SUBMITTED DECEMBER 2017
by Diggin Gypsy
Here’s the dilemma. You’ve invested your soul in the Chase… and many thousands of dollars. It has rewarded you with views, experiences, and wildlife encounters to last a lifetime. And yet it has also teased you mercilessly – pushing you to keep going with hints, revelations, and yes, even tires! So often you think that you must have reached the end, but no, there’s yet another stage to complete… and then another. Where and when do you draw the line? I confess that I still don’t know the answer to that question, but eventually, if there really is a chest full of gold, it must reveal itself to the persistent searcher. And that’s why I was out there again, clawing my way toward the end of the rainbow.
Let me remind you.
In my search, the “asterisk” marks the start point of the Chase. It lies a little way from another marker that reveals the essence of the trajectory that the searcher must take. Look above the drop-pin for the critical element; then view the wider image for something that may or may not be helpful
After failing to find the treasure at a far distant omega on a previous trip, I had assumed that the trove would therefore be found near the start. As my wife was reluctant for me to search alone following bear confrontations earlier in the year, I asked a friend to meet me there, and we went a-hunting. Here’s the center of the asterisk, which had been submerged earlier in the year, but was now revealed as a circular disc of stone.
After a couple of days fruitless searching, my partner had to leave to rejoin the real world, and I was left wondering where the heck I’d gone wrong. I spent another couple of days retracing our steps, looking down at the significant rock formations, trying to cajole my crumbling brain to make the connections. But it was only when I looked up that the penny dropped. Remember the scrapbook with the tangled telephone cable? How about the Native American “listening” by the telephone pole? Crossed wires! I raced to the nearest cafe with an internet connection and fired up Google Maps. It only took me a couple of minutes to relocate the omega.
I began to use the “measure distance” function and drew lines from point to point until… wow… I landed in a place that I would never have considered part of the Chase… until I remembered another scrapbook. And it fitted perfectly! It was a long drive, but the summer weather cooperated, and I arrived excited and ready for whatever I might find. I will draw a veil over what I actually did find – suffice for me to say that trespassing is neither necessary nor a good idea as part of the Chase, that landowners and local officialdom are not likely to view it kindly, and that, with better planning, awkward and embarrassing situations can be avoided!
My remaining time was spent trying to parse the information I’d uncovered, drawing more lines, and taking side trips to far-flung outposts of the Rockies – all of which poduced a big fat zero. As on previous trips, I ran out of time, and took the flight home more than a little puzzled. I knew I was onto something, but why wasn’t it working? It wasn’t long before I discovered my error. When Forrest talks about following the clues precisely, he’s not merely using a figure of speech. Precisely means with precision down to a few feet. I had made an error of calculation that, over the large distances involved, had amplified itself to an order of magnitude that was bound to lead me astray. I corrected the error and… wow again!
One of my perennial failings is impatience. You would think that after nearly five years of painstaking work on the poem and BOTG, I would have overcome that by now. If so, you would be wrong. I was back in the UK and tearing my hair out. How was I going to get back to search that spot? I emailed my friend in the States and asked if he was up for another adventure. He was (what a trooper)! As he prepared to fly out there, I kept working on the coordinates, coming up with three likely spots, all within a couple of hundred feet. There was the anchor:
And if that was too much of a stretch, there was also the smiling frog, which I shall keep to myself for now. And there was my friend’s frustration as he reported back that he was drawing a complete blank, trudging across the empty landscape. I felt crestfallen, and guilty for sending him on what was turning out to be a wild goose chase. And yet…
It was only later that I spotted the “lighthouse,” flashing its friendly warning like the asterisk so many miles distant. And didn’t it also resemble a keyhole?
I fired up GE and loaded the coordinates. Usually, when you use the time slider on GE, the earlier images are too low-res and blurred to discern much at high magnification. This time it was different. I could clearly see that the “lighthouse” didn’t exist in 2009 and before. I connected the images I’d found, and revealed something fascinating, apart from the fact that they aligned nearly perfectly. A year earlier I had sent Forrest certain coordinates based on something discovered in the poem. I now realized I had been prescient but premature. That was the wrong time to use that clue. Now it fitted perfectly, and it said something about “in the wood” that I would never have guessed if I hadn’t gone on a frantic Google hunt as these revelations dawned. I had to get back there!
It was then that my wife decided that she had to get over to the States within a few weeks to deal with some pressing family business. I would have just been in the way during the visit, but what if I used the opportunity to make one more trip? We’ve reached that point in life where we dread flying – particularly across multiple timezones; it leaves us wiped out for days, and the whole security rigmarole takes any of the remaining fun away. But this was just too good an opportunity to ignore. I left Val at Salt Lake City and headed out to my spot. Two days later, I was as frustrated as my friend had been. I had found nothing… until I decided to check the two “ends” of my specific line of latitude. At one end there was a circle in the ground, and at the other end was… smashed pottery.
Wasn’t there a scrapbook about smashing pottery? I looked closer:
The Garden City Pottery Co., based in San Jose, was big in the early part of the 20th century before going into decline, finally shutting its doors in 1987. As with most of my artifact discoveries, this was found where there was little in the way of human detritus. Why would someone have taken a large and heavy pottery vase – almost an antique – out into the wilderness just to smash and discard it? And why were the pieces arranged as they were, with a few shoved in between sage brush roots, and the others in a line that pointed toward the circle? It was not a major find, but coupled with something else I had discovered out there it told me to head south. And so south I went. In fact I went so far south that I was starting to brush up on my Spanish! After a day or two of this, I turned around and retraced my steps. Sitting down near some water, I tried to think. It’s something that I find much harder to do when I’m BOTG than when I’m in the warm cocoon of my own home. But this time I made a breakthrough. What if I reversed something important? I went down to a key spot – nada. I went up – zilch. But wait… what’s that?
The frog stone set me thinking again. It was the second time a frog had entered the arena for me. Maybe I wasn’t so far off. I hoped that the weather would hold – the temperature was plummeting during the night, but there was little in the way of rain… yet. I was venturing into some territory that might be difficult to extract myself from if a storm hit. Interestingly, by now I had exhausted all of the poem’s coordinates. I used to think that it was simply a question of unlocking these numbers, and they would take you to the treasure. Now, I was beginning to realize that Mr. Fenn expects you to use logic and imagination in spades once you’ve made use of the coordinates. So that’s what I tried to do. And one October morning I alighted from my rental car, walked to the spot my thought processes had indicated, and stared in wonder at a reversed question mark. My photos are not bad, but they can’t convey the clarity with which the 3D image presented itself on site.
Looking from above the reversed question mark is probably the better way to view it:
I knew I had uncovered an important clue, but I had no idea how to use it – and as usual my time was running out. I had to rejoin Val at her sister’s place.
It was on the flight that I thought I had the answer. As soon as I could, I checked coordinates and became convinced that I’d found a potential ending location. The only trouble was that we were talking private land again. I’d learned my lesson on that front, and so I tried to re-plot my next move. Fortunately, my wife and her siblings had more work to do that didn’t involve me, and so I rented another car and drove across three states back to the spot. I checked all possible permutations, and came within a whisker of another bear encounter. I stumbled into a clearing in the trees, saw the disturbed ground and smelled the very pungent odor. I think I was lucky that I’m such a clumsy hunter that there was no way I could have surprised this particular beast. I kept that foray as short as possible, walked back to the car uttering a few choice oaths aimed at the poem’s author, and returned to the hotel to think some more.
That was when it hit. It was a real “duh” moment for me! I had not extended my line from the question mark far enough. The frog had given me the answer. And when I looked online, there it was: the second omega! (I should point out that my “discoveries” are not random, but occur within a few feet of specific coordinates that are derived in one way or another from the poem.) This time the omega was upside down. By now, I had learned to stop assuming that I’d reached the end – despite Google’s suggestions! I’d also noticed that most of the markings I’d found – and was yet to find – are clearly visible on Google Maps, but not on Bing, etc. Food for thought. So, despite this scintillating piece of evidence, I earmarked a couple more places that fit the pattern that was forming for me, before tromping out to the omega.
Of course, there was nothing there, apart from a veiled instruction. Well, that’s not quite accurate. What I did find was this:
Coincidence, quite probably, but it was conveniently pointing toward my next destination. And as I walked back to the car, I came across this interesting skull that has nothing to do with the Chase but makes an interesting photo:
It was what I found at the next destination that was the “aha!” moment for me. When I clambered up to the spot that I’d earmarked as a potential pivotal point, I was met by a pair of stones standing in formation. Bear in mind that the next two photos were taken after I had picked up the stones to examine them. I didn’t replace them as neatly as I found them, but they are roughly as they appeared to me.
Upon examination, the stones, which had a quartz-like core, had been cut to length in order to form a stable triangle, and had been very carefully positioned so that they provided a specific view when looked through. I don’t bend very easily these days, but I managed to get down there and make a mental note of what I saw.
Gradually, things were falling into place, but there was something about the shape formed by the stones that eluded me right then; the answer would arrive later.
There was still much walking to do, and calculations to make, but something was crystalizing in my mind. Exhausted from walking many, many miles in temperatures ranging from the teens to the upper sixties, I returned to my room to think some more. Once again, I thought I had the measure of what was going on, but on my final morning, I failed yet again. I couldn’t quite make the ending stick. I drove away, making it about 250 miles before stopping for the night. And of course, as I pondered my recent finds, I remembered something I’d seen on Google. It was something so obvious that I’d completely ignored it! And it occurred right where my two lines crossed.
As a result, I came up with two possible hiding places and chose… the wrong one. I careened back to the spot, and spent all of 15 minutes checking – with one eye on an approaching storm. It was no good, I’d have to go. But when I Googled the second spot (and its partner), that was when I saw the evidence, as clear as anything I’ve found during the Chase. I won’t say what that evidence is, but it pulls together almost every aspect of the Chase and provides a glimpse into the motivation behind the whole saga. I was tempted to delay my return flight, but with the weather turning and commitments at home, I knew it could wait for another day – even if wild geese are involved…
We (the Geezer Team) believe that the best way to find the treasure is to take Forrest Fenn’s poem at face value and temper that with information provided by Fenn since the poem’s publication. Our approach will also include establishing segments such as A-B wherein A is WWWH and B is the HOB, the HOB and the blaze make up segment B-C, and the blaze and the treasure is segment C-D. We don’t know if our approach is any bettter than other approaches, we just like it.
The first stanza, we believe, is an introduction wherein Fenn is telling us the treasure is hidden in some kind of rock shelter at least as big as himself plus the treasure box, “As I have gone alone in there,”. We’re guessing to getÂ in there, he may have walked in upright, stuped, crawled, or wiggled in. He is also telling us that knowledge of the hiding spot is his alone and safe. Fenn said when he decided to hide a treasure he knew exactly where to do it but how would he know about such a location? We believe it was discovered during approximately 12 summer trips to and from Yellowstone when he was a youth. If you study a highway map from the 1930s you’ll see a major route from Texas to Denver. That route passes right along three of the four major river systems for that part of the Rockies. The three river systems are the Rio Grande, the Arkansas, and the Platte. (Fenn has ruled out the Rio Grande, however). On those long trips away from and back to their Texas home, we believe the Fenn family stopped along the rivers to rest, to camp over night, and to fish for trout. And, there was probably enough leisure time for two exuberant boys to explore, discover, collect artifacts, etc.
In the second stanza, we got started right away on segment A-B. We believe that “Begin it where warm waters halt” is a tributary water way, which flows into a river, and that we have found that tributary. Finding A, of course, is the key to the whole enchilada. The tributary has numerous hot springs making it a warm water source. Then we have: “And take it in the canyon down,” which means the searcher is in a water craft of some kind (canoe, kayak, raft) going with the current and into a canyon. We believe the use of a water craft is confirmed by “put in” (2nd stanza, 4th line) which is a nautical term meaning to land, esp. put in to a port. Alternatively, a 4-wheel drive vehicle with high clearance might be able to be used when this river’s water is low, typically, early spring and late autum. But we don’t know if that’s legal. Now, what about “Not far, but too far to walk.”? How can a destination be both “not far” but also “too far” at the same time? Since the searcher has to go down through a canyon he/she might think why not just walk up on top the river bank. We believe Fenn is telling us (and we observed) that the canyon has sides that are riddled with deep gulches making that kind of endeavour a long hike – up and down, up and down, up and down, etc. thus adding many more miles, and tough ones at that.
“Put in below the home of Brown.” tells us where to stop, where to “Put in”, thus determining segment A-B. It seems like there are two ways to interpret “… home of Brown.”, both require Brown to be capitalized, but for different reasons. The first is that Brown is a proper name wherein the searcher must find a person, place or thing named Brown along the river, in the river, or on top of a bank overlooking the river, etc. We call this the “proper name” scenario The second interpretation is that Brown refers to an animal species; e.g., Brown Bear, Brown Trout. I can hear many folks screaming right now; ” … but, but, but, but the rules of capitalzation …”! And, early on in our quest, we would have been screaming right along with you. However, the capitalization of common species names is now becoming a regular practice. But, this is also a special case allowing Brown to be capitalized to distinguish a common species name from a feature like color. For example, we are saying these are not just trout that are colored brown but are a species with many distiguishing features. We call this the “Brown Trout” scenario, which we will pursue if the “proper name” scenario does not produce the treasure. More discussion on this later.
In searching for point B of segement A-B, we actually found a location with an interesting proper name. The proper name we found is Brownsville! But don’t try to find it on a map because it hasn’t existed for a long time. The town of Brownsville was a ghost town when the Fenn’s visited the area and there is now a different name for that location! That Fenn sure is a sly old fox, but don’t try to baffle the old Geezer Team, buddy boy! Actually, we stumbled into that information, serendipitiously, and went to the old Brownsville cemetary but couldn’t find “any body” named Brown (ha, ha, ha). We discovered later that the Brown in question is in a different cemetary. The old Brownsville town wasn’t quite on the river, but the slope of the land from the town down to the river canyon was sufficient for us to believe that that part of the river is “below the home of Brown.” Further, if a searcher “puts in” on the opposite river bank there is a gulch that kind of fits the next part of the poem.
For segment B-C, Fenn cautions that the going will be tough (“From there it’s no place for the meek,”) and searchers will be in a non-navigable creek (“there’ll be no paddle up your creek,”). We are puzzled, however, by the words “your creek”, why not just say “the creek”. One reason we could think of was that maybe we should be looking for a creek with a name like “Treasure Creek” or “Gold Creek” or “Searchers Creek”, etc. But there are no creeks with names that fit that category in our search area. We are more puzzled by the next line, however: “Just heavy loads and water high.”! Some searchers say the heavy loads could be big boulders and rocks but I hope no one is trying to carry them around! Some searchers say the heavy loads are the treasure box contents, but it hasn’t been found yet since we’re following the poem sequently, as Fenn suggests. Does “water high” mean there’s water further up the gulch, does it mean the water found will be deep, or is it a water feature like a water fall? We know for a fact that this gulch has a wet lands seven miles up from the river and has some small springs along the way but for the most part the gulch is seasonal – intermittent wet and dry. Like a tree that’s been cut down, we’re stumped, so we will move on to the next stanza.
Discovering point C requires finding the blaze, a major element to finding the treasure. Fenn offers little help in the poem simply saying “If you’ve been wise and found the blaze,” which tells us nothing because we already know that the Geezer Team is wise! He has told us, however, that the treasure is not in close proximity to a human trail and that searchers have been within 500 feet! So at .5 miles we got out of the gulch and went 500 feet left and right. Some searchers believe “nigh” means left, so why not just do the left side? Well, we’re having a hard time finding that definition. No matter, if you go one side and don’t find the treasure, you’ll be wise and go on the other side, or go home empty handed. But, when a searcher leaves the gulch what should he/she be looking for as a location? Look for a place that satisfies Fenn’s sensory experience as if he were standing near the treasure hiding spot. Fenn wants to able to see his beloved Rocky Mountains, a river valley, the river, pine trees, and indiginous animals (deer, elk, prong horn, big horn sheep). He wants to smell sage brush, pines, and most of all Pinon Pine, especially when the sap runs thick! To date, we have searched an area approximately .5 mile from the river and 1 mile up, on both sides of the gulch, with no results. Winter is coming on so we will wait until spring 2018 to do the next mile up.
Since the blaze must last 10,000 plus years it can’t be a tree notch, a carving, a cairn, or any thing like that. It can’t rot, rust, or be prone to erosion or being moved in any way. So we are left with something like a natural rock formation or discoloration. But we don’t buy that either. As mentined earlier, Fenn said he knew exactly where to hide the treasure. It is highly improbable, though, that a natural blaze would be in exactly the right place too. We’re guessing that the blaze is something he made, brought in and placed himself. Something meaningful to show the way. Something like, like … Well, figure it out yourself, we can’t have all the fun. The meaning of “If you’ve been wise and found the blaze.” is that since the blaze is man-made, you will know it when you see it, else you are not wise! So now we have a way ahead for segment B-C.
Segment C-D is from the blaze to the treasure and Fenn gives searchers instructions. He says “Look quickly down, your quest to cease.” We believe he means, when a searcher sees the blaze, stop! Moving forward toward the blaze (a natural tendency) will put the searcher out of position to see the chest! Looking down has several interpretations such as look down at your feet, or look south, or look down the trail, or if the blaze is high, just bring your gaze down. We believe it doesn’t matter at this point. When we find the blaze we’ll try anything and everything to find the treasure, even bring in bull dozers, back hoes, construction cranes, jack hammers, etc.!
In the final stanza first line, Fenn urges searchers to listen up with: “So hear me all and listen good,” then: “Your effort will be worth the cold.” and “If you are brave and in the wood”. We believe that the “cold” means that the hiding place is on the north side of some feature, a cliff, rock out-cropping, boulder pile, etc., where the sun never shines. And/or the river and creek waters are always cold! The last sentence of the poem is puzzling. Why does one have to be brave, unless its just a general trait expected of searchers? For “in the wood” we’re guessing Fenn means in the chest, which is lined with Lebanon cedar! For the rest of that sentence and the last line of the poem, “I give you title to the gold.” Fenn has gone weird on us. If we have the chest and its contents we don’t need title from him or anyone else. Unless, unless, … unless all the intended treasure is not in the chest and we have to collect the rest from him or his estate!
A bit about the “Broun Trout” scenario, which we believe is actually a “Brown Trout spawning” scenario. First we have to find a new WWWH for segment A-B, either on this river or another. Next we go down a canyon as before but this time we’re looking for a Brown Trout spawning tributary to begin segment B-C. Once we find the tributary, we are “… below the home of Brown.” and can head up that creek and then explore 500 feet on either side to find the blaze. The phrase “… no place for the meek.” now takes on a new meaning as it refers to the trout swimming up stream to spawn! Females carry approximately 10,000 – 20,000 eggs (Just heavy loads …) which are laid and fertilized in the autum but don’t hatch until the spring when the waters start warming up. The hatch becomes thosands of fry and those that survive become fingerlings which stay in the creek at least a year. Thus, although still non-navigable, the creek must have water all year and be deep enough for spawning (… water high.).
We imagined spawning to go something like this: After swimming up stream, a male trout approaches a female and she says “Wow, you look buff, what’s up big boy!” He says “Yeah, been working out for the spawn. I’m wondering if you’d be interested in a little romance?.” ”I am! I just laid a few thousand eggs over by those rocks in a nest I made. Go knock yourself out, then come back for a cigy-pooh! (Jack Kerouac beatnik slang for cigarette). After which I’ll cover the fertilized eggs with sand and gravel, then we’ll get back to the river. You won’t tell any body about this, will you? I mean, we just met and now we’re having all these kids! A girl has to worry about her reputation.” “Nah, what happens in this creek, stays in this creek.”
The Geezer Team-
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
You can read Dal’s version of this search HERE
I am sure that this theory or process has been brought to light before; none-the-less, I am putting it out there with my own insight and reasoning.
This entire post is IMO and I will endeavor to back up any FF quotes, assertions, etc. where/when possible.
As the title line states, I will be breaking FF’s poem down into 9 sentences based solely upon the punctuation that FF himself has provided us with.
That being said, this is how the poem looks as 9 sentences:
As I have gone alone in there and with my treasures bold, I can keep it where, and hint of riches new and old.
Begin it where warm waters halt, and take it in the canyon down, not far, but too far to walk.
Put in below the home of Brown.
From there it’s no place for the meek, the end is ever drawing nigh; there’ll be no paddle up your creek, just heavy loads and water high.
If you’ve been wise and found the blaze, look quickly down, your quest to cease but tarry scant with marvel gaze, just take the chest and go in peace.
So why is it that I must go and leave my trove for all to seek?
The answers I already know I’ve done it tired and now I am weak.
So listen all and hear me good, your effort will be worth the cold.
If you are brave and in the wood I give you title to the gold.
*I must add that with the exception of the word “Brown”, which FF himself capitalized in his poem, I have only capitalized the first word in each of the sentences derived from FF’s poem.
For those who are new to TTOTC, I will be using abbreviations and terms that have evolved within this treasure hunting community (and, in hindsight, I have already used some above) and will attempt to define those for you below or when such are first used within my post. This list is not exhaustive and so far includes the following:
FF = Forrest Fenn (the master wordsmith who has set us all to the task of finding his hidden treasure)
TTOTC = The Thrill of the Chase (a book by FF in which he includes an untitled poem which leads to a treasure he hid somewhere) (Also the “feelings” which we searches experience while looking for the treasure)
Indulgence = the name given to the treasure hidden by FF
BOTG = Boots on the Ground (the act of physically going to a location and actively searching for Indulgence)
Stanza = a group of lines forming the basic recurring metrical unit in a poem (FF’s poem is said to have 6 stanzas consisting of 4 lines per stanza)
IMO = In My Opinion
ATF = Unknown to this writer so including it more as a question (I think it means After the Fact)
Sometimes as I am breaking down FF’s poem, I will be referencing lines in his stanzas by capitalizing the first letter of each word in said line. For example, if the line I am about to reference/dissect reads “begin it where warm waters halt” I will refer to it as BIWWWH, and further refer to subsections by similar means (for example, WWWH is simply Where Warm Waters Halt, a subsection of the line currently being discussed).
I have primarily used the 1828 online version of Webster’s Dictionary to identify each word’s part of speech and associated definition, as well as other various internet dictionaries to further identify and define words as needed (for example, some words were not defined in the 1828 version so I had to look elsewhere). I have not further researched word origins and/or translated them to/from any other language as to do such may be, IMO, going against the spirit of FF’s quote that “…Knowing about head pressures, foot pounds, …” (Tarry Scant website ID# 2775) et al. Also, to do such is an undertaking I am not yet prepared to embark upon at this time as my current work (this document) consumes a lot of my time & mental resources. 🙂
At the end of each breakdown I will have a TRANSLATION from “Fenn-ese” (Fenn-ese = The written and/or expressed word or words as used and understood by Forrest Fenn) to “Bowmarc-ese” (Bowmarc-ese = Bowmarc’s interpretation(s) of Fenn-ese). 🙂
Before I begin, I wanted to state that I am not an English professor, and confess that the subject was one I was loath to conform to (perhaps much like FF?) and one of my worst subjects throughout my entire educational endeavors. That being said, my use of grammar, punctuation, spelling, terminology, etc. are just to the best of my ability and understanding and not intended to flaunt my education level (or lack thereof) and are intended to convey meaning, provide food for thought, articulate a point, beat a dead horse, etc. and not intended as a platform to belittle or talk down to anyone and I hereby apologize to anyone who takes offense to anything I have written and/or to how it is written. In other words, I am just trying to be thorough, logical, etc. and apologize if any reader takes offense for how I am doing so.
With all that being said, here goes:
Sentence #1 is “As I have gone alone in there and with my treasures bold, I can keep it where, and hint of riches new and old.” = All hints and an opening statement about what is being done and what must be done. FF has to provide his reader with an introduction to his poem as well as giving his reader some information regarding the poem’s purpose, which sentence #1 does.
As = an adverb meaning that or while.
I = a pronoun for myself. NOTES: marks a distinction between the speaker (or writer in this case) and another person
Have = transitive verb meaning to possess/Marry/regard/maintain (maintain meaning affirm). NOTES: is this the past tense and does that really matter?
Gone = passive participle meaning departed/advanced/ruined; (abstractly) departed from life. NOTES: As FF is currently not deceased, I don’t feel the abstract definition is applicable.
Alone = adjective meaning single/without company/only NOTES: FF as affirmed on several occasions that he was by himself when he hid the treasure and that he is the only one who knows where it is hidden so I won’t reference a specific quote at this time, but perhaps a little ATF. 🙂
In = preposition meaning surrounded by limits.
There = adverb meaning in that place/thither/to that point or ends.
And = conjunction meaning further.
With = preposition meaning in connection.
My = pronoun and/or adjective meaning belonging to me.
Treasures = noun meaning wealth accumulated/particularly a stock or store of money in reserve/a great quantity of anything collected for future use; transitive verb meaning to hoard/collect/reposit. NOTES: an “s” is added to either make plural nouns or to form the 3rd person singular of the present simple tense (I work, you work, he works)—treasures, IMO, is not a 3rd person singular therefore the noun definition/usage is more favorable than the transitive verb definition/usage, therefore the “s” makes the noun treasure plural.
Bold = adjective meaning forward/prominent/daring/executed with spirit/without fear; transitive verb meaning to make daring. NOTES: the transitive verb definition is archaic. As an adjective we need to determine what noun bold is referring to—since there is a conjunction (and) earlier in this sentence, everything before the “and” is a separate clause from everything after the “and”, therefore bold has to refer to something in the second clause, leaving treasures as the subject of the adjective bold. (*However, see translation #2 later on)
, (Comma) = punctuation mark that indicates a pause in a sentence, denotes a slight break between different parts of a sentence, or separates items in a list. Used properly, commas make the meaning of a sentence clear by grouping and separating words, phrases, and clauses.
I = pronoun meaning myself.
Can = noun meaning cup or vessel; transitive verb meaning to be able to / to have means. NOTES: pretty sure it is not meaning a cup or vessel.
Keep = transitive verb meaning to hold / to have in custody for security / to preserve (from falling or damage) / to tend / to maintain
My = pronoun and/or adjective meaning belonging to me.
Secret = an adjective meaning properly, separate, hence hid/concealed from notice or knowledge of all persons except the individual(s) concerned/removed from sight/not proper, hence ought to be kept from observation; a noun meaning something studiously concealed/a mystery; a verb meaning to keep private. NOTES: KMSW could mean I, FF, am going to keep my private place to myself (more loosely “translated” FF is saying I can keep my secret place secret)(While I dislike defining a word/phrase using a word that is to be defined, I feel “I can keep my secret place secret” translates FF’s line fairly well and may be the first time I have translated said line thusly and/or read of it being translated thusly). In other words, “secret where” is a thing (his secret someplace), not a reference to the treasure being someplace. In more other words, the line can be read “I can keep my secret where.” as in I have the resolve to not reveal my private spot under any circumstances (well, except I can and did hint of it).
Where = an adverb meaning at which place or places/whither (whither = absolutely/to what point or degree); a pronoun meaning what place/the place in which; a noun meaning a place.
, (Comma) = punctuation mark that indicates a pause in a sentence, denotes a slight break between different parts of a sentence, or separates items in a list. Used properly, commas make the meaning of a sentence clear by grouping and separating words, phrases, and clauses.
And = conjunction meaning further.
Hint = a transitive verb meaning to bring to mind by slight mention or remote allusion/to allude to; intransitive verb meaning to mention slightly; a noun meaning a word or two intended to give notice, or remind one of something without a full declaration or explanation.
Of = a preposition meaning proceeding from (proceeding = participle present tense meaning moving forward/passing on/issuing/transacting/carrying on).
Riches = a noun meaning wealth/possession of land, good, or money in abundance/a splendid, sumptuous appearance; a plural noun meaning abundant and valuable possessions
New = adjective meaning lately made/modern, not ancient; not familiar with
And = conjunction meaning further.
Old = adjective meaning having been long made/ancient; in vulgar language, crafty or cunning
. (Period) = punctuation mark indication a full stop/expresses the finality of what is being said (written).
TRANSLATION 1 = While I (FF) affirm that I once departed into a place with limits in no one’s company but indeed with a prominent collection of items of value belonging to me, I myself am able to maintain private knowledge of a place known as such to me, while also (herein) being able to make slight mention of an abundance of valuable possessions that are lately made or ancient.
NOTES REGARDING TRANSLATION 1 = FF has been quoted as responding to a question about the rules of capitalization being properly followed in his poem with “Whose Rules, ChicagoDave?” (Tarry Scant website ID #3216) so one may also assume that the proper rules of punctuation, etc. are equally questioned by FF in whole or in part. That being said, and for that reason, I give you Translation #2 below.
TRANSLATION 2 = While I (FF) affirm that I once departed with strength of resolve and purpose into a place with limits in no one’s company but indeed with a prominent collection of items of value belonging to me, I myself am able to maintain private knowledge of a place known as such to me, while also (herein) being able to make slight mention of an abundance of valuable possessions that are lately made or ancient.
NOTES REGARDING TRANSLATION 2 = In this version I allude to FF possibly using bold to refer back to himself in the clause before the “and” as well as, in the interest of space, also still alluding to the treasure as bold (prominent). A lot of chatter online about double meanings and this is an example of such (albeit obscurely) i.e. using the word bold to describe himself and the treasure with one usage of the word.
That’s about the end of my current line of thinking regarding line one of FF’s poem when such is broken down into 9 sentences. My plans are to post my thoughts on each of the 9 sentences at a pace of about 1 sentence a week, give or take a few days. I am well into completing my take on BIWWWH so it may be forthcoming sooner than later.
Thanks for reading and commenting.
Last night at about 3 am, I had a new thought for my current, in-process solve. And in thinking it through, it’s sufficiently general enough to share – it doesn’t apply to just my solve, but to a number of different end of the poem possibilities. So here we are.
If you’ve been wise and found the blaze
The two schools of thought related to this line and the blaze generally seem to be as follows:
1 – “If you’ve been wise” refers to an owl and viewing the blaze from above, most often via Google Earth, but also potentially from an elevated vantage point. I’d also add GE/map “wise” based place names (Owl Creek or whatever) to this school.
2 – You need BOTG to find the blaze and “If you’ve been wise” refers to you having solved the clues leading up to this point where you are looking for the blaze. You may be keeping an eye out for owl-shaped rocks, but you are reliant on BOTG prior to this line starting.
I’d generally put myself in School 1 as I think having an explanation for “if you’ve been wise” is an important part to being able to go with confidence to your search area. I’ve also been of the opinion that the School 2 people are taking this part of the line for granted. If you’re just going to find the blaze when you’re BOTG, why do you need to have been wise?
But it occurred to me that maybe there’s a third interpretation. Most people tend to think of “if you’ve been wise and found the blaze” as one clue. What if it’s two clues?
Under my new way of thinking, you still have to find the blaze with BOTG, but “if you’ve been wise” is a separate clue with an interpretation unrelated to the blaze itself. Enter: King Solomon.
Whether a person is religious or not, I think the “Wisdom of Solomon” is a commonly known phrase/saying.
Per Wikipedia (which matched my own limited knowledge on the subject):
Perhaps the best known story of his wisdom is the Judgment of Solomon; two women each lay claim to being the mother of the same child. Solomon easily resolved the dispute by commanding the child to be cut in half and shared between the two. One woman promptly renounced her claim, proving that she would rather give up the child than see it killed. Solomon declared the woman who showed compassion to be the true mother, entitled to the whole child. (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solomon#Wisdom)
Okay… but how does this relate to finding the treasure?
Picture the following scenario, one which I expect is fairly common among searchers (either armchair or BOTG). You’ve solved the clues and you’re hiking up alongside your creek with heavy loads and water high up ahead (or maybe you’ve passed them already). Maybe you’re on a trail or maybe you’re already off the trail. You’re looking for a blaze, but at this point, you’re basically flying blind outside of that. Simplified, maybe it looks something like this:
You think you’re looking for the blaze, but maybe you first need to be looking for something else; something that splits from your creek. Maybe it’s another creek. Maybe it’s a side-trail (if you’re on a trail). But we aren’t taking that side-trail/creek because what would be “wise” about that? We need to split the creeks in two:
And then we find the blaze, find the treasure, pop some champagne, revel in our brilliant solve, and go about arranging to give FF his bracelet and buying a new car. Easy game.
Obviously, I have no idea if this interpretation is correct, but it’s something I haven’t seen before and it doesn’t materially impact my 2nd solve (because you have to figure out the rest of the poem first) so I figured it may be something that could benefit someone else. Do with it as you will – I’m going to bed.
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.
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!
It was a grand adventure, which included:
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!
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?
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.