alike
  • Searched up and down and high and nigh
  • Saw a lovely brown trout in a pool in the creek
  • Decided to leave when our dog spotted a cougar on the bluff above us

My conclusions: even though this is the prettiest solve I can imagine, I don’t think this is where Forrest hid the treasure. It is just too remote and hard to get to, even though it is easy enough to park and walk ½ mile downstream once you get there. You actually have to cross private land on the way. Even though the BLM is supposed to have an easement, there are bad feelings between BLM and the local ranchers. This is why the gate is locked. According to this solution the chest would have been on tribal land, and I now think that probably this is not what Forrest is referring to by being “brave”. I also now don’t think that my George Brown solution is reasonable. It required way too much research to be plausible.

So the search goes on!

Camille

Searching Reese Canyon…

SUBMITTED September 2017
by BobZ

 

First things first, I got the book TTOTC.  Read the entire book including poem.  There are three places in the poem that puzzle me (more than others).  The first was “I can keep my secret where, and hint of riches new and old.”  So what does that mean?  He’s not keeping his secret where, he’s telling us where with the poem.  The second, “If you were wise and found the blaze.”  Why in the past tense?  All other lines in stanzas two through four are present tense, and why did you need to be wise to find the blaze?  Finally, “If you are brave and in the wood” Why brave? Was this a further clue to the location of maybe just a hint.

From there I tackled the poem from the many Fenn writings, interviews, scrapbooks (thanks for that). As Fenn said you need to know where warm waters halt, without that you have nothing.  So I looked up the definition of warm water which was defined as either sea or ocean not in the artic.  I googled sea or ocean in the Rocky Mountains and came up with the Western Interior Seaway.  I googled that and came up with Bryce Canyon:

The exposed geology of the Bryce Canyon area in Utah shows a record of deposition that covers the last part of the Cretaceous Period and the first half of the Cenozoic era in that part of North America. The ancient depositional environment of the region around what is now Bryce Canyon National Park varied from the warm shallow sea (called the Cretaceous Seaway) in which the Dakota Sandstone and the Tropic Shale were deposited to the cool streams and lakes that contributed sediment to the colorful Claron Formation that dominates the park’s amphitheaters.

Other formations were also formed but were mostly eroded following uplift from the Laramide orogeny which started around 70 million years ago(mya). This event created the Rocky Mountains far to the east and helped to close the sea that covered the area

Only problem, Bryce Canyon was in Utah outside of the search zone.  That took me back to my first bother…I can keep my secret where.  So maybe he means the letter I and not the pronoun I is keeping the secret, and replacing Y with I it becomes Brice Canyon which is right below Durango, CO (even later in the poem the line is “so why is it that I must go”).  I put Brice Canyon on the Google map and pulled back.  Admittedly I began to work a bit backwards from there.  As I pulled back I saw the Navajo Dam, per Wikipedia: Navajo is a rolled earthfill embankment dam, composed of three “zones” of alternating cobbles, gravel, sand and clay. The dam is 402 feet (123 m) high…heavy loads and water high.  I now have two points.

At first I went off the Navajo Dam looking for a blaze.  After spending time looking around past the Dam, I decided to search the map back up towards Brice Canyon and the CO/NM border.  Following the waterway, three things immediately jumped out, Cemetery Canyon at the border (no place for the meek?), Los Pinos River was the waterway (the wood?), and where is the blaze?

So here’s the solve IMO:

As I have gone alone in there and with my treasures bold. (Informational)

Clue #1 – I can keep my secret where and hint of riches new and old. (“I” keep secret “where”)

Clue #2 – Begin it where warm waters halt (Begin the search in Bryce…no Brice Canyon) And take it in the canyon down (Take the search in the canyon down)

Clue #3 – Not far, but too far to walk (the canyon down is not far away, NM border sixteen miles from Brice Canyon)

Clue #4 – Put in (body of water in the canyon) below the home of Brown (Ute Reservation at border, or CO home of Molly Brown)

Clue #5 – From there it’s no place for the meek (Cemetery Canyon, TTOTC – you have to have guts to go in a cemetery) The end is ever drawing nigh (The river is drawing you to TC which is close)

Clue #6 – There’ll be no paddle up your creek, Just heavy loads and water high (you don’t have to go far down the waterway but if you did you’d come to the Navajo Dam)

Clue #7 – If you were wise and found the blaze (The Pinos River looks like this about a mile downstream from the NM/CO border:

Aerial view from Google Maps as seen from northern view,

but If turned to western view – If U were Ys and found the blaze.  The name Reese is defined as ardent or fiery – a blaze, but looking back at the aerial view from the north:

An “F” blaze can be found in the pine river.)

Clue #8 – Look quickly down your quest to cease. (boots on the ground to check the Reese Canyon wall at the bottom of the U)

The bank of the Pine River at the bottom of the U.

Made it to the spot.  Hidden behind tall grasses, a nook about two feet wide by two feet deep by 8 inches tall…could this be it?

Alas, empty.

Spent some time searching around the little island in the Pines River where the Y’s become a U in Reese Canyon, then went up top to look around there.  Did not take a metal detector, maybe it is there but I missed it? Maybe was there but already found?  Maybe I’m missing something in the clues. Maybe it’s hidden hundreds of miles away!

But tarry scant with marvel gaze (on BLM land so take it and go)

Just take the chest and go in peace (straightforward)

Hint – So why is it that I must go (“Y” is it that “I” must go)

And leave my trove for all to seek?

The answer I already know,

I’ve done it tired and now I’m weak.

So hear me all and listen good,

Your effort will be worth the cold. (TTOTC in Teachers with Ropes bronze is cold to the touch)

Clue 9 – If you are brave and in the wood.  (To get to the ledge of Reese Canyon you have to step into the Pine River)

My daughter being brave and in the wood (Pine River).

I give you title to the gold. (His legal release of the property?)

I sent the solution to Forrest Fenn to see if he would respond with anything like…”Good try, but never there” or “Sorry, not even close”, but instead nothing, only an announcement three days later that the third book is almost complete and going in to print hopefully the following week.

Speaking of scrapbook entries, go back and take a look at Scrapbook 4, wonder if this scrapbook entry will make the cut in the new book?

Good luck in your searches.

BobZ-

Odds n Ends About Fenn’s Treasure Hunt…Part Thirty Six

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This page is now closed to new comments. To continue the conversation please use the current odds n ends page..

Please click on the comment balloon below to contribute to the discussion of  Forrest Fenn’s Treasure Hunt. Please note that many topics have their own pages. Please scroll through the blog to see all the discussion pages. There are also stories, scrapbooks, searcher’s reports general information, tips from Forrest, a rumors blog and even email responses from Forrest. So please look around and if you want to make a comment please use the most appropriate page.

Thanks…

 

dal…

Home of Brown…Part Four

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This page is now closed to new comments. To continue the discussion please go to the latest Home of Brown page.

 

This is for a discussion about “the home of Brown” in Forrest’s poem.

Got an HOB that didn’t work out…or maybe you need an HOB for a certain area…or perhaps you have an idea that needs some fleshing out..

This is the place to discuss all things HOB…

dal…

The Colorado Trail…

SUBMITTED SEPTEMBER 2017
by LOLO

 

Dear Forrest,

I wrote you once after I had first read your book, The Thrill of the Chase (probably 4 or 5 years ago) and I mentioned how I was thinking maybe your treasure was in Wind River Canyon but that it most likely wasn’t and I was just ready to return to the place I grew up for a visit. I believe I was living in Hamilton MT when I sent that email.

A couple of years ago I I took a road trip from Denver to Glacier Park with no intent on finding your treasure but to let my imagination run and see if cruising through the Rockies (my forever home) would inspire some new perceptive on your words. I had an amazing time, but I didn’t even bother trying to figure the clues out – I just enjoyed myself. Since that trip I have been on my quest to summit all of Colorado’s 14ers and I have to say I haven’t spent anytime deciphering your poem…until this last journey….

I just finished my first long distance thru-hike, The Colorado Trail. 486.4 miles hiked in the last 6 weeks. It was the most spectacular gift I have ever given myself. The first 100 miles felt brutal but with every step I got stronger, faster, and could hike 20 + miles a day with no problem by mile 200 (the human body is an impressive machine). I reached mile 396.6 standing at 12,657ft elevation on the Continental Divide looking down towards the headwaters of Elk Creek and seeing the reminiscence of an old mining cabin perched in the valley below – and I thought to myself, I wonder if Forrest has ever ridden his horse or hiked from Stoney Pass to Molas Pass, because if he hasn’t I think he would fall in love – just as I am right now.

So now here I sit two days after finishing the trail, reading your poem for the first time in a long while. Both of your books and Flywater lay on the table beside me and I thought I should email you some pictures of my adventure and thank you for inspiring me to stay out there in the wild – exploring and creating my own treasures of memory. I hope this letter finds you well!

Stay wild,

Lolo

Continental Divide

Continental Divide again

Elk Creek before Animas River

High Point Colorado Trail

The Colorado Trail

Camping Above Tree Line For Days

 

 

The Blaze…

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This is the place to discuss the the blaze. What do you think it is? Is it temporary or permanent? Will it be around for a thousand years or doesn’t it matter? Is it easy to spot or difficult? Does the poem tell us what the blaze looks like or what it is?

Nick Lazaredes of SBS-TV’s Dateline in Australia interviewed Forrest in the spring of 2014. Here is Forrest explaining the BLAZE.
http://dalneitzel.com/video/audio/blaze.mp3

Making Your Failed Solve a Winner…

SUBMITTED SEPTEMBER 2017
by FMC

 

You’ve spent hours upon hours thinking about the poem, scouring Google Earth, and doing your research. You’ve likely spent hundreds (or thousands) of dollars and time away from work and/or family to put BOTG in your search area. And now you’re back from your 1st or 2nd (or 15th) trip and you’ve decided that your solve is a bust. Now what?

Complete solves (those where each clue has a reasonable interpretation and where the clues work together to take you to a relatively small search area) are inherently personal given the time, money, and effort that go into them. And admitting to the world that yours was wrong can be hard for anyone. No one likes to admit failure. But I challenge you to change your way of thinking about these failed solves. Don’t think of it in terms of having to admit failure. Think of it as an opportunity to share the brilliance, creativity, and hard work that led you to put BOTG in the first place. Focus on the journey, not the destination. And this guide will (hopefully) help you get the most out of that journey and make your big reveal the best it can be.

Excitement about your solve prior to putting BOTG is a wonderful thing.  Specific details are almost always closely guarded, but a searcher’s confidence tends to make itself known.  Which leads me to my favorite Chinese proverb:

You were confident in your solve and for whatever reason, your solve didn’t pan out. Own that pre-BOTG confidence and commit to sharing your solve.  It may take some time to find the right pictures and write it up, but your solve deserves to be shared.

Sample Structure

The outline of your solve is up to you, but if you’re struggling with where to start or what to include, the following are a couple things to consider.

Your backstory with the Chase – How did you first hear about the Chase? Is this your first BOTG?  How many times have you read the books?  Do you consider yourself a hardcore searcher or is the Chase something you do while you’re also travelling to fish or hike?

Your initial thought process – What led you to your solve?  Was there a Eureka moment where something clicked reading the poem?  Was there something that immediately jumped in your head when you first heard about the Chase in terms of a specific clue?  Did something in the books resonate with you?

Solve walk through – This is the crux of your solve write-up.  I suggest going through each clue line by line with your reasoning/interpretation below each, along with any visual aids/extras that make your solve easier to understand, whether that’s maps, quotes from your internet research, etc.

Your BOTG trip – Where did you go and what did you do?  Did your solve plan play out as you expected it to or did you encounter any unexpected challenges?  Were you able to get to your search area and what is your takeaway from your BOTG trip (i.e. solve is eliminated because you searched everywhere and didn’t find it, solve is eliminated because it’s too impossible to get to your search area, the terrain made you question whether FF could have made two trips to the search area, etc.)

Making it Interesting

Have a good title – Why should a newcomer to the site click on your solve instead of any of the others posted here?  Reference where you went or your methodology (but in an unusual way) or make a joke… anything to stand out from the pack. Some examples of (IMO) good titles from the Others Adventures page:

Not Another Rio Grande Solve!

A (partial) knowledge of Geometry…

The Trouble with Confidence

Pictures – Everyone knows the old saying that a picture is worth 1,000 words… so use pictures.  Even the best of us at describing the dirt trail above the river, surrounded by pine tree covered rolling hills won’t have the same impact as this will:

Maps and Google Earth images (with or without MSPaint illustrations) are also good ways to complement your written descriptions your solve/clue interpretations.

Add in some non-Chase content – While most people are going to primarily be interested in your solve, the overall entertainment value of your write-up can be enhanced by adding in other interesting things from your BOTG trip.  Did you try your first rattlesnake jerky?  Did you go on a whitewater rafting trip?  Did you catch the biggest fish of your life?  Did you see a moose?  Do you have anything that those of us reading your solve in our cubicles or in line at the grocery store or anywhere else not very exciting will read and think “That sounds awesome – I’m jealous of this person’s adventure”?  Put it in.

So maybe you had a solve and put BOTG earlier this year… any chance I’ve inspired you to write-it up and send it to Dal?  If so, great.  If not, that’s okay too (I guess).  While I encourage everyone to write up their failed solves and BOTG trips, part of the fun (at least for me) in the downtime between trips is thinking about how I’ll share the next one with those on this site and what the reaction will be.  Keep this post in mind if you do the same.

by FMC-

Nez Perce Creek…

September 2017
by dal…

 

Everyone who knows my name probably knows my search area. It has not changed a great deal in the past few years. I looked elsewhere when I first went out in 2011 and 2012. But since about 2013 I’ve concentrated on the greater Yellowstone area. That is not to say inside Yellowstone National Park precisely. But in the general area of Gallatin County, Park County, Yellowstone and a bit further north.

How come my area is so vast you ask…?

Well…I say…because I go where the clues lead me and there are many, many choices as I move along my path. It takes me time to explore all the possible routes.

I pointed out a couple weeks ago that I felt the poem is not unlike a mideveal labyrinth or maze. They are different from one another. Which one of these puzzle types has become more clear to me over time. I originally thought Forrest had designed a labyrinth. A long route that twisted and turned. The single path was simple to navigate…but long and twisty. Here is a two dimensional representation of a labyrinth:

Since then, I have decided that what Forrest has really constructed is a maze. A maze differs from a labyrinth in that a maze has many false doors. The route is not direct. Many choices have to be made along the path about which doorway to go thru.The problem with a maze is that you don’t know you have chosen an incorrect path until you’ve followed it to it’s dead end. Then you have to retrace your steps back to your last choice and try a different door. Of course it can be more complicated because the maze could be constructed with doors behind doors so the choices are exponential with hundreds of more chances to be wrong than right. And, of course, all the paths, all the doors look the same so it is sometimes not so simple to see that you’ve been in this same place before.

We’ve all seen mazes drawn out on paper as a child’s puzzle in a magazine or puzzle book. They look like this:

In the mideveal world mazes were often actual devices…physically constructed out of hedges or fences or walls. Garden mazes are sometimes used as plot devices in dramatic films and recently corn mazes have become fashionable around halloween.

Fortunately, with Forrest’s maze I can, at least see where I have been before. Each choice may look different but there are many to choose from. No path is a known winner in advance. You will not know if you have made the correct choice until you come to the end. If there is no chest at the end then somewhere along the path you went thru an incorrect doorway. But which one?

Forrest says there are nine clues. I think this means nine correct doorways. If I get to the end and there is no chest, how far back do I have to go to try again? In my case I go back to the last choice I had to make and try again from there. Once I have tried all those doorways without success I go back to a further choice and try again….and on…and on…

I think you can see why it takes so long to move through the possibilities…

Apparently I am bad at making choices.

Of course all this is based on the premise that I’ve selected the correct place to begin. If I have not done so then all I will ever have are some wonderful hiking experiences…which is okay with me. I would love to find the chest but not to the point of distress when I don’t . Locating Indugence is not the driving force behind getting out and looking for it.

Okay…so what is the driving force…

I’ll take you through my last attempt so you can see how this works for me.

My startiong point for many years has been Madison Junction inside Yellowstone Park.

Madison Junction, Yellowstone National Park – Where the waters of the Firehole and Gibbon Rivers meet and where the Madison River begins. WWWH?

This starting place is based on a lot of thinking about “where warm waters halt” that I did over a couple years. I, like everyone, was bumping around in the dark about WWWH. I tried a few different things but none of them really clicked in my mind until Madison Junction. I feel good about Madison Junction and for the time being I am using it. But I also constantly consider what might be better…what Forrest really could have meant.. That is to say, I am keeping my options open even though I presently work from Madison Junction.

Since “where warm waters halt” is the place to begin it is certainly the most critical clue to identify. If I am wrong about where to start none of the other clues will lead me to Indulgence…but they do lead me on interesting adventures.

I had always felt that WWWH had to be a place of significance. It couldn’t just be another geyser or hot spring because there are thousands of those things in the RMs and as hard as I tried I could not make any single hot spring stand out above any other in the poem. There did not appear to be any identifying words or lines in the poem that would point to one hot spring over another.

I originally thought the Rio Grande River where the cold water springs start enriching it and making it viable for trout was a good place for WWWH. Those cold springs are common knowledge among fishers in that area. My first twenty or so searches began at that location around the place where the Rio Grande crosses into NM and they ended at various locations in New Mexico.

Frustrated with the places that I saw in NM, most beat to death by tourists and fishers, I felt that none met my criteria for a place Forrest would choose to be his last view on earth.

After reading the book again and again looking for hints I decided to look for a more prominent place as WWWH. I first saw Madison Junction while visiting the park to capture footage of grizzlys for a film project I was working on. Years later after being convinced that my place on the Rio Grande was not working out I was reminded about Madison Junction.  It struck me as a likely spot for Forrest to choose and to know about as WWWH.

I was also drawn to the Yellowstone area because of Forrest’s remark about Yellowstone being a “special” place to him according to a document that Tony Dokoupil read and wrote about in one of the very first stories written about the treasure hunt, back in 2012. And I was also interested in a location that met the criteria Forrest mentions while answering a question framed by mdavis19 about specialized knowledge required:

Q- Is any specialized knowledge required to find the treasure? For instance, something learned during your time in the military, or from a lifetime of fly fishing? Or do you really expect any ordinary average person without your background to be able to correctly interpret the clues in the poem? -mdavis19
A- No specialized knowledge is required mdavis19, and I have no expectations. My Thrill of the Chase book is enough to lead an average person to the treasure. f

To begin, there was signage at Madison Junction describing it as the place where the Gibbon and Firehole rivers both end and as the start of the Madison. This is an atypical geographic situation. Not unique, but not terribly common either. Often a lake might have two or more streams feeding it and one leaving it that takes a new name. But Madison Junction is not considered a lake. It is simply a basin where two rivers pour in and one leaves. The single caution that I have about the place being Forrest’s WWWH is that it is simply a human decision that the Firehole and the Gibbon end and the river that leaves this place is a new river called the Madison. Why didn’t those same men decide that the Gibbon joins the Firehole in this location and the Firehole continues? It’s a subjective opinion…made by early geographers in the area. Forrest did point out that a comprehensive knowledge of geography might help.

Q- Mr. Fenn, Is there any level of knowledge of US history that is required to properly interpret the clues in your poem. 

A-No Steve R, The only requirement is that you figure out what the clues mean. But a comprehensive knowledge of geography might help.

Even more unusual in this scenario is the fact that both the Gibbon and the Firehole are “warm” rivers. Not at all cold as you might expect from a couple of mountain streams descending from higher elevations. They are both physically warm to the touch, comfortable to sit in. In the heat of summer they are often too warm for trout who have to escape up cooler side streams. These rivers are warm because they pass through geyser basins full of hot springs and other thermal events that drain into the rivers and heat them up.

The plural of “waters” might refer to the two rivers that halt in this spot.

Signage and descriptions of the curious geographic confluence at Madison Junction appear on visitor maps and brochures. It is a widely understood location for  the place where two rivers end and a third begins. All these rivers were mentioned in TTOTC. This was better than any hint I had for any possible WWWH location in NM. So I adopted it as my WWWH. I can assure no one that it is correct…and I may change when/if something better catches my eye. But for now Madison Junction is my place to begin.

Shortly after, I began my understanding of the poem as a puzzle…possibly a maze or a labyrinth, but certainly one or the other. I would have choices to make about words in the poem like “down” and “below” and “nigh”. The choices I made would lead me in specific directions. What I needed to do was try to decide how Forrest would think about these words. The book helped me some there too. I found other useful hints about Forrest and language in the video interviews and many stories he has given us. I paid attention but tried not to let the research take me deeper than I needed to be for my particular solution…

As stated, my WWWH is at Madison Junction.

Madison Junction- Gibbon enters from the right. Firehole enters from the south. Madison leaves to the left.

From that location I immediately have a decision between three routes…or three doors that I can use.

First, take it (the Madison River) downstream into the Madison Canyon and beyond toward Hebgen Lake.

or

Second, I can take it (the Firehole River) down (south) into the Firehole Canyon.

or

There is a third sketchier route but I can’t rationalize that one so I won’t discuss it so that you cannot accuse me of taking too big a bite of peyote.

So right off the bat my maze begins. I have two choices and must select one to try out. I tried the Madison first. I spent two years looking at that path for a hoB. The obvious choice is Hebgen Lake. A spawning area for Brown trout. Many hundreds (maybe thousands) of folks have considered this route. I have been uncomfortable with it from the start…Folks have examined the lake and all its tributaries and gone below the dam as far as Ennis trying to make this path work. It may be the second most popular search area, right after the Enchanted Circle in NM. Diggin Gypsy seems to have patented the search in this area. She’s been looking around there for  5? years now. What could she miss that I could find?

I managed to find an actual hoB above the lake. But it is an historic place and according to Forrest a knowledge of history is not required. None-the-less I looked for a year there. I could find things that encouraged me about meek and water high and heavy loads. I could even find a creek I could not paddle. But in the end, I could only find one convincing blaze and beyond that I could locate no chest..

So after two years in that area I retreated back to Madison Junction to explore another path. Heading south (down on a map) on the Firehole river and into the Firehole Canyon. Again, the hints and clues seem to work. I have two possible hoBs down this path. So the maze expands when I go in this direction. One choice is at Nez Perce Creek where the first Brown trout in the Park were stocked by the Army. More Brown trout…eeek.

Another is at Lower Geyser Basin where two fellows, one named Brown tried to stake out some land for themselves in 1870 so they could lay claim to the wonderful sights in that area and charge admission to see them. These fellows even started cutting fence poles in Firehole Basin. They were dissuaded from their entrepreneurial scheme by Nathanial Langford, a member of the Washburn Expedition who pointed out to them that the area would soon be a National Park and commercial holdings would not be tolerated.

Lower Geyser Basin – Yellowstone National Park

I liked this hoB…but in the back of my mind it seemed too esoteric and dependent on reading one small book written by Langford in 1870 titled “The Discovery of Yellowstone Park” . The account was nowhere else that I could find. Forrest clearly ruled out a knowledge of history would be required when he answered the question from Steve R. mentioned earlier.

So I began looking at other possibilities. But giving up on historical connections, in spite of the fact that Forrest had stated that US History was not needed….is difficult because I love to investiogate the history of the land where I stand at any particular moment…

I can sit down on a battlefield and imagine the battle. I can see individuals fighting for their lives. I can hear the sounds and feel the heat. I can smell the powder and hear the gun shots. It all plays out like a movie in front of me. It is an adrenaline rush. I can stand in a coulee in Washington and imagine the unimaginable mountain of water that poured out of the east to carve this thing I’m standing in thousands of years ago. When I pick up an arrowhead I can hold it tightly and imagine it being crafted . I can feel the breath of the individual carving it as I peer closer at his hands. History is intoxicating to me.

So, in June of 2017 when I visited the Lower Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park I was armed with the knowledge of what I believed to be three clues, and I was hunting for a fourth. I wanted to explore Nez Perce Creek as a possible “no paddle up your creek” but I also wanted to walk along it and see if I could conjur up the events that took place here. The history of the creek not neccessarily related to its potential as a clue…but interesting to me…Finding those connections alone would make the search delicious.

Confluence of Nez Perce Creek and Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park

There are many tales of fantastic human feats accomplished in Yellowstone. The tale that has conjured up the most interest from me has been the story of the Cowan group.

In 1877 nine tourists were camping in Yellowstone when 800 or so Nez Perce came through trying to outrun the Army and get to Canada. Mr and Mrs Cowan were two of the visitors in that group. The Nez Perce discovered their campfire one evening and raided them. The Indians decided they wanted the party’s supplies and horses. Mr. Cowan unwisely but heroicly objected. So they shot him in the head and left him for dead. They took the remaining eight tourists as captives, Mrs. Cowan, beside herself in grief, all their supplies and horses and headed northeast.

Miraculously Cowan didn’t die. The lead barely penetrated and flattened on his skull. He was knocked out cold. When he awoke he was all alone, no food, no horse and I imagine he must have had one helluva headache. But bad luck always comes in waves and later another element of the Nez Perce came by and shot him in the hip…and left him for dead again.

Tough guys, these Cowans. He survived and was eventually found by Army troops and treated by surgeons. He was later reunited with his wife and others in the camping group after the Indians let them go. He wore the lead slug that the Army surgeon dug out of his head, as a watch fob for the remainder of his long life.

In 1905 George and Emma Cowan pointed out the spot where George was shot and Emma was captured by the Nez Perce in 1877.

In 1905 the Cowans returned to the park to show historians where they were camping when they were raided by the Nez Perce. George Cowan lived into his nineties and Emma Cowan wrote an account of the story which is still available today.

Many, many years later descendents of the Cowans and the Nez Perce that were part of that event met together in Yellowstone to reconcile and to tell family stories. It must have been a fascinating meeting.

I was interested in following Nez Perce Creek as part of my pursuit of Forrest’s treasure but I was also interested in seeing if I could find the Cowan Group’s campsite from when they were raided. I had a copy of the 1905 photo of the Cowans that was taken in the spot they remembered as their campsite. So even if this path did not lead to the blaze and Forrest’s chest I was prepared to have some fun, explore and learn.

Nez Perce Creek

I have to tell you that if you are looking for a sweet hike in Yellowstone you couldn’t do much better than Nez Perce Creek. I parked in a pulloff on the loop road. Grabbed my camera and my photo and headed out. It was a magnificent day. Warm, but not too warm. I was in good spirit made even better by the day and the landscape and the purpose.

I spent most of the day walking that creek on its north side. I passed no other humans. Saw lots of birds and listened to more. The world was beautiful and I was exceedingly content.

Shooting Star along Nez Perce Creek

I get down on my hands and knees a lot when I am hiking with a camera because I love taking pics of wildflowers and ant hills and peculiar rocks.

In one wide spot along the creek I stopped to canvas the area. It felt warm and occupied. I could see no one else but I could sense that something had happened here. I could just make out a very old campfire ring near the creek and possibly…just possibly…old wagon tracks.

Was this the site where the Cowans had been raided? I took out the photo to compare. It was ambiguous. Possible match but not guaranteed. I went over near the ghostly mark of a campfire ring, got down on my hands and knees and started scouring the grass and dirt looking for something but I didn’t know what.

Under a small tree, perhaps uplifted by that tree over the years I saw a glimmer of white, no larger than a postage stamp. I reached for it. Picked it up and held in my hand a quite old piece of china. Possibly a piece from a broken dish or platter. Who brings china to camp? Civilized tourists in the 1800’s would have brought china. Emma Cowan could have brought china.

China sherd that I like to imagine is from one of Emma Cowan’s plates

A glass bead. Perhaps worn by a Nez Perce Indian during the raid

I did not dig. I only searched the surface. I looked for another twenty or so minutes and was just about to quit when I saw a second tiny flash of white about ten feet from where I found the china sherd. As I moved toward it, I lost sight of it. I spent another five minutes trying to recapture the location of it. I finally did. I picked up a tiny, oval shaped, pure white glass bead.

I sat right in that spot, facing the creek and looking in the direction that I imagined would have given the campers back in 1877 the most delight. Bead in my left hand and sherd in my right I imagined the Cowans, the camp, the Nez Perce, the gunshot, the fear, the anger. Like a John Ford film it all played out in my mind. Panoramic scenes on the stage in front of me. It was exciting. It was exhausting. It was fulfilling.

Lupine along Nez Perce Creek

I replaced the sherd and the bead and continued my movie.

I did not find a chest nor a blaze leading to one. At the end of the day I didn’t have any sense that I was even in the right spot for Forrest’s treasure but good god I enjoyed that hike…

dal-

Meet Up With Forrest on November 2nd….

September 2017

 

 

Forrest will shortly have a new book out. It’s titled “Once Upon a While”. It will be a paperback and sell for $24.95.

Author, and Forrest’s friend, Doug Preston wrote the following Forward for the new book. (republished here with permission from Forrest and Doug)

———————————–

Treasure of Another Kind
By Douglas Preston

I first met Forrest Fenn in the Dragon Room of the Pink Adobe in the late 1980s, where he habitually occupied a table in the corner, which featured a rotating cast of eclectic Santa Feans, including John Ehrlichman, Larry Hagman, Clifford Irving, Ali MacGraw, and Rosalea Murphy. I joined the table as a young, unknown, and struggling writer, wondering how the mistake had been made inviting me among all these famous people. But Forrest Fenn was an outstanding lunch companion, telling story after story that kept the table enthralled, and we instantly hit it off. That was the beginning of my friendship with Forrest, who is one of the most remarkable people I have ever met. Here is a man who came from a small town in Texas, barely graduated from high school, spent 20 years in the Air Force as a fighter pilot, flew 328 combat missions in Vietnam over a period of 348 days, survived being shot down twice, and was awarded a raft of medals; he then retired, moved to Santa Fe, and built a world-famous gallery that put Santa Fe on the art-world map; he ran the gallery for 18 years with his wife Peggy and together they raised a wonderful family. Along the way he also published 10 books (this is the 11th), acquired and partially excavated a 5,000 room prehistoric Indian pueblo, and amassed a peerless collection of Native American antiquities and art.

I knew I was a friend of Forrest’s when, in the early 1990s, he invited me into his vault. This walk-in fortified room, hidden in the back of a closet, was filled with extraordinary treasures—Pre-Columbian gold artifacts, Indian peace medals, a Ghost Dance shirt, the greatest collection of Clovis points in existence, and (later) Sitting Bull’s celebrated peace pipe. Forrest had been a dealer in art and antiquities for years, with many superb objects passing through his hands. These were the things he had kept, the best of the best. Forrest liked artifacts that told stories, and each one had a rich and fabulous history.

In that first visit to the vault, Forrest wanted to show me something quite specific. He explained that he had been diagnosed with cancer. Although it was in remission, the prognosis was not good. He did not, he said, wish to linger in weakness and pain, and he especially did not want to put his family through a long and difficult ordeal as he wasted away from cancer. The honorable and dignified solution for all concerned, he told me, was to end it quickly and cleanly, by suicide.

But Forrest is a complicated human being, and with him nothing is simple. He had worked out a plan to end his life that would, he hoped, give something back to the world and encourage people to explore the outdoors he loved, while at the same time generating high interest, if not consternation. Forrest was never one to shy away from causing a stir.

On the right side of the vault, on a sturdy shelf, sat a bronze casket of ancient workmanship that he had recently acquired. Gene Thaw, the noted collector, had identified it as a rare Romanesque lock-box dating back to 1150 A.D. He opened the lid to reveal a dazzling heap of gold—monstrous nuggets, gold coins, Pre-Columbian gold objects—along with loose gemstones, carved necklaces, and a packet of thousand and five hundred dollar bills.

“Go ahead,” he said, “pick up a nugget.”

I reached in and picked up a massive raw nugget the size of a hen’s egg, cold and heavy. There is something atavistic about gold that thrills the imagination, and as I hefted it I felt my pulse quicken.

“That’s from the Yukon,” he said. “Nuggets that large are rare, worth three to four times their bullion value.”

He reached in and removed the bills.

“What are those? Funny money?”

“No. It’s legal United States tender”—not normally used in circulation, he said, but sometimes these large denomination notes were exchanged between banks to keep their accounts in balance. It wasn’t hard to obtain one; he simply called his bank and ordered it, and a week later it arrived. He tucked the packet back in the chest. The chest also included a vital piece of paper which he showed me: an IOU for $100,000 drawn on his bank, so that he would know the chest was found when the discoverer collected the IOU. He rummaged around in the chest and brought out a handful of gold coins—beautiful old St. Gaudens double eagle gold pieces, along with dazzling gemstones, a 17th century Spanish emerald, and a gold Inca frog.

“Lift the chest. See how heavy it is.”

I grasped it by the sides and could lift it only with difficulty. The total weight of gold and chest was more than forty pounds.

Forrest then explained what it was all about. After his cancer diagnosis, he had begun thinking of his own mortality. The doctors told him there was an eighty percent chance the cancer would return and kill him. So he had worked out a plan: when the cancer came back, he would travel to a secret place he had identified and bring with him the treasure chest. In that place he would conceal himself and the treasure, and then and there end his life. He would leave behind a poem containing clues to where he was interred with the chest. Whoever was clever enough to figure out the poem and find his grave was welcome to rob it and take the treasure for themselves.

The final clue, he said, would be where they found his car: in the parking lot of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

He had worked out all the logistics but one: how he could pull this off by himself, without help. He did not feel he could entrust anyone else to assist him. “Two people can keep a secret,” he said, “only if one of them is dead.” He had already written the poem, and he now brought it out and read it to me. It was similar to the poem he later published in his book, The Thrill of the Chase, but not, if I recollect, exactly the same. He tweaked it many times over the years, making it harder.

I said that there were a lot of smart people out there and I feared the poem would be deciphered quickly and the treasure found in a week. But he assured me that the poem, while absolutely reliable if the nine clues were followed in order, was extremely difficult to interpret—so tricky that he wouldn’t be surprised if it took nine hundred years before someone cracked it.

When first I heard his plan, I was astonished and amazed. I didn’t really believe it. But the more time I spent with Forrest, the more I realized he was dead serious—no pun intended. I also realized it would make a marvelous movie: the story of a wealthy man who did take it with him. I pitched the idea to Lynda Obst, a classmate of mine from Pomona College, who had become a hugely successful Hollywood producer (Flashdance, Contact, Sleepless in Seattle). She loved the idea and asked me to write a treatment. When I called Forrest to make sure this was okay and offered to share the proceeds, he gave me his blessing, generously and firmly refused to accept any money, and made me promise only to invite him to the premiere—and the Oscars, if it got that far. I wrote a treatment and sold it to Lynda Obst Productions and 20th Century Fox. While the movie was never made (option available!) I did write a novel based on the idea, called The Codex, which featured a wealthy Santa Fe art dealer and collector who is dying of cancer and decides to take his fortune with him. He buries himself and his fabulous wealth in a secret tomb at the farthest ends of the earth, and he issues a challenge to his three lazy, no-good sons: if they want their inheritance, they have to find his tomb—and rob it.

As the years went by, I visited Forrest many times and saw the treasure in his vault. He often took things out and put other things in; he removed the currency, fearing it might rot; and he swapped out some of the gems for more gold coins and ancient Chinese jade faces. He also took out the IOU, he said, “because I thought my bank might not still be there when the chest was found.” He had worked out a better way, he told me, to know when the treasure is discovered, but he has not shared that secret with me.

And then finally, one lovely summer day in August 2010, I visited him and he brought me into the vault. The chest was gone! “I finally hid it,” he said. He was about to turn eighty years old and still in excellent health with no sign of cancer, and he decided to stop waiting and hide the chest now. This way was better, because he would be around to appreciate and enjoy the ensuing hunt.

And that, as everyone knows, was the beginning of what has developed into possibly the greatest treasure hunt of the 21st century. As I write this, seven of those nine hundred years have passed, a hundred thousand people have looked for the treasure, and three have lost their lives in the search—and yet it still remains out there somewhere, secreted in a dark and wild place, waiting to be found.

This treasure story is emblematic of who Forrest is—a war hero, a man of great generosity, and a truly original human being who lives life to the fullest, does things his own way, and doesn’t worry too much about what others might think. Forrest is, above all, a creator and a teller of amazing stories. In this book he tells thirty nine of the best of those stories, all true, with a note of commentary at the end of each one. They run the gamut from the inspiring and philosophical to the amusing and fabulous. These stories are a treasure of another kind, and some of them—who knows?— may contain more clues to the location of the real treasure.

I have read these stories with enormous pleasure, interest and enlightenment, and I hope you will enjoy them too.


On November 2nd Forrest and Doug will have a book signing at Collected Works Bookstore in Santa Fe.

Lou Bruno and Susan Caldwell who designed Forrest’s last 6 books, and made them happen are the owners and designers of the new book.

I expect there will be an ordering page soon…but in the meantime the book can be ordered from lou@brunoadvertising.com