Chasing Leadville…

The following story was submitted by Germanguy.


Here is the long awaited results of my endeavors…
I have decided that I would not only reveal my search location, but also the discoveries made along the way that led me to believe the chest was there.
My adventure didn’t start with the search for the treasure, as much as it did with understanding Forrest Fenn.  Uncovering as much knowledge as I could into his fascination of Western history.
My first clue came, when I discovered that he was on the Board of the Buffalo Bill Cody museum.  This led me to look into any relationships of Cody to the first clue of the poem “Begin it where warm waters halt”.
Looking into Cody’s history, which was my next step.  I discovered, he met a John Baker Omohundro, also known as “Texas Jack”, a scout and buffalo hunter, at Fort McPherson near Cottonwood Springs, Nebraska.  Together, they participated in Indian skirmishes and buffalo hunts and acted as guides.  During this time, They became very close friends.
Texas Jack died in 1880, of pneumonia in Leadville, Colorado, and was buried in Evergreen Cemetery there.  This confirmed my first clue. Leadville Colorado is nicknamed “Cloud City”.
We Love Leadville
But how does this relate back to Cody?  After all, it had to fit a Fenn tie-in somewhere.  Then with further research, I discovered that Buffalo Bill paid tribute to his old friend in September of 1908, when he commissioned a new headstone be erected on Jack’s gravesite, in Leadville, Colorado.
“And take it in the canyon down”, I took to mean a southerly direction.  “Not far, but too far to walk.”, meant that it was ‘relatively close’ (a term Forrest has used).  Then, Fenn states to someone (when asked for an additional clue), “It’s over 300 miles west of Toledo.  I asked myself, why the “Toledo” statement?  Then I looked at my ‘canyon down’ and it was Toledo Ave.  What the heck?  Is this a clue or a slip?  Too coincidental to not be a clue.  I think to myself, that’s a keeper for sure.
Maybe Fenn's "Over 300 miles west"?
“Put in below the home of Brown” was somewhat of a puzzler, because my research pointed to Molly Brown and yet her home was in town and I was going away from town.  More research showed that when her husband J.J. Brown was working in the mines on Breece Hill, she moved from town to a town called Stumpftown (not a misspelling) on the northeast side of Iron Hill be closer to him, especially in the winter.  She moved into a 2 room cabin.  Now this was a better fit for the poem.
The next stanza with meek, drawing nigh, paddle up creek, heavy loads and water high all came together at this spot.  This place is no where for the meek.  It is high up in the mountains and the air is very thin (oxygen recommended).  The chest is close now (nigh).  There is a ditch (creek?) that drains the Yak tunnels (mine shafts).  Power lines overhead (loads) or mine “lodes”.  Finally, snow on the high peaks (frozen water).
Blaze was a challenge, but knowing how tricky Fenn is, I took a chance and decided it was a metaphor for gold.  Obviously, this area would be ideal for gold mines, since it produced so much over the late 1800’s to early 1900’s.  One problem with that theory, was there are 100’s of mines in this locale.  The next task was to determine if there were any gold mines remaining.
In comes the trusty USGS mapper.  In it I could determine the commodities that were produced by the mines.  Lo and behold, I was able to locate only one mine in this particular location through the mapper that said it was a gold mine and it was on the Hill to the left (or west) of Iron Hill, called Carbonate Hill.  The rest I learned were producing molybdenum.  A thorough search of all possible records I could find, uncovered that the mine in question was a producer of gold and the owner was “unknown”, in addition to which it was “abandoned”.  Golly, could this be somewhere Fenn felt safe in hiding his chest, because there is no record?  My adrenaline shot through the ceiling.
Gold Mine
Next came the “worth the cold” clue.  Believe me when I say it gets cold up there.  One day it is warm and you think you can go out and search and an hour later it’s snowing and windy as all heck.  This clue is dead on.
“Brave and in the wood”, fit the location to a “T”.  Trudging through the trees is a bit unnerving, as you don’t know exactly what lies ahead or is coming up behind you.  Since it was the only mine buried in some trees, the “in the wood” fit as well.  The rest of the mines were scattered in open areas and along the clearing below the power lines that go up the hill.
 Water High
In order to cover all bases, a two day search was conducted.  All mines on the south side of Carbonated Hill were checked.
The results of the search were negative.  Although, it was an adventure in itself, I have to say that due to the altitude, it will have to be a lost venture for me at this point.  Anyone who wishes to pursue this location further, be my guest.
Your Brother in Arms

32 thoughts on “Chasing Leadville…

  1. That was fun and interesting to read, Germanguy. Thanks for the posting! Taking another shot at my location in the beginning of July. If I come up empty handed, I’ll attempt to post my effort(s) in a similar way. If I don’t (come up empty handed) well, I’m not sure what I’ll do. I’d have to talk THAT over with my search partner (my sister). Assuming you will continue to search, so….. good luck, Germanguy!

    • Only one big problem with Leadville is, it is all above 10,000 feet, we lived there for 6 years, Forrest said it is below 10,000 feet.

  2. Thanks for the adventure G-man. It’s amazing how the poem seems to fit so many different areas depending on which lines we think are clues and our interpretations of those individual clues.

    I had thought of the Leadville area too at one point but couldn’t get everything to fit right for me. Forrest said the clues would lead us to the spot and we would go in confidence. I thought I had a good spot picked out but no luck either so now I don’t have another location I can go to “with confidence” so I’ll continue to study the book and do research until some other site seems “right” to me.

    Good luck to you in your future searches!

  3. A+ for effort! Thanks for sharing your version and pictures. Love the Toledo Street sign. Good luck on your next try.

  4. Hey G Guy! Thanks for the great follow up story.You did have me a little worried at one point,but this dang treasure is just a wiley little devil! Thanks again!

  5. Well done Germanguy! Excellent fit, nice photos and very entertaining to read! Thank you for posting this.

    The Wolf

  6. Is it just me or does anyone out there think it’s a little odd, that Forest mentions the row and block number of his parents grave at Hillcrest Cemetery in TTOFC?

    • It does not seem odd to me. He was trying to make a point about the kind of worthless residue that remains after wonderful people who lived full and rich lives, die.

      • Not only that Dal, but the data is correct. I could not attribute anything unusual or clue-ish to that fact. I have previously posted a link under the nine clues to the cemetery data.

  7. German guy,I have a good site w/an obscure mine nearby that I think about occasionally.Currently I am continuing research on my hotspot.Slow and easy.The clues are slowly lining up,but no trip on a whim.One of my clues has ruled out many areas that are currently being searched like crazy.Are you doing another search or calling it a wrap?

  8. German guy,
    my wife and I searched the same area about 3 weeks ago. There was still snow in the shaded areas then. I thought sure this had to be the area with the Toledo Ave. and all the other things that seemed to line up. We even took a picture of the same sign you did. ha, ha. We searched some on the east side (same as you) but we looked mostly on the west side of Toledo Ave (300 miles west of Toledo.). We looked all around all the old mine equipment and debris left over from a hundred years ago. We looked all along the creeks and gulches in the area expecting to see a “F” or some other kind of blaze on a rock or tree or something. But no luck. We searched along the bike trail that goes through the area, thinking that would be an easy trail for an old man to carry a 42 pound chest for a ways. We covered a lot of ground searching, but it is an endless wilderness, with infinite places that a small chest could hide. My one thought was, “would Forrest hide the chest in such a chewed up landscape with all the mines and debris?” a lot of it was just trashy. He had said the place he hid it was special to him. I didn’t see any thing too special just a lot of rotting dilapidated old mines and equipment. It’s funny to see someone else searching the exact same area we did with the same result. I guess that’s why it’s called treasure hunting and not treasure finding. 😉

  9. There is an annual “Blaze the Belt” longboarding competition in Leadville. I know, longboarding doesn’t make any sense, but Blaze could be a double entendre.

    • There is a very nice paved bike trail that goes along California Gulch just outside Leadville. It’s the little stream that runs south out of Leadville. Is that where they hold the longboarding event? We walked all along that trail searching both sides with no sign of any treasure. We looked all along the creeks and gulches. We searched around most of the mines, carefully searching for any marks or blazes on any of the old timbers or abandoned equipment. I think there has to be a visible blaze on a rock, or tree, or timber, or something to flag the exact location, otherwise you could search forever. Forrest had sent Dal an email with a picture of a “blaze” with an “F” and a stick running man on a Aspen tree. However a blaze on a tree wouldn’t last for a thousand years like Forrest wanted. So it must be more permanent. We spent two solid days combing all through that area. We found a huge (6′ tall x4′ wide x3′ deep) old bank safe (I thought it would be funny if the treasure was in the safe) that must have been used for the mining office half way up the hill. The doors were laying beside it with nothing but weeds coming out of the rusted old safe. There were massive ore buckets and piles of rusted steel used for mining laying all around. One has to be careful walking around this area because of the many open mine vents and bottomless pits. A person could easily step off in one of these open holes and never been seen again. We’re talking hundreds of feet deep. Forrest said a child could get to the chest and pick it up. I don’t think anyone would suggest a child walk around in such an obviously dangerous area. Nor do I think Forrest would hide the chest in what amounts to a mining junk yard.
      I thought the “end is drawing neigh” would have been where California Gulch ends according to Google earth. Just west of “Toledo” street. South of the “Home of Brown” (Leadville). Several of the clues seemed to fit. Where California Gulch ends is a huge concrete remnant of one of the mines. I combed all over this thinking he could put a blaze on the concrete that would last for a thousand years. But there was not even a graffiti mark any where to be found.
      This huge concrete wall was my best guess. I had reached a concrete wall– literally!

      • I’ve only been to Leadville once, years ago before the treasure even existed. The place is very interesting; as it has the highest commercial airport in the USA – at 9070 feet. As I recall, there was an old saloon on the right where Doc Holiday use to play cards on the second floor. When I was there the rule of the house was no taking pictures unless you bought some food or drink. I wonder if the chest is just sitting there some place waiting to be picked up. But that would be way too easy, wouldn’t it??

      • The name of the place is The Silver Dollar Saloon. Another interesting tidbit, which may not be related, is that they use to have Dapper Dan & Miss Lilly nights when the men dressed up as gamblers and the ladies like saloon girls. The reason I mention this is because Blaze Starr, burlesque queen of Baltimore might have a picture hanging on the wall somewhere.

  10. After reading about FF’s treasure, I decided to put in some time reading and puzzling. It didn’t take long to see the possibility that Leadville may be a good place to look. Maybe I only imagined this connection because I’ve been a lost treasure hobbyist, and I’ve lived in Leadville for 14yrs and plan on never leaving. This post is so fun for me to read because I know these areas like the back of my hand. To really explore this area, I’d recommend a off road trail bike if possible. That is the sole reason I can confidently say I know the East side better than 99% of the other ppl who have visited the area. Also, I actually had a hand in organizing the very first “Blaze the Belt” race in California gulch. The other thing that had me excited, is I happen to work at the Lake County Public Library & have access to all the historical archives. Maybe I can dig up some more good points about Mr. Fenn’s adventure inspiring game and a relation to the Leadville area. Maybe I’m not even close:-) Or….maybe I’ll just be another person who’s life has been enriched by the thrill of the hunt. Which I reckon, has been a more valuable commodity for folks than one hundred boxes of gold.

  11. I think it is south of Leadville also,

    The warm water line refers to the canterbury tunnel which stays at a warm 51 degrees see article

    “take the canyon down” – follow the 91 down to leadville.

    “below the house of Brown” below leadvill (don’t overthink it by looking at specific house) south of leadville the home of James Joseph Brown

    “from there it is no place for the meek” & “heavy loads” – mines are no place for the meek only the hard & strong. Mines have heavy loads. Hence somewhere in an old mine, probably just off the mineral belt trail.

    I may be wrong but “water high” is probably to do with Hydraulic mining, it can’t be to do with the tides as there are only tides in the ocean. Hydraulic mining uses high pressure water & leaves grooves in the landscape. Look for these landscape features from the mineral belt trail, to guide you to “the blaze”

    “the blaze” there doesn’t seam to be any mining equipment called a blaze so I would go with “Trail blazing”. Look for an x on a tree, or spray paint on old mining equipment or something similar. It will probably take you off trail a little but not to far. Forest Fenn was 80 when he hid the treasure. X marks the spot. Bring a spade.

    I can’t search my self as not in USA good luck. If you find using my clues send me 10%. Thanks

    • I like everything in your analysis except the blaze bit. Having visited Leadville, I believe the answer might be in an old tavern where Doc Holiday played poker. The wall inside is decorated with items and photos from the past. Occasionally, the locals dress and take on the persona of Dandies & Saloon Girls. Blaze Star, an old stripper & entertainer may lend a clue to your search.

  12. I am new to this, but before seeing your post I too thought it might be Leadville. Only my research had lead me to it by accident as I was searching topo maps around the Hunter-Frying Pan Wilderness area. I followed the water source for the Glenwood Hot Springs and it lead me to believe where the creeks split at Carbondale was WWWH. Follow the Frying Oan Creek east into a canyon and there’s a famous trout fishing place there. Looked on topo maps to the east and noticed the Molly Brown campground at Turquoise Lake. At the far west of the lake is a trailhead along the Continental Divide with many streams including Glacier (cold?). We happened to be headed through Leadville anyways and the Frying Pan Wilderness area seemed iffy since we’re in an RV. We went and my husband checked all up and down edge of streams at the divide. I use a wheelchair so I stayed in the RV. He saw lots of blazes on the trees made with an axe but came out empty handed. I’m still not totally convinced this area should be ruled out. Forrest said below 10,200 feet. The spots he looked were at around 10,100. I probably won’t go back to the area, but if I could I’d go check the famous fishing Creek on the far East side of the Hunter-Frying Pan Wilderness Area. If you find it there and feel generous, consider hooking me up! I’m in need of unaffordable “experimental” treatment for CRPS. I had it once and it helped tremendously but is cost prohibitive at $6K per year for the rest of my life. I’m only 40. I ended up with this horrible situation because I took an antibiotic called Ciprofloxacin. Good luck to all. Thanks for posting your detailed description of the Leadville hunt.

    • I should also add that there’s an M Brown campground within the Hunter Frying Pan Wilderness area.

    • I too had a bad experience (sever joint pain) w/CIPRO and refused it the 2nd time it was prescribed… I hope others will take heed. Its a very risky anti-biotic, but that is where we are now. My chemo drugs are $6K a year. Younger people should know their votes on healthcare matter. We shouldn’t have to depend on raffles for health or environmental disasters.

      • Glad you realized not to take that awful antibiotic again & that you didn’t end up like me, using a wheelchair most likely for the rest of your life from it. Find that treasure!

  13. I’ve been to Leadville and agree it is an interesting location. There’s an old Saloon there when Doc Holiday played poker. Blaze Stars picture could be hanging on the wall. If it is look down and take the chest!

    • Ha! Yeah. Maybe it’s just because I grew up around antiques (my Dad’s a dealer), but the first time I read the poem, I strongly felt the line about riches new & old means to look around historic old mining towns. We looked in another location besides Leadville yesterday and I am going to post about it soon, but still on the road now.

  14. I have Leadville and or Stumpftown a point of reference. I am taking the second stanza as a circular clue where the WWW is actually found south of Leadville. Meaning you actually solve HOB then it leads you to WWW.
    My solve has WWW quite a ways south of Leadville. The Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad plays into the location in my thinking only. The hinting of Margaret Brown to the Historic House Museum in Denver loosely connects this to the Brown we are looking for. Just IMO.

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