Reading the Blaze – Part Four

by DWRock


The Ultimate Solution

After returning home from my second trip it wasn’t days before the experiences and thought fragments resolved into the most undeniable solution to the poem yet!  This solution extends the track that I had been following tying together the complete arrowhead image on the map, the “f” Fort, and the previously unresolved lines of the sixth stanza.  I guarded my excitement because I estimated that I had run out of credit with Ruthie… at least for the season!  Feeling no need to research further I allowed my attention to drift away from the chase for a few months.  The last quarter of 2016 provided plenty of distraction.  Nothing gets past Ruthie for long!  She soon learned of my intention to make yet another final attempt in 2017.  I was surprised how quickly she adapted to the idea, but it was not accepted without a stern request that I would see resolution to this obsession with a third trip.  I felt completely justified and guiltless because I knew in my heart that I had earned a private viewing of Forrest’s magnum opus. Here it is…..

As I have gone alone in there

And with my treasures bold,

I can keep my secret where,

And hint of riches new and old.

This first stanza introduces Forrest’s intent in masterminding the chase.  There are no clues here that directly aid in the search, and interpretation is not necessary to finding the treasure.  Foremost he states that he acted alone in hiding the treasure, and that he alone knows of its secret location.  The last line of this stanza is intriguing: I think “riches” refers to memories and experiences real and/or possibly imagined.  It may also refer to the adventures that Forrest has experienced in his pursuit and discovery of artifacts; similar to the adventures that he now inspires others to experience in the search for his treasure.  The sentiment of this stanza contributed to my initial impression that Yellowstone National Park, Forrest’s childhood utopia and wonderland, is the location of his treasure.

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.

If Forrest had defined the search area as the entire continent rather than merely the US Rocky Mountains I would probably have arrived at the same starting point.  In the big picture Yellowstone National Park is where warm waters halt.  If you are not convinced then try driving past the Boiling River, Mammoth Springs, or Grand Prismatic Spring without halting!!  Looking back I wonder that I might have developed this solve more efficiently if I had foregone the hours of research and map study and instead headed straight for Yellowstone with an open mind.  All you need is the poem.  The ranger at the entrance gate will hand you a simple park map that is probably the easiest map on which to initially spot the blaze.


If Yellowstone is the first clue then the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is the clear second.  One might notice that the first trail that leads into the “canyon down” to the river is the Seven Mile Hole Trail.  This trail is too far for Forrest to have completed for his treasure hide, but some part of it will be traveled in the end.  First we must get there.  Our attention has been drawn to the spectacular canyon carved by the Yellowstone River.  The length of river from the mouth of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and through the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone to Gardiner, MT, forms a bold arcing cut on the land that some might immediately recognize as resembling one half of an arrowhead outline.  The tip of the arrowhead is formed by the confluence of the Gardiner and Yellowstone Rivers which viewed from above is a striking point of land in itself.  Immediately down river from, or “below”, the juncture is the North Entrance to the park, the logical starting point or “put in” for the search journey.  If you are halted, as you likely will be during the season, by traffic at the pull-off and parking areas for the Boiling River you might decide to stop in and check it out.  One of the interpretive signs on the path to the Boiling River describes the phenomenon that warms the waters of the Gardiner River resulting in favorable conditions for the winter spawning of Brown Trout. The tail end of the Gardiner River is 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.

The roadway from the North Entrance, past Mammoth, continuing toward Norris, and on to Canyon almost mirrors the complimentary section of the Yellowstone to roughly complete the classic shape of an arrowhead on the map.  This third stanza helps to hone this route into a more convincing symmetry making the image unmistakable, revealing the obvious intent of the author of the poem, and providing some important landmarks to be used to help identify the end location of the treasure using a precisely drawn arrowhead overlay on a typical park map.  First stop along this road is the featured area “Sheepeater Cliffs”. This feature is marked on the simple park map and is a straight forward interpretation of “no place for the meek”.  Drawing a straight line “from there” (the park entrance or “put-in”) to this featured stop on the road improves the arrowhead tip.  One navigating the arcing edge of an arrowhead being drawn in a counter-clockwise direction should expect it to trend leftward: “The end is ever drawing nigh.” This is generally true of our arcing section of the Yellowstone River and its complimentary section of roadway, but a few miles south of Sheepeater the road bends sharply to the right creating a large bump in the drawing that significantly disturbs the symmetry of the arrowhead.  This can be conveniently corrected by deviating from the road at Solfatara North trailhead to continue the tracing along Solfatara Creek Trail.  There is no creek (“no paddle”) for the first three miles, and much of this fairly linear trail runs in a cut beneath power lines (“heavy loads”).  The trail itself does not look very appealing for this reason.  Why would anyone go to Yellowstone to hike a transmission cut?  The only reason I could come up with was the near access it provides to the scenic Lake of the Wood (“water high”; sits at about 7800 feet).

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.

If you have correctly interpreted the clues of the second and third stanzas you have over three quarters of an arrowhead drawn on the map which can easily be completed by symmetry coming around to its starting point at the “canyon down”.  The end is the beginning.  The lines that follow seem to halt the momentum of the second and third stanzas.  The mouth of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is defined by the impressive Upper and Lower Falls.  The course of water between these falls when viewed on a map or aerial photograph forms the spine of the letter “f” oriented perfectly upright when viewed in cardinal alignment.  The crossbar comes in from the west as Cascade Creek drops down Crystal Falls to meet up with the Yellowstone River.  “Quickly down” could be interpreted as ‘cascade’, and “marvel gaze” might refer to ‘Crystal Falls’.  This stanza is designed to cause the seeker to pause here and ponder the whole of this “f” shaped feature that connects the ends of our blaze like the clasp of a necklace.  One feels the deep power and mystery of this place when looking down into the small gorge from the Crystal Falls overlook.  Is the chest here for the taking?  The broken stone wall out of which Crystal Falls pours, the steep sloping sides flanking east and west, the impassible raging falls barring north and south, the overlooks like turrets, and the walkways running the high perimeter of the whole requires just a little imagination to perceive the area as the “f” Fort.

So why is it that I must go

And leave my trove for all to seek?

The answers I already know,

I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak.

This stanza, like the first, addresses the author’s own actions and intentions and contains no directions or clues for the searcher to follow.  The first and fifth stanzas, along with the final line of the poem, might be intended to aid in the process of legally transferring ownership of the treasure to the finder.  This stanza also hints at his overall mission in creating the hunt.  He has told us that the “thrill of the chase” began for him when he was nine years old and discovered his first arrowhead.  He continued to pursue this thrill as a youth in Yellowstone, as a fighter pilot in Vietnam, as a successful art dealer, and as an accomplished amateur archeologist.  The desire to pass his experience of the “thrill of the chase” on to future generations is why he created the hunt.

So hear me all and listen good,

Your effort will be worth the cold.

If you are brave and in the wood

I give you title to the gold.

This sixth and final stanza is the most complex of the poem.  In the first line Forrest asks us to listen to his words twice.  This instructs us in how to interpret the following word “effort” as both “f” Fort and F (as in Forrest) ort (as in his leavings).  “Will be worth” is translated as “will be even with” and/or “will be equal to”.  “The cold” is Glacial Boulder which lies at the head of the trail to Silver Cord Falls Overlook and Seven Mile Hole.  By tracing a straight line from the “f” Fort to Glacial Boulder, and then continuing that line an equal distance beyond it, the end location of the “F” ort (or treasure) lands on the axis of the arrowhead where the wooden shaft of an arrow would be fixed: “brave and in the wood”.  How fitting that the treasure lie where the arrowhead (which symbolizes the “thrill of the chase”) would be fitted anew with a wooden shaft so it could once again take flight!

On the dawn of the New Year I began reviewing the available materials for content that would support or conflict with my solution. I came up with a handful of doubts or concerns: Was my spot too far to walk? Was the location of the hide too random (not intrinsically “special”)?  Was I overreaching to fit my needs when interpreting Solfatara Creek Trail as “heavy loads and water high”? Was my interpretation of the 4th stanza weak or unresolved?  Was I overextending my imagination to conceive of the “f” Fort?  Most concerns I dismissed after a comprehensive review of Fenn’s comments.  If he had been vague about something (he is usually vague) I let the uncertainty favor my solution.  I discovered some comments (new to me) that further supported my solution.  A few stubborn concerns laid themselves low in my consciousness and later proved to damage my confidence in the final days before my trip.

The more time passed the more I believed that others must have identified the arrowhead.  How could they not see it?! The blog forums were buzzing with anticipation for this search season, and several commented that they believed that this would be the year that the treasure is found. By early March I could wait no longer and purchased a plane ticket for May 19th.  This would be about a week before typical melt off, but I took stock in rumors of an early spring.  Snow depth telemetry data from the Canyon area available online indicated that the snow mass had been sitting at about 150% of normal.  I worried about this, but still favored a competitive start, and began routine monitoring of the data every morning. The snow level sat at about 50 inches from the first of February… and sat… and sat.  When it was still 50 inches on the last day of April I acknowledged my folly and moved my ticket to my next available weekend.  I was glad that I did when May 19th arrived with 20+ inches still covering my search area.

In the last days before the trip my anxiety heightened.  One specific doubt that I had previously shrugged off now resurfaced and caused me to question the plausibility of my golden solve.  I had just watched the video recording of the Moby Dickens Book Store Q & A in which Forrest clearly indicates that there is a difference between the many searchers who have traveled unwittingly within 500 feet of the treasure and the few who had come within 200 feet.  Previously I had chosen to assume that these near-misses were made by the same people, and that Forrest had only improved the accuracy of the estimated distance over time.  The comment as I now understood it did not seem to fit with my solution.  All those hiking the Seven Mile Hole Trail would pass the treasure at the same distance (approximately 330 feet by my calculation).  If searchers on this trail weren’t looking for the treasure, then they would have no interest in deviating from the trail to accidentally come closer to the treasure.  A familiar feeling began to set in.  I could best describe it as low grade nausea or anxiety and might relate it to the feeling of being lost or uncertain of one’s surroundings, or the guilt after having done something wrong.  Doubt had caused me to hasten and half-heartedly search nearly every other location that I had been to on this journey.  In the case of Otter Creek I had to make a return trip before I was content with my search of the area.  Would this happen again?

Another concern was the randomness of my determined treasure location.  Most believe that the “very special place” that Forrest refers to is a favorite fishing hole, a secret scenic splendor, an unknown site of archeological significance, or an intriguing geologic feature.  It seems that most also believe that the blaze is a physical marker of some kind that will be found on site to reveal the hiding spot of the treasure.  The end location in my solution lands in a random section of undisturbed and untraveled pine forest with minimal elevation change.  There would likely be no scenic vista or geologic prominence.  The arrowhead blaze on the map is huge and I estimated that slight variations in its construction could account for upwards of 1000 feet of error in calculating the axis location near the base of the arrowhead.  The precision of the measure to the treasure location seemed to improve with the equidistant line drawn from the “f” Fort balanced through Glacial Boulder, but I expected at least 100 feet or more of error.  Any subtle variations to my interpretation of “your effort will be worth the cold” could change the mark significantly.  Forrest seems to have indicated that the one with the correct solution will smugly stroll from the car directly to the treasure.  For this to be true in my case I believed that there must be some marker or markings to guide me in once I arrive. This was the only part that remained a mystery.  I adopted a hunch that Forrest had left an arrowhead blaze on one or more trees to lead to and/or mark his cache.

I had a tight weekend trip planned arriving in Bozeman by noon on Saturday.  I knew the routine and my pre-planned movements successfully landed me at the trail head about 30 minutes ahead of schedule.  I could tell I was tired, though… I hadn’t been sleeping well for the past couple of nights, and I wasn’t thinking quickly on my feet.  Luckily I was only a couple of hundred feet from the car when I remembered that my maps were left in the trunk!  The sky was gray with diffuse cloud cover, but no rain, and the wind was whistling through and bending the trees causing the creak and chirp of tall and skinny pines rubbing together.  With no direct sun it felt later than it was.  Despite the initial ominous tone I quickly found comfort on the trail.  The ground was firm, free of mud, and the tracks were by a large majority human… I only identified one set of bear and cub prints.  After thirty minutes on the trail I came to a sign indicating I had walked one and a half miles from the Glacial Boulder trailhead and had one mile to go before the next junction.  I stopped and turned on my old Garmin GPS.  It struggled for a few minutes only finding one satellite… finally I grew impatient and stowed it.  Map and compass were more important to me anyway, but it would have been nice to use GPS for distance measuring and documentation.  The mileage sign is about a quarter of a mile down a section of the trail that moves due north and away from the canyon rim.  In another eighth of a mile the trail changes direction about forty five degrees to the east.  A quarter mile past this bend is the near point on the trail to my determined treasure location.  I did my best to estimate the distance by counting my paces from the bend and placed a rock on a log to mark the spot.  I didn’t send off into the woods yet, though… I walked a bit further to be sure I didn’t miss any marking potentially left by Forrest to direct the wise searcher to the cache.  The trail continued to rise gradually until it reached its high point several hundred feet beyond where I had placed the rock.  There on the left side of the trail I found large triangular or arrowhead shaped blaze carefully hewn into the side of a pine tree.  This blaze has a slight right tilt which if laid or projected horizontally would align nicely with the direction of my arrowhead on the map.  Just what I was looking for! Orienting the map I noted that if I walked back into the woods following the counterpoint direction of the tree blaze (or shaft direction if it were a completed arrow) I would arrive at approximately the same spot that I had already planned to walk to from my previously marked near point. This is how I started my off trail searching. By my estimate the treasure would lie between 300 and 400 feet from the trail. Due to Forrest’s use of 500 feet as the common near miss I made sure to walk over 500 feet along a fairly straight path and then doubled back with slight variation until I was back on the trail.  Just for curiosity sake I did the same on the other side of the trail following a line in the direction that the tree blaze seemed to point.  I repeated this process two or three times on either direction with variations including starting from my rock on a log spot to search through my pre-determined end, as well as, some exploration of various rises on the tree blaze side.  I moved slowly and scanned 360 degrees around my position at any given time looking for some marker or sign of human presence.  I found nothing.  I walked the wood for over two hours before I decided to pack it in for the night.  I planned to return the next day for a more thorough search, but my heart was barely in it.  I had arrived with some significant feeling of doubt and the failure of my initial attempt left me all but deflated.  I managed to nab a canceled campsite reservation at the Canyon Campground and settled in for much needed sleep.

I awoke at 5:30 am with daylight burning.  Pondering the maps a little I made a plan for the return to my main search area, but first I would make a couple shorter excursions.  I returned to the brink of the Upper Falls lot and walked out to Cascade Falls Overlook.  I carried a tent stake in my pocket thinking that if I found myself back down in the “f” Fort I would probe the earth where I had dismantled the rock cairn back in September.  It seemed improbable that the treasure be buried down there, but I found it hard to completely dismiss the curious find I had made in this mysterious and potent location.  Conditions proved unfavorable.  The rocky gulch that I had easily descended in September now ran water.  If I could find a safe way down I would have certainly gotten wet trying to cross the swollen Cascade Creek.  I peered down toward the small group of trees and renewed my affirmation that this was just too exposed a place for Forrest’s purpose.  I could not see the remains of the rock cairn.  It would be left a mystery to me.

I then returned to the Glacial Boulder, but instead of trotting down the trail toward my search area I paced off into the woods toward Canyon Campground.  My plan was to search a line drawn from Inspiration Point through, and balanced by, Glacial Boulder. This was based on an alternate interpretation of the fourth stanza in which the lines reference the successive overlooks: Lookout Point, Grand View, and Inspiration Point. I toyed with the word “inspiration” and its various meanings as being a central theme or motif in the poem: the key word to unlock “begin it”, “take it”, and “take the chest”.  In this less polished solve the “effort” was Inspiration, or to inspire, which was the Point, or purpose, of the chase.  I plodded through this section of wood in similar fashion to how I approached my search area the previous evening.  The contrast here was that the route was crossed by several well-worn paths of which some included old trail markers nailed to trees.  I made just one pass covering a greater distance than required before exiting directly to the road.

I then returned to my primary search area down the trail toward Seven Mile Hole.  Instead of walking all the way to the near point on the trail I chose to depart into the woods just a few steps beyond the trail distance sign I had encountered on the previous day.  I was attempting to follow the final length of the linear projection from the “f” Fort through Glacial Boulder.  This meant a quarter mile of off trail walking to get to the calculated end point.  I had changed the axis of my approach to more comprehensively address the potential error.  I continued beyond my “X” up onto a broad elevated area toward a labeled high point which happened to lie on my path.  I then expanded my wanderings to include any and all high points in the relative area. After about two hours of rambling through this wooded plateau I started recognizing every rock and tree and decided to return to the trail. I was disappointed but not surprised by the outcome.

I needed to get out of the woods and breathe the open air for a while.  I headed to Wapiti Lake trailhead to exercise the fleeting hunch that I had conjured up at the end of my second trip. Again pursuing the alignment of Glacial Boulder and Inspiration Point, but this time in the opposite direction, across the canyon, I aimed for Forest Springs, a thermal feature near the Wapiti Lake Trail.  A steady drizzle set in forcing me to don a poncho to avoid becoming drenched.  The rain couldn’t dampen the beauty of this easy two mile walk… Long range views of snow topped mountains, the company of grazing bison and elk, the smell of sage, and the added adornment of wild flowers had me in good spirits.  Before long I was amongst the trees again, but they seemed better nourished – generally larger and healthier than those of the previous wood I had explored.  The sulfur smell was not overpowering but rather comforting, as was the warmth and bubbling sound emanating from several white steaming thermal pots on either side of the trail. A few breaks in the trees offered views into the meadow valley to the south.  I passed a small body of water, and then arrived at the finger of woods containing Forest Springs. I walked along the small emerald green heated spring waters that followed the edge of the wood where it met with the meadow and led to a strip of calcite-rich sand.  I had come to the opinion that this was the most pleasant and scenic little walk I had taken in Yellowstone and speculated that Forrest would have done well to plan this as his final stroll before laying down on the box.  I didn’t stop to rest, though, and circled back straight through the wood toward the trail and then returned directly to the car. My treasure hunt was over but there were a couple more short hikes I wanted to take by the north entrance before the end of the day.

One was to walk the first mile or so of Rescue Creek Trail.  This cut across the flat plane of land that was my grand arrowhead’s tip.  I wanted to get another perspective of this wedge of land and possibly view the terminus of Bear Creek from the south bank of the Yellowstone River.  I enjoyed the short walk but decided not to follow through with the off trail hiking that was required to access the river view.

Then I exited the park, selected a site at Eagle Creek Campground, and set off to walk the Yellowstone River Trail down Bear Creek to the river. This ended up being one of the most interesting and featured short hikes that I had taken in the park. An old stone and plank miner’s cabin (Joe Brown’s?) remains in pretty good condition, but not accessible from the trail (at least in June) due to the impassible raging waters of Bear Creek.  The trail side was littered with rusty but intact old mining equipment.  From the foot bridge at the base of the creek I could see the mysterious doorway into the rock that was recently noted on the blog by another searcher.  I’m certain it has no relevance to the treasure hunt, but it is intriguing none the less.

Thankfully I returned home with no new twists of interpretation or leaps of insight to lead me onward into ever uncertain depth in the chase.  I was ready to welcome the resolution that would come with knowing that my solution was all together off the mark. Unfortunately, I could not reckon with this belief.  The arrowhead solution was just too good.  Reflecting on the past days I considered that my doubts about my solution may have limited my focus in the field, and that my expectation that some marker or marking would easily lead me to the treasure may have been unfounded.  Could I have walked right past it?  I wished I had been more thorough in my search of the area, and I imagined how I my approach would differ if I had another chance… I would locate to as near to my exact calculated treasure spot as possible and then slowly spiral outward from there within a range of reasonable error.  I would carry no expectation of a marker or marking… I would assume that the small chest lay somewhere in the area on top of the ground, but possibly covered by grass and tree fall… I would consider variations and side searches such as more exploration in the woods beyond the arrowhead tree blaze that I had found, but only after my primary search area was thoroughly combed.

Fortunately, a friend had recently moved to Bozeman who required very little convincing to jump in the car and go check my work.  He carried an operable GPS and arrived at the same general search area as I.  He then carried out the search I wished I had.  He had the same outcome.  I think I’ve found the bottom of this hole.  Do you?


Reading the Blaze – Part Three

by DWRock


The End is the Beginning 

I returned home 100% confident that I had identified the treasure location as Otter Creek.  I even told a few friends who inquired about my trip: “I didn’t find the treasure, but I know where it is… or where it was.”  Of course, the response was: “So when are you going back to get it?”  Whenever I speak with authority my partner, Ruthie, makes it her job to question my statements.  She claims that I must have gotten my degree at MSU, but she doesn’t mean Montana State University.  I think I have pretty good intuition and logic, and often the truth is no more than a believable hypothesis that hasn’t been proven false yet.  Isn’t this the scientific method?  Ruthie was understandably steamed that I left her with the baby for ten days only to return distracted and anxious to head back out.  When she finally sat through my full explanation of the Otter Creek solve she promptly denied its plausibility: “There is no way that any searchers got within 200 feet of that spot on accident!”  This sounded familiar.  This exact thought had driven me from the search area just when I had gotten so close!  My epiphany at the airport had finally allowed me to connect Otter Creek to the final lines of the poem like I had hoped to.  I admired the fit so well that I was ready to forget about this doubt until Ruthie slammed it back on the table.  Now I could not ignore it.  My confidence in Otter Creek began to fade.

Truth told I had no reason to be so confident.  I had a tight solve of the second and third stanzas that provided enough guidance to create the blaze mentioned at the start of the fourth stanza. After that my interpretation of the poem was spotty… and the idea that the treasure was hidden somewhere along the path of the blaze seemed to fall short of its potential… an almost unpoetic end.  The moment Otter Creek dissolved I shifted my eyes across the map to the end and beginning of the blaze at the Upper/Lower Falls. At one glance the fourth stanza was unlocked.  After mentioning “the blaze” the poem reads: “Look quickly down, your quest to cease”.  Cascade Creek is the final tribute to the Yellowstone River before it plunges into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.  An aerial or map view of the section of waters between Upper and Lower Falls reveals the spine of a lower case letter “f”, perfect in both proportion and orientation when viewed in alignment with the cardinal directions.  Cascade Creek comes in from the west at just the right point to suggest the ideal horizontal cross bar to complete the “f”!  The word cascade could replace “quickly down” suggesting that the searcher look at Cascade Creek.  The next line, “tarry scant with marvel gaze”, may refer to Crystal Falls.  This waterfall drops Cascade Creek into the pre-canyon “f” area where it joins with the Yellowstone.  The sixth stanza of the poem begins: “Hear me all and listen good” suggesting that the searcher listen to the next words.  The next line begins with: “your effort…” which can be heard as “f” Fort.  Crystal Falls is much smaller than its neighbors but has character and mystique.  It is captivating to watch it pour out of a broken notch in a sheer wall of rock that looks like the wall of a castle or a fort. The pre-canyon gorge shaped by and containing the watery “f” is like a fortress with access limited by steep banks to the east and west and impassable waterfalls to the north and south.  What’s more, the walls of this “f” Fort are complete with perimeter walkways and observation decks, like turrets, at the brink of each of the larger falls.

I was lost on the interpretation of the remainder of the sixth stanza including “…will be worth the cold” and “brave and in the wood”… but with the “f” Fort I had something more convincing than Otter Creek that kept me feeling hot on the chase.  I recalled that Forrest signs his last name with a little dot in what would be the northwest quadrant of the “f”.  I wondered if this dot might indicate the exact spot within the “fort” that the treasure is hidden. I speculated that a searcher might have to get wet to access this quadrant giving meaning to “worth the cold”. Once there the chest might be found “in the wood”.

Five weeks after returning home from my first trip I awoke pre-dawn back at Eagles Creek campsite… I drove in the dark arriving at the Canyon by sun-up.  My first objective was to survey the “f” Fort from all of the surrounding observation points and paths.  I wanted to identify any potential hide locations in the pre-canyon gorge.  I expected the hide spot would be a wooded area that Forrest could have traveled to without being spotted by onlookers.  I began at the brink of Lower Falls.  I noted that the entire length of the “f” spine created by the Yellowstone was open to view from one point or another along the walkway ruling out the unlikely river crossing.  From those same vantages I scanned the east bank which runs steeply down about 200+ feet from Uncle Tom’s Trail to the river.  It is generally wooded but with bands of open grassy gaps between the groupings of trees.  Continuous cover might be an issue in accessing that side, and the grade of the slope was more than I thought 80 year old Forrest would have been up to.  Next I drove to the brink of Upper Falls parking area and walked out to the Crystal Falls overlook. This is where I thought the poem suggested that I “tarry scant”.  I tarried and could see trail workers starting work on the bridge that crosses Cascade Creek just above the falls.  From there I followed an old worn trail that begins to descend the end of the ridge toward the river and then switches back to a rocky drainage gully that leads down to lower Cascade Creek.  I stepped into the gully but the rocks were wet and slippery with the morning dew.  I decided to retreat and continue my perimeter surveillance which included a visit to the brink of Upper Falls and a walk along the Uncle Tom’s Trail. A sick feeling of lost inspiration set in as my doubts about this area were renewed and solidified.  It seemed unlikely that Forrest would have attempted the moderately challenging descent into the “f” Fort; unlikely that he would have chosen this highly public area as a final resting place; and unlikely that he would have been able to pull off the hide with confidence that had been unwitnessed.

With the wind out of my “f” Fort sails, I paddled quickly for Otter Creek.  The grass had died back significantly in the past month allowing for an easy walk alongside the creek all the way to the wood.  I had a 10×10 inch cardboard box folded up in my pack that I intended to assemble and photograph in the suspicious depression I had found on my first trip. I looked all around the area and was unable to relocate it.  I did see several other sunken spots in the earth near the creek and decided that the one that had caught my eye previously was common and due to the settling of earth from undercutting erosion.  I walked up and down both sides of the creek much farther into the wood than on my previous visit, but ultimately I concluded that the secret spot would be a more specific location pointed to by the poem.  Surprised by how quick the return to the car was, I almost regretted not traveling further in, but I rested on the decision that the treasure was not, nor ever had been, up Otter Creek.

My next move was to examine Cascade Creek on either side of the road upstream from Crystal Falls.  The “f” Fort seemed ever unlikely but I still considered the possible interpretation of the line: “look quickly down” as “look Cascade Creek”.  As I descended to where the creek passes under the road I could smell and then see a large culvert tunnel constructed of creosote infused timbers…”in the wood”?  I donned a cheap pair of hip waders and a headlamp and walked a short way into the tunnel before reason caught up and let me know how ridiculous this was.  By the time I made it out one of the plastic waders was filling up and I removed it just before the water reached the top of my boot.  I then followed the creek down to within sight of the bridge and work crew upon it.  Uninspired I returned to the car.  I briefly dropped down the other side of the road to gaze further up Cascade Creek, but I had already lost interest in the direction.

It was only mid-day so I made a return trip to the rock wall on Wolf Lake Trail. Walking in along the meandering meadow-banked Gibbon River I was reminded of how ideal this setting seemed for Forrest’s purposes.  The obvious issue was its close proximity to the trail.  The rock wall appears like the wall of a fortress, and I noted that it bends approximately into the shape of an “f”!  If “the cold” in the poem was a reference to nearby Ice Lake, then this could be the “f” Fort.  I walked along the bank of the river viewing the full length of the rock wall. My assessment was that this place was too close to an established trail, and I saw nothing in the wall that drew my interest enough to warrant closer inspection.

The next loose end I checked was Silver Cord Cascade Overlook. The trailhead is marked by the large and solitary Glacial Boulder that sits along the road leading from North Rim Drive out to Inspiration Point.  The word “cascade” in Silver Cord Cascade had caught my attention for the same reason that Cascade Creek interested me: “look quickly down”.  It seemed like a long shot, but I was in long shot mode.  As I walked the trail toward the best viewing area for Silver Cord Cascade I spotted an arrowhead shape that had been intentionally cut in the bark of pine tree on the west side of the trail. It looked like it could be about the age of the treasure hunt so I quickly broke off trail in the direction it pointed.  I looked for another similar marking but finding nothing I returned to the trail and continued to the overlook. I stood gazing at the thin line of falling water.  I didn’t know where to go next.  I had done most of what I had planned to do and it was still the first day!

I returned to the Crystal Falls overlook about 5 pm and watched the work crew walk off the job.  It was time to penetrate into the Fort!  I descended the rocky gully that was now dry and safely navigable.  I followed the last thirty or so feet of Cascade Creek to its terminus into the Yellowstone River. I found a human boot print, bear paw print, and deer hoof print all heading in different directions in a solitary small patch of wet sand!  I peered into some rock alcoves and gazed across the Yellowstone to at a flat grassy area on a large boulder at the base of the steep wooded bank below Uncle Tom’s Trail.  I darted my way back up creek toward the base of Crystal Falls.  It was easy to rock-hop over Cascade Creek without getting wet or “cold”.  I was now in the northwest quadrant of the “f”.  I continued toward the base of the falls creeping into a small grouping of mature trees.  There within I found a pyramidal stone cairn that stood about knee high. Was this it!  “Brave and in the wood”!!  I promptly dismantled the cairn and scraped at the surface of the earth underneath.  Due to my firm assumption that the treasure is not buried I felt no need to dig.  It was difficult to be sure from down there at a time when no one was on the surrounding trails, but it felt like I was almost constantly exposed to view.  I stalked around the northwest quadrant a bit more taking a close look at the base of Crystal Falls and then climbed up a forty foot rise to an overlook of the Cascade Creek – Yellowstone River juncture.  I returned up the rocky gully to the trail and headed back toward the parking area but could not leave without a quick walk out to the bridge over Crystal Falls.  I stared into the dark cavernous recess in which the water pools before the brink.  If it were warmer I would have been tempted to dip in there to explore, but not for search reasons.  The whole of the “f” Fort now felt verified as irrelevant to the search due to exposure from the surrounding popular walking paths and overlooks.  My long day was done, and it seemed my chase was done, too.

My body was tired and my mind in gridlock.  I decided to start the next day on a road trip away from Yellowstone to allow my thoughts to unravel.  My original arrowhead trajectory distantly crossed over MacDonald Pass on the Continental Divide Trail (quest two seas) near Helena, MT.  The extended axis of my current version would miss by ten miles to the east, but I had heard good things about the pass so I decided: “why not?”  Three hours on the road and I pulled into a small parking area on a grassy bald with a couple of communication towers nearby.  The cold wind was blowing so hard I had to hold strongly to the door as I stepped out to prevent damage to the rental car.  I had no other plan but to look around the pass and walk at least a couple hundred feet down the CDT.  The trail quickly entered the woods where the air was still and I was able to relax and enjoy my surroundings.  I spotted wildlife, found old trees covered in green moss, walked past impressive boulder fields alongside the trail, and admired groves of aspens with yellow leaves.  The tall pines rubbed together, creaking and chirping as the wind blew their tops.  It felt like the first day of fall, everything was crisp and clear. I walked about four or five miles, much further than I had anticipated, until I came to a large bald that rose slightly higher than the parking area on the pass.  I admired the long range views.  The wind had lightened up and the sun warmed the air.  It was a beautiful hike and a good break.

On the drive home my thoughts returned to the search.  I reviewed my interpretation of the poem: the first clue “begin it where warm waters halt” provides the general direction to go to Yellowstone; the second clue indicates more specifically to go to “the canyon”… The following lines drive the creation of the arrowhead blaze overlaying the park map to be used as a treasure map.  The “blaze” begins and ends at “the canyon down”.  Immediately after mentioning the blaze the poem indicates “look quickly down your quest to cease, but tarry scant with marvel gaze, just take the chest and go in peace”.  At the Canyon area, the North Rim Trail offers a series of overlooks which in order are named: Lookout Point, Grand View, and Inspiration Point.  I realized that these might correlate to the poem’s lines: Lookout = “look quickly down”; Grand View = “marvel gaze”; and Inspiration = to breathe in or “take the chest”.  This interpretation seemed to direct the searcher down the North Rim Trail past Grand View to Inspiration Point. I knew that Inspiration Point was closed for construction, and that the North Rim Trail was barricaded after Grand View, but I could access the surrounding woods from the available road to Glacial Boulder.  I had a plan for the next morning!

I was almost back to Gardiner with some daylight left, so I decided to check out an old loose end: a third “home of Brown” I had once considered for the arrowhead’s tip.  The process of subduction and upheaval that created the Rocky Mountains resulted in the interesting feature that is Devil’s Slide. This steep swooping vertical swath of exposed red iron oxide looks like a giant slide. It is easy to perceive a connection to Forrest’s “old iron fire escape” story in the TTOTC book.  Adding to the intrigue of this feature are a couple of fortress-like walls to the left of the slide which are hard bands of rock that were once horizontal and now are turned vertical. To get a closer look I drove off the main road and over the bridge at Corwin Springs. The boundary of the old Royal Teton Ranch barred access to the slide with NO TRESSPASSING signs posted on the intermittent fence posts. The RTR seemed long out of business… Much of the barbed wire was missing or lying on the ground beside the posts. Vacated buildings nearby bearing the RTR name include a large hacienda by the main road that has the appearance of a ghost town or an old forgotten movie set.  I could have easily walked past the old fence, but I decided to stay on my side as I did not know who or what entity was current custodian of the property.  I spent the hour before dusk walking close to the road below Cinnabar Mountain and watching the setting sun illuminate Dome Mountain and the other mountains and cliffs enclosing this beautiful Yellowstone River valley.

I was up again before dawn and quickly broke camp tossing the tent in a loose heap in the back of the car.  I figured that after an hour drive to the Canyon area I had two or three hours search time before I needed to pack it in for the airport.  I parked on North Rim Drive as near to Inspiration Point as possible and walked along the access road making intermittent forays into the woods toward the North Rim Trail. I mainly sought high points hoping to find an attractive vista or some compelling connection to the final lines of the poem.  I thought more about the sixth stanza of the poem and realized that I may have underestimated its complexity.  From “Your effort will be worth the cold” I had extracted the identity of the “f” Fort which served to validate my recent interpretation of the fourth stanza, but had no idea what to do with the rest of the line.  Now it struck me that “worth” could mean “equal to” or “even with” or “level with”, and “the cold” could refer to the Glacial Boulder near Inspiration Point!  I walked around the large solitary boulder and expanded my circling to the nearby woods with focused interest in the tops of the small rises that were more or less level with the top of the boulder. I had had a good idea, but it was underdeveloped and the searching felt loosely directed.  I soon tired and returned to the car.  I was running low on inspiration but still had over an hour left to play with.

It was hard for me to feel convinced that the “f” Fort was not part of the solution. When I was down in the “f” Fort I had looked across the river to a flat grassy area on top of a large boulder. This inviting platform and the steep slope above it were loosely wooded and I believed it could be descended under fairly continuous cover.  I drove to the Uncle Tom’s parking area, walked along the path, and dropped carefully down some two or three hundred feet of slope to the river.  I enjoyed a needed break on the flat topped boulder, and did briefly contemplate a square patch of de-vegetated brown earth right there in the middle of the grass, about 10 x 10 inches square, but I had learned my lesson in that kind of silly fantasy!  By the time I returned to the car I had less than an hour to burn. I began to feel the loss of my part in the chase.  I had a nagging thought and drove to the Wapiti Lake Trailhead.  I wanted to look at the kiosk map.  By coincidence I would end both my search trips at the same exact place!  My greatest fear going into this second trip was that I would end it in the same way as the first: with some sense of epiphany bringing a new variation to my solution that would lure me back again to this place and compel my family and friends to believe that I had become obsessed or insane or both.  This fear was realized as I studied the map at the kiosk.  The loose ends I that I had spent the morning toying with seemed to tie together into a final compelling “what-if?”, and I didn’t have time to investigate it!


Reading the Blaze – Part Two

by DWRock


A thought struck me as I lay awake in the tent before dawn on the seventh of my nine day search.  Maybe in my excitement in discovering the arrowhead I had been too quick to read it as a pointer.  The poem had defined over three quarters of the arrowhead through Solfatara Creek Trail.  “If you’ve been wise”…you can infer the remainder by symmetry bringing the drawing back the Canyon area where it began.  I had previously discarded the Canyon area as a treasure locale because I saw it as having too much tourist pressure for Forrest’s purpose… but what if the Canyon was where boots hit ground, and the blaze and the remaining lines of the poem served to direct the journey from there to a more appropriate area peripheral to the sightseeing main?  The thought that flashed into my mind was that “the wood” of the poem might refer to the part of an arrowhead that is wedged into a wooden arrow shaft!  This interpretation would figuratively and literally “tie-in” the arrowhead blaze to the final treasure location.

Once the sun was up I made a quick study of my National Geographic Trails Illustrated map on which my arrowhead and axis were delineated.  I continued to consider two different “home of Brown” locations which indicated very different tip locations but had little influence on the location of the center of the base of the arrowhead.  What caught my eye was a labeled peak (8,052 feet) near the south rim of the canyon that fell exactly on my axis line.  I was so glad for new direction that I packed up and headed out without a further thought.  I parked at Artist Point and walked the easy trail to Ribbon Lake and continued off into the woods beyond the lake.  I wandered the obtusely rounded terrain stepping over and traversing downed pine logs in what seemed an unending pursuit of the illusive peak.  Each subtle rise would taper down and then build into another subtle rise. Finally, I was standing on the intended peak but found no treasure and no survey marker.  Just to be thorough I walked an additional mile to bag the next nearest labeled peak (8,343 feet) before giving up and following the canyon rim back.  I stopped to ponder Silver Cord Falls as a potential representation of the string of a bow that might be drawn back to fire an arrow.  As I sighted the draw line into the tall grass and muck that leads toward Ribbon Lake I realized that I was grasping… I sat down on a log to think.  My lumbering thought train moved with slow but unstoppable inertia to the next logical station… Maybe the line “in the wood” still indicated the wood of an arrow’s shaft but at a point distant to the arrowhead.  Maybe I should project the axis line backwards on the map to determine where “in the wood” is referring to.  On the map I discovered that the shaft of the arrow conveniently skirts by the Fishing Bridge area where Forrest had his first Yellowstone experiences!

The line I extended on the map is reasonably accessible by only three routes within the park before it is lost into remote portions of southeast Yellowstone and northern Grand Teton National Park.  The intersections occur on Pelican Valley Trail, Turbid Lake Trail, and on the East Entrance road.  I found the latter compelling due to the fact that Forrest’s first impressions of Yellowstone would have come while driving in the East Entrance Road to camp at Fishing Bridge.  I checked the south side of the road finding a lot of mud and some thermal features that I didn’t want to step in, and the north side of the road offered nothing to catch my eye.  I concluded that there was little chance that the Fenn family, or Forrest on his own, would have stopped to explore this bleak peripheral area when they were so close to their camping destination and the many splendors just around the bend.  I’m not sure now why I decided not to walk up Turbid Lake Trail, but the Pelican Valley Trail had my attention because it crosses perpendicular to the axis line and is the closest intersect to Fishing Bridge.  The trail enters a “Bear Management Area” so I was happy that a tour group was following behind me… but I didn’t want them to see me wandering off trail… so I overshot the axis line and pretended to take interest in a distant buffalo.  They took such a long time that I watched a thermal pot boil… and then watched a cowboy with a pack mule trainee slowly clump by… Finally they passed and I doubled back to investigate some narrow bands of woods that paralleled (conveniently) about 200 feet to the north and south of the trail at my mark.  I found no human leavings or markings.

I had some daylight left so I drove up to the Canyon area to scratch a mental itch. It bothered me a little that I hadn’t spent more time in the exact area where the drawing of the arrowhead begins and ends. The Yellowstone River drops 100 feet at Upper Falls, travels a short distance, and then plummets 300 more feet at Lower Falls.  The smaller Crystal Falls pours through a breach in the west flank of the pre-canyon gorge delivering Cascade Creek into the Yellowstone River between Upper and Lower Falls.  Something had perked my interest in Crystal Falls long before my trip to Yellowstone in my early stages of developing a solution that would begin in the Canyon area.  I’m not sure what originally triggered my sense of its mystique, but when someone hinted at a potential connection to the poems words “marvel gaze” my attraction to it strengthened. The reference on the blog hinted at a connection to the classic movie, The Wizard of Oz, in which Professor Marvel gazes into a crystal ball.  I parked in the Upper Falls lot and walked in the rain to the Crystal Falls observation point. The waters of Cascade Creek travel through a mini slot canyon, then pool in a dark cavernous recess before pouring out of a face of rock that resembles a broken castle wall.  I longed to take a closer look into the dark recess but the trail leading to the top of the falls was closed for construction.

I had a limited budget of time for my last day of the trip, and what started as a simple plan became a bit of a frenzy.  I had previously scouted the Wolf Lake Trail up to its juncture with the Gibbon River.  The Gibbon is a small but wise and charismatic river that snakes beautifully through scenic meadows along the road between Norris and Madison Junction.  The Gibbon had a draw on me and I had already made one side excursion parking at Iron Springs Picnic Area to walk along one of the few sections of the river that deviates briefly away from the rumble of the road.  I had slated the remainder of my final morning to making a few slow passes of the small section of the Gibbon that cuts between Ice Lake and Wolf Lake Trails.  I had been toying with the idea that after the mention of the blaze in the poem the remaining clues continued to define its path back to the Canyon.  This idea ruled the day.  After Solfatara Creek Trail the arrowhead seemed to want to follow the Howard Eaton Trail to Ice Lake which I considered could be indicated by “worth the cold”.  Ice Lake leads to the little semi-remote section of the Gibbon that I would explore and hopefully find “brave and in the wood”.

I began to complicate things by adding one quick search stop before driving into the park.  To explain this stop I need to mention a few more events from day eight…  The previous day I was forced to upgrade my week park pass to a year park pass.  The ranger at the gate handed me my new pass and asked if I needed a map.  Finally I understood!  Forrest has stated over and again that “all you need is the poem”.  The first clue indicates: Go to Yellowstone.  Once you get there a map is provided to you at the entrance gate.  This simple map is one of the easiest to initially identify the outline of an arrowhead as it is formed by the Yellowstone River from the Canyon to its juncture with the Gardiner River, and from there roughly following the Grand Loop Road past Norris back to the Canyon.  My old favorite “put in below the home of Brown” was off this map… Joe Brown Creek was the wrong home of Brown!  My second choice turned out to be the best choice.  This was further confirmed when I proceeded to drive into the park and noticed a rare phenomenon: empty spaces in the Boiling River parking area.  I stopped in and read some of the interpretive signs.  One described the Gardiner River as a winter spawning ground for Brown Trout.  Again, all you need is the poem!  The Gardiner River is home of Brown.  In the last light of day eight I poked around above a quarry near Eagle’s Creek Campground that lay in the path directed by the revised arrowhead blaze. I didn’t find anything compelling, but I enjoyed a view of the Yellowstone -Gardiner junction from above.  The remarkable land feature defined by the two rivers is unquestionably the tip of the arrowhead.

Before entering the park on my ninth and final search day I made a stop at the “new” proper arrowhead tip where the Yellowstone and Gardiner rivers meet.  The tip of land pointed directly toward a smooth boulder in the river that was naturally sculpted out hollow giving it the appearance of a giant heart shaped goblet.  I couldn’t help but climb inside and dig around the stagnant water and silt until I was sure that no chest was buried within.  I then waded across the Gardiner and climbed about 50 feet up the sloped bank to survey the area.  The surroundings seemed unlikely for Forrest’s trove. Downtown Gardiner was just a few hundred feet away, immediately across the Yellowstone were homes and private properties, and all around the banks I saw the litter of human recreants.

I moved on to Wolf Lake Trail… The trail offers views of the Gibbon bending into omega shapes in the grassy meadows to the right.  An interesting rock wall of at least 100 feet long and 20 to 40 feet high emerges below the trail near to the river crossing.  The wall has a curvy ribbed profile with folds and vacant slots creating many potential secret spots.  I had planned to spend some up close time in the rock, but gnawing doubts about my current search area caused me to hurry past.  Leaving the trail I stepped into the Gibbon and steadily waded through the water and trotted along the downed pines that crisscrossed it.  In about 45 minutes I crossed Ice Lake Trail and continued up the river for about 300 feet before retreating.  This is a wonderful area, but I could appreciate it little because I was watching the minutes tick away and was sure that the treasure lay elsewhere.

The arrowhead drawing on the map is guided by the clues and corresponding waterways, roads, and trails.  After passing along the Solfatara – Howard Eaton – Ice Lake link up the drawing must jump a brief featureless gap before it is confidently received and surely channeled back to its source. Otter Creek perfectly provides the compliment to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone needed to complete the base of the arrowhead.  Over the past evenings I had spent some time browsing the internet at Tumbleweeds Café trying to make a connection between Otter Creek and what I believed was the final clue(s) of the poem: “brave and in the wood”.  I considered animal stereotyping, like “hungry as a wolf” and “proud as a lion”, and hoped to find some reference to “brave as an otter”.  I could only find the stereotype “playful as an otter”, but I did read that the otter will fiercely defend its home and young against any adversary.  As I walked the Gibbon on the morning of my last day I kept feeling like I needed to be searching closer to the “end” of the arrowhead drawing.  I decided that the Otter might be brave, and with my remaining time I would do my best to find out.

I parked at the nearest pull-off, walked down the bank into the shallows of the Yellowstone River, and waded under the road into Otter Creek.  I moved slowly at first, examining the juncture area and walking the first hundred feet or so in the water, then weaving back through the wooded area near the south bank of the creek. A park service road runs adjacent to the creek along its north bank for a few hundred feet before crossing over and diverging to the south.  The terminal section of the creek was shallow, gravelly, and exposed.  The water was slow and tinged in a way that suggests backwashing from the bigger river. I decided that the creek area within 200 feet of the main road didn’t feel like a treasure hiding area so I continued upstream.  Without any other agenda I decided to budget the balance of time for walking as far as possible up Otter Creek.  I stepped out of the water, knocked the gravel out of my sandals, and hastened up the service road. Above the second bridge the creek narrowed to less than two feet wide and all but disappeared in tall grass as a little valley opened up.  I was surprised that such a bold blue line on the map turned out to be such a meager trickle!  It became difficult to walk in the grass next to the creek so I moved to higher ground along the edge of a wooded area to the south. I was able to keep an eye on the Otter from a distance by watching the crease it formed in the floor of the grassy valley.  Before long I could see ahead where upper Otter Creek exits the woods and enters the valley.  I reasoned that the treasure would lie at the point where the Otter is first encountered from this direction “in the wood”.  I closed in toward this point.  A few thoughts and events converged here that were pivotal, but I wouldn’t fully grasp their importance until later.  I had begun to doubt this search because with no nearby roads or trails it seemed unlikely that any, much less several, searchers would have accidentally or unknowingly come within 200 feet of the remote area I was travelling in.  I was already mentally preparing to turn back as I met the creek and entered the wood.  Then something at my feet caught my eye.  Just inside the wood on the north bank of Otter Creek was a perfectly square depression in the earth that seemed to fit the dimensions of the treasure chest: about 10 inches by 10 inches, and with a depth of about 4 inches.  I snapped a couple of quick pictures and walked a short way further up creek into the wood.  Soon I glanced at my watch and double-timed it back to the car to spare a few minutes for another last-ditch effort.

The rationale that the end of the hunt should coincide with the end of the arrowhead drawing continued to draw me toward the falls, but I couldn’t be convinced that the proper falls area could contain the treasure.  It would have to be somewhere peripheral to the main tourism center.  My thoughts lingered on the arrowhead’s path along Otter Creek that completes the journey to the starting point…  Maybe the wooded area across the Yellowstone River from the Otter Creek outlet would be worth a look?  I moved the car to the Wapiti parking area on the other side of the river and set off through the picnic area into the wood. Eventually I reached the viewpoint opposite Otter Creek. There is a fantastic old fallen tree there with a dried and weather-worn maze of roots covered in bright green moss. The trunk pointed exactly away from the creek. I looked around the edge of the eroding bank finding nothing else of interest, so I followed the direction of the old tree up into the woods.  I lost sight of the tree as I climbed, but I tried to maintain its trajectory rising about one hundred feet in elevation before reaching a ridgetop. I looked around the immediate area and then walked along the ridge back toward the parking area. I had passed below some rock outcroppings when traversing to the Otter Creek viewpoint.  I took some time on my return to climb around them and look into mailbox-like slots underneath several of the rocks that seemed to be eager for the insertion of a 10x10x6 inch treasure box.  There was no rationale in this kind of searching… as humbling as it is to recount I mention it because it illustrates the futility of searching without a completed solution to the poem.  There were so many moments like this during the nine days – peering into slots and crevices or overturning logs and old stumps in a manner that lacked specific direction or precision… just fruitless hopefulness.  The active treasure hunt seems to demand the full attention of two sides of the mind that don’t work at the same time: the creative/imaginative mind and the logical/rational mind.  Enacting this struggle with my “boots on the ground”, however, later proved to be a necessary process to learning and understanding the completed solution.

I gifted my bear spray and air horn to some young hikers standing at the Wapiti Trail kiosk. The anxious pace of the day continued as I had spared no extra time, but my actions were now all pre-planned and mechanical.  Luckily I arrived at the airport with some minutes to rest and reflect before my flight boarded.  My thoughts began to catch up.  I was still grappling with the question of the Otter.  I pulled out my tablet and resumed searches about otters and the various definitions of the word brave.  As my brain sorted and filed the various images and thoughts from the day I suddenly had the answer!  I knew where the treasure chest was!  I was there just a few hours earlier!  The little creek I walked along was less than two feet wide and covered up for much of its journey by tall grasses, but it persisted, coursing a straight line, bold blue on the map, four miles alone, the main waterway draining the valley, before offering itself into the larger Yellowstone River as the final tribute before the plunge over Upper Falls.  It didn’t matter that it was named “Otter”… the creek was by its character “brave”.  I knew then that with another short visit to Otter Creek I could more carefully analyze and document the depression I saw, as well as, walk further up and down the banks in the wooded area. To that end I was confident that I would find the treasure or know that someone else had.  As the plane delivered my body homeward an anxious undercurrent began to draw my mind back in the direction of Yellowstone.


Finding the Blaze – Prequel

by DWRock


I began my armchair sleuthing much like everyone else probably does… a word or a phrase in the poem caught my attention and I linked it to a place or a natural feature in the Rocky Mountains and attempted to build a sequence from there.  I immediately had a hunch that Yellowstone was the general venue for the hunt.  Phrases like “look quickly down” and “tarry scant” had me thinking about geysers.  Embarrassingly, my first inception of a solve had the treasure chest tucked into a crevice of Lone Star Geyser’s orifice!  Don’t stop reading now… I’ve come a long way since then!  As I learned more about and the features and history of the area, and about Forrest’s life experiences, I began to see certain tracts in nature and circumstance that appeared to link nicely with several of the lines of the poem.  One such tract has been common to many searchers: Madison Junction down Madison Canyon to below Hebgen Dam… from there I considered heading up Beaver Creek and toward Avalanche Lake or, as an alternative, heading further down the Madison River and up the West Madison and Lake Creek toward Wade and Cliff Lakes.  These areas could be made to fit much of the poem, and as Forrest’s old stomping grounds they seemed a likely setting for his secret spot.  The problem I sensed was that Hebgen Lake is too obviously a link to home of Brown… anyone could come up with that and skip the previous clues to start there. This is a problem because the poem has been carefully crafted and all of the clues are important and need to be followed in sequence.

Then I directed my attention to the blaze.  I saw the blaze as an opportunity to instrumentally link distant features on the map that are “too far to walk” between.  The blaze would be a symbol drawn over a conventional map to indicate the treasure location.  All of the clues would be needed to create and use the blaze.  I tried to see a blaze that would fit the previously mentioned sequence and the best I came up with was a rough lightning bolt that started at MJ and ended at Avalanche Lake. This didn’t seem right…it didn’t reveal anything new to me.  I moved on and began looking for blazes that I imagined might be a circle with a center marking the treasure location; or a spiral that trended inward ever to the left; or a big “X” to mark the spot.

My attention gravitated toward The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone because YNP was my best interpretation of WWWH and The Grand Canyon, of course, is the natural “canyon down”.  I noticed on the map that the left trending arc created by the Yellowstone River roughly complements part of the Grand Loop Road to form much of a circle.  I recognized that the center of this circle would be way too remote to be a feasible treasure location, but I continued studying the perimeter for locations that might link to the poem and support the form.  Sheepeater Cliffs is a stop along the section of Grand Loop Road that aligns with the circle… “no place for the meek”, I thought.  I had learned about old Joe Brown, the miner who struck gold on Bear Creek just up river from Gardiner, MT, and the north entrance of YNP.  My map showed Joe Brown Creek (I assumed his home site) just above the boaters access on the Yellowstone used to “put in” or “take out” just before dropping the rapids of Yankee Jim Canyon.  This was well off of the circle, but I became fond of the spot as an interpretation of “put in below the home of Brown”, and many times my eyes traced the Yellowstone from the Canyon to this “put in”.  I noted that this section of the Yellowstone bent into a decent spine of a lower case letter “f”.  Crevice Creek as “heavy loads and water high” seemed the best feature to define the cross bar.  A line drawn ever left from Sheepeater Cliffs completes the horizontal perfectly.  I had my primo solve completed up to the blaze: “f” marks the spot!!

I had a nagging doubt about my solve before boots hit the ground in August 2016… the shortest trail to the crosshairs of the “f” at the base of Crevice Creek was every bit of two miles and steep!  When I drove out through Jardine and found that access to the trail head required driving into private land with foreboding signage I knew my primo solve was no bueno.  I had to see the “f” spot, though, so I walked the five mile route down Deer Creek Trail to the Yellowstone River Trail to access the base of Crevice Creek. It was worth it! You should go there.

I had several days left to my trip but was uninspired by my other solve fragments so I went “Fenn touring”.  I went to West Yellowstone and checked out The Dude Motel, walked along the Madison off of the Down River Loop Trail, swam in Firehole Canyon, waded in the waters of Ojo Caliente, and even drove out to the old Fishing Bridge.  The highlight, my personal Fenn tourism stop, was a visit to Lone Star Geyser.  I promise I didn’t try to look in it!

My thoughts were still gravitating around my spoiled “f” solve, but the day’s activities had helped my mind relax a little.  Suddenly I had it!  I had become fixated on the “f” formed by the arcing Yellowstone River whilst attempting to draw a circle out of part of its curve and a complementary section Grand Loop Road.  This region of the map was burned into my mind from hours of study at home and while I was driving out to Fishing Bridge the image of the blaze emerged and I instantly knew I was on the right track…

I had found an arrowhead!

Take a look at the park map:

Can you see it?



Reading the Blaze – Part One

by DWRock


I had pictured an arrowhead outline that would naturally correspond to the shape of the Yellowstone River from the Canyon Area to the put in below my chosen home of Brown, and then follow the complimentary section of Grand Loop Roadway mirroring the river and leading back to the Canyon. When I excitedly unfolded the map my confidence was not shaken, but I realized that the arrowhead would need a little more work than imagined.  One issue was that to include my home of Brown (actually well outside the park boundary at Joe Brown Creek) would require some deviation from the river to form a natural looking arrowhead tip.  I recognized that I could solve this problem if I changed the “put in below the home of Brown” to the North Entrance of the park (in this case the home of Brown would be either the Gardiner River as winter spawning grounds for Brown Trout or a reference to Joe Brown’s mining claim on Bear Creek just upriver from the North Entrance…For the time being I was still attached to my original HoB and I proceeded to trace my arrowhead with a straight line from about Hellroaring Creek to the boating put in.  From there I drew straight to the turn off for Sheepeater Cliffs forming a symmetrical arrowhead tip.  The next literal bump in the road came just a couple miles south of Sheepeater.  The poem indicates that “the end is ever drawing nigh” (which it should when drawing the outline of an arrowhead counterclockwise) but the road turns right to bend around Roaring Mountain creating an aberrant bump in the arrowhead’s edge.  I quickly recognized how perfectly the Solfatara Creek Trail would fit into the poem and shave off the bump.  From Solfatara North Trailhead there is no creek for three miles as the trail follows a straight path within a transmission line cut: “no paddle up your creek, just heavy loads…”  I had seen the trailhead while driving by, and glancing up the cut I wondered why anyone would want to hike under those transmission lines when surrounded by so many other pristine options.  The answer gave me “water high”. The trail provides near access to the beautiful Lake of the Woods.  The chase was on!!  Unfortunately, the blaze was huge and I wasn’t sure how to “look quickly down” and “take the chest”.

My first instinct was to treat the arrowhead blaze as a pointer indicating a precise treasure location either somewhere near its tip or some location distant to the tip that could be found by extending the axis of the arrowhead.  My gut told me I should focus on the short game and search the proper tip area, but I had camped at Baker’s Hole and decided that while in the area I would explore the arrowhead’s path through the Gallatin. Only two secondary gravel roadways in the Gallatin offered reasonably close access to the trajectory I had drawn.  My line passed straight through a small feature named Timber Butte adjacent to the first access road.  I thought of the line: “if you’re brave and in the wood”.  Timber Butte sits about 11 miles down a gravel road that follows Storm Castle Creek. The drive is abundant with steep cliff walls and towering spires of rock. The final section of road enters a burned area of steep moss green colored hills covered in charred matchstick trees as far as you can see.  The mountains denuded and showing their verdant undercoat made me feel like I had been magically transported to New Zealand.  The road climbs up above and behind some rock spires that you can easily walk out onto for dizzying views.  Timber Butte is relatively small and sits beside the road.  I quickly walked up, over, and around it finding nothing but scratchy vegetation and gritty-rocky terrain.  It didn’t feel like a potential final resting place for Forrest, and I was at a loss for more specific direction from the poem here.

The next day I relocated to Eagles Creek Campground and investigated the arrowhead’s tip.  I poked around the put-in below Joe Brown Creek for a bit and then headed down the road into Yankee Jim Canyon. I pulled off in the canyon and read a sign that provided a brief history of this area as a travel corridor through the ages with evidence of use dating back 7000 years. This evidence was in the form of arrowheads! Apparently Indians would travel through here on their way to obtain obsidian from Yellowstone. The sign suggested checking out the Yankee Jim Interpretive Trail which shared parking with the Sphinx Creek Trailhead across the river. I had some intuitive curiosity in the Sphinx so I spent quite a while trying to get over there: first driving down from Tom Miner and turning back all the way to Corwin Springs when I found the road closed.  When I finally arrived I found a barricade barring the trail: TRAIL CLOSED: GRIZZLIES FEEDING ON CARCASS AHEAD.  I looked up at the rock visage of the Sphinx looming above the trailhead. The sphinx was gazing down at the tip of the arrowhead!  I was spellbound by this sight and decided that this was a likely location to have secreted the treasure.  I could see lots of pockets and crevices in the rock below the face of the sphinx and thought of the lines “just take the chest”… maybe the treasure is in the chest of the sphinx?!  I planned to visit the ranger station in Gardiner to inquire about the grizzly closure.  I checked out the interpretive trail which contained five signs offering more interesting details on the history of travel through the corridor. Wagon toll roads were created and manned by old Yankee Jim himself.  Jim fought, but could not stop, the literal railroading of his business.  Before long the railcars were replaced by motorcars bringing us up to the current standard of transport through the corridor. Some rock work from the old roads remains visible, and an old advertisement painted on a boulder is partially preserved. That evening I sat in Tumbleweeds Café in Gardiner and read sphinx facts online: a sphinx often guards a royal tomb with a riddle. Perfect!!!

First thing in the morning I headed to the Forest Service Ranger Station in Gardiner and learned that a ranger had already left to remove the bear closure. Great!  When I arrived at the trailhead the ranger’s car was there, but the barricade was still up, and no sight or sound of anyone nearby. I waited around and did a little exploring in the rock-fall below the sphinx. It was clear that a direct route to the sphinx feature would be too rocky and steep. The immediate rock-fall area was abundant with boulders creating enclosed areas, shelters, and caves. A central flat enclosed area had served as an unofficial campsite junked up by careless users. The trash degraded the mystique of the Sphinx so I soon retreated to the parking lot. Two rangers returned to the trailhead and gave me their blessing to enjoy the hike with an approving nod to the bear spray in my hip pocket. They told me that six bears had been sighted eating on the carcass as of one week ago, but had evidently cleared out some days past.  It took about 45 minutes to top out the trail, and at least that long to navigate off-trail to the Sphinx feature.  I had already pretty much written off this site due to the distance and difficulty to access, but I couldn’t stop myself from scrambling down, around, under, and up into the feature to investigate.  Don’t try this!  It’s not there.

It took over an hour to make it back to the car. I promptly drove around to the put-in on the other side of the river. With my compass aligned to the arrowhead axis angle I sighted up the slope of Dome Mountain to what seemed like a rock overhang not 200 feet up from the road. I advanced the car to a pull off below the overhang and scrambled around on the rock for an hour or so.  At the end of the day I felt a little down. The tip of the arrowhead seemed a bust, I didn’t know what to do with my perfect blaze, and I had only three days left to my trip.


Tale of Two Solves – Part One



I’m from Arkansas and I’ve been involved with The Chase for a month now. Here are a few tidbits, IMO, I now believe from my searches:

1. Always eat a good breakfast.
2. I failed to solve the poem.
3. Read the book over and over until you go mad.
4. When I punched in the coordinates of solve #2, most of the numbers matched up to the pages in the book referring to the specific parts in the poem. That was odd. It leads me to believe the location will be in Wyoming or Montana.
5. There are a zillion know-it-alls on the web that are rude and treasure-less. Shocker.
6. I hope Dal finds it.
7. I’m done with The Chase. I wrote, dated, and signed a note to my wife that I would stop this nonsense haha. Fin. If anyone would like to reach out to me, they can. Before you begin to think you know exactly where it is, I can bet it’s not the place. I believe you have to use the poem to solve the clues, then use those clues in such a way that they will uncover and lead you to the general area in which the chest is hidden. I don’t have the complete solve on this, but it’s pretty near complete. You WILL in fact need more than just TTOTC, the poem, and the map. I can go into great detail if anyone wants to reach out to me at:

Solve #1-

Let me begin with saying this solve was completely fabricated based on hunches and derailing from the book. Looking back, we had a terrific time even though it didn’t pan out.

“Begin it where warm waters halt.” This to me was Mammoth Hot Springs. In love with Yellowstone.

“And take it in the canyon down.” This was Gardiner Canyon.

“Not far but too far to walk.” 10ish miles.

“Put in below the home of Brown”. We put in between Gardiner and Jardine where Joe Brown had his mining operation.

“From there it’s no place for the meek.” In the book it talks about how the Comanches would raid the barn and stir up a commotion with the chickens. Next to Gardiner was Turkey Pen Creek (yes we searched that too).

“The end is ever drawing nigh.” That meant that it was coming up on our left. Bear Creek.

“There’ll be no paddle up your creek, just heavy loads and water high.” This was Castle Lake, the mining scars, the boulders, and the mining tailings all connected to Bear Creek.

“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.” We walked up the Bear Creek trail until we came to the only clearing you will find on the trail.

Across the clearing was a white mark on the hillside. When the sun is out of the east it really ignites. The tarry scant and marvel gaze part was for us to slowly go down like Spiderman. It’s wasn’t bad at all. An 80 year old man could have done it.

At the bottom of the hill was a hollowed out log and I was pretty pumped about it. I whipped out the flashlight and…negative. We continued to the creek, searched in it, around it, and even walked down it below the blaze. No bueno.

All-in-all I have to say that this was a bust. Do not waste your time on this one. We checked everywhere thoroughly. We even went below the creek where it meets Yellowstone River. Maybe it’s up at Castle Lake? If that’s true, then that should be the ONLY place you waste your time. Get a horse, and after you’ve wasted your time read the book again.

Dustin in Arkansas-

On Quitting the Chase…

by Ken S.

Warning – this is verbose and long winded.

I have only been at “The Chase” for a little over five months now starting in December, 2016.  I realize I am a late comer to the party.  I have not been out in the mountains yet because we still have snow down to the 5,000’ 6,000′ level here in Montana.  I was raised in south central MT and YNP has been in my backyard my whole life.  Many of you have been at this for years and it has changed your lives and, in some cases, how you now live your lives.

For me, and for most of you, all I can think of any more is “The Poem” of clues.  I think of it as soon as I wake up in the morning.  I recite the poem throughout the day.  Nearly every night I review different websites for new clues.  I stay up way too late looking at GE, the thesaurus, dictionary, and topo maps.  I have had several “solves”, most of which “work” to some degree or another.  For me, it is consuming and I want to/need to stop.  I have many other things I need to do and think about.  I hope in giving away what I have learned so far, I can maybe get this Chase out of my head.  Really, the best way for that to happen is for someone to find the chest!

In this monolog I am going to give most all of my solutions to clues I have found in the poem.  And, yes, I find more than nine clues in the poem.  As some have said, maybe each sentence counts as a clue, but within each sentence there may be several sub-clues (you can call them hints if you want, but I will refer to everything as clues for ease of typing).  I am not going to quote or cite blog posts or videos but will trust my memory of what I have read on different websites, primarily this one.  I know many of you will shoot holes in my logic and thoughts, that’s OK.  Some of you will discount me because I haven’t referenced ff quotes.  But, maybe some of my thoughts will nudge someone else into a different line of thinking, as do many of the blog posts I have read from others.  Btw: I am  a poem purist, I have not purchased the book(s).  Line by line, here goes:

As I have gone alone in there
Alone could mean Lone Wolf, Lone Star Geyser (ff is from TX), Lone Mtn near Big Sky, MT.  I only developed one solve based on this line.  Btw, there is a Fenn couple that own land at Big Sky, MT (public record).  I don’t know if they are related to ff.

And with my treasures bold,
Treasures Bold could be the creeks that flow into the Lamar River including the adjacent creeks called Jasper, Amethyst, Agate, Crystal, Opal, Chalcedony, and Flint.  All are treasured gems.  Their creek names are bold on a topo map in the area.  I have two solves that use this phrase as a clue.

I can keep my secret where,
I have found no clues in this phrase.

And hint of riches new and old.
The word old may refer to a historic mining district.

Begin it where warm waters halt
There are warm waters all over the west and in the Rocky Mtns.  I have considered mostly those only in my area of familiarity.  In YNP I considered both Soda Butte Cr. and less warm Rose Cr. in the Lamar Valley.  Neither are hot springs.  Soda Butte is warm and Rose does not freeze in winter.  I also considered the Firehole River, the Boiling River, Corwin Springs, the hot springs at Thermopolis, WY, and in the Shoshone River at Cody, WY.

WWWH could also refer to the geographic borders of YNP, but does it mean inside YNP or outside YNP?  Soda Butte and Lamar flow from the boundary inward, Firehole/Madison, Snake, and Gardiner/Yellowstone, flow outward.

Thermopolis, WY is well below the elevation of the chest hiding place but the poem doesn’t say you have to decrease in elevation.  I used Thermopolis as the start point for a solve that looks at the really “big picture”.

And take it in the canyon down,
Different canyons that I have thought of in my solves are Lamar River Canyon, Icebox Canyon, Gardner R canyon, Yankee Jim Canyon, Firehole/Madison R canyon, Yellowstone River canyon, Big Horn R canyon, Clear Cr. canyon in Colorado, and canyons that head south (down) on a map (only those which are associated with warm or hot springs).

Not far, but too far to walk.
This phrase is so very subjective.  Even though ff was 79 or 80 yo, I have hiked long hard miles with people that age.  It also depends on the altitude and terrain.  It is ten hard miles from Buffalo Ranch to Lamar R joining the Yellowstone R.  It is several miles from Boiling River to Yankee Jim Canyon.  My interpretation for this is that ff probably walked no more that six miles total on his two round trips to hide the treasure.  The higher the altitude the less the mileage would have been.  Similarly, if he was bucking brush versus walking through high park grass, the effort and distance would be much different.

Put in below the home of Brown.
I have a few different HOBs.  I borrowed from the blog for using the Lamar R. and Buffalo Ranch.

Along the Big Horn River just above Sheep Canyon there is a long-operating bentonite plant owned by the Brown Family.

Brown could also be Brown’s Lake east of Fort Collins for those looking in the Estes Park area.

I also thought of the sewage lagoons below Gardiner and the Grizzly Adventure in W. Yellowstone.

And, here is a doozy:  In one translation I found the word Brown has a Spanish translation as the verb “doarse” meaning ‘turn, turn about, turn around’.  But, in most Spanish dictionaries “doarse” means “to turn brown, or golden” such as for sauteed food.  So, doarse is a pretty weak interpretation of Brown, but . . .

From there it’s no place for the meek,
This one is also subjective depending on one’s personal fears – or maybe it refers to a place where the meek would not be found.  At first blush I thought this meant that “You are going to have to work for it.  It’s not easy”.  Or, it could be a scary place – bears, wolves, buffalo, rattlesnakes, guarded private property, nasty switch back roads, nasty park rangers?  Could meek be a religious reference (inherit the earth).  If so, could it be related to a church camp or mountain chapel?)  The Big Horn River cuts through both Sheep Mtn. and Little Sheep Mtn and sheep are referenced in literature to be meek animals.  Meek is associated with timid so maybe “no place for the meek” is associated with the antithesis such as Devil’s Slide, Hell Creek, wolf, etc.

The end is ever drawing nigh;
Some of the blog posts suggest this as meaning “to the left” so some of my solves used it that way.  Others did not.  For my Thermopolis, WY solve I interpreted it as the Shoshone River which enters the Big Horn R just below the Sheep Canyons after its run from the YNP west entrance down through Cody, WY

There’ll be no paddle up your creek,
As with most I interpret this as a small stream or dry creek bed.  It could also mean a stream with heavy rapids that cannot be ascended even by kayak.  This could mean the Shoshone River through Cody, WY.  Also, paddling is not allowed in YNP, nor can Lamar R be paddled upstream in the canyon portion because of the close boulders.  This could also mean to bypass Slough Creek which is the only creek with substantial water flowing into Lamar R.  It could also mean Crystal Creek which is one of the “gems” streams with very little water that flows into the Lamar.

Just heavy loads and water high.  
This could mean the large boulders in the Shoshone R as it flows from below BB dam down through Cody, WY or the heavy silt load on the Shoshone R at the BB dam, the Willwood dam, and where it flows into the Big Horn Reservoir (all in the Thermopolis solve).  I also took this to mean heavy loads of huge boulders in the rapids in the Lamar Canyon.  Water high might mean the high water mark of the Lamar (or any) river.  Water high could be where Lamar joins the Yellowstone and becomes a river too deep to cross on foot.  It could also mean any alluvium, especially braided – can’t paddle that – , at a creek’s mouth such as where it spills into a larger river)  Heavy loads (lodes) might also be referencing the many prospects and mines such as in SW Montana and along Clear Cr in Colorado.  Heavy loads and water high could mean a glacier or perennial snowbank.

If you’ve been wise and found the blaze,   
For the Thermopolis solve:  you have gone past Sage Creek (wise) as you go upstream.  The blaze is the Firefighters Memorial on Shoshone River upstream of the dam, elevation:  6190’.  This falls apart at the end because of the ff comment about no human trails in close proximity.

On the Fort Collins/Estes Park solve I was looking at a B-29 crash site that I thought ff might visit and honor because he had been a military pilot.  The B-29 trail description is to look for an Arrow on the final leg to the B-17 crash site.  For this solve I ignored it being a place ff might want to be buried.

My first solve along the Lamar R included an “owl face” along the river in the foothills between Tower Falls and Lamar Canyon.  The “eyes” are two small lakes, the beak is a small hillock south of the eyes.  The Blaze is an outcrop of white soil between and north of the eyes about 200 feet.

The Blaze could also be Tower Falls as seen from Specimen Ridge.  The Blaze could also be the Devil’s Slide above Yankee Jim Canyon.  Either type of “Blaze”, rapids or falls, could easily have a rainbow associated with the spray.  The rapids would show a rainbow most of the day with the sun to the south.  Tower Falls would only have a rainbow early in the morning with the sun to the east.  Devil’s Slide is also rainbow colored rock and soil.  Devil’s Slide is on private property but the very top end is on USFS, although quite a tough hike to access.

Blaze could also be a burned area but most of the YNP area burned up in 1988 and many subsequent years so that could mean just about anywhere in MT or WY.

Look quickly down, your quest to cease,
This phrase tells me that I am very, very close to the chest.  It is either literally at my feet or just down hill from where I am standing.  If you imagine my “owl” of pond eyes, it could mean to look at the “downy legs” and talons of the “owl” which would put it at the high water mark of the Yellowstone River across from Tower Falls.

To Cease could mean two (2) C’s such as Crystal Cr. or Cache Cr.  Two C’s could also mean the continental divide where water flow splits between the Pacific Ocean (sea) and Atlantic Ocean (sea).  But, that is just about anywhere in the Rockies in MT, WY, CO, and NM.

But tarry scant with marvel gaze,
To me, this means “Get the heck out of there before getting caught”.  That could be a situation for both NP lands or private lands.

Just take the chest and go in peace. 
I think this means “Don’t whoop & holler”, don’t tell anyone you found it until you are safe at home.  Peace could be a reference to a church camp or travel through a cemetery even though the TC is not hidden in a cemetery.  Peace could mean respect for the dead killed in the B-29 crash.

So why is it that I must go And leave my trove for all to seek?
I don’t see anything here.

The answers I already know,
I don’t see anything here.

I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak.
I think this is telling the reader ff did the trip on rubber tires, probably by car or truck and that he was gone a week.  Of course, a week of travel could put him in any search state depending how many times he stopped and how fast he drove.

So hear me all and listen good,
Is there sound which could be a clue – water gurgling?  I liked the recent post from another Chaser of a natural amphitheater.  I thought that was a good interpretation.

Your effort will be worth the cold.
A synonym of cold is Icebox (canyon in YNP, another is Piercing such as water spray from a water falls.  It might be as simple as having to wait through the cold of winter before snow melts enough to search in the field.

If you are brave and in the wood
This could very well mean the TC is hidden in a hollow log thus easier for a child to retrieve.  Or, it could mean under a log thus easier for a child to see under.  Or, it could mean to duck under the water to get under a log jam.  In two interviews FF has said people should get out and kick over a log.  My favorite interpretation is that there is wood inside the chest that carries a “deed” to keep the findings.  Wood could also mean it is in the trees, if so, there are trees along the the high water mark at most rivers.  Brave might mean be careful of buffalo and grizzlies.  Brave could mean Warrior Mtn in the Idaho Springs, CO mining area.  Btw, there is a Santa Fe Mtn just south of I-70 near Idaho Springs and 8.25 miles north it leads one to a mountain called Fairburn.

I give you title to the gold.
A legal title for the finder could be inside the chest along with legal caveats and codicils.

Finally, I am saving two solves from you all because they are within a day’s drive from my home.  I plan to check them out if the snow ever melts.

Solve #1 – Begin at Soda Springs in YNP, travel down to Buffalo Ranch, cross the Lamar over to Crystal Creek.  Look around between the Lamar R bank and the top of the drainage.  Look for a hollow log or under a log near anything that could be a blaze.

Solve #2 – Begin at Soda Springs in YNP, travel down to Buffalo Ranch, look on GE for the Owl Eyes and forehead blaze.  Walk downhill to the Lamar R bank and look through the trees near the high water line along the river.

Solve #3 – Begin at Soda Springs in YNP, travel down to Yellowstone Picnic Area, hike up Specimen Ridge, break off from there and hike down to the Yellowstone R across from Tower Falls.  Look around the side of the draw on your way down as well as check out the high water area along the Yellowstone R.

Solve #4 – Begin at Soda Springs in YNP, travel down the Lamar R to its merging with the Yellowstone R.  Check out around the confluence area at the high water mark.  There could be a recognizable blaze in the area.

Solve #5 – Begin at Thermopolis, WY, travel down the Big Horn R and shallow BH canyon just below Thermopolis.  Travel down to where the Shoshone R flows into the Big Horn R (below the bentonite plant owned by the Brown family) at the upper end of Big Horn reservoir near Lovell, WY.  Follow Shoshone  R up through Cody, WY, up past Buffalo Bill dam and reservoir until you find the Firefighters Memorial (blaze).  It might be there but there definitely are human trails in the proximity.  Also, for some inexplicable reason, I doubt ff would use an industrial plant as HOB, then again . . .

Solve #6 – Begin at the Boiling R. south of Gardiner, MT, travel down the Yellowstone R canyon towards Yankee Jim Canyon.  Somewhere near there you will see the Devil’s Slide down the side of the mountain.  In this solve HOB is the sewer plant for Gardiner, MT – not very attractive.

Solve #7 – Start at Idaho Springs, CO.  I didn’t find a HOB here but I did find a Toledo Mine, Santa Fe Mtn, Warrior Mtn (brave), and Fairburn Mtn (blaze).  I didn’t work this one very hard.

Solve #8 – I didn’t develop this one very well.  Start at Brown’s Lake near Ft. Collins, search for a B-29 crash site in CO just west of FC.  There is one not far north of Estes Park but still outside of RMNP.  This one can be mostly driven to on FS roads but has to be walked to the last mile or so.

Solve #9 – Begin at Upper/Middle Geyser Basins, travel down the FH river canyon, turn around (Spanish verb for Brown) at the Firehole River Drive one-way sign, look around between the confluence of the FH river into the Madison and then up stream towards FH falls.

I admit all of my “solves” have holes in them.  This has been strictly arm chair stuff while I’ve been waiting for the snow to melt.  Remember, I only learned of the Chest Chase last December so have not had a chance to get out in the hills.  And, after a couple field trips, I hope I can get this out of my system.

And, finally, it has been nearly two weeks since I have read anything about Fenn’s treasure.  I think I have broken my addiction to the poem.  I think I’m back to my previous life again.

Ken S in Montana

The Three Bear’s Adventure…



It all started for me last winter, sitting at home with an air boot on. The Today show featured Mr. Fenn giving clues to his poem.  I had to find out more.  Researching more about the poem on the computer, I discovered a searcher was missing.   Our condolences to Randy’s family and friends.
Begin it where?  O’boy, dad and I learned this fishing the boundary waters. New and old meanings of words.  Warm = Friendly  waters = come together or meet. Halt at state line.

Weeks later, the air boot came off.  I was off and limping. Having found three warm waters in NM,  only one was on public land.  Like a drone bee I headed to the hive. Wow my first day, there were 2 spots that fit the poem but no chest.  I reached out to Mr. Fenn.  After that phone call, I felt discouraged.   But after a night’s sleep, I was ready to start again.  Learning more definitions of ‘tarry scant’ lead me back to the park.  I thought I saw what looked like a teepee shaped boulder in the woods on the north side of a fence.


Glowing rock

 Behind the fence but no snow

Behind the fence but no snow


Standing there in marvel gaze, I wondered how to go behind the fence.  I went  down the canyon to a home of Brown,  the visitor’s center was open early for the season.    I went inside to ask some questions and maybe found a picture that implies a hint.



There was so much to see and explore in the park that I called it my fun parks.  Behind the teepee boulder, I found a pool of cold water with big rocks.  Some of the rocks were pointing to the center of the pool.  I definitely had to check that out. After a poke with my stick and a beep beep from my metal detector, I knew I had to wade in.   Nothing but rocks with metal in them.   I spent one week looking at blazes & pools in an area of about .9 tens of a mile.  When nothing was found there, I explored the entire park. The weather was a little cold but it was still fun exploring.

Nails in the tree at the state line.

Nails in the tree at the state line. What I thought I knew that just wasn’t so.


I spent months and numerous trips looking for places where the clues would work. On one of my early trips, some friends mentioned this web site and then Jenny’s. Thank you  and congratulations Jenny.  I felt Weekly Words and the comments hinted to areas where I was looking.  At times, I felt someone was messing with me. Hope you had a laugh or two.   Then I started reading more and more.  First all the past WWs and then   more pages at Dal’s site. The ‘what ifs’ and ‘what if’s’ in red really caught my attention.

I saw a comment from Jeremy P. quoting Mr. Fenn –   ‘What if no one ever discovers my art?’   That kicked me into gear.  To me that meant something.   Thank You for that comment.

One time a couple walked by me with a very professional looking camera.  I had that surprised look on my face. lol   Just when you think no one is watching , there is.  Hope they didn’t take a picture of that.


image7New and old tree blazes.   The older tree gave a shadow to a rock in the morning sun. hmmm image8


Still no chest. Earlier this year, my sister joined in the adventure.   One weekend, my Brother and Sister joined me with BOTG to watch my back. My Sister had decided to get the book TTOTC to see if there were any hints in the book.   I thought there sure were plenty.  Thanks for the book Sis.  She found things on the web that I didn’t find or think of.  image10


Thanks for the bear spay and camera Sis. I saw two bears one morning.


Mother bear is on the trail just inside the shade by the tree.  The cub is going up to the left above the dark green.   Glad I heard them down in the water and got out of there.  It wasn’t the four legged animals in the park that worried me the most but the two legged ones that I felt were watching me.  I believe ‘Do your own work or you might not know what it means’.

Next trip out, Sis and I hit the trails including the James M John trail.  In the satellite view on Google Earth,  we saw trails that looked like shapes of things hinted to in the book.   When Sis read the ‘Ode to Peggy’ poem from the book, it hit me. Ahh a light bulb moment.   One image looked like a pregnant women.  The pregnant women in the trail looked quickly down upon two ponds.   One looked like an arrowhead with an X in the trail. The other pond looked like a tea cup or pot and had a Y shape in the trail. That’s it, we had found  the X spot.  Up to the X to check it out.  We found foot prints in the pond so we knew someone had already been there.  We looked around the trails surrounding the pond.  I  found a soup can bottom or metal rusty round thing – trash. Then the CE5 was hinted.  Sitting in the motel, Sis and I talked about it.   We looked there and found rocks but didn’t look under the rocks.  My metal detector had been acting up.  Sis got online to find a new detector. When you need one, you can never find one close by.  We ended driving an hour away to get one.

The next time up the trails, Sis was a little sick so she sat in the car. When I checked out the rocks again with the new metal detector, I got the beep beep and I’m thinking, it’s here. The big rock was cracked so I could move it in pieces. I found MRE’s. More Trash




On the pregnant woman image trail, I found these rocks on top of the hill. Cool huh? Just think of the Indian history there!

Sis only had a week off, but we went home with some cool trash.  What it meant we didn’t know.   I went back and  lived out there most of the summer.

Back to Google Earth.  Along the top of lake Maloya, there looks to be the image of  a lazy Z in the shore line.   The top of the lake looks like horns.  Look closer at the horns of  the lake.  It appears like to be an arm going across to a circle, 36.995331-104.367324.   At CE5 , we found more trash.  Another rusty tin to add to our treasure. As I was walking back to the car, I’m thinking –  ‘All I’m doing is picking up clues’.   After the fact clues, my head hurt even more at this point.  GPS had shown me a different state line than the one marked with a sign. Computer research on the state line showed the actual state line may be different.

One weekend, my Brother happened to be back in the area for a wedding.   This gave us one more chance to go take a look at the state line in dispute.   Hunting season was upon us.   I needed to take one more peek.  Yes is was marked and I cleaned it up, more trash. There was no way to go look at the other spot safely or alone.

So thare she blows, Ask a kid.

This sure got harder as we went on.   Now to find the words,  places,  and right definitions.   In our tool box which contained the Poem  and the Book TTOTC.    Word=definition=place   park=to park=place  I thought two parks and his rainbow.  I saw a lot of rainbows on the trails.  One looked like a double arc together to make an x but the picture did not catch it.  Besides it was in the wrong state.  The full rainbows we saw had a start and an end.  2, 3,  6 and songs, rhymes, and kids stories refer to hints.  The double omega = mirrors.   Speed bump called rabbit hole. Thinking this has been a long time for me to be here.  There are a lot of smart people out there searching too but I feel there is a part of the game that is missing. luck=nudged   Which felt like running in front of a stampede in a horse park. Feelings, maybe computers are getting close. The Web, All you.     The six w’s –  who, what, when, where, why, & how.


Go west young man and grow with the country.

I got the chance to learn more of the history of the area.  A two trail thought.   A Trail that has a mirrored trail.  The Oregon Trail goes the same way west as the Lewis and Clark trail.  The Santa Fe Trail has the mountain route and the Cimarron “plains” route.  Both start 300 miles west of Toledo OH.   Mirrored trails from a Midwest point of view. The book mentions his routes:  a mountain route  and a plains route to Yellowstone .   6 points of crossing.  Number 6 is a number we see used frequently. Funny how those historic markers or rest stops we stopped at are about 40 mile apart. When to mirror, what?  I hope you understand what I’m trying to explain.

Possible Blazes:

# 1 – A rock with an edge that glowed in the morning sun.

# 2 – Trails that looked like hints from the book.

# 3 – Two state lines on GPS and  a monument place

# 4 –  Highway and trail, new and old .  Two Historic sites and a trip to where “see


# 5 – Two historic monuments and readings of the poem we would like to see and hear.

As seen on TVs.
My favorite thought is for a chance for all to go see the chest whenever they want to.   A chance to get my family’s name there and help them, and hide in a group of names.   Honor to the Armchair Searchers because you gave freely.   Where did Mr. Fenn hide it?  Did he really hide it there?   lol

Two mirrors on top in the chest,  to be in two places at one time.   Both ends of his rainbow.  To honor two families’ that were Brave in his times of need.   Mirror the end? or double endings?    There are hints of  two songs that  are in line  together   Give me a home in the land of the free and the home of the brave.   And in the end cremated to be in two places at once.

Now for a little fun.

Mr. Fenn is this how you see your rainbow?

To Wonder Land.
Mr. Ed. I’ll show you a new trick for an apple.
W. Sure
E. Grab my hat for me, put it on but hold onto it and don’t more your arm.
W. Ok
E. A nod and smile to ya.
W  Wait… a minute you did that last week.
E. Yes,,,, and you gave me a carrot, Thanks for the apple. chump Happy Hollow Ween, Trick or Treat.

Edna mode says,
What did you expect for  Free ? All the answers. Silly rabbit ask a kid.

I am just somebody that wanted to get into a good book and an honored place. As they drive into the morning sun, looking to see treasure’s of new and old.  They are heard singing carpool karaoke.   I’m proud to an American and God bless the U.S.A.

First Bear-


The Anomaly…

by voxpops



The captain invited us in. We all squeezed into the cramped cockpit and gazed admiringly, but (in my case) uncomprehendingly at the jet’s array of dials and controls, and then out into the infinite space beyond. They served us afternoon tea, and from the elegant menu card I selected a fine fruitcake, which you could slice with a dainty silvered knife. Then we landed in New York, and I learned, expensively, not to get hustled into street card games.

That was my first trip to the States (coach!), back in the early ‘80s, when air travel was civilized, relaxed, and still a tiny bit glamorous. Fast forward almost 35 years and it’s something to be avoided if at all possible, and endured if not. The Airbus is aptly named.

I have crossed the Atlantic scores of times since that first trip, not least on a quest to find the treasure who is now my beloved wife, but this time was my last ditch attempt to finally finish the Fenn Chase. It has been a number of years in the making for me, but I want to concentrate on the last two in this article.

This is a difficult piece for me to write. I want to try to help searchers be aware that there is a nugget of information out there that will be of enormous help to them in their hunt, without handing it to them on a plate.

 Hiking up from Hebgen

Hiking up from Hebgen

Where to begin? Maybe at the conclusion of my first BOTG trip in 2013. Firehole, Hebgen, Upper Coffin Lake, sore feet. I thought, like most noobs, that I had it all figured out, at least enough to find blazes and hidey holes as we walked up the trail. Prior to that, I’d pored over the map of NM and Colorado looking for suitable Browns near to hot springs – the usual – but now I knew that FF was intimately connected with the Yellowstone area, it had to be down the canyon and close to Hebgen. Boy, was I wrong.

One of the Coffin Lakes

One of the Coffin Lakes

So, in my post-trip analyzing, I started to think more deeply. Everyone was picking their favorite WWWH, based mainly on whether they could find some Brown connection a few miles down the river, and perhaps even a blaze-like object nearby. How could that work? How would you know – and I mean, KNOW – that you’d got the right starting spot? Surely the poem should tell you.

Well, I looked and I looked, and I looked some more, and then I got bored and distracted and started to invent my own again, falling into the “let’s overload the Google servers with our endless Rocky Mountain scanning” trap for months more.

Meanwhile, there was The Anomaly. You read the poem and there are specific instructions. OK, but what do they actually mean? “Begin it…” I was back to square one. But hold on… maybe not completely. There was one instruction that you could perform without knowledge of geography, or history (as some suggest).

It seemed glaringly obvious to me, so I originally dismissed it. But I kept coming back and back to it. At the time I didn’t know much about Forrest, but since then and through Dal’s site, in particular, I learned that Forrest has highlighted this aberration on more than one occasion. Nobody seemed to be talking about it, though, and maybe it still isn’t being discussed today. I can’t be sure. But I was chatting about it recently with my wife, and despite our cultural differences (she’s American, I’m British) we were both taught about this in school.

So what is The Anomaly?

Seek and ye shall find.

Anyway, I put this little morsel into use, alongside the “oooh, if I mix that vaguely watery-halty thing with this brownish smudge I get right alongside that off-white mark that has to be the blaze,” it narrowed the field considerably. I placed a mark on the map.

I convinced myself. It was there! Definitely! Well maybe… or there! Yes, there! No, wait.

There’s no 4-way stop with these guys

There’s no 4-way stop with these guys

Well, I couldn’t wait. One cold February morning I got in the car and headed east – I had been watching the weather, and maybe it would be OK when I got there. I had to be there before anyone else beat me to it. It was fun, sort of, if you count driving down slippery cattle trails, getting stuck in snow drifts, and performing a heart stress-test as you drag yourself through the white stuff. At least I knew the terrain now, and could come again as the conquering hero. And return I did, this time with my wife and without the snow, and along with the unshakable belief that Indulgence would be waiting for me at the spot – because it was associated with The Anomaly (or at least close). Oh, and there was the “Y” that I was certain that I’d seen from GE. My wife thought it was an animal trail, Guess who was right?


Getting to know the badlands

We returned home, with a new appreciation for the wide-open spaces, the rock formations and the rainbow of colours (I use the “u” now I’m back in Britain – get u-sed to it). My wife started to unpack and I started back out on the highway, convinced I knew where we’d gone wrong. The lovely lady was not best pleased. But this became something of a pattern of mine. I kept having to return to places in order to convince myself to finally put to rest erroneous ideas. It sounds like expensive folly, and, yes, it was an expensive way of searching, but it was frequently in those repeated moments of letdown and acceptance that new and more focused realizations would well up.

Deja vu all over again

Deja vu all over again

I laid to rest all my old and dried up WWWH, and began to look at the poem afresh. Where do warm waters actually halt, and how will that help me? Back at my old school desk, hidden away at the rear of the classroom, I used to avoid the teacher’s gaze, stare out the window, watch the clock (which I swear moved a thousand times more slowly then than it does now) and impress railway lines into the wood. I never learned to concentrate, but I needed that skill now. What is FF talking about? Clouds? Deserts? What? Something was nagging at the back of my mind. Was it something I’d seen briefly on a Google search, or was it some crumb of general knowledge that had lodged like the bit of BA fruitcake that fell between the seats? I checked the answer, and bingo! I rechecked. Still bingo. Great! But how to apply it?

It took very little to establish the answer to that question. There, in the poem, without a shadow of doubt, was the counterpart to the WWWH intel. And if I’d bothered to check all the way through, I’d have found another pointer to it that also added a second useful snippet of info. I now knew where to look on the map. It could only be one possible place within the four states. Funnily enough, it was a place that had been in contention during my stick-the-tail-on-the-donkey phase of searching. And the HOB fell right into place after that. Whoo-hoo! We were off. No stopping me now!

Except that’s all I did do – stop – for weeks. Left, right, up, down, I couldn’t get any further. No place for the meek, no blaze, no nothing. Had I got it wrong? But then something occurred to me. I thought about Forrest and his life.

To this day, I have not read FF’s books. I am sure they are a great read and contain lots of useful pointers. But you have to be able to tell the wheat from the chaff. I didn’t want to become clogged with so much info that I wouldn’t know what was useful and what not. I have seen so many searchers use incredibly convoluted interpretations based on this page, that picture, these works that Forrest references. I wanted to keep it “simple.”

Nonetheless, there was a fundamental piece of information about Forrest and his life that could prove useful. In fact, every serious searcher knows the fundamentals concerning Forrest, and they are important in being able to offer a line of reasoning that can be applied in your search. And right here was a possible hint to that awkward clue: “no place for the meek.”  The meek shall inherit the earth, so what do the others do? Yay, I was off again!

Bang, bang, bang, the answers fell into place. This was fun – and pretty easy! End is ever drawing nigh? Check! There’ll be no paddle up your creek, just heavy loads and water high? Check, check, check!

The next few lines were still open to interpretation, but they seemed to fit the area. Must be time for a trip. Let’s look at GE again.

Whoa! What’s that? I looked at the map. As clear as daylight was a blaze that shone like the full moon. And it seemed accessible. It had to be the spot. No question. Except there was one. What about The Anomaly? Well, maybe that’s just a serving suggestion. No, I say again, what about The Anomaly? Get lost, this is more exciting, this has to be it! And if it’s not, there’s another blaze over there. We’ll check them both, and another couple of spots for good measure.

How to find a "blaze" in one easy lesson

How to find a “blaze” in one easy lesson

It was a fun trip. Lots of Native American references, a windy plateau, stunningly beautiful scenery, and a motorized adventure that put hairs on our chests (much to my wife’s dismay), but no chest in our hands, of course.

What about The Anomaly?

Okay, you win, I promise to factor it in.

Back to the checklist. All those still tallied. What would The Anomaly add? Well, it brought me close to this interesting place that featured a perfect blaze… Close? Close???!!! Didn’t Forrest say that you had to follow the clues precisely?

Jeez, what a taskmaster! The alter ego can be a pain in the derriere, but sometimes you need to pay attention. OK, so let’s backup to HOB. “Not far, but too far to walk. Put in below the home of Brown.” Something my wife had said a long time before about one of those words came back to me. Although she’s not really a searcher (i.e. she’s not a raving lunatic), she will drop these little suggestions every so often, and I have learned the hard way not to ignore them. Before Forrest made the comment about not going where an 80-year-old wouldn’t, she had already told me that he wouldn’t have hidden it in some of the places I’d identified. It didn’t stop me looking there, but it got me extra servings of humble pie every time.

So what if I applied the principle behind my wife’s suggestion to another word from the same group… and voila! Now we’re getting precise. Let’s go back to the map and see what that does. Oh, yes, we’re no longer close, we’re right on it. And look at that! The name of this place is absolutely perfect. And it is almost begging us to go search there.

You may have read the report I sent Dal about that abortive and very expensive trip in the snow (again), that was followed up by two more to the same spot.

Red in the face at almost 10,000 ft

Red in the face at almost 10,000 ft

But there must have been something very compelling about that spot…? I’m glad you mention that, because, yes, there was – and still is.

Care to share? Well, OK, up to a point. It’s the blaze. It’s the 85/15. It’s where The Anomaly and the poem coincide. It’s where FF becomes terrain, so to speak. It’s a verifiable pivotal point. It also happens to be very beautiful.

And how do you verify it?

With The Anomaly.

Making use of The Anomaly

Making use of The Anomaly

And what if you haven’t discovered this anomaly? The words in the poem help you identify where it is, but of course they’re not always precise as just words. For precision and verification, you need to unlock stanza 2, identify the (exact) places described in stanza 3… and find The Anomaly. And of course, I’m talking numbers here.

Alright, so I’ve discovered this anomaly or aberration, and identified the blaze, but you now say it won’t give me the chest…? No. Those three rugged trips taught me that stanza 4 is not some airy-fairy love and peace message, but some more, very clear, instructions (and to purchase proper studded tires in the winter). The blaze is only a waypoint. A marker that is then used to redirect you.

And how do I know where I’m to be redirected to? Word meanings need to be studied. If you look quickly down in the right way, you’ll find it, eventually. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Not when you’re as slow to comprehend as this old man.

Which brings me to this last week. After going back and back over the poem since those trips to the blaze, I had been edging toward the right place. I also noticed something else. Something was being described. Not just a poetic word picture, but something more tangible, something you could see on the page – on the map. Not something you found already there, but something you could draw for yourself. I wasn’t exactly sure what it was yet (I had a choice of two possibilities), but it was looming out of the fog.

Elk arrives as the morning mist clears

Elk arrives as the morning mist clears

Actually, fog is a good way to describe the process. The poem is like a thick blanket of fog in the beginning, and as you make the discoveries, so pockets begin to thin and clear.

One place that had begun to clear was part of stanza 5. “So why is it…”, if recognized as something beyond a straightforward question about F’s state of mind, is readily interpreted as Wyoming or West Yellowstone, or another likely place. But does it contain more specific info? I believe it does. In fact, couple stanza 5 with The Anomaly, and you have a specific set of instructions. In fact, I was so sure of this, I booked a plane ticket – giving myself one week to wrap this show up (mistake number 1; mistake number 2 was to turn the air-jet on full above my plane seat and then go to sleep).

Making an early start

Making an early start

My instructions gave me two places to check, a few hundred yards apart. There were two due to minor variations possible in interpretation. I arrived on location feeling jaunty and up for anything. Even the car rental people had been really friendly and helpful – everything was right with the world. Within minutes, I was disabused. No sane 80-year old would try to get up to location 1 with a 40lb pack. The area was littered with fallen trees, dense undergrowth, and large boulders. I made it with great difficulty, sweating and panting, to the exact spot, and gave it only a cursory inspection. It was not going to be here.

Location 2 was the more compelling location for numerical reasons. You can interpret that as you will, but if you know enough about FF, you’ll probably be able to work out what I’m saying. Except it wasn’t at all compelling when I arrived. It was a veritable swamp. My GPS told me to go into the mire. Fen or no Fenn, I wasn’t going in there.

No place for the sane

No place for the sane

I spent the rest of the search day, checking out a bunch of other less plausible coordinates, attracting a little unwanted attention, and going deaf.

Now, my hearing is shot from years of playing keyboards, but I can still make out what most people are telling me (even call centre [sic] operatives – sometimes). Just as I was going out to dinner, my last vestiges of auditory perception trailed away into a distant and muffled bunch of static. Well, thought I, that’ll make the motel room right by the highway more pleasant.

I should have known what was to come next. My throat got scratchy, my nose started running, and I knew that I’d have to go back to that infernal swamp. I bought some ear drops, aspirin and a pack of trashcan liners, and headed out to the location at first light.

Something wicked this way comes

Something wicked this way comes

This time I looked more carefully, and whereas, it had looked like the place was inaccessible the day before, now I could see where some animals had found a (mostly) dry path into the interior. My GPS told me I was getting closer and closer… and then I was at the water’s edge, seeing the reflections in the still water. Scanning the reedy marsh, I saw channels of muddy water, a few trees where the land got a touch drier out in the middle, and something staring at me. I peered into the still-very-dim light and made out a female moose. She was watching me impassively. What was considerably less passive was the enormous male splashing his way toward her, his magnificent antlers looking much more impressive on the move than on the wall of some rustic tavern.

Morning, Ma’am!

Morning, Ma’am!

G’day, mate!

G’day, mate!

Behind the swamp

Behind the swamp

A little nervously, I watched them for a while before resuming my surveillance. I looked down, and if it had been a cartoon or a corny comedy, I would have done a double-take. Instead I just gawped. I was looking into the water where a large log was mostly submerged. Sitting on top of the log was a single, square-ish, marbled rock. I looked around. There were no other rocks anywhere near. Behind me was rotting vegetation, perched on a muddy bed. In front of me was the swamp. The last boulders I’d seen were about fifty yards back, before you got down to the fen itself.

I rechecked the GPS. The exact spot was about fifteen feet out into the swamp (although allowing for the device’s current margin of error, it could equally be right there at the log). The Anomaly had brought me straight to this festering spot. Surely it couldn’t be the treasure’s location? Could it be in the wood, under the water? I knew retrieving the chest was not going to be easy, but I hadn’t expected this.

Now you can see the log as well

What’s that?

The stone

The stone

So let’s just think this through. How could it have got there? Could a moose have brought it in to mark the choicest reeds? Well, they do have large jaws, but the rocks tend to crack their dentures. Could a fisherman have found this spot and placed it here for later reference? Why? It was the only place you could get to along the animal trail – you couldn’t miss it or mistake it for somewhere else, and it was a heck of a stretch to put it out on a submerged log. Besides, it didn’t look like a fish would be seen dead in that fetid fen. And there was no evidence of recent human ingress. Why would you go there?

Now you can see the log as well

Now you can see the log as well

But if it had been placed there deliberately a few years ago, why had it not been swept away? As I was to discover over the next couple of days, the water levels would rise and fall with the rainfall, but as it was on the side away from the mountain, there was practically no current to disturb it. There was no logical explanation.

I reached out and prodded at the stone with my cane as that was the only way to reach it without getting down and dirty in the mud. There didn’t seem to be anything underneath it (apart from the log). I poked around the log, but soon realized that if I was going to check it out properly I’d have to get into the water. I sneezed violently before extracting the plastic liners from my backpack, deftly transforming them into high-fashion waders.

High fashion

High fashion

I sank almost to my knees in the slime. The swamp attempted to steal my Gucci ripoffs, but I persevered, prodding around the base of the log, and sinking my hands into the rich silt. Nothing there – well nothing you’d want to take home with you. The stone just sat there making no comment.

Going for broke

Going for broke

Company for breakfast

Company for breakfast

Stepping out, I realized my mistake. The “waders” had perforated, making a mess of my seriously unfashionable trainers and jeans. If I was to search anymore, I’d need to take off my shoes and swap pants for shorts, and then use double-skinned liners.  Back in the water, I slipped and almost fell.

Doing it in style

Doing it in style

Not wishing to be turned away from the airport as some kind of undesirable stowaway bum, and having cleared out a half-gallon of goo from my sinuses, I knew I needed to stay warm and dry if I was to extend the survey. So I rented a drysuit. What I didn’t expect was the bright light and interrogation cell. Where are you going? Why are you going there? Actually, aside from that, they were really nice guys, and their recommendations probably saved me from hypothermia, or pneumonia.

Everyone turns out to admire my outfit

Everyone turns out to admire my outfit

I looked really cool as I drove back to the location in my snazzy blue and yellow suit, attracting admiring glances from all and sundry. I sloshed back and forth to the trees at the bog’s centre and sat down in the water (not to read the paper or munch on my sandwich, but because I tripped and lost my balance). I was so glad of that suit. After a couple of hours of this, I called it a day and returned the outfit, feeling somewhat stupid for wasting the time on searching when it obviously wasn’t to be found in that depressing environment.


Looking cool

I confess to uttering a few oaths at Forrest Fenn then. All this work and just a slab of rock? Was he playing games? Had someone else substituted the rock for the chest? I had already written to the poem’s author to tell him what I found.

Maybe I was just plain wrong,

And yet, and yet…

The poem took me to the coordinates. The coordinates took me to the marbled rock. What was it telling me???

Coordinating the find

Coordinating the find

Changing channels

Changing channels

That evening and the next morning I felt rough – very rough – and thought I might have to quit, and time was running out before my return flight. Forrest had broken his few weeks of near-silence and published Scrapbook 158. It told me (and all searchers) in no uncertain terms that no one else had found the treasure and it was waiting patiently. That gave me enough of a lift to carry on. But how? Where?

I played with a few of the words: e.g. weak = week = 7 and adjusted my search area, but it just led me into almost impenetrable undergrowth. I slipped into an almost hidden rocky creek and cursed again. This was stupid. I wandered in a more tranquil and open area, but the numbers were all wrong. Something was awry – it was all slipping away. Think!

Does this fella know?

Does this fella know?

That night it hit me. Hard. The drawing. What is the drawing saying?

OMG! The realisation slammed into me like a charging moose. I had two possibilities for what this drawing represented. I thought it was the first, and I had ignored the second, because it simply didn’t look complete. Why hadn’t I thought to complete the second BEFORE flying out. In my mind’s eye I stared at it, watching as the shape finished itself, creating a twin. That was when I made the final, fatal error.

Next day, the day before I was to fly out, I started riding the backwards bike, doing the thing that Forrest had recommended. But I hadn’t thought to really concentrate on where I was going. This is the trouble trying to think on location. You need to do it in the calm of your own home, before committing time and resources. The place I ended up was ironic, but I couldn’t make it fit. I wasted the rest of the day scrabbling around in nebulous spots; and I wasn’t doing any better the following morning when I frittered away my final opportunity, trying to make a runway into a secondary blaze.

I sat in the airport, numb, and feeling sorry for my co-passengers who would have to endure my snotty sniffling. We boarded the plane. We deplaned. Bird strike and hydraulic leak. Now I was going to miss my flight home. I just wanted to be with my wife, and put myself to bed with a hot cup of tea and a couple of aspirin.

I slouched miserably, waiting to see if the airline would be able to reroute me. And then it dawned – a clear, opalescent blue. I almost ran out of the airport, but I knew I was risking serious illness if I carried on with this venture. Why, oh why does an insight occur at the wrong time, namely when it’s already hindsight?

Clarity at last - but too late

Clarity at last – but too late

Looking at Google Maps on my phone and going through the reverse pedaling again, I this time chose the mirror instead of the twin. And lo and behold, there it was. THE spot.

By this time, you’ll be smiling slightly patronisingly (note the British “s” – and if you’re observant you’ll have spotted a few more) at this man having lost the plot completely. Just give me a chance to explain. Forget about my sloshing around in the quagmire, and exuding my incubated aircraft germs into the mountain air, and let me recap the whole process:

  • The Anomaly is there, discoverable, and must be used at the appropriate juncture in the poem.
  • The entry to the poem is via THE place where warm waters halt, which is found by using general geographic knowledge, by understanding the references in the poem itself, and/or by knowing who wrote the poem. Once found, it cannot be unfound: the correlations in the poem guarantee you have the correct place.
  • Stanza 1 contains broad hints to the start place, the end place and the entire theme of the poem.
  • Stanza 2 has both general and ultra-specific instructions. HOB will further confirm your starting point.
  • Stanza 3 needs a little imagination and flair to get you started, but all the ducks fall into a row after that.
  • Stanza 4 is both direct, and likely to mislead if you’re unwary. Look at all possibilities before wasting your time and money. Remember, Forrest has a great sense of humour.
  • Stanza 5 contains more vital information, and again, play around with definitions and ideas until things start to gel.
  • Stanza 6 demands that you pay attention. I strongly suggest you do. The last two lines are still slightly fluid for me, but definitely contain more than one hint.
  • The Anomaly, plus other critical info that goes with it, will NOT lead you to the chest, but will lead you to where you start to ride the backwards bike. Oh, and you might see a nice reflection.
  • Once you get to that point you’ll need to start all over again! Don’t throw away the poem or your clues, as you’ll need those again, plus a healthy dollop of imagination.
  • The FINAL end point is in a beautiful, easily accessible location that is frequently visited.

Take this, as always, with a large pinch of salt. I failed – yet again – and I’m kicking myself for my asinine mind spasm as I write – ouch! But the wise ones may see here something that sparks their interest and enables them to verify what I’m saying. If I’d had this partial roadmap at the beginning of my chase, I could have got as far as I did – and further – in a tenth of the time, but then, in reality, I would have also probably dismissed it as some old geezer’s crazy ramblings. I would have been an idiot if I had, because when I eventually followed this map myself, I was able to see a picture emerging – a big one.

Good luck.

Oh, and for those who wanted to know (yes you, sir, the one in the far right corner there) I did get rerouted, and made it home in one piece. The captain was a disembodied voice, and there was no silverware or prettily printed menus, but my wife is beautiful, I’m still deaf and sniffling, and my treasure was here all along. Thank you and good night.


Finding Forrest Fenn…

by Jeremy G


Firstly, I’d like to make it clear that I’m not a writer-in fact I despise writing, typing, and reading- although I’m not a nazi either. The only reason that I’m doing this is to help others save their time, effort, and maybe a little of their hard earned money on their own hunt! A little about myself…My name is Jeremy G. I’m 38 years old, I was born and raised in Texas and I currently reside in Burleson, Tx. I guess I could be considered a redneck from Texas. I joined and served in the U.S. Army with an MOS of 13F, fire support specialist or forward observer, from 2000-2006. I was stationed in Germany, where I met my beautiful wife, for three and a half years and deployed to Iraq for fifteen months of that from May 2003-July 2004 then I was then assigned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina for the last year and a half of my enlistment. I then found employment with the union pacific railroad as a train crewman which is where I currently am employed.

In May 2015 I found a post from an old high school friend on Facebook about Forrest Fenn and his hidden treasure. I looked into it and thought to myself I can do this and I’d have a better chance of finding this treasure than winning the lottery! So I searched read and studied everything I could find on Fenn and his elusive treasure trove.

It didn’t take long, (maybe a week), for me to come up with my first solve which landed me searching in Angel-fire, New Mexico. I used the Vietnam veterans memorial there as the blaze and the overlook as the place to look quickly down from which the top of the blaze, I thought would align on the exact place on the mountain where I’d hoped I would find the chest hiding. That half assed solve only took me about a week to come up with but it sounded good enough for me to go check out though…(I’ve always loved the mountains) so we (my wife and 2 year old son and I) loaded up and went. It was kind of funny when I followed google earth in the direction from the lookout across the blaze and not too far in line with that I found a small pond with an interesting square shaped object below it that I had to check out! So we went there and there was a gate that was open so we drove on in and parked in some thick foliage in order to camouflage us from onlookers and nearby houses.

I walked alone down there to the pond and searched the area. What I’d found gave me chills! Just below the pond was an out flow box which was concrete surround with a wooden lid/cover that had a fish carved in it-I thought to my self that this was the home of Brown and another blaze and that if I looked quickly down I would find the treasure! image-1

No joy there and I searched the entire immediate area as well to no avail. It was a fun and quick trip though for all of us to break up the monotony of everyday life and just load up to go see the mountains…and for all of us this was a first time experience as treasure hunters and explorers!

It didn’t take long until I became consumed with the thrill of the chase and everything Forrest Fenn as I still am possessed with this hunt and don’t see any way to deliver myself from it until it is found…I then started searching google earth for a possible “home of Brown” in all four states in the search area. I then searched the nearby areas for other possible clues. I found Molly Brown’s museum in Denver, Colorado and followed it down the road to the nearby stream with waterfalls- I decided that couldn’t be it because Fenn said it could be there a 100 years from now or even a 1000 years from now so I started focusing on natural geological places instead which lead me to Brown’s lake near Glen, Montana along rock creek road(no paddle up your creek). the more I looked into it the better it fit! Now this is getting complicated because I’m gonna add pics and screenshots to help explain what got me focused on to this whole area!

This is one of the first things that I found in the area-it’s a trail(blaze) with hint of riches new and old (artifacts) wildlife and spectacular views(marvel gaze) its trailhead begins at Browns lake rock creek road(no paddle up your creek) and is too far to walk to the end at mono(alone) creek campground where only small campers are allowed and an added bonus is mention of the wise river!image-2image-3
Another of the first things that stood out to me in the poem was Hear me all and listen good and I’ve done it tired and now I’m weak which led me to Chief Joseph of the Nez Perces famous speech


I visited the big hole battlefield and museum and noticed something else that fit with Fenn’s hidden treasure. In the museum they have a touch table with ancient artifacts that you are encouraged to touch and handle and I’ve personally never read Fenn’s book but have read into these other hints like this which come from his book and are discussed on the blogs.


My second treasure hunting trip! First time to Montana! This trip I flew in and rented a 4×4 pickup and explored a large area for any botg leads! My 1st-4th trips to southwest Montana were all searches based on the same solve using Browns lake as the HOB and all incurred from May-August 2015.


My marvel gaze the first morning at Browns lake


Browns lake has it all- *no paddle up your creek=rock creek road and uphill creek trail *heavy loads=rock quarry * water high=lake agnes *wood=Birch, willow, branch *even rainbow lake=the end of his rainbow! Forrest even said he once walked 92 miles in TFTW so if TFTW=92 miles then I noticed that this home of Brown was exactly 92 miles from the Idaho-Montana state line along I-15 to exit 85 (Glen) then left(nigh) 7 miles to Browns lake for a total of 92 miles! I thought that this was enough to confirm that i had the right HOB! But theres even more in the nearby area to build my confidence such as-Bell mountain, Maverick mountain, ten mile road, ten mile lake, Kidd Montana, wise river, etc.


image-9 Looks like a good clue to me!

image-10image-11 9 clues to solve this puzzle!
Another thing the poem lead me to was the Journals of Lewis and Clark a lot of the wording used in the poem are also used in these Journals plus Fenn said in a radio interview that Andrew Briggs was a bright fellow and had most of it all figured out…uh, maybe. I think the part he had most figured out was that it had a lot to do with Lewis and Clarks Corps of Discovery Expedition and Sacagawea and the Nez Perce and all of their history in that era. for example this is from the Journals of Lewis and Clark and has- look quickly down, marvel gaze and a waterfall as a blaze!


My first trip I drove mostly around the entire area of interest looking for clues to narrow down my search area, pictured is the area where I drove, mostly around the beaverhead-deerlodge national forrest area.


My second trip; I hiked to lake of the woods


6 miles each way after not making it all the way to it on my first trip due to exhaustion and


knee deep snow, which afterward, I knew I was in trouble and drove myself to the hospital in Dillon, Mt. to take on some much needed rest and a few bags of fluids- that’s another long story…I also thoroughly searched all over, in, around, above and below Browns lake because of the “from there the end is ever drawing nigh” line of the poem.

Later on, after my second trip, on my drive home, I was thinking to myself that you can’t pinpoint a hidden 10x10x5 chest just by searching random areas or places that kinda fit or line up with the words and clues in Fenn’s poem or even places that look peculiar from google earth…something was missing (besides the $2 million treasure). Then I was about 4 hours into my return trip and suddenly it hit me HOB is a large area including “Browns” lake, bridge, gulch, etc. and to put in below it or south of it…Well, below (south of) that area if you follow rock creek road (from there) along side railroad tracks and a bold creek (heavy loads and water high) it leads directly to lovers leap road (no place for the meek)(a place to throw himself or fling himself onto the chest) ,where, at that intersection atop a small hill just over 5000 ft lies the missing link! Clarks lookout state park in Dillon, Mt. A thrilling location nonetheless!


notice the missing stop sign for southbound traffic!


It’s a compass (blazoned) with 3 directions and 2 distances from where William Clark stood back in 1805. Clark also speaks of a “bold running stream 7 yards wide on the lard side just below a high point of limestone rocks” Bold as in (treasures bold)? Could this be Fenn’s treasured bold running stream to fish in? Lard side as in (Nigh or left)?




I have found the blaze! I was overwhelmed with excitement! If I looked quickly down at the blaze with this information I could come up with an exact coordinates (precise location) projected out from the known point (compass=blaze). Now I just had to do some figuring and plotting not forgetting to convert these coordinates from magnetic to grid from 1805 when these coordinates were taken to get the proper declination as depicted on FF’s map in red letters with a picture of a compass!


I did just that and have visited and searched this entire area thoroughly (including all places plotted to the corresponding times new and old) to no avail…and I promised my wife that I would not search there anymore after my fifth time to the search area so here it is for all to see my straightforward, apparently, not so perfect solve! The north direction that points towards browns lake has no distance, although, I did search the browns lake area along that azimuth. The beaverhead Rock coordinates was so promising because of FF’s comment “plan on a warm place to retreat to” or Sacagawea’s people’s summer retreat!


And because a beavers head is brave and in the wood! But this plotted below 5000 feet in elevation,

Places that I found where warm water halts nearby this area:

1. Warm springs, Mt. just north of Glen also mention of Brown trout fishing nearby!


2. continental divide,
3. this sign very near Clarks reservoir dam which leads to Clarks canyon and is higher in elevation (perfect for canyon down) but south of the blaze(Clarks lookout compass)!
4. Another place where warm water halts in many places in the Rockies is above the tree line where it stays frozen (permafrost) below ground year round due to the freezing temperatures at such high elevation. Also, I believe your effort will be worth the cold means that it’s hidden at a higher elevation with a marvel gaze or grand view…Fenn did say to dress warm too!


This is just one of my searches/solves in the area I still have many more stories to tell and places to search in the rockies, but, like I mentioned earlier I don’t care much for writing/typing so this may be my first and last reveal!


I know that it’s wet! Also cold and water high!

Below depicts heavy loads, bold, water high, cold, no place for the meek, tired and weak


This solve is my crown jewel where I’ve spent the most time and money on and I have many more screenshots and photos to back this route. I also have a few more ideas that are just as simple and straight forward to lead me to the end of Fenn’s rainbow one of which I’ve already searched and few others I’m still working on!

 Jeremy G.-