Forrest Fenn said “It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible” to solve this poem. Well, I found that it was not easy to write up this solution, so that it could be understood by everyone. But I’ve always lived by “Nothing is impossible, but the word itself”, so here goes:
A note here: What I learned about Fenn’s rules regarding creation of the poem, is that there are very few or none. He tends to mix techniques. When you expect him to do one thing he changes to something else. As I go through this, you will see what I mean. I have always showed a level of confidence that to some seemed excessive, but after you are done reading this, you will finally understand why.
First stanza is a preface to the poem. It contains 1 and possibly 2 clues. The fact that he uses the words “I” and “My” later provides me with my ‘Blaze’. Secondly, “I” was used as the Roman numeral for the number 1, as in ‘One has gone alone in there’.
Second stanza was the most difficult for me to solve (as it has been for everyone), however when carefully studied, it gives an exact location. This made it easier to decipher. The “Begin it…” tells what road to travel. The ‘I’ (in the word “it”) again is switched in it’s meaning. Fenn now switches to the numeric position of the letter in the alphabet, so that gives us the 9th letter of the alphabet. Add to that ’t’ and you have ‘9t’ or simply 90. The line now reads “Begin 90” in the canyon down (south), so you know that you are driving south on 90.
The third line of this stanza, the words “Not far, but too far” is known as a paradox in the English language. In south western Colorado is a valley called Paradox Valley. The valley is surrounded by sandstone cliffs, which prevent ground water that accumulates there from escaping (Where warm waters halt). It is known as an evaporate area. The sub basin (or subsurface if you will) is composed of a deep salt bed (anticline that has collapsed). Additionally, due to the high concentration of salt in the ground water that is added to the Dolores River, a desalination plant was constructed there to remove 205,000 tons of salt a year from the river, which then flows into the Colorado River and further on enters other western states and Mexico. I recently commented about not studying the poem as single lines, but rather as complete sentences. I’m sure you can see that without the complete sentence, I would never have found WWWH. Much talk about a focus word, has been discussed on the blog. If I were to pick one, it would be “Paradox”, simply because most people would miss it. What do you think?
Following route 90 south (out of Paradox Valley), you intersect with Colorado Rte. 141 (see picture included). North on this road (approx. 45 miles) is John Brown Canyon. Thus we have our “Home of Brown”, which is located in the Gateway, Colorado area. So we’ll be turning left (put in) going north.
Third stanza has a lot of clues. “From there it’s no place for the meek” alludes to the high sandstone cliffs that make you feel insignificant or meek. Again, the numeric reference in “It’s” = 90’s. So we have “From there 90’s no place for the meek”.
“The end is ever drawing nigh” tells us that the next spot we’re looking for is on the left and close (using both definitions of ‘nigh’ doesn’t change anything).
“They’ll be no paddle up your creek”. We are traveling north at this point and so is the San Miguel River (which is on our right). In order to “paddle up your creek”, you would have to turn around, going south away from our destination. Also, the use of the word ‘creek’ is quite accurate. The river we follow, at certain times of the year is nothing more than a creek. This river is one of the last ‘free flowing’ rivers in the United States. There currently are no dams along it. However, as time would have it, I read in an article recently that there is a proposal to put in diversion dams (this news came, after Fenn hid the chest). As a nature lover and someone who doesn’t like government interference in how our natural resources are controlled, I know that this will probably come as a disappointment to him. I wondered if he might have changed his mind on this area, if he knew this.
“Just heavy loads and water high”. Even though Fenn would have picked Winter to even consider going to this spot to hide his chest (which to be honest would have been the smartest move) and for the sake of it staying put for a long, long time, he could have very well known the difficulty of Summer attempts. So, this line makes perfect sense. Winter equates to no water, no bugs and no people. Perfect. This may also have accounted for his having to make 2 trips, as he could have gone too early (due to the level of the water on the first attempt).
In this stanza, there were 2 words that when their alternate meanings were used (which I believe was intentional), gave another important and supporting clue. The words…paddle and drawing. When replaced, became row and glyph. Using ‘high’ from this stanza along with the other 2 new meanings became ‘hieroglyph’. In the location I had uncovered, there is a canyon called Hieroglyphics Canyon. Two more clues were uncovered using the ending words in each line of this stanza…Meek, nigh, creek and high. I will reveal them in the next stanza.
In the fourth stanza “If you’ve been wise and found the blaze, look quickly down, your quest to cease”. I remembered that I was curious about his use of the singular pronouns “I” and “my” in the first stanza. Why use them at all, unless they were key to some other purpose further on down. After all, if anything, I saw the whole first stanza as a preface to the rest of the poem. However, after reading the aforemention 2 lines, I now understood.
I always figured that Fenn was making himself the “blaze”, as in “Trail blazer”. Well, after reading the first and second line in stanza four, it was here that I uncovered what I believed to be the purpose behind the use of “I” and “my” from the first stanza.
I think we can all agree that Forrest is quite literate, given the number of books he’s written in his lifetime. Also, I believe we all can agree that as a result of all those books, he understands the rules of the English language very well (look how he put that ‘paradox’ right under our noses). He is very clever and insightful man. What I will show you now is his cleverness.
In the English language, the singular first person pronouns are I (subject), me (object), my (possessive delimiter). Subject “I” (Fenn), Possessive “my” (chest/treasure) and finally Object “me” (Fenn). Now if “me” is an “object”, wouldn’t it fit the bill as being both Fenn and the “blaze” (as a blaze can be an object)? So what do we really have here? Well, everything but the “me”.
Now in order to find the “blaze”, we need to move on to the next line, “Look quickly down, your quest to cease”. Remember his words “You only need the poem”. He never hinted or said that we need to go out into the wilderness and look for a blaze. So, if this is true, the blaze is and always was in the poem.
Recall in the early days of the search, that one of the pictures Fenn posted, was of a tree with (as I recall) 2 “F’s” carved in it. It was then that he gave us the biggest clue. He was the blaze, as in ‘trail blazer’.
Back to the “me” issue. Every time I read these first two lines of this, the third stanza, I always asked myself “If I’m to be wise” and “look quickly down”, “I have to have already uncovered the blaze”. So here is where the “me” came in. In the previous stanza, the last word in the first line is “meek”. There in front of me (no pun intended) is “me”ek. I now have the blaze.
Now comes the beauty of this. The “look quickly down” uncovers another valuable clue. Looking down at the first 2 letters (remember ‘me’ is only 2 letters) in each of the words “meek, nigh, creek and high”, I find ‘me’, ‘ni’, ‘cr’ and ‘hi’. Unscrambled, they produce “rich mine”. Keep this in mind for its handy, further down in the poem.
Note: Forrest Fenn has stated “If the poem is followed precisely, it will lead you to the chest and the end of his rainbow”. So, even though it would be impossible to follow the poem step by step to the chest, after the poem is completely solved, it does precisely that.
The third line, “But tarry scant with marvel gaze”, is a reference to a special kind of marble that I’m sure some ‘old timers’ are familiar with. Their composition was unique and I’ll share that with you further on. You’ll understand the significance of it then.
“Just take the chest and go in peace”. Not much here, but possible use to keep rhyme scheme.
In the fifth stanza “So why is it that I must go”. This was definitely very creative on Fenn’s part. “Why” phonetically is really the letter “Y” and the “i” in the next 2 words are Roman numerals “1”. There is a road named Y11 in the area I’m going to take you to.
“And leave my trove for all to seek?” Again, just filler for purposes of the poem.
“The answer I already know,” Same use as the previous line.
“I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak. Again, another nicely done clue. We finally get confirmation of the road that we turned north on from route 90. This time we have a combination of Roman and Arabic numbers (from each of the words “I’ve done it”). “I” = Roman “1”, “d” =4th letter of alphabet and “i” = roman “1” again. Combined equals 141. We are on route 141 heading north from route 90 to road Y11.
Forrest gives this line a dual purpose as he’s done previously in this poem. The line says “I’ve done it tired and now I’m weak”. Replace ‘tired’ with ‘driving’ and ‘weak’ with ‘south’. Cars have tires and when you’re weak you fall down and down is south.
Now comes the most important stanza of all. This brings everything previously mentioned into focus.
“So hear me all and listen good”. You have to do exactly that. Not just read the lines, but read them out loud, or you’ll never hear the final clues.
“Your effort will be worth the cold”. Phonetically, the strongest sounds you should hear are “f” and “e”.
Next sentence “If you are brave and in the wood I give you title to the gold. Phonetically, you should be able to uncover 2 clues. First is “U”,”R”,”AV”,”AN” which equals Uravan. Second requires repeating the first and continue through to the last line. It will result in “U”,”R”,”A”,”N”,”I”,”U” which equals Uraniu. We are missing a key letter here to complete the word “uranium”. Typing the first 3 letters of the wordd “title to the” in all caps, gives us the familiar letter “TTT”. Three vertical lines with a horizontal line across the top (m).
The location is Uravan Colorado. Mineral mined here was Uranium. The “Tarry scant with marvel gaze” is in reality a Tarry substance known as Pitchblende which is a byproduct of uranium, along with Yellow Cake (Yellowstone). The “scant” is the 2-3 percent used to make a marble glaze which causes the marble to radiate in the sun. These were available when Forrest was a kid (and remembered by old timer’s).
The “F” and “E” sounds when combined, give us Effie. It turns out that in Uravan there was a “rich mine” (we uncovered this earlier in stanza 3) that was called “Effie F”, following true to form, the “blaze”.
To finish the search, we need the final location. If you’ve carefully read this solution, you will recall it says “Y11” that I must go, starting point on route 141 driving south for 1 mile. At that point there will be water to cross (Your effort will be worth the cold) first and trees to enter (If you are brave and in the wood) second. This is the order in which these 2 instructions appear in the poem.
Aerial views of search location and potential treasure location:
(click on photo to see it full size)
1. Do I honestly believe that the chest was there? Yes. It is too perfect a solution in my mind not to. His reference to Yellowstone on page 45 of TTOTC, lends itself to that conclusion, along with so many of the other hints in the book. His use of the word Yellowstone for example, in this area you’d find “Yellow Cake”. He speaks of the war and the rationing going on. This place was guaranteed not to suffer shortages, because Uncle Sam was mining Yellow cake for Atomic bombs (see page 74 caption in TTOTC)and had to keep the miners and there family well provided for. He speaks of a little dirt road and a school house, both are here. The fact that elsewhere in the book he speaks of grinding rocks to make marbles on a piece of sandstone, all these references point to this place. The line with “no radio”, suggests a lack of signal because of the high cliffs and remoteness of the town.
2. Could it be buried? Possibly, but Fenn made numerous comments that make me think otherwise. Like “it’s exposed to the elements”. Based on the period the chest was created, it was a period in which tin and not iron was used to make Roman bronze, so it would truly stand the test of time, which after all, is what he wants.
3. Did Fenn go here to hide his chest in the summer or winter? Winter, because it wouldn’t involve dealing with high water, bugs or people. The perfect place for a 79 year old to go.
4. Are there elements of this place that would appeal to Fenn? Yes, many. Such as Butch Cassidy herding stolen cattle up this canyon, or using this as an escape route after robbing the Telluride bank. The mining of Uranium for the first atom bomb. Uranium from here that was shipped to France for Madam Currie in her discovery of radium. Uravan’s history includes a “Hanging Flume” that was reconstructed (at least 48 feet of it). This Flume was used earlier, prior to the mining of Uranium, for gold placer mining (riches, new and old). The project to build it cost about $100,000 and the owners got only $50,000 of that back, before they abandoned the enterprise. Radiation treatments saved Fenn’s life, so it definitely holds a place in his heart. Arrow heads, agates for making marbles (found in Paradox Valley), fishing, archeology, etc., all come together here. One important fact I feel Fenn knew about this place, was that it was so remote, that it had been forgotten in history (left overs of history).
Hints from “The Thrill Of The Chase” book itself:
Page 7 I always listened carefully.
Page 15 Left overs of history
Page 24 crossed the river
Page 32 I’d spend class time grinding marbles against sandstone slab
Page 38 Hop A Long Cassidy
Page 45 In love with Yellowstone
Page 47 that was years ago before the streets were paved
Page 62 that little stream got narrower and narrower
Page 67 into a stream of fast moving water
Page 74 I sat alert with an atomic bomb under my wing
Page 109 kids crossing street holding rope
Page 136 come and see my shining palace built upon the sand
I could probably go on forever, with all the discoveries I found, but I won’t. I will leave it to you to decide if this is a valid solution or not. The only question that remains, is whether or not the chest is still there or has it already been secreted away. Good luck to you all and happy hunting.
MichaelD will be writing about his adventure soon.