SUBMITTED may 2015
A Red Neck From Texas Searches for Forrest Fenn’s Treasure
Before your read about my solve, no I didn’t find the treasure but maybe it will help you find it. I have spent a lot of time working on my solve and I still believe in it, maybe even more than before. I worked it out from many hours of research and study of the Poem, Forrest Fenn’s books- The Thrill of the Chase and Too Far To Walk, many blogs, and interviews and articles about FF. I researched many areas in the Rocky Mountains. I first found out about Fenn’s Treasure on an email from Nation Parks Trips Media that cautioned visitors not to bring shovels or metal detectors in the park. It had a copy of the poem. Our family had been in Yellowstone a few times over the years and I knew that the Firehole River was a warm river feed by hot springs. I have been a regular reader of Dal’s blog since Sept 2014. Although I have found that several searchers have looked in the area during my research, I have based my solve solely on the poem and what Forrest has said himself. Also no one has shown a picture of the blaze that I have found. In one searcher’s story of the Firehole, he was looking above and across road from the falls and talked about the area across the river but he didn’t say anything about looking in the area between the river and road. I think a lot of people feel that Fenn would not pick a spot so close to the road to hide his bones forever. I think that in his original plan, he would want his body found very quickly so that it could be returned to his wife and family for a funeral that he is worthy of. He was considering this spot when he was fighting cancer and I think that he would have to make the trip when he was near death, therefore it had to be close to a road.
FF has said multiple times to not overthink the poem, and to have a child read it. I have taken a simple, say what you mean, approach to the poem. All of this seems too easy to me so I may be way off base, but I think FF meant for it to be easy so that a red neck from Texas would have a chance to find it. Also, by making it so simple, most people will overlook it as being too easy.
The first stanza describes Forrest hiding the chest and hinting about it in the poem. I don’t find any clues here. Going in there alone could mean the hiding place or it could mean an area such as a nation park, ie YSNP.
Forrest is going to take us on an adventure, although you can’t actually take this journey in a canoe now due to boating rules in Yellowstone National Park.
“Begin it where warm waters halt”. The starting point of the journey is the Firehole River bathing spot where Forrest went to in Yellowstone as a youth. Forrest mentioned moving a few feet to get the incentive to get out, from warm to cold water. It could also be the area where colder Nez Perce Creek meets the Firehole, This was discussed in an article about fishing in YNP. Trout will sometimes travel up the cooler Nez Perce Creek, especially in warmer weather. Both are in the same general area of the Firehole River and describe where warm water halts.
“And take it in the canyon down”. Take the journey down the Firehole canyon.
“Not far, but too far to walk” is the trip from Lower Geyser Basin to Firehole Falls.
“Put in below the home of Brown”. Mr. Brown? Brown bear? Brown Canyon? Molly Brown? I don’t think so. Brown trout? YES! They are a real prize for a fly fisherman, they are sly and crafty and a good fighter, but they are not native to the US. The Upper Firehole River is where brown trout were introduced to the west in 1890, thus making the upper Firehole River the “Original Home of Brown”, in the Rockies. Anybody that knows about Forrest knows his love of fly fishing. Put in at Lower Geyser Basin – below the Upper Firehole River – where Fenn’s bathing spot was.
“From there it’s no place for the meek”, riding down the river through the wild Firehole Canyon.
“The end is ever drawing nigh”. Your journey will soon end when you have to stop at the falls.
“There’ll be no paddle up your creek”. The water is too fast to go back upstream. You have to get out at the falls. There also happens to be parking lot at the falls. I think this is where Forrest parked when he said he made two trips to the hiding spot in one afternoon. He didn’t say it took ALL afternoon.
“Just heavy loads and water high”. When you find the chest it will be a very heavy. So you make two trips, like Forrest, which makes it “loads”. The Firehole Falls is the water high.
“If you been wise and found the blaze”. This was the hardest part. (The finding the blaze part, not the being smart part, there are a lot of smart people searching for the treasure!) What is THE blaze? A mark on a tree seems to be what a lot of people are looking for. I don’t think that a mark on a tree would last as long as Fenn might want. It could be destroyed by fire or lighting hitting the tree. Lots of people are looking for a “white” mark on a cliff or rock formation. In his interview at Moby Dickens Book store, Forrest said to look for every little ABSTRACT THING (not word or thought), in TTOTC. That is what really got me to thinking. The picture of “Skippy holding a rock” struck me as a very odd caption to a picture when I first saw it, he was leaning on the rock not holding it! That’s when I had an ah-ha moment. That’s the abstract thing Fenn was hinting about. At first I found a picture of the waterfall and rocks, that matched the ones behind Skippy in a picture on Google maps that was inserted at Firehole Falls. Something wasn’t right, the water was not as rocky as the rest of the Firehole Falls pics. I did a little more searching and found that Skippy’s picture was taken at the Upper Falls of the Yellowstone River. Dang it – what a disappointment, WRONG river. The rock that Skippy was holding couldn’t be the blaze and meet the other parts of the poem. Back to Google maps and web photos. That’s when I found the stone with the big red flame on it, right next to the road in a picture of Firehole Falls. That’s the real BLAZE. You can see it in the picture. Thanks for the help Skippy!
“Look quickly down, you quest to cease”. The chest is in the area between the road and the river below the falls, close to the blaze. I’ll have to put FEET ON THE GROUND to actually find out which bush it is under .
“But tarry scant….” Don’t worry, I’ll get out of there fast, before anyone sees me and tries to steal the chest.
In the sixth stanza I think Forrest Fenn is feeling his age. He is getting older and was tired after hiding the chest and it’s contents. He knows that he had to leave his trove there to get us out into the great outdoors.
“So hear me all and listen good,…..” Well I have listened good! I think my feet will be wet and cold before I find the chest, maybe wading near the bottom or the cliff. Todd Lovato with “SantaFe .com” asked FF “Would you have liked to hunt for the chest?”. FF’s reply was that he “would search under every bush in America”. “Toys Are Forever” tells why one has to be “Brave in the wood”, with all the dragons and scorpions and black widow spiders” in the juniper bushes next to his porch. Hiding it under a juniper bush would also explain why “someone could walk within ten feet of it and not find it if they weren’t looking” (under the bush). The waterfall in “My War for Me” was “innocent” and “How peaceful it seemed”. Waterfalls have a special effect on most people. Forrest even tells Lorene Mills in “Report from Santa Fe” in November 2012 that he has a waterfall in his backyard that has a 1000 gallons of water per minute flowing over it. What better spot to leave you bones than where you could enjoy the falls forever? Yes, I have been listening very closely. I would almost bet that there is a very special Scrap Book story about Firehole Falls that he can’t wait to tell.
So much for my solve. Now for my search and the “gold” I found. The following is just for those who want to know about the trip I took with my 14 year old grandson, Caleb. He is just one of my 15 grand kids.
My original plan was for my wife and me to go to Yellowstone for our 40th anniversary in June 2015. I worked for weeks getting all the days in one cabin for the week. As it tuned out, my grandson’s work schedule made his wedding fall on the Friday that we were going to be gone. My wife had promised to make the cake and help with the decorations. (this is a small wedding for family and close friends) So that ruled out my trip plans. We looked at different times that we could go. My wife is the director and teacher at a private Christian school, so most of May was ruled out. Flights and rooms get a lot more expensive closer to the summer so she suggested that I take one of my grandsons with me so that I would not be alone. He’s 14 and fairly physically fit. He could do a better job of searching than me. So on Saturday April 25th in the afternoon, I booked a trip for the next morning, giving us a day and a half of time in the park. That was a feat in itself.
We flew out of DFW at about 8 am, landing in Denver. We made a mad dash for our next flight to Idaho Falls. We got to the gate at the opposite end of Denver Airport just about 5 minutes before they started boarding. I was breathing heavy by that point. After a short flight, we landed just after 1 pm and headed to the rental car desk. We opted to upgrade from a small sedan to a SUV. That was a good decision. I wasn’t a Jeep fan before, but the Grand Cherokee was nice, even a heated steering wheel. A nice extra with the low 40’s temperature. There was some rough road construction in the park later and I was glad to have the road clearance. Our 500 mile trip averaged over 24MPG, somewhat better than expected.
We passed some snow next to the road as we started getting into the higher elevations. Caleb wanted to stop and get a picture so we snapped a few on the cell phone and sent them to the family at home. He took a lot a of pictures on all of the trip. We drove though some clouds/fog on the top of some of the mountains and some areas of snow. Got to the hotel in West Yellowstone and checked in. We arrived at the park entrance and used the year pass that we bought last summer, so that was free. Made a few side trips along the Madison to look for wildlife where we found some buffalo and two elk. The temperature was in the mid 30’s when we turned onto the Firehole Canyon drive only to find that it was CLOSED. How could they do that, this is what we came 1300 miles for? Oh well, we turned around and headed down toward Old Faithfull. We stopped at the pull out point next to the exit of the canyon drive. Sure was temping to drive the wrong way in to the Falls but I didn’t want to end up in in jail, you know how the park rangers frown on breaking the rules. We walked a few hundred feet in a light sprinkle mixed with sleet and snow. The weather Monday was supposed to be nicer so I decided not to risk hypothermia and continued our drive to Old Faithful. Stopped at a few thermal features and saw a few more buffalos and another elk. Got to Old Faithful about a quarter till six, just before the eruption. Really cold wind blowing, about 33 degrees. Called Caleb’s dad and he connected to the live web cam feed. His brothers and sisters got a kick out of seeing us on the computer.
Got back in the car, turned up the heater, and headed toward Norris to try to find some bears that were reported in that area. We weren’t disappointed when we found several cars on the side of the road. There was a mother Grizzly with one cub about a hundred yards away, across the river. I think it was the first time Caleb saw a live grizzly in the wild. We then went to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Caleb and his family had been to YSNP a few years ago but he didn’t remember seeing the Grand Canyon. I had to get a picture of me “holding a rock” where Skippy’s picture was taken at the Upper falls. It was getting dark by that time and it didn’t take well. So it was back to West Yellow and we hit the McDonalds. (We are cheap travelers) So we took it back to the hotel and ate. It was nice to be in warm room.
Monday morning we headed back to the park. Someone had told me the canyon road was closed due to falling rock. I decided that begging the park ranger with a special request to go down the closed road would not be fruitful. We decided to walk. It’s a two mile drive and the Falls are about in the middle. Figured that it would be easier to walk UP hill to the falls and make the return trip down hill, a wise move for a 61 year old man not used to the altitude.
My heart was really pumping when we finally turned the corner and saw the Falls. We went straight to the rock that I had picked as my blaze and started looking down. After I caught my breathe we made our way to the bottom of the hill. Kind of tricky but I made it fine. I figure that FF was in as good of shape at 80 as I am now. All the work at his ruins is sure to have kept him in good shape.
We looked around all of the pine trees and under a few rocks when I found the “gold” down next to the water, an old flip flop, LOL.
Next I found exactly what I was looking for, a juniper bush. It was about 6 or 7 feet across and I am sure that it is at least 10 years old, so it probably was there before FF hid his treasure. We lifted up some of the limbs and looked underneath without luck. I didn’t want to destroy the bush by breaking off the limbs, the chest isn’t worth destroying the very thing that I came to look under.
So Caleb found a good heavy stick and I prodded every square inch. I hit a couple of hollow spots and anxiously reached my hand in only to find roots or sticks. One good thing, going this early in the year, I wasn’t afraid of finding any snakes with the 34 degree temp. This is exactly where I thought Forrest would hide the chest. We spent enough time to feel comfortable that the chest isn’t under the bush any more. This is where you need a good metal detector, if it wasn’t against the law. We reached the top of the hill about the time a park employee came driving up. He asked if we saw any bears on the way up and I told him no. He explained that the road was closed because a mother Grizzly with a cub had been seen in the area several times. He asked if we had bear spray and I said no. (My daughter gave me a can for my birthday in November, but I couldn’t take it on the plane.) Of course I asked if he could give us a ride to the car, but it is against park rules and he didn’t want to get fired. He also said there were some more people walking up. Maybe the bear would be full before we got back to her. After a few more minutes, we headed back to the car. About a quarter male down I spotted a small black thing next to the road about a hundred yards away. I grabbed Caleb and told him to freeze. It looked like it could be a cub, so we waited a few minutes and it didn’t move. Keeping a watchful eye looking all around while keeping the other eye fixed on the “cub”, we moved slowly. When we got a little closer we found that the “cub” was actually the black end of a log about 12 inches in diameter.
By the time we got back to the car my stomach was telling me it was lunch time. Caleb had his heart set on seeing a wolf about as much as I wanting to find the chest. I figured his hopes would be easier to fulfill than mine. So we headed up to the north part of the park, to Mammoth. We ate a burger and fries at the café, and found a stuffed wolf in the gift store which I gladly bought for him. He was really excited and kept it in his lap most of the rest of the trip. Several miles east of Mammoth we spotted some antelope and took a few pictures. He was looking out the right side window when a wolf crossed the road in front of us about a 200 feet ahead and I called out “wolf, wolf”. It was over the edge of the road before he saw it so we stopped, got out, and looked over the valley. Caleb spotted the gray wolf just as it was crossing a ridge before it went out of sight. It think seeing it was the high spot of his trip. We traveled down to Tower-Roosevelt and saw some more elk and a lot of buffalos. We made a stop at the petrified tree. Then we continued down to where the road to Canyon was closed. Turned around and decide to go back to Old Faithfull one more time. We stopped by the area where we saw the wolf earlier but couldn’t find any signs of it. We followed a trail up a hill on the other side of the road to look for footprints. We found a skull and some bones of an elk but no wolf prints. We went down and crossed a road as two large buffalos were butting heads, trying to find out who’s the boss.
We continued back to Old Faithful, this time it was not as windy and felt a lot warmer, about 43 and sunny. His mother had not been home the day before so we called her up and they got online. While she was waiting for the connection, Caleb found a chipmunk that put on a show for him. She asked if that was him kneeling down and I told her that he was taking a picture of a chipmunk. We started waving, doing that stupid tourist bit, when my daughter said that the camera operator was zooming in on us. Wow, I guess I finally got my 2 minutes of fame. I pointed to the chipmunk and the operator zoomed in on it. I could hear his brothers and sisters yelling in the background, all 8 of them. She wished she could have saved a video.
It was about 6:30 pm after Old Faithfull did it’s thing again. Saying goodbye to YS, we headed back to Idaho Falls for an early flight to Salt Lake City on the way to Dallas. No Gold Chest, but we had a great time, one that neither of us will forget. By the time we got home, we had put or feet on the ground in Texas, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, and Montana. We had been in the fog, rain, sleet, snow and sunshine, driven over 650 miles, and flew unknown number of miles, all in the about 55 hours.
In retrospect, my adrenaline was flowing and my oxygen level was probably low when I was in my search area. The thought of bears may have hastened my leaving the area before every nook and cranny was searched thoroughly. Its too late for me to go back. There could be a different rock or blaze in the area, a different bush. Anyone is welcomed to use any of this info and go search for yourself. All of this is just my personal thoughts and experiences. Good luck and may God be with you and keep you safe in all your journeys.
I have to thank God for a wonderful and safe trip, and my wife for letting me experience “the thrill of the chase”.
Gary, who is now truly “Not Obsessed”