On Not Giving Up….



“Forrest inspires me”, Katya readily admits. “I wish I had been given teachers like him in school. He has a way of sparking my mind, making me thirsty for knowledge and making the chore of education so much fun.”


As a fellow searcher, I have to admire the resolve of a person who gives up the swaying coconut palms, soft ocean breezes and warm hammock life in Hawaii for the relative discomfort of snakes, pointy rocks and permanent ice in the mountains north of Santa Fe. Katya is a self-labeled eccentric. “I am addicted to adventure.” she tells me. She is a hot-air balloon pilot and ran her own expedition company a few years back. She also lived on a sailboat in San Francisco, tended a gallery on Canyon Road in Santa Fe has been a singer/songwriter, jewelry artist and still works in film production in Hawaii.

The search started for Katya back in the early months of 2013 when she left Hawaii to attend the wedding of a friend in Santa Fe. Her friend just happened to have a copy of The Thrill of the Chase on her bookshelves and suggested that Katya might like to read it…short stories, easy to digest, authored by Forrest Fenn. Katya was immediately attracted to the book because she had met Forrest twenty or so years earlier when she lived in Santa Fe and worked at the Morning Star Gallery on Canyon Rd. Forrest frequently dropped in to chat with the owners and see what was new on their walls. “I remembered how everybody respected and admired him.” Katya pointed out. Her friend didn’t say much about the treasure and Katya’s initial interest in the book was simply because it was by someone she knew and admired and the stories were short and would be easy to read in bed just before falling asleep.

“I didn’t sleep for days after getting my hands on that book.”, Katya said. “Every morning I couldn’t wait for my friend to wake up so I could dart into the kitchen and say ‘I know where the treasure is.’”. She was hooked. Having background on Forrest meant that she never doubted the treasure was for real. Forrest’s reputation was beyond reservation. Katya dropped everything in her life cancelled her flight back to Hawaii and the hunt became her full-time focus.

Katya stayed in Santa Fe for a time, but by July she had moved to Angel Fire in the Sangre de Cristo mountains east of Taos and landed a job there so she could be close to the area she was convinced the treasure was hidden. She begged friends with cars to take her to Forrest’s book signings and talks at Moby Dickens in Taos and Collected Works in Santa Fe. “He has the best poker face.”, she points out. Katya watched Forrest’s reactions closely when hard questions came up from audience members, looking for any signs of agreement or rejection. Nothing was there. No concern. No disdain. No confirmation.”Forrest doesn’t give up anything.”

From Angel Fire she convinced girlfriends to drive her to her search area but finally rented a car and started sleeping in it so she wouldn’t have to waste time driving to and from where she wanted to look. In the summer, searching was easy. If there was daylight, Katya was on the hunt and when it was dark she did research. 4 to 5 trips a week. “I don’t just hop around. When I pick a spot, I comb it.” She soon had a partner to search with. A friend who matched Katya’s own zealous and adventurous spirit.

Katya made over 52 treks back into the hinterlands by December 1st. On one trip with her partner they pushed the envelope a tad too far and ran afoul of both the New Mexico Parks and State Wildlife officials-
“We were just out searching very intently on this “not public” land. I’m in the zone, you know? My partner is in the water with a video camera I am on the side watching what she is shooting on a monitor. I was oblivious to everything around me…and all of a sudden there were these two guys directly in front of me. They scared the heck out of me. ‘Who are you? What are you doing here?’ I yelled…and then I noticed they were carrying guns and wearing badges and I know we’re in trouble. Geeze!” The officials interrogated Katya and her partner for “a couple of hours” about what she was doing beyond the “no trespassing” signs and on the wrong side of the fence. In the end they let her go and also provided advice on how to further her search… legally…so things eventually worked out in her favor.

Katya admits that she loves mysteries and history. She grew up in Miami and adored western movies as a little girl…cowboy and Indian fare. This combination along with professional admiration for Forrest and a love of adventure brought her into the search. The perfect storm of inducement. Although she has a part-time film industry career, friends, and a home in Hawaii, she has sacrificed her savings and given everything up to pursue the mystery of the poem. The lure of Fenn’s hidden treasure is overpowering. The thrill of the chase is hypnotic.

It was during a trip in August, a cooling late afternoon. Blue shadows had moved into her canyon stealing the sunny New Mexico warmth. Katya was solo and quietly headed back out of the woods along a small New Mexico trout stream when she experienced a life changing event that both focused and frightened her. An event that would raise the neck hairs of even the most seasoned hiker out in the wild lands, alone and fully involved in the chase. A searcher’s worst nightmare.

“I will not give up. I feel close.” These are Katya’s thoughts as she heads back, empty handed, after a day of searching in her area. She is moving quickly along a dimly lit trail toward her car. “The first sign of trouble was a very loud scream, followed by more screams. It was terrifying. Someone was in desperate trouble.” Katya describes the terrible sounds she heard that afternoon as clearly a woman, a very terrified woman screaming for help. “I picked up my pace and headed toward the noise because someone was hurting and maybe I could help. All of a sudden this mama deer comes bolting down the path right at me…boing, boing, boing toward the river and the screaming is still going on. As the deer runs past me I can hear her panting and snorting and I can see fear in her eyes. Then I see a baby deer behind mama, running right at me down the same path toward the river. The mama deer stops and starts running back and forth and I thought: Do deer make that screaming sound? That is so weird and it’s really loud. Then I turn back toward the screaming and see with stunned surprise on the same trail..maybe twenty feet right in front..a massive mountain lion. The lion stops. Our eyes lock for what seems like a minute.  It’s huge muscular body is blocking the trail…my only way out of the canyon. I knew not to run. The only defense I have is a can of bear spray. I grabbed for it and then I just froze. My heart was beating out of control. The lion looked at me for a split second longer and then dodged into a bush right next to the trail and stayed there. I couldn’t see it but I knew it was there. I also knew the only way out was on the trail past that bush…just a few feet from the lion. I had no choice. I didn’t want to head back into the wild. I wanted to get to my car. Past that lion was my only escape. I pulled up my hoody. Tried to look big as a bear. I started chanting in a very low voice. I held onto my bear spray and I just marched really, really importantly past that bush. It let me pass and I’m here to tell you that story today.”


By mid-December Katya’s resolve is still, somehow, strong. In her canyon “It’s dark. It’s icy. I’m slipping. I’m falling. I’m exhausted. I can’t even walk across the river anymore. The rocks are iced over. I’m alone because no one will go out there with me in this weather. I don’t care. I can’t stop.”

It’s not easy, Katya is not independently wealthy and making the trek from the middle of the Pacific to New Mexico is not a “loose-change” adventure. This winter she returned to Hawaii for a few weeks of film work, replenished her need for salty air, sandy beaches and greenbacks. But she has to return to New Mexico soon. “When you’re hooked on the puzzle of the poem, nothing can stand in your way long, not oceans and not lions”…her’s is the face of honest commitment.

In spite of her efforts Katya understands it may not be her that finds Forrest’s treasure. She has these words for her fellow searchers-

“I think it’s most important to be open to all the amazing little treasures along the way in your search. I have found a greater treasure within myself, the events, and the gems of lovely beings along the journey in pursuit of TTOTC.”


49 thoughts on “On Not Giving Up….

    • I must say, I did not know who FF was, Nor did I care at first. Just some rich snob to me, most likely cheated his way to money as so many others…… Then I saw a interview, wow! This guy is real Grit and Nails…This guy is like my grandpa, who worked for the Santa Fe. I have not been able to go on the hunt due to all the operations I have had over the last two years. Not to mention I’m the guy that has 5 sons and a pick up ,disabled and cant work.
      I have had 5 operations in the last 9 months . Im getting stronger, and when I do old boy…Im One thing, I lost a part of me for a brief second, to have a person I have never herd of to inspire me in all areas. Do I think I know where the treasure is …. Yep. The poem is the way. But, it brings you to many starting points. But, as this starting point has the whole re written story all over it. FF even if I’m not right. I would love to buy you and Dal ,and your wife for breakfast when I get out that way. Thanks FF for restating my Blaze!

      • Mike 🙂
        Here are some more interviews with Fenn. I stumbled on these last night. Dal did a great job! Interesting to watch Forrest talk about the pottery shards and some of the spaniard artifacts. These interviews are worth checking out. I kept thinking, well how does Forrest know all this stuff, did he deduce it by examining the artifact or is it knowledge from books. One thing is for sure he’s a deep thinker.

        • Ed-
          There is a shortcut to all the Fenn interviews I shot at the top of this blog..
          Right hand column…look under “Forrest Speaks”..
          There are two links
          Santa Fe Interviews
          Gone Fishing Interviews

          Each will take you to a set of short interviews with Forrest about everything except the chest…
          I have no idea if there are any hints in those interviews…but certainly there is information about the man..

          • Isn’t it good. I had never seen any of those, goes to show what I know about resources on this blog. I watched the Fountain flats video…Dals cameraman skills really show and editing. I wish my puny Iphone could capture audio quality like that.

        • Thank you. I was looking to get in his head for a quick look.
          Do you know why that Cowboy hit ft and where he was and what he was doing? I felt it was cause he call him a Cowboy….?
          Thanks again…… Hope to come out in the spring and join in.

  1. I Like Your Spirit, going out on your own! It can be scary for a girl, woman, to be out there in the Wilderness on her own. I have gone in there……alone too. Good for you! I enjoyed your story. Best Wishes. Lou Lee-Chased by Bears in Jellystone Park

    • Thanks. Lou Lee. Yes, there are moments of concern indeed. And on the other hand, I haven’t the words to express the powerful feelings I am filled with when communing with nature in solitude.
      Being chased by Bears in Jellystone sounds heart pounding and hair raising as well! Be safe out there and enjoy every moment of connection along the journey…

  2. Wow! What an amazing story from a very adventurous woman! Good Luck to you Katya and we’ll see you on the trails when you get back to the mainland. 🙂

  3. What a beautiful story. How brave to run headlong into the unknown to help another. You are awesome. 🙂
    Good luck my dear, you inspire me.

  4. Outstanding choice for “Searcher of the Month”!

    Some have talked about selling rights to a movie when they find the treasure.
    My trips have been benign by comparison. Katya could be in a treasure hunting movie that I would enjoy. 🙂 🙂

  5. Nice story! I can relate to the lion encounter…very humbling to say the least. Good luck Katya and thanks for sharing the story…

  6. You’ve got spunk girl……..Reminds me of me back in the “good ol days”. I’m not saying it’s a smart way to go about things. It certainly wasn’t in my case. But hey, it’s some good stories and I survived in one piece, mostly.

    As a somewhat wiser old guy I would tell you to forget the gold, sell shovels. Since you’re in the film industry; follow Dal around documenting his search. Surely he wouldn’t mind a pretty girl following him around with a camera. For a little excitement, secretly spray Dal’s clothes with some bear pheromone; you would make a million bucks off of that one scene…….watching an amorous bear chasing Dal around. I’ve got lots of ideas about things you could do to Dal to make your show a hit reality show.

    About your encounter with the big cat…….surprising a Mountain Lion in the middle of an attack is usually not a healthy thing to do. As a contract Federal Trapper I can tell you animals can read you like a book……..that cat knew you were afraid, but he also knew you weren’t going down without a fight, and broke off the encounter……If you didn’t know it before now I can assure you, down deep inside, you’re a fighter.

    Good luck to you…….go get em.

    • I’m beginning to see how Goof will find the chest..
      He is using the Kim Jong-un theory of competition..

      BTW…if you get some exotic smelling aftershave from Goof for your birthday DON”T wear it outdoors…just saying!

    • Hey Goofy old Guy,
      Thanks for the experienced advise.
      I truly feel that the Lion had its appetite set on the baby dear, and perhaps not very happy with me to intervene with its mission. If Bambi was not around, I may have been in big trouble!
      Funny you mention selling shovels, cause, I Had that very advice given to me this morning at breakfast.
      Maybe sell metal detectors? 🙂

    • In Nepal they wear hats backwards with eyes painted or embroidered on them. They say a lion will never attack if they are being watched!! not sure if it works, but an awful lot of the nepaleese were wearing them. I need to embroider eyes all over my hat I guess, that way they won’t attack from any direction.

    • Surprisingly enough, besides the “fighters”, apparently mountain lions also don’t seem to want to eat stupid city boys either.

      I was out in the Wallowa Mtns in northeast Oregon, hiking down a railroad grade to a remote destination. My work Suburban couldn’t get there in the middle of winter along the road access. Other than a machete, I was unarmed.

      After a few miles I come around a bend and up ahead is a mountain lion standing square in the tracks giving me some consideration. I considered it right back, and it moseyed up into the forrest.

      I’m thinking “Cool!, just saw a wild cougar up close and personal.”, not “I wonder if I taste like chicken.” Naïve, but still at least a little cautious, I continued slowly and quietly; did I say stupid city boy?

      I got to the where the lion tracks left the railroad tracks and peered into the forrest. Best to stand there right in front of it right? Looking stupid? I didn’t even get my machete unsheathed. Jeeesh. After satisfying myself that I couldn’t establish where the tracks went or where the critter was, I continued, walking backward.

      Dead of winter. I guess that lion doesn’t eat city boys. When I returned many hours later, I see that the footprints I had left in the snow had companions. The lion had followed me well nigh a mile. It had come back down to the tracks exactly where I had been standing peering into the woods.

      It was some 20 years later it dawned on me just how stupid/lucky I had been. Or maybe, just maybe, the spirit of Chief Joseph was watching over me.

      Safety requires vigilance AND taking a moment–often–to consider risk. Please don’t be a “me”.

  7. Dal and I have been marketing a great deal of products that never make it to store shelves. I haven’t told him of the next in line, so this is even news to him.

    Forrest Fenn’s Tarry Scant Cologne. Tagline: When you gotta get out of the wood quick! I think if we find some shelf space at Home Depot next to Katya’s Shovels(which I will buy out), we should make millions.

    Note: We’re trying on chasechat.com to nominate Forrest for this award. Please post it to any of the blogs or send to other searchers.


    • Tarry Scant Cologne! That’s funny Stephanie! Love it! Can’t wait to get my shovels out on the shelf, as the hunting season soon approaches us! Hope to meet you along the way… 🙂

  8. Love this story! You are so brave. Thanks for sharing. I think you are a couple of states too far south, but that is MO. Good Luck!

  9. Katya what a nice story. I hope you pack a gun when you go into there alone,not only from those bears and lions also the 2 legged ones. On another subject I love your idea last year when Forrest was answering his e-mail I also had the same feeling it was near Angel Fire, he stated if you guessed where it was he would go get it . He just wished me good luck in my search so I took it as not being in the Angel Fire location. Also I thought of the Vietnam Memorial and asked him If I was close he just wished me good luck in my search. All my research is done on the computer because I live near Cape Cod ( my treasure) place and have no way to visit your beautiful state.

    What a great idea to have reality show with you filming and go along with Dal in the quest for the Treasure. Great thing for the Discovery Channel to pick up, not only will the whole country be able to see New Mexico also the great Yellowstone Nat. Park. Only if I wasn’t 66 and married with two grandchildren to take care of I would dream of looking for Forrest treasure.

    P.S. Why does ” Brave” have a cap. just a thought A Native American friend…..

    • Thanks for the message Cheryl. I appreciate your interest and know the frustration you must feel at not having the availability to literally go out and search. Searching from a computer is good prep work, tho impossible to locate the fine details, the “blaze” for one.
      The Vietnam War Memorial does not fit any of the poem clues, tho it did feel for a while that perhaps it marked the trail along the way. I visited the memorial 4 times to sit and appreciate the stories and soldiers that sacrificed their lives for our country. It allowed me to also appreciate FF courage and dedicating himself as a war pilot. The only resemblance to the story there was the positioning of the helicopter that makes a prominent impact as you arrive at the VNWM.
      Meanwhile know, that your grandchildren are by far the greatest treasures you could possess! Enjoy!

  10. Katya
    You inspire me as your efforts some how give me a feeling of being grounded. I too have given myself over to the trill of the chase. I had a major change of priority from false security to self-actualization. Instead of storing up for a rainy day I’m getting wet. Seems you have more experience in taking risk than I but I’m catching up. Like you Home is where the journey takes me and your story is one worth the risk. We have a choice, stay at home or dance. “The only difference between an adventure and a disaster is your attitude.” Keep on dancing to the music the treasure is one of many siren songs in our odysseys.

    • Thank You for the support and encouragement!
      May the rain cleanse you and soon the sun shall shine again.
      “Leave room for the miracle”!

  11. omg!! Girl, I thought i was in the middle of a Preston Scott Book, That was a great story, I loved it. Never stop searching, and always follow your heart… Alissa Renee

  12. Katya Thanks for answering my post how kind you are. Yes my two grand daughter are my treasure in my life. Speaking of treasure it’s getting warmer in the 50’s and I plan to take the kids on our own treasure hunt with my medal detector to local beach and look for treasure. We might find a few coins but the kids will think its a million dollars it’s the time spending with them and the beauty of the ocean will be my treasure for life….

  13. Wow Katya, any lady willing to sleep in a car in order to maximize her search time is awesome in my book. I hope you find it!

  14. I am brave and intelligent, but if I did not live here as I do; I would have no idea where the treasure was. I wouldn’t go looking in different states. I cant afford that. And my girls don’t like long trips either. I came out here from the east to heal myself and learned a lot from the blackfeet. My train ticket ended in Browning MT but an old man told me to maybe go one further to East Glacier. I listened. I had a job the next day at Lake McDonald lodge. These were the best days of my life. I spent 4 weeks with a shaman called the grandmother. She taught me the ways of a shaman. After that I spent 2 days with my blackfeet friends and they taught me the new ways of the blackfeet. Most all of which I wont mention. The Grandmother named me Clouds On the Mountain. My friends Named me 2 dogs which later on in life I owned 2 dogs the best ones of my life. I have studied forests maps and letters and vidieos but each time I come up blank until now.

  15. Katya, if you need a partner for your continued search. Let me know….It is best to travel with someone in the wilderness. Winter or summer, I’m into another adventure in life!

  16. Katya if you can contact me by E-mail or Face Book I think I can help with a clue nobody I have see yet has cought on to. Robert Way in NC It’s a bit of a drive for me to check this out myself and need help. lol My E-mail is Eurekagoldpan@yahoo.com Or anybody who is searching and would like the info for a 50/50 split.

  17. i really enjoyed your story. Being a native of northern NM, I know the life out there. I have relatives that hunt those areas for those big cats. Good luck in your search

  18. Katya,
    I have heard that shrill scream myself while hiking in the area! Unlike you, I ran like heck! I also fell down the mountain and came out a bloody mess. I would have fared better facing the cat! But like you, I would do it again in a heartbeat! I’ve encountered a bear as well but for some reason I didn’t fear him like I did the cat, he was more scared of me I think. I love your spirit and if I could just get out of Dallas and spend more time at my house there I would “blazing” the trail with you! Good luck lady, walk tall and carry a big stick!

  19. Katya. I am heading out to Santa Fe in a couple of weeks. I don’t relish the idea of hiking alone but will if I must. I would love to have a partner in crime. If you’re back and interested in searching together please reply below.

  20. Begin at Canyon Lake and take it down Farley Creek. (climb down)
    Put in below Fox Lake near left (nigh left of an animal)
    Don’t go up Russell Creek (your creek = Osborne Russell)

    In the wilderness, is wet, 500ft from the camp site. All lines up

      • Sorry for the nuisance… and I will stop all this on Sunday. Just trying to let anyone who is interested know.

        I myself have gone three times. Each time getting closer to it. And my last time… I was prepared for it all… only to find out someone was already there searching… but in the wrong spot just right lake.

        Anyways I promised after the third time I would stop searching and move on. And so I leave all that I know for others that are interested to check themselves.


  21. The place starts with” him” is the Box really the treasure or being out in a world of treasures all around you. Found,and enlightened.

Comments are closed.