Grayling Creek 2017: Dal’s Version…

NOVEMBER 2017
by dal…

 

Earlier this year ABC Nightline contacted Forrest, Cynthia and me about a story the network news folks wanted to produce on Forrest’s treasure and the searchers who go after it.

Forrest agreed, Cynthia agreed and so did I. The logistical problem of a story like this for the producers includes the fact that the search covers four mountain states and searchers are widespread in their opinion about which of those states the chest actually resides in. So if you, as a producer are covering this chase with two searchers and an interview with Forrest you could end up sending camera crews and reporters to New Mexico for an interview with Forrest and two other states to cover the search by two searchers. If I decide to look in Montana in fall and Cynthia decides to look in Colorado in spring and Forrest wants to do the interview when his new book comes out…that’s a lot of trips for one 15 minute story. It takes time and money to cover at least three different locations at differing times of the year with a three or 4 person crew each time. The big networks have the resources to take that kind of story in stride. Independent filmmakers would rather film a single searcher and Forrest both in New Mexico and within a few days of one another. One trip, one crew…get ‘er done.

If a producer should be so unlucky as to plan on filming a searcher who thinks the chest is located inside Yellowstone National Park…a whole new level of problems presents itself. For instance, Yellowstone National Park doesn’t want to encourage searchers inside the park and they will send staff to oversee the film crew and searcher, much like a prison guard at Alcatraz. You have to search within a quarter mile of a road…and many more restrictions for searchers being filmed.

On the other hand an independent filmmaker and searcher might just slip into the park unnoticed and “get er done”. As illegal as that might be, the story gets shot and the park is unlikely to notice. BUT…if the producer does get caught it can lead to arrest and fines…even permanent banishment from entering a national park. So folks who know the rules usually choose not to break them. The cost is too severe if things go awry.

The plan was for us to meet the ABC crew on September 18th for filming in or around the park. Esmerelda, Kathy and I left for Yellowstone on September 14th. It was beautiful the day we packed up. I heard some hooting in the woods and knew one of the critters that inhabit our woods was wondering what was going on.

BARRED OWL IN OUR WOODS

Along the way we stopped near Arco, Idaho at Craters of the Moon National Monument for a walk and a look/see. This was a good time to visit. Dead of summer this place can be uncomfortably (miserably) hot and walking around on black lava rock when it’s 96 degrees is not my characterization of “a good time”. But it’s a unique micro environment and terribly interesting.

CRATERS OF THE MOON

I like getting down on my hands and knees to look for small things. I ran directly into this guy:

HORNED LIZARD

I’m not superstitious but I have to tell you…between the Barred Owl and the Horned Lizard I was beginning to feel like we were favored. If this was the way we were starting out, the rest of the trip could be fortunate indeed!

Since starting her search, Cynthia had been looking in New Mexico. She has written some great stories about her searches there and I highly recommend you read them on this very blog. She is a riveting writer and a fantastic searcher. Her stories will entertain and inform you. But, for a variety of reasons Cynthia wanted to search up near Yellowstone. She had never been there before, not even as a tourist and there were things she wanted to check out. So Cynthia, her partner Michelle and their dog Molly packed up and headed north. Tom and Coreda and their dog Ming, who were visiting Cynthia and Michelle also headed  toward the park. That was great. I had not seen Tom and Coreda since Fennboree.

We were a big contingent. Including the 3 crew from Nightline and my wife Kathy, we would be nine people and two bronze-sniffing dogs. That chest was not going to escape this time!

As it turned out, only Cynthia, Molly and myself would be searching on camera. The question was whether we should search together in one place to make it easier on the Nightline crew or should we each search in a different location? AND…should we search inside the park or outside the park? I had ideas for both…where to search???

Another concern was snow. Winter was moving in and nobody wanted to get caught in a snowstorm while searching. It would send the wrong message to other searchers and anyway nobody looks dignified on camera while slipping and sliding around. As Kathy and I drove the loop road in Yellowstone we saw snow in the hills:

SNOW IN THE PARK

ELK IN SNOW

By the next morning the snow was gone. On the 17th of September Cynthia and I met up for some looking around West Yellowstone, finding a few Forrest Fenn memorable locations and planning our search.

BISON IN THE PARK

We decided to search together but outside the park. I was particularly interested in an area around Grayling Creek I had not been able to examine. So we made plans to look there.

Grayling Creek has interested me for several years. The clues can take me to a number of places on that lovely creek and I know Forrest fished here.

I wrote earlier about searching on Grayling Creek in Grayling Creek Part One and Part Two on this blog. They can be found HERE

The creek starts in the park and winds its way west down to Hebgen Lake. It is one of many creeks I was investigating along the line of “There’ll be no paddle up your creek”

So here are the major points of the solution we were following:

WWWH = Madison Junction

Canyon Down = Madison Canyon

HOB = Baker’s Hole Campground

WAIT!!! Stop there…Why is Baker’s Hole the Home of Brown…?

That might be the worst fishing hole on the Madison. I’ve never seen anyone lift a fish from that spot. So it can’t be because of Brown trout.

Wellllll….We were using some old information that has been around this blog and others for many years. Namely that Baker’s Hole has not always been known by that name. You can see this for yourself on a 1912 Map of Gallatin County which is easily found on the internet.

Click HERE to go to the 1912 map.

You can see on that map where Baker’s Hole is today was once known as Brown’s Camp. Not too far below Baker’s Hole is Hebgen Lake…Hebgen Lake has a number of Creeks flowing into it and I have been checking them out as potential “No paddle up you creek” type places. By the way that map was also drawn by Fred Brown. I have not been able to find out if he was the Brown of Brown’s Camp…Maybe someone smarter than me can look into that…

In earlier years I had looked at the lower portion of Grayling downstream of the old Culligan Ranch to the lake. I have also looked upstream at the stretch between the Culligan Ranch and the waterfall. Much of this stretch is on private land and I had obtained permission before venturing in. Now, Cynthia and I were hoping to search the stretch between Hwy 191 downstream to somewhere above the waterfall. Our emphasis would be on the high elevation meadow along the north side of Grayling Creek. This stretch is completely on public land.

GRAYLING CREEK

In particular there is a large open meadow on level ground where animals (In my mind) would congregate for grazing and watering. It looked to be a pretty place…somewhere maybe Forrest might choose to be his final resting place.  Isolated, but not remote.

We met the ABC crew on the evening of the 17th around a campfire at Cynthia’s cabin, down the road from the park. The crew staged Cynthia and me at a picnic table looking over maps and discussing our search plans for the next day. It was here that they interviewed us prior to the search.

PLANNING THE NEXT DAY’S SEARCH

The next morning the crew and Cynthia met at my cabin in West Yellowstone. From there we headed up 191 about five miles to where Grayling Creek goes under the highway. The day was overcast but still and comfortable. Perfect hiking weather. Cynthia and I watched as the crew prepped their film gear and armed us with wireless microphones. Then we headed out, five humans and one ambitious dog.

Cynthia always searches with her dog Molly, who seems to really enjoy snuffling around in the sage and wildflowers. She also has no problem wading in hypothermic trout streams.

MOLLY

MOLLY & CYNTHIA WALKING THE CREEK

The weather was spectacular and the meadow was beautiful. A perfect place to come and enjoy animals, the smells of pine, peace, and a beautiful trout stream. I had high hopes…EXCEPT…what Blaze????

THE MEADOW

This is almost always my dilemma. I get to a spot but cannot identify the next clue…in this case, the mysterious blaze. If I had been by myself I would have explored the place and then left…blazeless.

But Cynthia saw it right away. She was not coy about it at all. “There is the blaze”, she shouted, and five humans and one dog marched quickly toward her large, bold blaze, high on a cliff at the end of the meadow.

THE BLAZE IN THE DISTANCE HIGH ON A CLIFF FACE

As we were parading toward the blaze Cynthia stopped to investigate a willow thicket mid-meadow. To our surprise, inside was a partly camouflaged and very recently killed deer. Frighteningly fresh. That morning perhaps. It made what’s left of the hair on my head bristle. I knew exactly what we were looking at. I had seen a hidden type of cache like this  about forty years ago while filming a documentary with the Craighead brothers.

The Craigheads were considered the crowned princes of Grizzly bear research and in the process of filming with them over several days they had taken me to a number of bear “locations” during the fall and winter. In addition to a bear den we had also visited a bear food cache. It looked uncomfortably like what we were now staring at. What I didn’t know and what concerned me most was where the owner was. The bear could be very close by. If the griz saw us messing with his food there would be hell to pay. I stepped back from the cache. I quickly glanced around 360 degrees. My nervous system was on high alert. I thought that if I were a bear I would have headed to high ground to keep an eye out for anything approaching my food.

The best we could hope for was a napping bear. I did not want to alarm anyone. We were having too much fun. I moved away from the cache and quietly mentioned tp Cynthia what I figured we were looking at. No bear revealed itself. I held tightly onto my thoughts and moved toward the blaze while keeping my eyes peeled for anything large and furry.

CYNTHIA’S WILLOW THICKET IN THE BACKGROUND

As we crossed the meadow to the blaze and ventured into Lodgepole Pine thickets near the creek I yelled out “HEY BEAR!”, just so we wouldn’t surprise any napping or foraging grizzly.

Finally, we stood underneath the blaze and looked quickly down. Cynthia saw the perfect hiding spot for Indulgence. A boulder that had peeled off the rock cliff hundreds, or perhaps thousands of years ago. It was trenched under at one end. Possibly as a shelter for some previous dweller…a badger or weasel or coyote. Molly was interested in the hiding place too. It was an exciting moment. Cynthia encouraged Molly to get into that den…Molly sniffing and getting excited…Cynthia and the crew adrenalized with the possibilities in front of us…me swiveling my head watching for bears…

A GOOD HIDEY PLACE

After both Molly and Cynthia had explored the den and found nothing of significance we gave the area a thorough walk through, looking for any other possible hidey spots or smaller blazes while the crew filmed our every consideration. We noticed that there were no trails in the area and we saw no others in our luscious meadow the whole day. Not even a fisher on Grayling Creek. It seemed like such a perfect place. I thought about spreading my tarp here and spending the night anyway.

CREW FILMING

CREW FOLLOWING

After spending a further hour scouring the edges and creekside…nothing was discovered and we reluctantly headed back to the highway and our vehicles.

I have to say that I really enjoyed searching with Cynthia. She is very respectful of the landscape and very appreciative of a beautiful meadow and trout stream. We had a great time. Cynthia is enthusiastic, agile and walks fast…so be warned if you have the opportunity to keep up with her…and Molly is a hoot…Always quiet and always observing as much as possible whatever is around her. Great hiking buddies.

dal-

You can read Cynthia’s version of this search HERE

 

Grayling Creek 2017: Cynthia’s Version…

SUBMITTED NOVEMBER 2017
by CYNTHIA

 

The sound of chirping crickets awakened me as my iPhone announced it was time to rise and shine. It was still dark but I knew I had to hustle to get ready to join Dal and the ABC Nightline crew at Dal’s place in West Yellowstone where we’d planned to meet to start the filming of what I hoped would be an outstanding piece of Fenn treasure hunting.

It was Monday, September 18th, 2017. I’d been thinking about visiting Yellowstone National Park ever since I moved to New Mexico 25 years ago. I’ve been searching for Forrest’s elusive treasure chest for almost 5 years, and now I felt like I’d run out of places where warm waters halt, at least in New Mexico. It was time to broaden my search area, and West Yellowstone and the National Park was my new destination. I was ecstatic!

Lucky for me, Dal had agreed to meet me and my friends in West Yellowstone when we were still in the planning stages of synchronizing our itinerary way back in August. Soon after, ABC Nightline asked if they could film us on one of our searches… we both said yes.

Since Dal has searched this region repeatedly over the last several years, I let him decide where we should take them. I prefered a place outside the National Park boundary so that Molly could tag along. He agreed and knew the perfect spot…. at the bend in the road where Hwy191 crosses Grayling Creek. He knew Forrest had fished from the bridge downstream along Grayling Creek to the canyon.

Dal had the solves for the first 4 clues… all I needed to do was find the BLAZE. It sounded simple at first but the previous night I laid in bed worrying about my ability or lack of knowledge in finding one that made sense for the film crew.

It was starting to get light outside when I grabbed my camera and backpack and lifted Molly into the pickup truck. The temperature was chilly and the sky overcast and gloomy… thank goodness I’d brought a raincoat. Thank goodness I’d brought warm clothing…

The film crew took some departing shots of Dal, Molly, and me as we packed our gear into Esmerelda and drove towards Hwy191 where we turned north and headed to the bridge ten miles up the road. There was a wide enough area along the highway on the south side of the bridge where we could get both vehicles off the road. On the map that follows, the red arrow at the bottom is the town of West Yellowstone, and the red arrow near the top is where the road bends and crosses Grayling Creek, our destination for the day.

In the picture below, the small bridge crossing the creek in the grassy area is for snow mobiles to use in the wintertime. This is where the crew staged their cameras for our intial interviews that morning.

While the crew transported their gear from their SUV to the bridge, Dal headed across to scout a place where we all could safely get down the bank to the creek and forest.

The ABC crew was comprised of Michelle Kessel producer, Clayton Sandell correspondent, and Connor Burton producer and drone operator.

After the interviews, Dal and Molly took the lead as we scurried down the embankment and bushwhacked our way through the trees into the grassy meadow.

Dal had explained that the trees and brush were too thick along the creek downstream from the bridge so we’d walk through the woods into a large meadow and from there we could make our way to Grayling Creek. We could see trees, we could see mountains, and we could tell there’d been animals. We could smell the sweet smells of pine needles and sage brush…

And holy moly, off in the distance at the far end of the meadow, I could see a BLAZE… a rock face looking towards us.

As the film crew and Molly and I made our way through the sage brush, Dal walked up the hillside a bit to get a better view of the area.

Dal took some pictures from his vantage point, then came back down to the meadow and joined us. I had dropped Molly’s leash for a minute to take some pictures as well, only to lose her momentarily. She had wandered off to the thicket of willows behind the folks in the picture below.

Her nose led her to this… a dead mule deer with its front legs dismembered, and brush covering her body to hide her… Dal said it looked like a recent bear kill. Hmmm, were we being watched?

Instead of continuing straight to the BLAZE, we moved to our left and walked down to Grayling Creek. The pictures make the water look brown but it wasn’t… it was clean and clear and did not look deep.

At this bend in the creek, we left the shoreline and walked back through the trees to the base of my Blaze…

There, surrounded by trees, was a perfect hiding spot… beneath the end of this large boulder. I got down on my hands and knees and peered in… I didn’t see anything glistening nor anything that looked like the bronze chest with the loot… so I crawled in even farther. Just rocks… no treasure chest. But it looked like a great place where Forrest could have pushed the chest in a hole in the rocks… but he didn’t.

The crew asked us to walk back to the large meadow. They went to the far end as we stayed put. Then they launched their drone.

Before we knew it, hours had flown by. The crew told us they had enough footage and we could head back to the bridge and our cars. In the picture above, Dal is trying to find the game trail we used to get from the meadow through the forest and back to the road.

Eventually, we all made the short climb up the embankment and back to the bridge. Clayton asked us a few more questions on camera, and asked both Dal and me to read the poem for the final footage of the morning.

Our mission was over… we provided ABC with a damn good search story and an awesome half-day adventure. They were happy… I was happy… I found a good BLAZE. Were Dal and I disappointed because we didn’t find Fenn’s loot? Not at all… despite it being after noon, our day was just beginning.

He cranked up Esmerelda and off we went… into Yellowstone National Park and Forrest Fenn’s childhood special places.

To be continued… 2018! Cynthia and Molly and Dal

Cynthia-

 

You can read Dal’s version of this search HERE

A Method to the Madness…Finding WWWH

SUBMITTED FEBRUARY 2017
by Cynthia

 

Forrest has stated many times: “Start at the beginning so figure out WWWH.” Or simply, “Start at where warm waters halt.” Followed by “WWWH is the hardest part of the poem to figure out.” Yes, Forrest…we understand. Any searcher who has placed their feet on the ground traipsing from their parked car to what they think might be a good solve for where their warm waters halt , understands. I doubt if any of us know for sure if they are one of the searchers who knowingly, or unknowingly, was within 200 feet of his treasure. I’m in that boat…and I feel like I’m sinking fast.

Like many of you wiling away the days until the snow melts, re-reading TTOTC for the hundredth time, and trying to sleep while Fenn’s poem loops through your head, I wondered if there is an easier way to find a warm water spring that is not indicated as “warm” on a map. One of the conundrums I’ve noticed since the Little Girl from India appeared on MW is that since she can solve the first two clues and WWWH is probably one of the first two clues, then doesn’t that mean “it” (the warm waters) has to be identified on her map? Here is a picture of a section of the map and spring just upstream from the Red River Fish Hatchery near Questa, New Mexico. This is my story…to prove my point, maybe.

I am a map person. I have always loved road maps. When we, my family, traveled by car over 50 years ago (as interstates were still being built), I was the kid in the back seat holding the road map, squished in the middle between a brother and sister who honestly didn’t care about maps, or where we were going. They were idiots, I thought at the time.

How can a person not care where they are going and not be anxious with anticipation of what is just around the next bend? I always kept an eye on where we were to make sure my dad didn’t miss a turn…he never did…he was born with a “compass in his nose”, so to speak, and I think, luckily, I inherited the same gene. Now my entire wall is covered in large National Forest maps, and I couldn’t wait to head north to one of them, where the springs are marked by small circles, no names attached.

Saturday, Feb 4th started off just as the weatherman predicted…sunny, blue, cloudless skies with temperatures to reach the low 60’s in Albuquerque, unseasonably warm for this time of year. Molly and I hit the road…it was time to put my theory to test. I thought it might be easiest to find a warm water spring in the winter when the creek banks are snow covered. If a spring had warm water, the snow should be melted around it, right, making it easier to spot? While researching fishing spots in New Mexico, I had read that the lower portion of the Red River is popular in the winter-time because the springs above the fish hatchery helped keep the water warmer there than in other fishing places. So by deduction, I assumed that at least one of the two springs I circled on the map had warm water.

The ride up through Santa Fe, Espanola, and Taos was uneventful. It was the weekend and, despite the beautiful day, there was little traffic. I had been to the Red River Fish Hatchery 4 years ago. I smiled as I remembered my first honest to goodness boots-on-the ground search…. I was such a rookie back then. I thought I had nailed Fenn’s location and the poem would be pretty easy to follow to the loot! (I hope you all are smiling as you read this.) Boy, was I ever wrong!

Today’s search was different…I wasn’t in a quest to find Fenn’s trove but to find the little circle on my map marking a spring. I was searching for where the warm waters halt…


I parked at the far end of the hatchery, hoping no one would notice the empty truck sitting there unattended, with no one visibly walking amongst the various tanks of fish. Molly strolled freely while I snapped a few photos. Then I grabbed her leash and steered her to the path along the privacy fence, containing the off-limit properties to folks like me. We moved rapidly along the path of footprints in the snow, quiet, stealth-like, hoping no one would notice us.

The end of the path led to this property, a private residence surrounded by more fence. It looked like a lovely vacation home, or week-end retreat. A sign said “Beware of dog”. I laughed, and whistled…I wanted to see the dog. None showed up.

The narrow path now opened up into an old road. It was still partly snow covered, and where the snow had melted, the slick mud made the walking messy. But, when you are a Fenn treasure hunter, the condition of the trail does not matter. I dismissed the thought of Molly’s muddy feet and my disgustingly muddy hiking boots inside the clean truck later. We were on a mission…I couldn’t let it matter.

Within 10 mins or so we came upon a footbridge crossing the river. The snow looked quite deep on the other bank where most of its days were spent in quiet shade. There didn’t appear to be a path upstream on that side…we’d check it out on the way back.

In another 5 minutes or so I could see a spot of tiny green leaves peeking through the brush along the river. I knew it had to be the warm spring.

We carefully made our way down the short embankment to the green vegetation growing in the water there. The water trickling from the mouth of the spring was tepid, not nearly as warm as I had anticipated. But it was warmer than the river water…does this count? I didn’t know.

I poked around in the spring’s brush while Molly poked around the edge of the river. I was sort of disappointed but felt I proved a point, sort of. The snow had already mostly melted on the sunny side of the river, but the green vegetation growing in the tepid water did help identify the “warm” spring before I got to it, and I didn’t really need to touch the water to know it was “warm”. But mostly this supports my theory that the place where the warm waters halt can be marked on Little Indy’s map, but still not be identified as such. I mean, yes, you know it’s a spring, but there are a gazillion springs in the Rocky Mountains north of Santa Fe, so you have to solve the poem to identify where the right one lies; hence Forrest saying, “WWWH is the hardest part of the poem to figure out.” Capiche?

After a few more photos of the spring, we headed back to check out the footbridge before hitting the parking lot. Along the way, I noticed a few things I wanted to mention to someone…(please don’t mention this to other searchers, insert smiley face here.)

Look at this next picture. Notice how the sunny side of the river is desert-like with its rocky, sagebrush covered terrain, but the shady side has more trees and is more mountain- like. Is this why Forrest sometimes says “walk out into the desert…” and other times says ”in the mountains…”? This place looked like both.

And although I don’t think this particular section of the canyon is where Fenn’s treasure chest is hidden, I think it is “like” the place where it “could” be hidden. The spring was maybe, at the most, a half mile from the parking lot at the hatchery. Look at the path…easy, not dangerous. Take your kids and let them play in the water. No wild animals to eat them, you, or your dog. This is CNF land…so not private property as long as you don’t jump that fence. No one pointing a gun in your face because you are trespassing on their land. The road to the hatchery is open all year long since fishermen fish the river year round. (Remember, Fenn originally thought he was going to die where he hid the chest. Would he limit it to a seasonal place…one where the roads were closed due to snow for 4 months a year?) And, it’s not a busy place crawling with people, but there might be an occasional passer-by, especially if it was summer.

If any readers are freaking out now because I gave away their solve, relax. This particular stretch of canyon was written about and searched to death 4 or 5 years ago. I didn’t discover it … some earlier searchers used the tailing ponds and Pope Lake as their solutions. I prefer using an actual warm spring as my warm water. But, IMO, this is not the right one.

By the time we reached the truck, it was after 1:00 but still enough daylight to drive into the town of Red River and continue our exploration of the river itself. As I approached the Moly Mine on Rt38, I stared at the movement ahead… Holy smokes, after dozens of times driving through this area, I was finally going to see the mountain sheep. I parked along my side of the highway, turned off the engine, and watched, and took photos, and watched some more. I was in awe… Molly was not. After a quick glance, she curled up in the passenger seat and took a nap.

I hated leaving the sheep but had an agenda I wanted to finish. So on we went…into the town of Red River, a sleepy little old western ski town, a dot on the northern stretch of the Enchanted Circle.

I made our usual stop at the City Park, a dog-friendly place with dog-friendly accessories, namely poop bags and a trash can to put them in. Molly wandered aimlessly whereever her nose took her, dragging her leash behind her with nose on the ground on the scent of those noisy squirrels. Molly LOVES squirrels…coming here is a treat…we do not have squirrels at home. I used this time to call Michelle and see if she’d look on the Red River city webcam to

see if she could see us. She saw the truck and we discovered there is about a 20 second delay. Why does any of this matter? It doesn’t…but with Michelle directing me to point to align my arm in a direct path to the web camera, I found where it is located. On a pole above the Town Hall building. See the arrows pointing to it in the second picture below. (Slurbs, that black arrow is for you, my dear friend…I want all color-blind searchers to see what I see!)

We continued east on Main Street at the far end of town, going straight where the main road Hwy 38 bore off to the left. Even though this stretch followed the Red River, there was soon so much snow, I knew we would not be hiking to find any more warm water springs.

We did continue to the end of Rt 578, and I stopped to take an occasional picture or 12. I was amazed at the snow depth where the plows made snow banks along the pavement that were 8 feet high. It was a beautiful valley, even more so this day with the snow-covered terrain.

On the way back through Red River, we stopped at the Dairy Bar for a bite to eat. Then mosied on home the 3 hours or so it takes to make the drive.

If you’d like to see more pictures of our day, click on this link:

If you looked at the pictures, you can see the snow is really deep when you approach the end of Rt 578. This is where so many good trailheads begin, trails we used to backpack up to Lost Lake, Horseshoe Lake, Middle Fork Lake, Wheeler Peak the long way many years ago, trails that take fishermen to their special places. Might there be warm water springs along any of these trails or forks of the Red? I don’t know…there aren’t any tiny circles on my map. Will I hike these trails, walk along these streams, search for Fenn’s treasure here? Probably. Will I wait until May when the snow has melted from the last shady spot on these trails? Hardly! I will pack my snow shoes the next trip!

Cheers!
Cynthia and Molly…

A Tribute to Frank Abel…

SUBMITTED NOVEMBER 2016
by Cynthia

 

I first met Frank at Collected Works Bookstore in Santa Fe the middle of October, 2013. We were both there to meet Forrest and listen to him talk about his new book, Too Far to Walk. The store was milling with people… I knew no one, but took a seat in the first row below the stage where a chair and microphone had been placed for Forrest. Frank sat down beside me, and we began chatting. As I look back, I recall it was an instant friendship. You know, sometimes you meet someone and immediately like them…no particular reason that you can pinpoint. When Forrest finished speaking, we hung out together, met Forrest, had our pictures taken with him, and made plans to go on a treasure hunt together the following year. He was from the Phoenix area and made two trips a year to New Mexico to search.

Fast forward to July 2014. Frank had studied his maps throughout the winter and had some good ideas about where we should go. I was accompanying him; I was his partner but I had agreed to go with him whereever he chose. We headed to San Pedro Parks Wilderness where there were plenty of waterfalls (heavy loads, water high). We found a few but never did find Echo Falls and planned to meet again the following day and hike the fishing streams in the Valles Caldera.

The biddies behind the desk that morning were not friendly for two people carrying large cameras and asking for permits to go to the fishing streams. They said there were no vacancies…we tried to get a hiking permit. Nada, not that day. I knew the area well so drove to the Las Conchas Trailhead (outside the Valles Caldera boundary) where the plan was to walk back that canyon to Alamo Bog.

image1-small

Frank and I didn’t find Fenn’s treasure trove that day, but I think those couple days together were the bonding moments for us. I realized that day what a real trooper he was…he was about to turn 72 years old the following month and had just had a second hip replacement a few months prior and still had the determination to get out into the wilderness and smell the sunshine.

Three years have passed since our first meeting at the bookstore. He and I searched at least half a dozen times, spent several days together making my movie in July 2015, attended two Fennborees, and chatted anxiously on the phone once a month or more, catching each other up on our daily activities but mostly discussing where we’d search next.

The last time I saw Frank was in Santa Fe in July where Sacha and I had met him and his wife at La Fonda for drinks and dinner. Over the course of the evening, Sacha and I made plans to attend the Santa Fe Opera and tried talking Frank into going with us. It was comical listening to Frank deliver all his excuses why he couldn’t go…mostly because he hated operas. None of us knew then the horrible news that would be delivered to Frank in late September…he had stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

I received this horrible, extremely disturbing news just last month…his wife left a message on my voice mail that Frank was not doing well, and we needed to talk, not voice-message, not email. We finally connected…it was not good.

Over the course of the next three weeks, I thought of Frank constantly. I wanted to call him but didn’t know if he wanted to talk. I wanted to email him but didn’t know what to write. Finally, Sunday night I decided I absolutely had to send him an email and reach out to him…to let him know I cared, thought of him constantly, and was here if he wanted to talk or write to vent to me…I mean, if I thought I was healthy only to hear I had pancreatic cancer, I would be MAD. I would need someone to vent to, to cuss to…

I received an immediate reply from his wife…Frank had passed away five days prior. I was devastated…

So, Frank, if you can “see” this… I am so sorry I never made more effort to call you… I didn’t think you’d be able to understand my words through my tears.

I am so sorry I never made myself email you… I didn’t think I could find the right words to console you.

But mostly, I am so sorry I never got to say good-bye. You were a true friend, a fellow Fenn-treasure hunter who believed in Forrest and the adventure he created for the Indiana Jones in all of us.

Frank was surrounded by family when he passed away. Hopefully, he is now hanging out with his younger daughter who died in a car crash a few days after her 16th birthday, many decades ago. Maybe he’s sharing his search stories with Randy, or Renelle…
All I know for sure is that he will be missed!
Here is a link to a brief tribute to Frank:
https://vimeo.com/192652540

Fennboree 2016

Frank with Forrest at Fennboree 2016

Peace!
Cynthia

Angel Fire Loop Tour…

SUBMITTED NOVEMBER 2016
by CYNTHIA

 

11-09-2016 (Day after Presidential election)

I awoke this morning and immediately checked the news…the election results were confirmed from nervously watching the results on the news last night before retiring. This morning’s immediate financial reaction was stocks were dipping, pesos hit a record low, and the value of gold was soaring. Wait a minute! What? Did this mean I should go searching for Fenn’s chest filled with 20.2 troy pounds of gold. YES. YES…but where to go? I didn’t have time to research the poem and come up with new solves. So I stood here in my library perusing the giant wall map of the Carson National Forest and the Enchanted Circle.

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I hate to admit that I’m really stuck on this general vicinity, and I’m not ready to completely rule it out as the location of Fenn’s hidden treasure trove. Having spent a lot of time lately researching place names to match his clues in Scrapbook 107, I can’t forget the name on the envelope…U Puceet. Is Fenn saying “up-you-see-it”? Is he telling us to look up…like at a nest? Like at an eagle’s nest? Hmmm…ever since he ruled out that WWWH is not a dam, most searchers stopped going to Eagle Nest, but could it mean something else? Is this still the road less traveled?

I grabbed my backpack, put Molly in the truck, and texted Michelle that I was going on a “drive”…I wasn’t sure exactly where I was headed but Eagle Nest would be on the itinerary and I wouldn’t be home before dark. I have really tired of the “low” road to Taos as well as the “high road to Taos” so decided on I-25 and the Santa Fe Trail once again. The best thing about going that way is stopping in Las Vegas for breakfast… I found the first two treasures of my morning at Pedro’s on Grand Street. A personal-size pineapple upside down cake and a peach-filled Danish, to go. The nice lady behind the counter wrapped them up and put them in a sack which I immediately placed beneath the seat to keep Molly’s drool from landing on it. We’d partake of one of them after the next stop… Charlie’s Bakery and Café on Douglas Ave where I picked up a bag of freshly made tortillas that I would take home.

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Eating at Charlie’s has always been a treat, too, as it is a “special place” in itself. This next picture is for Forrest… I think I once heard that he likes eclairs.

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Back to the truck I went and exchanged the pack of tortillas for Molly. I figured by now she might need a potty break and I wasn’t sure where or when the next stop would be. The walk in the weeds behind the parking lot was successful, and now it was time to eat one of those delicious-looking goodies. I shared the Danish with her… she snapped each bite from my fingers like a hungry pirannha. Then off we went again, my fingers still intact…into the wild blue yonder of northern New Mexico.

I decided to stay on the Santa Fe Trail once again. I really like the idea of Fenn using the poem to lead us from his house to the treasure. Wouldn’t it be funny if the dotted line indicating the Santa Fe Tail on this monument is right? I mean this could be a roadmap to Fenn’s gold!

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Traveling north on Hwy518, I stopped long enough to take a picture of Hermit Peak…from the east this time, looking west AT it.

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The rolling hills of the highlands and plains to the east of me were just as bucolic. The green fields were fading into their winter brown but still magnificent. I wondered if the driver of the lone truck on the rightside of below photo would agree.

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By now I had pretty much made up my mind to do a HUGE loop “tour”. I continued north on 518 to Mora, a fairly small community who earlier settlers called San Antonio de lo de Mora, or “stopping place”. Maybe warm waters halt there as well. Regardless, for anyone interested, look up Mora in The Place Names of New Mexico…there are about half a dozen clues from the poem that fit this area. I found this road plaque on the way to Mora in the picture below interesting. Who knew? I mean about the sandstone “hogbacks”…

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I had been through the Mora Valley once prior in a treasure search to reach the upper Pecos Wilderness by way of the Rio la Casa to Walker Flats.

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What I remembered most were all the little pink houses…as John Cougar Mellencamp put it,

“Ain’t that America, home of the free, yeah
Little pink houses for you and me…”

How appropriate for this particular day! I rolled down my window to take pictures of a few of these little pink houses…I could smell the wood smoke from their fires used to warm the cool morning air.

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Soon I entered the village of Cleveland made famous by its Roller Mill Museum. I did not stop at the mill this trip…I was on a mission. I did stop and take a couple pictures of the old Cassidy & Sons Country Store. This was where I needed to turn and follow the Rio la Casa to Walker Flats, and had a most difficult time finding this building. I mean the building was easy to find…it was the faded name that was difficult to see.

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I continued north and in a few more miles came to an even smaller village named Holman. Then I saw this road sign in the picture below. Holy crap, I had missed my turn-off for Rt434 in Mora to get to Angel Fire. I chuckled and made an immediate u-turn.

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Well, hell, I missed the turn onto Rt434 again and I was looking for it. Did fate just hand me four cards and a joker…should I turn around and go home? Was this an omen for something menacing about to happen? Screw it, I turned around once again and this time turned onto 434! I smiled, looked at Molly, and admitted I really wasn’t paying close enough attention to the details, apparently. She wagged her tail…not seeming to care.

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In a few miles I was passing the Alpaca Farm…once again, I just stopped in my lane, rolled down the window, and snapped away. This is one of the best things about parts of New Mexico, as well as the other three treasure states…there just ain’t much traffic once you leave the city!

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I continued north on the increasingly narrow, twisting road, the broad pastural valley filled with cows and alpacas giving way to the steeper sides of forest as we made our way to Coyote Creek State Park. It was time to stretch our legs and use the bathroom. Oh, there’s a sign there saying you have to pay the $5 daily use fee just to use the toilet… this time, I think NOT. We were like stealths…stretched our legs, took care of business, and moved on.

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In a mile we reached the forewarned road construction. I didn’t mind as I chatted with Javier holding the “STOP” sign and marvel gazed at the big-people Tonka toys. I wanted to drive this one…I bet it could help find Fenn’s treasure.

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Finally the “stop” sign twisted to “slow”, and on Molly and I went, following Coyote Creek and climbing in elevation as we made our way to the top of the plateau. As we crested the hill, the trees thinned and gave way to this… Wheeler Peak standing majestically off in the distance, the Sange de Cristo range filling the horizon… breath-taking.

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So many pictures still to be taken. The entrance to the Angel Fire Country Club…

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Deer crossing the street in Angel Fire during the middle of the afternoon…this is why I drive with my camera on my lap.

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It was painfully slow driving through Angel Fire as the deer gave way to a few slow-moving vehicles in front of me. I impatiently drummed on the steering wheel, trying to move them faster. By now it was 2:30 and I still had probably 20 miles until I got to Maverick Trail where I planned to walk to the Falls with Molly. JeremyP had posted a really good solve in this area…I really like Touch-Me-Not Mountain.

The slow-pokes turned west and off I zoomed now that I was on Hwy 64. I blazed through Eagle Nest, climbed the hill, and entered Cimarron Canyon State Park, another fee area. I quickly made our way past the Palisades stopping to take a few pictures…

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…. drove into the Maverick Creek Campground where we walked to the creek and pond and then on to the parking area at the Trailhead to Maverick Falls. I had never hiked this trail and there were 2 choices…the narrow one beside the big sign that said Maverick Trail, and the one with the chain saying “closed”. I opted for the narrow one. It was mid-afternoon, the day-light seemed to be dimming. This is a fairly steep canyon so the light was giving way to dusk, or so it seemed. I hated this trail from the initial climb up the steep bank. The soft golden leaves of autumn had gotten brown and brittle and slippery, and made the trail more obscure than I liked. I had no GPS co-ordinates and wasn’t positive this was the way to the Falls. Thank God I had Molly on a leash as she hauled my butt up over that embankment. There certainly was no way Forrest climbed up and down this trail with the chest and then the treasure. We went a bit farther since it leveled off but I still had a bad feeling about going any farther this late in the afternoon. A few pictures more, and we turned around. I decided to follow what I thought was the old-logging road now overgrown with vegetation down the hillside that was so miserable climbing up. I figured it would come out where the chain crossed the other “choice”. Well, I was wrong…this trail seemed to end in low-growing shrubs that I easily navigated but it was harder for Molly to bushwhack through. Finally, we reached the truck…

I was hungry so figured Molly must be too…I dug the second of the breakfast treasures out from beneath the seat. I gave Molly bites of the cake while I ate the pineapple slice smothered in a buttery brown sugar glaze, topped with candied pecan pieces and a maraschino cherry in the center. It was delicious, and the perfect mood-enhancer, after that miserable hike.

I was in great spirits again…maybe there was rum in that tasty pastry but I didn’t think so. There was still no traffic as we made our way east towards Ute Park and Cimarron, probably a good thing as I held my 35 mm Nikon up to my face and snapped pictures through the windshield as I drove. Some came out good, others not so much.

I love Cimarron for all sorts of reasons…the giant sign on each end of town says it is “Where the Rockies meet the Plains.” I concur…it also has old and new historical districts, but best of all, it is home to the St. James Hotel, a place where Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett and other old-western outlaws spent the night. It is also HAUNTED…supposedly. I stayed there once in one of the haunted rooms. Even got up at the witching hour 2 or 3 am, I forget, and tried to find ghosts and spirits, nada. But we did end up with a reflection of a guy in a mirror slinking sideways in the corner of the bar. The next day when we looked in the bar…there was no mirror. Pretty cool…can’t wait to go back.

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We continued south on Rt21 through the sprawling Philmont Scout Ranch, where deer were abundant. I rolled the windows down so Molly could enjoy the wildlife viewing…she understands the word “animals” and seemed to enjoy the first hundred. I enjoyed every last one of them.

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We were still on the Santa Fe Trail, and there were frequent signs to remind us. The Philmont Scout Ranch would be a perfect place to search for Fenn’s treasure chest, if it weren’t the Philmont Scout Ranch…private property. So many good clues here, and I especially like the Tooth-of-Time land formation and ridge. What if the word-that-is-key is “Time”…what if that is how we unlock the clues in the poem?

On we went to Rayado where this is one of my favorite non-clues but should defintely be a clue…I mean, look at this. EX spells “X” and there are two upside down omegas.

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We passed by the few buildings comprising Rayado, made our way through Miama, and on to Springer where we hopped up onto I-25 for the ride home.

The orange-ish sky was now fading to twilight and the horizon was a dark silhouette to the southwest. I could make out the outlines of numerous antelope along the fence to the west.
The night sky gradually increased in size as the daylight faded to black…

There was almost no traffic between Springer and Las Vegas. The half-moon blazed out my side window and there was a planet as bright as any star in front of me…it looked like a starburst in the shape of a cross. Patsy Cline softly sang Crazy through the radio…Molly slept on her pillow in the backseat. It was a time to reflect…

I thought about all the people who waved or nodded their head when I passed by today…was it because I drive a pickup truck and look like a local, or were they unusually happy? Were they as elated to have the acrimonious campaigns over as I was? The vitriolic spewing of words during Sunday NFL football was almost enough to make me stop watching until the election was over. But I was totally calm now…driving is soothing to me, and it worked. Regardless of ones political persuasion or convictions, I think John Cougar Mellencamp still has it right…

“Ain’t that America, home of the free, yeah
Little pink houses for you and me…”

Eleven hours, 400 plus miles, and 200 photographs later, Molly and I made it home. We are resting comfortably in front of our juniper fire…oh wait, it was Forrest that said that. We are just resting comfortably, happy to be home, and happy to be living in America!

To see more pictures, click on this link:
https://cmeachum.smugmug.com/Angel-Fire-Loop-Drive

Peace!

Cynthia and Molly

 

As I Have Gone Alone in There…Hermit Peak…

SUBMITTED NOVEMBER 2016
by CYNTHIA

 

Another search season is rapidly coming to an end. I’ve been so busy searching for others at their locations that I feel like I’ve neglected myself. This would be extremely bothersome to me, but no. Here it is the second day of November and our temperatures remain unseasonably warm. I knew today would be a good opportunity for Molly and me to take a road trip…a reconnaisance of sort to a new place for me, a new road, a new trail, a new mountain peak. The biggest problem…finding a destination that is new to me but still north of Santa Fe. With each previous search trip and special place scratched off the map of potential search areas, it’s getting harder and harder for me to find that new road.

As I pondered my dilemma, I thought of Chris the math teacher and his logic that the poem starts at Forrest’s house. (Chris is the guy who creates detailed, difficult scavenger hunts.) Maybe he’s right, but the poem needs to lead us from there… I remembered the comment by a guy on one of the blogs. He said “ the word halve sounds like have, so the first line could read ‘As I halve gone” which translates to halve the word ‘gone’ which means go…ne. Go northeast. This works…from Fenn’s old wagon I would take the Santa Fe Trail northeast. But now where?

image1As I perused my maps of the Santa Fe National Forest, I remembered seeing a road plaque for Hermit Peak on my way up Rt518 to Walker Flats. Hmmm, “Hermit” Peak…As I have gone (go northeast) alone (Hermit) in there.

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It works…Hermit Peak sits 20 miles NW of Las Vegas, New Mexico in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Molly and I made our way up I-25 to Las Vegas where we took the exit for Montezuma…an equally interesting settlement, with a HOT SPRINGS, a potential place where warm water halts (where the multiple hot springs empty into the cold water of Gallinas Creek.) The only problem…this area is extremely popular, and all private property. We stopped, regardless.

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After taking a few photos of the “baths” and creek, back in the truck we went and on up the canyon we traveled, winding our way along Rt65 into the unknown…new territory to me.
It was beautiful!

image4As we approached the tiny community of Gallinas, I enjoyed the various styles of architecture along the river…

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… as well as the well-fed horses in the pastures.

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And like many small communities in New Mexico, there are the tidy places…

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…as well as the not-so-tidy places.

Gallinas was no different.

But the scenery soon turned stunning as Hermit Peak came into view… a glorious monolith off in the distance.

image9image10We soon came to an intersection where Rt65 split from the soon-to-be dirt roads which headed into Gallinas Canyon or Johnson Mesa. I had choices and had no idea which one would lead me to the treasure. We proceeded straight ahead.

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Molly and I first stopped at Oak Flats, a small day-use area along the Gallinas Creek. We discovered a deep fishing pool along a rock wall, which would have been “special” if it hadn’t have been so close to the picnic table and pile of litter beneath. What the hell is wrong with so many outdoor recreationists that they have to litter EVERYWHERE? The only extremely clean, litter-free public land I ever see is in our National Parks. I’m always amazed!

After stretching our legs a bit, we turned around and headed back the way we came. But instead of going to El Porvenir, I decided to take a right on FR156 towards Johnson Mesa, just to see what was beyond the curve. Almost immediately was EV Long Campground, where we once again walked down to the creek and splashed in the water, and took even more photos.

Then finally, I turned back onto Rt65 and headed northwest towards El Porvenir, not knowing what was coming. Some of the camps and homes were quite nice for being out in the boonies, and some were not. One had a “bridge” in drastic need of repair. I thought of the line in the poem “From there it’s no place for the meek”… and then I saw Hermit Peak…so majestic, and now closer than I’d ever been.
image12It wasn’t long until we arrived at the turnout/parking area for the Hermit Peak Trailhead. We exited the truck and walked to the bridge crossing Beaver Creek, only to see a sign that said DO NOT use…it had been damaged by a flood or debris. I stopped but Molly waded across the creek. When I called for her to come back to the truck, she came trotting across the bridge…no worries, she had not read the warning so she didn’t know.

image13We drove to the actual El Porvenir Campground where once again we got out and stretched our legs. We found the same trail to Hermit Peak but did not have time to hike it. Maybe next year…

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On the way back to Montezuma, we stopped at a dam/reservoir place and took a few more pictures before heading home.

Upon returning home, I checked the latitude of the northern limit of Santa Fe versus the area where we spent the day. Unfortunately, Las Vegas, Montezuma, the hot springs, El Porvenir, even Hermit peak, none of these places are 8.25 miles north of the northern limit of Santa Fe so none of them meet the necessary criteria to make it a viable search spot. Even so, after 7 hours and 300 miles, it was still another great day. It was not a day spent in pursuit of Fenn’s treasure …it was a day spent in pursuit of mine.

More pictures if you want to see them:
CLICK HERE

Cynthia-

 

 

 

The Math Teacher…

SUBMITTED july 2016
by CYNTHIA

 

Honestly, I needed a break after Fennboree and the recent media projects. I was worn out both physically and mentally. I swore I was going to take a month off from anything Fenn treasure related….no researching, no BOTG searches, no media, limited blog time. Then I received an email from a guy in North Carolina…said he’d just heard of Fenn and his hidden treasure chest a week prior… did a little research, figured out where the chest is located, and then found my email address. He wondered if I’d be his guide to retrieve the treasure chest… my payment was half the treasure. I smiled as I read his words… not because of his assumed new wealth, but because he was totally new to this and so confident.

Chris explained he is a math teacher who lives and teaches in Spain but was ending a 3-month visit with his aging parents in North Carolina. He only had 10 days before he had to head back to Spain, so if I agreed, it’d have to be soon. My calendar was empty, and I had to admit I was intrigued…I liked the idea of searching with a math teacher…probably had a very straightforward, logical approach to solving the poem. Plus he was a new guy to everything…no scrapbooks or blogs to taint his thinking. He sent me a picture of him rock climbing in Spain…I decided if he was fit enough for that sport, he wouldn’t die on me up on some mountain top. I replied, ok and asked what he had in mind. Within minutes, he sent me his flight itinerary…my God, he was arriving in Albuquerque late the next day.

The following morning we met early at the rendezvous point in Bernalillo where he showed me on a map the location where he was sure the trove resided…Burned Mountain just a tad southeast of Hopewell Lake which is along Hwy 64 in the Carson National Forest 20 miles west of Tres Piedras.

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I was ecstatic…I had driven across this high mountain scenic byway prior but had never searched this area. So basically, I was about to set out on an adventure, to me at least, which involved seeing new places and driving on new-to-me dirt roads. I was thrilled…

He had no lodging plans so I suggested the first stop should be the Chili Line Depot in Tres Piedras where he could check-out the place for supplies, groceries, maybe lodging…There was nothing else in that triangulated area between Ojo Caliente, Taos, or Chama / Abiquiu.

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I could tell he was antsy…after all, he knew where that chest lay in wait and he wanted to head west to get it. But I had one request before we left the Chili Line Depot parking lot…a quick picture of him and his rental car license plate which I would text to my family and friends because they all said… “What the hell is wrong with you? Going out into the wilderness for 4 days with a stranger!” I know… I got the picture…Ted Bundy’s face flashed through my mind. He also was good-looking, charming, and smart…and a serial killer!

I shot the photo, texted it to my family, and off we went to retrieve Fenn’s chest, Chris in his rental, Molly and me in the pickup. Chris followed me through the campground at Hopewell Lake to scout out a potential site to spend the night, and then I let him take the lead. He parked at a spot off FR91B, right on the curve that he felt was the closest spot to his GPS co-ordinates high up Burned Mountain. We both grabbed our packs, and off we went, him in the lead using his iPad to navigate, then Molly and me bushwhacking through the tall grass and weeds not far behind.

There was no trail anywhere leading up the slope to the summit of Burned Mountain…in my mind, I knew this was a good thing…you know, “no human trail in very close proximity”…I didn’t let on. This was Chris’ solve…

03I had decided from the get-go I was not going to interfere or make suggestions…I was the guide, of sorts, not the Fenn-treasure-hunting expert I believe I am. LOL! (Every reader should be laughing out loud or at least smiling now at my mention of my skills, or lack there of.)

We saw a lot of trees that looked like this…Chris asked me what made the scratch marks? I didn’t know…maybe animals with antlers, or bears with large claws, pissed off aliens, Fenn searchers making false blazes trying to mislead…I stayed silent because I really didn’t know.

04We arrived at the exact GPS location where the chest should have been hidden…It was in a portion of forest that looked like everything else surrounding us. Nothing special, not even anything “different”. At least we were “in the wood”, but that was little consolation to Chris…I understood that look of disappointment…I’d experienced it, and I’d seen it on others’ faces. I asked if we could still climb to the summit, since we were near…the map said Burned Mt is at 10,192 (maybe that’s why Fenn picked 10200 ft as the upper limit…hmmm.) The top was covered in large rocks that looked like an old landslide, but that wasn’t possible since we were on the top. It made no difference, but there sure were a lot of hidey spots there.

05 Chris went exploring while Molly and I took a water break and ate a snack. He found a “pit” that was 12 feet across and 20 feet deep. All I could think of was the pit in the Silence of the Lambs where the girl was held captive. Geeze, maybe I watch too many movies.

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When he returned, he suggested we go find the meadow that showed up like a large triangle on GE. It was just below and east of his “spot”. It was beautiful…lush with vegetation, a few summer wildflowers, and surrounded by aspen groves. I told him that was my treasure for the day…this is what searching for Fenn’s treasure is all about. I doubt that he agreed, at least not that early on in his 6-day trip to New Mexico.

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I asked him more questions about his solutions to the poem…he said he thinks Fenn started at his home and the poem goes north from Santa Fe. The first place he saw where warm waters halt is Ojo Caliente, not the actual spa but the river itself…where the Ojo Caliente enters or “halts” at the Chama River north of Espanola. And even though the poem says “and take it in the canyon down”, the journey continues northward. We agreed on one thing…Fenn may have found his “special place” when he was fly-fishing decades ago. The Rio Vallecitos is near; Placer Creek flows into Hopewell Lake and out below the dam. The area is beautiful, not that far from Santa Fe, and not so heavily used.

We made our way back to our vehicles…Molly led, dragging me behind her, and then Chris followed. It was mid-afternoon…I had to leave to take Molly home. Chris and I made plans to meet in Espanola the next morning, and ride together from there.

He ended up going to Hopewell Lake then hiking down Placer Creek to Long Canyon, then up the Continental Divide Trail, roughly northwest, stopping where it doglegs around back to the road. The next morning, he excitedly told me he saw an amazing meadow and a fox…Ok, I thought to myself, now he is starting to get “it”…

Day two began bright and early…as I drove, he navigated, and talked…a lot. I asked him again about the poem. To understand his thinking and solutions I first had to understand him. He explained he loves scavenger hunts, and spent weeks creating scavenger hunts for others…I mean, really detailed hunts that were difficult but solvable. He felt Fenn’s poem had to be created along the same line of thinking…straightforward, not obtuse. The whole idea is for it to be solved…so Fenn wasn’t going to throw in red herrings or use words that you have to decode, decipher, or unscramble. Each word means what it means, only there are multiple meanings for words, hence the puzzle. He felt he understood Fenn’s spirit of engagement and that you must read the poem and think of it from his perspective. The poem is a journey, and the whole poem is awesome, starting from Santa Fe. The headwaters for the Ojo Caliente and Chama Rivers yield canyons and valleys and some of the most spectacular fishing in northern New Mexico, and his home of Brown was a specific fishing hole known by local fishermen as THE place to catch the Browns. OK, now I understood…

He directed me off Hwy 285 onto SR111, where we continued north through La Madera (which translates to “the wood”), through the tiny wooded hamlet of Vallecitos, and onto forest road 274 bearing northwest just beyond Cańon Plaza. I was ecstatic because I was now driving on a new dirt road through a beautiful narrow valley along the Rio Vallecitos. I thought it was spectacular…we parked at a small turnoff immediately after crossing a bridge over the creek, then made our way to the water. The plan was to walk upstream, along the bank, looking for a fishing hole that could be considered the home of Brown. His idea of contacting a local fly-fisherman who would already know this location was a good idea but too late for our use. We had to find the hoB ourselves. It’s debatable whether or not the “trail” we followed along the bank was human or not. It wasn’t much of a trail but we guessed a few fishermen had probably trampled that same path.
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When we ran out of bank to walk on, Chris decided to wade further upstream to see what was around the next bend. I gave him one of my trekking poles, and off he went…

As I sat waiting patiently on a giant boulder, my legs dangling out over the stream, I soaked in the beauty of the day… the blue sky, the green trees, the entire area, the circumstances… I mean, my God, I’ve been searching for Fenn’s treasure for 3 and a half years, and I’m still enthralled with new places to see. I hoped that by the time Chris left New Mexico and the search, he’d know and understand The Thrill of the Chase…

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Chris returned without finding the home of Brown so back to the car we went. I suggested taking FR44 from Vallecitos south to the village of El Rito, and hiking back to Potrero Falls on the way. I had searched this particular area a couple years ago and wanted to show him a few of my solutions. Near the top of the ridge sat Valle Grande Peak with its seeping spring, the water trickling down into the Rincon de Tio Francisquito Basin. Not far but too far to walk from there was the turn back to the trail leading to Potrero Falls, my heavy loads and water high.
It was a short 10-minute walk through the shady woods to the falls. No cascades of water this day, only a small fall at the bottom. Nevertheless it was a nice respite from sitting in the car and a chance to stretch our legs.

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I explained that when I searched this area a couple years ago, I had scrambled up the boulders along the cascading water falls to the top, where I
discovered a lush meadow filled with wild flowers. It reminded me of Forrest’s Vietnam waterfall story, where he “paid my debt to the waterfall and the magic clearing to which I felt so obligated.”
After leaving the falls, we stopped at the El Rito District Ranger Station to ask questions and try to get any information that could be helpful in identifying THE home of Brown. Both rangers behind the desk were amiable and talkative. Before entering, I had warned Chris not to mention Fenn or the treasure. (Last month I had stopped at the Camino Real District Station in Penasco to pick up a map…the lady behind the desk was friendly until she asked what brought me to her neck of the woods, and I replied Fenn’s treasure. She rolled her eyes and walked away…well, screw her, I thought at the time.) I asked these rangers what was the source for Potrero Falls? It couldn’t be snowmelt or rainwater entirely as the early summer rains were minimal. I wondered if it was a spring…they didn’t know. Chris asked about fishing, especially for Browns. It was suggested we try the Rio El Rito all the way up the canyon on FR110, as long as we stayed off the private land. She also mentioned Fifteen Springs, way up in a high alpine meadow northeast of Canjilon Lakes, north of our current location. (Not for fishing but to see the springs.) She warned the 3-mile drive back to the springs was undriveable in an automobile but we might be able to drive it in the FJ Cruiser. (I swear much of this 4-day adventure should have been an advertisement for Toyota.)

Off we went again…along the El Rito, driving through the forest canopy, stopping, and wading once to check it out. I think we both agreed this stream just didn’t seem “right”.

11When we got to the tee in the road we headed west toward Canjilon to visit the Rio Canjilon, and it seemed even smaller. We didn’t even get out. But the drive across the ridges and higher alpine meadows was pretty with cooler temperatures…it was green, there were cows to gaze at, and it was 73º versus the high 90ºs in Santa Fe and Espanola.

12The day ended with me giving Chris my extra copy of Forrest’s Memoirs TTOTC…he had never read the book, and I thought it might help him. He read it in his hotel room that night…

The third morning started with breakfast at the Abiquiu Inn where we met Desertphile. I had emailed him the day before to see if he would be available, and to my amazement, he was. He brought maps to give us, pointed to the hot springs at the edge of the Chama River where a potential hoB might be, and talked freely to both of us about his solutions to the poem, as well as sharing data he had collected regarding water temperatures, and such. Before we realized it, they were nudging us out the front door…my God it was noon!

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David went his way, and we went ours. Chris talked about how after reading TTOTC, it seemed more likely Fenn would have hidden the chest in the YNP area. I agreed that the book makes a compelling argument to head that direction.

We drove north to Chama, found the Rita Chamita creek, shook our heads no, and headed back south. The day was sort of shot by now but we still wanted to explore.

We headed back the rutted road to Fifteen Springs…not to find Fenn’s treasure but to find mine. You know…some place new…a place painted green, with cooler temperatures…it was all of those things. We were over 10,200 ft and it was 71º.

Chris and I walked around and through the swamp cabbage looking for the 15 springs… they were mostly dried up. He saw a deer run from the edge into the aspen grove…he hollered to me and pointed.

14We made our way through the ruts back to the forest road…I could see trees, I could see mountains, I could see animals. Then we headed to the Chama River…

15Once again, this was not actually the spot to look for the treasure chest…it was more of a recon for Chris in case he wanted to come back here the next day or two and search the spot Desertphile pointed out that morning.

16Chris thought about swimming across the river and hanging from a ledge for a photo…
I cautioned against it.

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The next morning was my last…He talked a lot about structure…how logically the poem’s solution would begin where warm waters halt where they enter a cold stream. That’s the canyon you “and take it in the canyon down,”; from there you have to drive “Not far, but too far to walk.” That’s where you find the confluence of a side creek and “put in below the home of Brown”, a place that’s noted for it’s Brown trout. Then you go up this side canyon, you know, “there’ll be no paddle up your creek”, etc etc. He handed me the sheet of paper with his drawing of this structured journey he spoke of. It looked identical to something I’d drawn 3 years ago when I seriously started this chase… me and hundreds of others…

He agreed to let me take the lead this final morning and show him one of my structured solves…I posted it on Dal’s site a couple years ago, under the name The Slide Trail.

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We started the journey hiking down to Manby Hot Springs, north of Taos. In the short time it took to descend to the hot springs, it appeared there were already folks soaking there. They may have been un-clothed…we maintained our distance. From there, we drove all the way back down along the Rio Grande canyon to the Orilla Verde area where we made our way to the Slide Trail and confluence of the Rio de Pueblo and parked. From there we made a short hike part way up the trail until we got to the slide. Just on the north side of it was a small box canyon off to the right, filled with shade trees and boulders. I suggested we go back there and take a look…it was only 200 feet to the end of the box, and I couldn’t remember how thoroughly I’d checked it prior. Chris thought it didn’t look “special” enough to be Forrest’s special place. I agreed but emphatically replied none of us know what is special to Forrest…In my opinion, if you are in an area with any possibility, you search it before you leave it! My tone was harsh, and I felt guilty afterwards…oops, I was supposed to only be his guide, not throw my opinions in his face. Sorry, Chris!

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Fenn’s treasure chest was not found…we quietly returned to the car, then made our final drive together to his car in Espanola. We hugged good-bye…

As I made the 2-hr drive home, I contemplated our journey together. I had driven over 200 miles each day…I saw places I’d never have seen otherwise…I enjoyed listening to his ideas about solving Fenn’s poem…I learned a lot about rock-climbing…I learned David’s secrets…but most importantly, I had fun. I worried whether or not Chris felt the same. I felt responsible for him…I had been his guide.

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Chris emailed me from the airport Saturday morning as he waited to board. Along with sending thanks, he talked about his last day in New Mexico and his long hike up to Wheeler Peak via the Middle Fork Lake and Lost Lake Trails. He said, “it was awesome, but I was destroyed afterwards.” Is that like saying, “I’ve done it tired and now I’m weak?” Absolutely…

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Standing on top Wheeler Peak (picture from my archives 2015)

If anyone wants to see more pictures of Chris and his search journey, go to this link:

https://cmeachum.smugmug.com/Fenn-Treasure-Search-with

-Cynthia

 

La Caja Pueblo Ruins – Final Chapter…

SUBMITTED May 2016
by CYNTHIA

 

Continued from Part Three…

It was January when I last published Part Three about searching La Caja Pueblo Ruins. I was still trying to get to the “Imaginary Line” where the Santa Cruz River enters the inlet to Santa Cruz Lake. This area of shoreline, I thought, would be directly below the ruins, my home of Brown.

I made an attempt to access this spot in late February via the Debris Basin Trail. My day was cut short when I found a German Shepard caught in an animal trap just to the side of the trail. She was big and beautiful and timid… her foot was pinched and she couldn’t escape. Eventually, I found help, and she was released, unharmed. I wanted to take her home, but she bolted as soon as she was free.

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In early March I decided to try a different approach. I parked at the gate to the Santa Cruz Lake Overlook Campground and walked back the road. My plan was to walk across the ridge tops to the inlet and look down at the shoreline at this imaginary line. As I ambled along the edge of the road that day, I found a $10 dollar bill lying there. Another five yards and I found a $5 dollar bill, and then a trail of $1 dollar bills…six of them in succession crossing the road to the weeds on the other side. A total of $21, I was thrilled. I mean, ecstatic…you’d think I had found the treasure.

I continued my hike towards the edge of the ridge-top. Before I got to the final spot, I realized this was too difficult for Fenn to have made two trips…I retreated once again.

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The Final Chapter

Here it is the middle of May. Despite being pretty positive by now that Fenn did not hide his treasure chest here, I couldn’t get it out of my head. I had to get to this area to see it for myself.

Plan D: A couple days ago Michelle bought a kayak. I suggested we take it to Santa Cruz Lake for its maiden voyage. I’d drop her off at the boat ramp, where she’d set off and paddle to the opposite shore at the far end of the lake. While she paddled, I’d drive around to the trailhead up by the Overlook Campground, and Molly and I would hike down to the stand of cottonwoods where she would meet us. She agreed.

That night I could barely sleep. I knew, or was at least pretty sure, that I was finally going to get to see the “imaginary line”, both shorelines beneath the La Caja Pueblo Ruins where the inlet meets the river.

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It was a gorgeous May day with no wind…perfect for kayaking. Plan D started off perfectly. Molly watched from the end of the pier as Michelle paddled away.

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It was an eight mile drive from the boat ramp, around the winding road through Cundiyo, and back the dirt road to the Overlook Campground and Trailhead. In less than fifteen minutes, Molly and I were headed down the trail. The Sangre de Cristos stood out on the horizon to the east, still displaying pockets of snow on the Truchas Peaks.

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As Molly and I made our way down the twisting trail, we could see Michelle off in the distance, waiting for us to meet at our destination beneath the stand of cottonwoods.

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Click to enlarge and read text

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Michelle in yellow kayak on right, approaching the shoreline.

ImageExtract-008 Our plan was under way. Michelle was checking the depth of the water along the shoreline. I wanted to wade to the inlet, if possible.

ImageExtract-009 I carefully made my way to the water’s edge as Michelle continued around to the inlet. I removed the bottoms of my pant legs, and exchanged my hiking boots for old, worn- out sandals to wade through the water.

Molly and I waited patiently for Michelle to return and give us the news. Was the water shallow enough the entire way to the inlet to wade along the shoreline? I crossed my fingers as my excitement swelled…

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Michelle returned with bad news. The shallow water soon gave way to really deep- looking water…no wading was possible after about ten yards. I told her to paddle to the inlet and river and asked her to take a lot of pictures, especially the shorelines and bluffs, etc, anything that could be construed as a blaze, or anything that looked like a “special place”.

As she paddled away, I had a good idea…Molly and I would climb up the hillside and cross the ridges on top, and then find a ravine or run-off to get back down to the water’s edge nearer the inlet/river. I was in such a hurry I didn’t bother to put my hiking boots back on. I clutched them in my left hand as I looked for a path upwards.

At first this seemed doable but then the terrain became really steep with scree filling the run-offs that I was trying to climb up. The footing turned treacherous and my feet slid out from under me every few steps. I was even using my hands on the ground as I crawled along and up. I smelled skunk and hoped it was the vegetation and not the animal. I had lost track of Molly and hoped that she didn’t find the skunk, or any rattlesnakes, or anything else. I now was consumed with only my safety as I approached 40 feet up the bluff/hillside and across the first ridge.

Soon I could hear Michelle shouting to me from below…I couldn’t see her but knew she had come back to where we had been. She told me to turn around and go back to the cottonwood stand immediately. She found Molly perched precariously on a crumbly-looking pinnacle 30 feet above her, with only rocks beneath, not even the water. If she fell there, it would be bad.

I wasn’t sure of my retreat path, but decided to try to go down the same ravine of scree I had used to ascend. Almost immediately, my feet went out from under me and I started to slide downward on my knees and elbows…I grabbed a pine tree branch as I slid by but a large rock continued and banged my left ankle…it hurt. Thank goodness the branch was sturdy and stopped my rapid descent. I stood up, sort of and assessed the damage. Abrasions, trace of blood, no broken bones. I turned around and purposely sat down…I would ride down this ravine of scree on my butt. Still holding my hiking boots in my left hand, I began the descent…I thought of Randy. Obsession and over-confidence are probably the worse two traits when we search for Fenn’s treasure. I was ashamed to admit I exhibited both of those this day with my bad decision, even putting Molly at risk.

It wasn’t long until I was at the shoreline, Molly found her way to us, and Michelle landed the kayak so we could come up with another plan. She said she had found a good “special place” that I needed to see. She gave me her life jacket and off I went in her kayak.

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A possible special place

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A name below the red arrow

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Approaching where the river enters the inlet. A rock bluff on one side and a shoreline of thick willows on the opposite shore. Definitely not accessible on foot, IMO.

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I did not exit the kayak and search for Fenn’s treasure chest at the “special place”. There was no way Forrest could have arrived there on foot, and I don’t think he used a boat or kayak or canoe to hide the chest. I paddled away, content that at last I had seen the “imaginary line”.

As Molly and I headed up the trail, I turned around to get one last picture of Santa Cruz Lake. I could see Michelle as a tiny dot in the center of the lake as she paddled towards the boat ramp. It was a bittersweet moment for me. I had made many trips to this area to search for Fenn’s treasure since last October, and now it was over.

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As Michelle and I drove home, we discussed the day’s adventure. Despite the abrasions, bruises, and her accidently rolling out of the kayak into the lake (near the cottonwood stand which was hilarious but unfortunately not captured on video), we all had a great day…no, we had an awesome day!

As I was explaining to her how I was done there and how I’d need to come up with a new search location, a brilliant thought flashed through my brain…what if Forrest …

Cynthia

 

No Child Left Inside

The press release below came today from the office of the Governor of Washington State. It looks like he picked up on Forrest’s belief that it’s a good idea to get kids outside…

Maybe he should consider taking some of that grant money and hiding a couple thousand in each State Park and publishing poems with hints to where it’s hidden  🙂

dal-

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state

April 22, 2016

Contact:  Governor Inslee’s Communications Office

ADVISORY: Inslee to announce statewide No Child Left Inside Grants

 

Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday will announce nearly $1 million in new grants that will help young people get outside and connect with nature and their communities. Inslee will be joined for the announcement by children and educators.

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission will award the grants for programs in 15 counties. This is the first-of-its kind grant program in Washington. No Child Left Inside is the result of legislation passed last year and the grant funding was a recommendation of the governor’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Parks and Outdoor Recreation and the Governor’s Council for the Healthiest Next Generation.

The grants will help more children gain exposure to outdoor activities and supports the governor’s Healthiest Next Generation efforts to help kids be more active.

Monday’s announcement will be held in partnership with Wild Whatcom, an organization that connects kids to nature in lasting and meaningful ways.

When:  Monday, April 25 at 4:10 PM

Where: Northern Heights Elementary School (4000 Magrath Road, Bellingham)

*NOTE: TV and photographers – visuals will include footage of the governor engaging with students outdoors where the school property includes woodlands.

What the Brits Think

John-Kerrison-Profile

“A few seconds ago I tore my trousers trying to climb what could only generously be described as a fairly medium-sized boulder. Shortly before that I’d watched with pathetic abandon as my sunglasses were swept over the edge of a waterfall. I’m now looking at my feet, where a couple of inches from my hiking boots lies what used to be a snake. I can tell that’s what it was because its head is still attached to what might otherwise be mistaken for a rogue spinal cord. I’m beginning to question whether I’m entirely cut out for adventure. Just a week earlier, I was in an office writing about enterprise IT. Now I’m almost 5,000 miles away wondering what kind of animal could strip the flesh from a snake.”

This is the introduction to John Kerrison’s lively story about looking for Forrest’s chest and little green men while on a trip to the USA a few months back.

According to his bio, “John Kerrison is a writer based in Cornwall England. His words have appeared in a range of publications including The Guardian, Sabotage Times, RedBull.com and The Fly — and will continue to do so until he finally finds that treasure.”

Mr. Kerrison is witty and provocative and entirely correct in his assessment of the chase. If you don’t believe I could possibly be correct this time either, then I suggest you read his articles for yourself..

They are linked below, unless aliens have removed them-

Open Road
Adventure Seekers