Oso Canyon…



I’m fairly new to this chase, but I wanted to share the thrill. I hope you can spare the time to share it with me. First a little background. I’m a little like the person you hope will find the treasure, though maybe older. I’m 59 and have had two heart attacks and quintuple bypass surgery. Unable to work full days installing power plants in telephone offices throughout the country any longer, I was put on disability. Nothing could be worse for a person like me. I HAVE to feel like I’m accomplishing SOMETHING. Fortunately, my girlfriend, Claudia, had a little savings and I received a large first disability check, so we moved from Mansfield, Ohio (a ghost town of old factories and no work) to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, and bought a small RV Park. Now I can work at my own pace and we’ve doubled the size of the park in the last year.

A couple months ago, a friend of mine sent me an article about you and your treasure. I was intrigued. I LOVE a good puzzle or riddle and I like to think I’m pretty good with them. I learned I need to improve my skill. Within an hour, I was looking at the ruins of a small settlement on a tributary of Rio Oso on Google Earth, and convinced I had figured it out. I was at least sure I had the first part figured out. The Rio Ojo Caliente (warm pool river) ends in Chili (chilly). If I cross the Chama River and go up the canyon down, it is Oso Canyon. Not far, but too far to walk. But Rt. 114 from Espanola going west takes you to Rt. 31 going north to Abiquiu, and crosses Rio Oso. Then it follows along it to a point below a cabin owned by Spanish ranchers where, if you “put in” at the stream coming down the south side of the cabin, leads you up to the settlement.

Furthermore, when you come to the settlement, Polvadera Peak comes into view. Research showed me that this mountain was described by the news as a “blaze” shooting into the sky in 2010, the year the treasure was hidden. I was convinced that when I got there, the rest would fall into place.

After being convinced that it was too early in the year for the bears and the rattlers to be out, Claudia agreed to go with me. Unfortunately, it was also too early in the year to get through Rt. 114 without a 4X4 and I was without one. We parked our little gas saver at the side of the road when we came to our first pile of snow, and walked the next 5 miles to Rt 31.

Worn out, but exited, we started down the road. Only a half a mile into it we came to a cattle guard with signs posted on both sides of the road, “No Trespassing – Private Property”. Not sure what we might encounter if we proceeded on foot, we decided to go back out to 114 and continue on it, as it ran parallel to the canyon. After two more miles we could see the hill we wanted to get to, but it was getting late and I wasn’t sure it was approachable from this point.

We turned around and had gone maybe a mile when I heard the sound of a car coming up the road. It was a 4X4 with two guys in it who stopped and asked if that was our car back a ways. We told them yes and suddenly I realized that I was in the middle of NOWHERE with a beautiful woman and two strangers are stopping and talking to us and I started getting nervous because I had absolutely NO weapon with which to defend us if necessary. They seemed friendly and offered us a ride on their way back from wherever they were going if we were still walking. Then they pulled away. I was determined they would NOT see us on their way back, JUST IN CASE. So we walked off road the rest of the way back and hid when they came back by. You never know. The next day we could barely walk at all.

So, while I waited for the snow to melt, I did some research. Oso Canyon has been inhabited by humans for 10,000 years. Sounds like a place you would be interested in, I thought. I looked at pictures of Tipi rings and maps of forest fires and files on land grants. I love research. The more I looked into it, the more convinced I was that I was on the right track. I talked to the Forest Service and found out that Rt. 31 was washed out in a flood last year and was impassable by vehicle. I discovered a different trail that would lead me to the settlement from Rt. 114 and walked it so many times I wore a path on Google Earth.

In early April, Claudia’s dad broke his hip and she went back to Ohio to see him and visit her grandchildren. She left STRICT orders that I was NOT to go out to the mountains alone. I was to go to Ohio myself in the beginning of May to get her and visit my family.

By the time May rolled around, I had convinced her that if I was adequately prepared and left all of my info with the Forest Service that I could go out ONE day before I caught the bus in Albuquerque to Ohio. So I bought bear spray and a first aid kit and a snake bite kit and called the Forest Service in Espanola and gave them my agenda. I rented a motel room there on Friday night and got some sleep for my big day on Saturday.

Saturday morning was perfect. It was sunny and just cool enough to make hiking comfortable. It was probably ten o’clock by the time I parked and put on my backpack full of safety gear that I knew I was going to abandon as soon as I found the treasure, to make room for the box in my pack.


The terrain was not quite what I had expected. On Google Earth it looked very clear. Now that I was here, it was very bushy and lots of needles and rocks. Rough walking and no trail that I could see. None the less, I took off for the treasure. I had been struggling about ten minutes in the brush, thinking I was off to a bad start and that it would probably take me all day to get there, when suddenly I heard some clomping behind me along with heavy animal breathing. I turned around, almost having my third heart attack, thinking I was only ten minutes into my adventure and was already being attacked by a bear. And my spray was in my pack.

But, to my surprise, there was a cowboy on a horse heading up toward my van. He hadn’t even seen me. Then I realized, hey, he’s on a trail. Just a short struggle and it was a walk in the park. Once I got to the bottom of the first canyon, the path opened up and the walking became easy and the scenery became beautiful.


Because of my heart, I can only walk so far before I take a break, so I found a big boulder to lean against and take a drink when I was startled again. It was the same cowboy coming back down the trail. This time he saw me and stopped. “Was that your campfire I saw up there?” he asked. I told him I had just pulled in about twenty minutes ago and had called the Forest Service to let them know I would be here, and that I would NEVER start a fire up here. He seemed satisfied and we talked for a few minutes. I told him I was headed for Oso Canyon and he told me it was a couple miles up the trail. He ranched back there and wondered if I had seen a cow and calf
 wandering around. I hadn’t and he told me to have a good day and rode away.


Now I was beginning to feel VERY comfortable. Another mile and I was looking at the little settlement I had come to investigate. I could see the cowboy and two others working in the distance while I took pictures and searched for treasure.
  I had heard that you said the treasure was not associated with a structure, so I stayed away from the log cabin ruins and adobe ruins other than for pictures. I was more interested in the clues.


I went down the ravine that I thought began below the cabin that I was now looking at, where the next clue said it was “no place for the meek”. I went down until it got fairly steep near the bottom and I could see that the clue made sense. This ravine was BEAUTIFUL. Little pools of water and waterfalls splashing around large boulders. Then I turned and headed back up the way I would have if I had come the way I thought the clues would lead me.


Next, I thought I would find a grave or graves that would satisfy the clue, “ the end is ever nigh”. I found no grave. Nor did I find ANYTHING that would justify that clue. My first disappointment. What DID fit was the clue, “There will be no paddle for your creek.” This creek opened into a beautiful clearing
and became just a large wet green grassy valley.


It was enchanting. The little settlement had been built along side it. It also clearly had heavy loads (logs for cabins and rocks for walls and fences) and water high. SO many clues fit. The other clue that fit perfectly was the forest fire from 2010.


As soon as you come into the settlement from the ravine, Polvadera Peak comes into view. But, try as I did, no matter how I did it, when “the blaze” came into view and I looked down, there was nothing.
  Of course, “blaze” can mean several things, so I gave up on that meaning and started looking for markings on every tree and rock, and looking into every grove of trees and bushes around the settlement. It reminded me of an Easter egg hunt. Still nothing.

So I moved on up the creek without a paddle. 
  At the upper end of the creek where it entered back into the forest from the huge cleared area where the settlement was, it once again became fast moving and narrow. The terrain was getting steeper again and the creek was cutting a small gorge into the soil. As I looked up the creek, I could see a point where the water looked like it was coming right out of the ground. “That’s interesting”, I thought.


As I got closer I could see that it was a small tunnel through a little hill. Maybe ten feet long and collapsed in the middle so there were two short tunnels about three or four feet long. Trees were growing above it with roots hanging down into the tunnel which was about three feet in diameter. Just about dark enough in there to use that flashlight. Then, as I looked up and to the right, there was an Aspen tree with a fairly fresh carving in it. My heart started pounding and I remembered jokingly telling Claudia that my biggest fear was that I
would get so exited when I found it that I would have a heart attack and someone would eventually find ME sitting there with the treasure in my lap instead of YOU. She didn’t find it as amusing as I did. But my heart slowed down when I read the inscription, “EJ iz BJ” followed by three upside down “J’s”. It made no sense to me. But WHY would it be HERE? In the middle of NOWHERE. That also made no sense. 
  I spent a while there, poking around in the water and moving rocks around, but eventually ran out of ideas.


I went back to the settlement and looked one last time before I gave up for this trip and headed back down the trail to Albuquerque. What a beautiful day it was. And that’s why I wrote you this letter. Though I have yet to find a penny, THANKS A MILLION!!!


Dave Gorka

24 thoughts on “Oso Canyon…

  1. Dave Thanks a “Million” for the story. For a while there, I was hoping you found it.:) You definitely sound like someone that Fenn hopes will find it. Good Luck.

  2. Thanks for sharing your adventure Dave. Since I won’t be out searching any time soon, I love hearing about everyone else’s interpretations of the poem and their searches. Good Luck to you!

  3. Dave–I had to chuckle when I read the part about you telling your wife your fear that you’d have a heart attack if you found the treasure. Your story telling painted a good picture of the expression I suspect she had on her face. Personally, I plan to put an extra dose of blood pressure medication in my back pack for just that possibility. Ah, the trials and tribulations of being in a more “seasoned” age bracket. Thanks for sharing your adventure. It was a good one.

  4. Oh Dave, You got great writing skills, Can’t wait for the next Chapter. Hopefully we will be sharing the Adventure with Ya”ll soon. Keep an open spot for us Brother Fenn. Peace

  5. Some friends and I were in the canyon a couple of weeks ago looking for the treasure. We had to park our mini-van on Rio del Oso road and hike the 400 year old road, but it was worth it. At one point we thought we came across a bear but it was just a lone black cow. It was an amazing hike and we found pieces of what look like Peublo pottery on and around the road at one point. I’m sure we were real close to the treasure but a thunderstorm cut the trip short. We tried to wait it out in a rock formation, but it wasn’t letting up, so we ran 7 km (I’m Canadian) back to the van through the rain and hail. The whole time we were running I was trying not to think about the fact that New Mexico has the most lightning deaths per capita… I hope to make it back there sometime to continue down the road and take in more history, but it definately would be a place where I would rest my bones.

  6. Good story. Your interpretation of “the end is ever drawing nigh” was interesting. I’ve never seen anyone connect that line with a grave marker but I kind of like the notion. It’s making me think again about a spot I previously encountered while searching.

    • Thanks. The canyon I was in wasn’t as dry as much of the area. But, coming from Ohio originally, it’s relatively dry in New Mexico.

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