SUBMITTED OCTOBER 2014
My best friend of almost 40 years, who just got interested in Fenn’s treasure hunt earlier this year, has been vacationing in Albuquerque for a couple months…he knew I’ve been an avid Fenn-fan and boots-on-the-ground treasure hunter for the past couple years, and suggested we put our heads together, figure this thing out, and go on a treasure hunt before his return home to Pennsylvania in a couple weeks…this is our story.
Even though Tom is fairly new to the search, like myself when I started, he read everything on Dal’s blog…I imagine it took weeks this late in the game. We both agreed there are tremendous solutions by many tenacious searchers on Dal’s blog, and we used some of those solutions and ideas with a few unusual twists to create our search area that we hoped would put us at a unique location…thus allowing us to find the treasure.
Forrest’s favorite activities when he was a boy were fly-fishing, collecting arrow heads, and swimming in the warm river waters of Yellowstone National Park…making his “special places” mostly in and around YNP.
…so we pondered…what area in New Mexico compares to it?
The most likely is the Valles Caldera… a 15-mile wide volcanic caldera in the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico, where hot springs, streams, bogs, and volcanic domes dot the caldera floor, with some of the best fly-fishing in the state…
Forrest may have spent quiet days here fly-fishing back in the day when this area was privately owned by the Dunigans and searching for arrowheads or soaking in the various hot springs…a “special place” for those seeking solitude and serenity while enjoying the peacefulness and extraordinary beauty of this fisherman’s paradise…this was our start… “as I have gone alone in there”.
Unfortunately, this sprawling ranch was later sold to the government, and in the year 2000 became the Valles Caldera National Preserve. In mid-July I tried to search Alamo Bog and Canyon there, only to find out there are many restrictions and that most of the preserve is off-limits to the public…so we had to think outside-the-box. Our WWWH was the Caldera Ring Fracture inside the preserve, but just outside this ring is the preserve boundary, and just down the canyon from it, lies San Antonio Hot Springs…
Despite the 5-mile drive back a horribly rutted dirt road that only a 4-wd vehicle could tolerate, these hot springs seem to be quite popular…they are easily accessible after a short half mile hike from the parking area and a short climb up the hillside…we did take pictures of the hot springs and the perfectly contented people soaking there, but there was so much nudity there aren’t any pictures we can use on this blog…No matter, though, as this is not the special place we think Forrest hid his treasure as it is too public and there is a trail to it…we needed to find a hot spring nearby but not on a map…maybe a smaller one about 500 ft from this place, with no human trail in close proximity…our search had begun.
San Antonio Creek flows from inside the Valles Caldera (our WWWH), down the canyon (And take it in the canyon down) and is accessible by driving there (Not far, but too far to walk).
There is an old cabin (built by the CCC in the 1930s) at the bottom of the hillside, about 500 ft from the trailhead that leads to the Hot Springs…could this be ff’s home of Brown? Forrest previously stated that “the hidden treasure is not associated with any structure”. Did he also mean that none of the clues are associated with a structure as well..hmmm. Despite being vandalized over the years, it still stands proud and sturdy among the tall pine trees surrounding it…”Put in below the home of Brown” resonated in my head…what if Forrest “put in” a clue “below” it, something like a “drawing”. After all, the poem states: “From there it’s no place for the meek, The end is ever drawing nigh;” Even though this seemed unlikely, I had to satisfy my curiosity and peek into the dark, dank crawl space beneath the cabin…
As I brushed away the spider webs and rodent feces to gain access to this little window of a spot, I held my breath and realized this was definitely “no place for the meek”…
Not surprisingly, I couldn’t find anything helpful in our quest…so we moved on with our search. We made the easy climb up the hillside to the hot springs and chatted briefly with the folks soaking in the hot water, oblivious of our cameras and non-caring of our story of Fenn’s hidden treasure.
We moved further up the hillside and searched the base of the towering rock face above us, looking for shallow caves hidden by the pine trees, and peering inside those that we found, only to be find emptiness…
I used binoculars to scour the cliffs on both sides of this little valley, looking for the blaze to point us to the right spot…but could find none. In my earlier searches, I thought the blaze might be a trail, but not since Forrest answered “in a word-yes’, after being asked “Is the blaze one single object?” We needed to find a white streak in the cliffs, or a giant petroglyph pointing us to the trove…
Continuing on, we hiked through the tall grass up along San Antonio Creek to where the power lines that began at the CCC cabin took a 90 degree turn to cross the ridge, looking for a hidden hot spring up the hillside, a spot special to Forrest, one that he would always consider to be his alone. This was our “There’ll be no paddle up your creek, Just heavy loads and water high.” As we moved along the creek, we knelt down and felt the water in each of the little streams that trickled down from above, until we found one with warm water…
Excited, we bushwacked our way up the hillside, through the trees to its source, only to find the warm water seeping out of the ground beneath a pile of boulders, with its opening hidden by tall ferns and reeds of grass…
…once again, I swept the spider webs from the entrance and peered in…large enough for the treasure chest but not big enough for Forrest to lie down beside it…besides, we were looking for a pleasant hot pool of water for soaking, not a foul-smelling hole in the rocks…disappointed, we continued on.
After searching for several hours in this area, we called it a day…a bit disappointed but not discouraged…
as I am already planning the next search! (Our double omegas…signifying the end of this search…the Gilman tunnels along the road before it joins SR 4.)
Tom, my friend and photographer for this search…who took most of these magnificent photos.
As I have gone alone in there … Valles Caldera
And with my treasures bold, … Forrest and his trove
I can keep my secret where, … a secluded spot only he knows of
And hint of riches new and old. … old riches were the arrow heads he found, new riches are inside his treasure trove
Begin it where warm waters halt … the Caldera Ring Fracture just inside the Valles Caldera boundary where the warm water seeps up through the ground and halts, forming several bogs.
And take it in the canyon down, … San Diego Canyon down to San Antonio Hot Springs
Not far, but too far to walk. … from hwy 120 drive north using FR376, which gets you within half a mile of our San Antonio Hot Springs search area. (our entire search area is around 8400 ft in elevation)
Put in below the home of Brown. … the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) cabin built in the 1930s which is just down the hillside from San Antonio Hot Springs
From there it’s no place for the meek, … look below (beneath) the home of Brown cabin, like in a crawl space or basement…this will be creepy and not for the meek.
The end is ever drawing nigh; … maybe there is a “drawing” or clue to follow to find the blaze
There’ll be no paddle up your creek, … follow San Antonio Creek upstream, but look for the blaze in or along the cliff behind the hot springs area.
Just heavy loads and water high. … could be referencing the hot springs themselves, or a waterfall area if one can be found. Followed the power lines (heavy loads)along the creek until the lines took a 90 degree turn and crossed the ridge…located a stream with warm water that trickled into the creek. Bush-wacked our way up the hillside to the source (water high), hoping to find a secluded pool of warm water, making it a “special place” for Forrest.
If you’ve been wise and found the blaze, … look for petroglyphs or any formation or white mark/streak that looks like Y’s, or an owl (wise), pointing us to where our quest ceases, where we will look quickly down.
Look quickly down, your quest to cease, … look down from the blaze which still could be up (higher up the hillside) from where you are standing. Specifically look for a shallow cave, overhang, old Indian ruin, etc.
But tarry scant with marvel gaze, … no marvel gazing occurred, as we could not locate the blaze…this time!
Post-script for those who are still reading this: Since this trip produced no treasure chest, I since have been to Holman Maps in Albuquerque and purchased a “Good” map of my next search location…somewhere off The Enchanted Circle, which brings to mind Forrest’s quote by TS Elliot:
“We shall not cease from our exploration
And at the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”