SUBMITTED AUGUST 2015
“Why do we need to hike all the way down there?” they asked. We were already tired from the several-mile hike the day before, and had already hiked a few miles that day to where we stood, just beneath 10,200 feet in elevation on the side of a mountain in New Mexico. We were standing beneath a rock formation that I thought looked like a campfire in Google Earth, what I was calling my blaze.
“We’re at 10,200 feet. Isn’t anywhere around here fair game?” they insisted.
“We need to get down to the trail,” I replied. More hiking. “You need a comprehensive knowledge of geometry.”
“I think you mean geography,” they looked at each other, and then back to me, skeptically. “He said geography.”
“Yes, but now that we’re here, this is a geometry problem,” I said.
Let me explain. Forrest Fenn has said that a comprehensive knowledge of geography might help searchers. It’s been a few months since I was out looking, but I thought I’d write this up because I had a day off from work, and I feel that this information could be useful to any searcher no matter where they are looking. It’s basic logic, and it may seem pretty straightforward, but I can imagine it’s easy to overlook when you have boots on the ground in the thrill of finally searching in your location.
There is so much about Forrest Fenn’s treasure hunt that we don’t know. We don’t know which state. We don’t know what the clues mean in his poem. We don’t know a lot of things. However, if we take him at his word (and if we don’t, why bother searching?), there are a few things we do know. Some of the things that we know are actually very useful in weeding out bad search locations, or pinpointing high target areas in a location you feel strongly about. These hints that he’s dropped, unlike so many other clues, aren’t ambiguous, aren’t mysterious or shrouded in hidden meanings, and aren’t open to interpretation. They are, in fact, facts, assuming he’s being honest, and we all assume that he is. These facts don’t live in the realm of poetry. They live in the realm of math and geometry.
At a certain point, the search is no longer a question of geography. It’s a question of geometry.
He knows X, We know Y
Assumed Fact: Multiple searchers have been within 200 feet of the treasure.
Assumed Fact: Forrest Fenn knows this, because searchers have said where they’ve been.
Here we have two geometrical objects to work with. We have a treasure location, which we’ll call “X” (we totally have to call this X… X marks the spot). And we have a searcher location “Y”.
We don’t know X. Forrest Fenn doesn’t know Y. We don’t know each other’s Y. But after we tell him our collective Ys, we now know that X is within 200 ft. of some searchers’ Y.
We do know a few other things about X. Ignoring geographical information, such as it’s in the Rockies, north of Santa Fe, within four states, etc. we also know some geometrical z-axis information, namely that it is within 5,000 ft to 10,200 ft. This z-range is very useful.
X is a point, Y must be a point or line, Y is nameable
Whatever we do, we must remain geometrically consistent to have a good solve.
X is a geometric point. With just X, a point, there’s not a lot of geometry we can do. Thankfully, that’s not all we have. We also have a Y, and geometrically speaking, Y must be one of two things. Y must either be a single point, or a line, that is within 200 ft of X. Further, Y must be a nameable point, or line, for FF to know where the searcher is when he’s told. Let’s lay out another assumed fact.
Assumed Fact: Y is a nameable point, or a nameable line.
Consider these example (not real) emails:
“Hey Forrest, I was at Foo Bar waterfall. Sadly, I didn’t find the treasure, but I had a great time!”
“Hey Forrest, I was hiking along the Foo Bar trail. My wife tripped and fell into the river that runs along it. We’ll LOL forever off that one!”
Because the searcher identified Y (the waterfall, the trail, the point or line they were on), FF can then say that the searcher was within 200 ft. of X. Further, this is the only way that FF can know if we take him at his word.
I know, this isn’t rocket science. It’s pretty obvious. But you’d be surprised at how many potential solves don’t remain geometrically consistent with this, and how easy it is to forget when caught up in the thrill. Yet, if you keep it foremost in your thoughts, it has enormous benefits.
Case Example: We were standing at 10,200 ft., yet we were more than 200 ft below the blaze (a nameable point). We were partially geometrically consistent in being within 10,200 ft., but we were geometrically inconsistent because we were outside of 200 ft. of a nameable Y. We needed to get to the trail (a nameable line) that was much further below 10,200 ft.
What does nameable mean?
“Nameable” is a pretty loose term. One can name geometrical points and lines through GPS, after all. It’s conceivable that a searcher might email FF a list of GPS coordinates they were at as points, or even that they may have sent a list of all the GPS points they were at along a line. So far, the geometrical problem solving I’ve suggested is all math and geometrically fact based. However, I think we can go a little further by adopting a few likelihoods.
Assumed Likelihood: FF was not sent Y as a GPS point or a series of GPS points.
I mean, really? People don’t invoke GPS in email conversations. More to the point, “multiple searchers” are less likely to have sent FF a bunch of GPS coordinates that he had to then look up, measure from X, to conclude that Y is within 200 ft. of X. This, again, seems so simple, but it has very practical uses. A searcher should be ignoring areas that aren’t within 200 ft. of nameable locations, nameable in a common sense way that FF would recognize your Y. The nameable, perhaps, is where geography comes in. But after that, it’s mostly geometry.
Further, the nameable location has to be one that conceivably a number of searchers would have visited. One of the questions we have to ask ourselves when searching is, why hasn’t it been found there already? This is an important one. You have to reconcile two issues: 1) “Searchers” have been within 200 ft. of the treasure (not the general public, he said “searchers” wrote to him) and 2) They did not find the treasure. Your solve has to account for why they did not.
Case Example: Standing at 10,200 ft., we were further than 200 ft. from the blaze. Thus we had to get to the next nameable Y, a trail, a line, further down the mountain. To make this nameable location consistent with likelihoods, I had to assume that searchers would have taken that trail before. They had, it had been written on blogs. I also knew that the area within 200 ft. of the trail they had hiked on was not considered by them to be a high target area, but it looked good with my interpretation of the clues. Bringing it all together, within 200 ft. of the trail is my only geometrically consistent location, that is also consistent with likelihoods, and also matches my clue interpretation, and also accounts for why it hadn’t been found.
A geometrically consistent approach
See how it works? A knowledge of geometry (or keeping that as a focus) in your search not only reduces the search area, it makes searching more efficient. This applies wherever you are searching. We obviously didn’t find the treasure at this location in New Mexico because the location was wrong. The approach is sound.
I’ll wrap this already lengthy post up with an example of applying this approach to a target that we didn’t search. Turns out it was deeper on Taos Pueblo lands than we could get to. We tried, but the big Federal trespassing signs are quite convincing. Everything looks different on Google Earth, and all the routes I had to the location couldn’t get us there with boots on the ground. I don’t recommend you searching there either, but it’s a great case example for this approach (why I targeted it in the first place). I won’t bother push-pinning it. I’m sure you can find it. It’s up the mountain above the Veteran’s Memorial, to the north west. It’s called Apache Spring.
On Google Earth it kind of matched the clues. I could justify it through the poem, and it looked really good as a possible tie in to the Tea with Olga story. It was a beautiful, probably forgotten in time, natural spring in a clearing. It was a really unique spring as well. For some reason the ground was discolored at the mouth of the spring. I don’t know if this was rocks or vegetation. Bing maps highlight it better than Google, but it resembled the blaze on a horse’s face. These are the things that drive a searcher. It’s a real shame it’s inaccessible.
Let’s ignore all that. That’s geography, a bit of poetry, and just hunches. Now it’s a geometrical problem. Let’s apply the approach.
I have an unknown X. I now need to know what Y is, the nameable location that Forrest Fenn was sent. Looking at the clearing, I can see that the mouth of the natural spring that looks like a blaze is close to the tree line up top. The only nameable location here is the spring itself. “Hey Forrest, I was at Apache Spring up above the Veteran’s Memorial” is an email I could imagine multiple searchers sending (I didn’t know until I got there that it was inaccessible).
Standing at Apache Spring, virtually, I see that the path of the water flows into the treeline goes, “looking quickly down”, you guessed it, a little less than 200 ft. away. Geometrically, I now can guess that Y is the mouth of the spring and that X is just inside the treeline. The story I form for my solve is that searchers, on a hunch, went to Apache Spring, looked at the spring and didn’t see the treasure, gave up and left, and told Forrest about their adventure. Maybe they even glanced in the tree line but, because it wasn’t their target, they didn’t look closely. If they had just checked more closely in the tree line!
And that’s how it goes. This approach identified an area that, maybe, other searches had missed because it wasn’t their high target area. Since it wasn’t, maybe they half-assed the search, so now we can account for both searchers being there, and why it wasn’t found. We remain geometrically consistent throughout.
If this all seemed obvious to you, sorry for the long read. If not, hopefully you can get some use out of it. Best of luck out there, and if it does help remember: “It’s fortune and glory, kid.” You keep the fortune, let me share the glory. Give me a heads up if you find it using this approach.
Please feel free to contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org