SUBMITTED december 2014
Let’s pretend for a minute that I got the starting point right. I know that Glenn Woody Bridge is out. So, How far is too far to walk? Later in the poem, Forrest tells us to hear him and listen good. So, I close my eyes and say the words out loud. I hear ‘to’ and ‘too’ and think, what if that means 2+2? Well, 4 miles could be too far to walk for an 80 year old man. Not Forrest probably, but most 80 year old men. So, I follow the road into the canyon down for 4 miles. What is there? Nothing.
This canyon has a road, and then a steep drop to the river on one side, and an impossible incline on the other. Signs in the area warn of rockslides and slick curves. Crosses dot the road where many have succumbed to the will of Mother Nature. But, 4.4 miles down from my WWWH, there is a parking lot. This parking lot is used by a lot of people associated with river rafting. This could be related to ‘put in’. There is also a hill overlooking the river. Guess what is on the hill? A picnic bench! Well, this HAD to be the place. But, wait. What is that grassy hill across the river? Is that a tree on the top of it, perfectly centered, and solitary in it’s stance? Well, now I know I am in the right place. But, I knew taking the family on this trip would not be wise, so I was going to go it alone.
I found the parking lot pretty easily and found a good spot to park, off to the right. I knew this side of the river would be heavily trafficked, but I searched it high and low, anyway. Then, I got all the way down to the river, and crossed onto a sandbar in the middle of the river. Maybe this was the way across. I looked down at the rushing water going past me, and knew I was not crossing here, on foot.
You can see the hill across the river on the left of the picture, with the green grass. My tree is in the center of the image. Also, on the left, you can see the old gas pipeline. It is broken in many places, but it used to run the length of the other side of the canyon. There is also an old access road that runs alongside it.
I hiked back up to the hill, went to my car, and called my husband for some advice. I remembered that the Glenn Woody Bridge was only 2 miles up the road, and even thought there was a No Trespassing sign, I didn’t think the owner would mind if I just strolled across it and walked back down the other side of the river, along an old above ground gas line. I told my husband I was thinking of doing it, and he reminded me that there were 14 wolf/German Shepard hybrids on the other side, all very hungry and eager for a fresh meal. I decided that was out of the question.
As I am wrapping up my conversation, I see a young girl pull up in her car. She parked about 10 feet from me. She got out, and strolled off in her flip flops, carrying a book and a nice-looking camera. She walks along the side of the busy road, along where the earth just seems to fall off and disappear. Then, she did something unimaginable: she scaled the side of the hill down – in her flip flops! I couldn’t imagine how she just did that. This girl knows this area very well. So, I got out of the car and followed her.
I got about 100 feet up the road, and suddenly a stone staircase appeared, and lead down to a tiny wooden shade structure, under which was the girl, enjoying her book. I made it down the staircase to her, and said hello. I asked her if she knew of a good place to cross the river. She replied, “Why would you want to do that?” Um….hmmmm….let me think. I didn’t want to tell her the truth. Maybe she will go search across the way and find it before me. “I am trying to take some pictures.” She looked me over, glancing at my gollashes, my shorts, and my checkered backpack. “You are gonna have to swim.”
“I am not swimming across the river. Is there a low point I can walk across?”
“Maybe a few miles down, at the county line access.”
“Ok, Thanks. Bye.”
I needed a new plan. I climbed back up the staircase to my car, and was ready to call it a day, but then I saw a white passenger van across the way, with a raft on top. Hmmmmm. This could be a way across. I walked over and found and young man lying in a hammock, underneath two trees. His view overlooked the river, so that he could ensure he saw his group pass by in their raft, so he could know when it was time for him to go. A pungent smell of an herbal remedy wafted through the air. I approached him and asked him if he knew a way across the river. “You can swim across,” he replied. “I am not swimming. Any chance you could give me a lift across?” I pointed at the raft on his trailer. “I only have one life jacket, and am waiting for my group to come down the river at any minute. But, I have an idea. Follow me.” He grabbed the life jacket and started off the same way the girl had gone. I did as I was told and followed. He walked down to the girl, and told her I was his friend, and that I needed a ride across. We were going to flag down the next group of rafters to give me a lift across. I couldn’t believe it. None of these people knew me, and they were going out of their way to help me – all because I wanted to take some pictures (or so they thought).
It only took two minutes for a raft to appear. I put the life vest on, and I got in. They ferried me across, and I returned the life jacket, and went on my way. I had saved the man’s name and phone number in my phone, and he told me to call him when I was ready for a ride back across. He warned me that he would be busy feeding hungry rafters for the next hour or two, but that he would come back when he was done if I hadn’t called by then. I didn’t worry about a silly thing like getting back across the river, with a treasure chest. I had a search to get underway.
You can see a staircase on the upper right side of the image. This leads you from the parking lot to a flat area where the bench I mentioned is located. You can also see the sandbar I stood on in the bottom left.
I climbed up the hill with such excitement. That tree was so big, and so pretty, and had such a beautiful view of the river. But, as I made my way up the hill, I started to smell something. It was urine. And, it was strong. I ignored it the first time, but a couple of trees later, I smelled it again. I forged ahead, determined to reach my tree. When I got there, I looked high and low for a rock, a log, anything that was out of place. Oh look! Two railroad ties just lying there. Underneath: nothing. I start to widen my circle around the tree, and then investigate nearby trees. Still nothing. Nothing, except that smell. Then I realized, it reminded me of the smell when cats leave their mark on things. Cats? That has got to be a pretty big cat. Then, as I came around a corner of rocks, I see it. A small cave, only about 3 feet high, and 4 feet wide. Just in front of the cave, where the grasses reach 4 feet tall, there was a large size area where the grasses had been smashed, and were laying horizontally. You could see this was a good place for a large animal to catch some sun in the morning, and that this spot was well used. There were also a few small bones scattered about the front of the cave.
I knew I was definitely in the wrong place. I also knew this was a very bad idea, and I needed to hightail it out of there. But, before I ran off, I snapped a pic. At least now I wasn’t a liar, as well as a failure. I pulled out my phone and called the number of the man who helped me get a ride across. No service. No service anywhere on that hill. Crap!
I hurried myself down the hill, and to the edge of the water. The girl was still perched under her shade structure across the way. She saw me and yelled across, “Are you done? Do you need a lift back?”
I didn’t have to wait but two or three minutes and another rafting group came by. I saw the girl snap her photos of them, and then wave them down and started pointing my way. The group kindly pulled up to the bank, allowed me to board, and ferried me back across. “Did you get your pictures?,” she asked. “Yes, I did. Thank you.” The man who helped me was gone, and my repeated attempts to let him know I made it back across failed. Either I got the wrong number, or his phone was turned off. I headed for home.
I searched the road side of the river two more times after that. Then, another time, I hiked up one of the slot canyons on the opposite side of the road, and scaled 50ft of sheer waterfall (it was dry at that time). I ended up in the most amazing crevasse, which was surrounded on all sides by mountain peaks. It was about 40 ft. in diameter, and it was the most peaceful place I had ever been. Sadly, I forgot to take pictures until I was halfway back down the slot canyon.
After that trip, I learned a very important lesson. I realized that the entire canyon area was subject to Mother Nature’s attitude changes, and that no place there would be safe. Fenn did not hide his treasure here, but I feel like I am still heading in the right direction.
Next time, I will tell you how far too far to walk actually is, and how Fenn’s ‘non-clues’ are all actually very good clues (according to my solution, of course).