If I had gone alone in there
Just looking for the gold,
I would have missed the chance in where,
My soul awoke from long a hold.
What started for me as just an adventure and an opportunity to see this beautiful part of the country has turned out to be an awakening of my spirit which has been sleeping for far too long.
I found out about Forrest Fenn and his crazy treasure hunt from a friend who subsequently asked me to join him in the search for that hidden chest in New Mexico. I agreed initially and began to research furiously, reading as much as I could. He was leaving in a couple of weeks and I needed to decide if I was in.
After hours and hours of reading and pondering and looking at Google Maps and Google Earth, I came to the conclusion that it can’t possibly be in New Mexico and that the treasure was indeed in Montana, the Treasure State, of course.
So I told my friend that I wouldn’t be going with him to New Mexico, but that I would be going to Montana instead at around the same time he was making him trip. He laughed and said that he was glad I was going to make the trip to search.
So I started to plan my trip and started to tell some friends about my upcoming crazy wild goose chase, to which one replied, “I should go with you. You know I’m psychic, right?”
Having never known this fact before, I was taken by surprise. The more I thought about it, the more I thought it would be a great idea and I invited her to join me. I was a bit concerned about walking around alone in Bear country. That was on a Friday and we were to leave the following Monday.
I gave her access to my cache of online notes and thoughts, and asked her to start taking a look at it. And boy, did she ever. She dug deep, in the two days before leaving and formed some very strong ideas of where the chest might be and how to go about finding it.
We flew into Salt Lake City and drove the 6+ hours to get to West Yellowstone. On the way, we stopped to get supplies. One of the intuitions that she got was about floating down a river or creek. Not having ever been to that area of the country, I had no idea what to expect and wondered why it would be necessary to float instead of just walking alongside the river. We would find out later that it may be very necessary and may be the one thing many folks have not considered. More on that later.
So, having that strong intuition about floating, she suggested that we buy a couple of inner tubes just in case. I reluctantly agreed considering the space they would take up in the car, and my reluctance in general to having my rear end in a river, that I knew would be cold, for any extended period of time.
Our first day there, we drove around to get the lay of the land and to visit the spots in Yellowstone that were so important to Forrest.
Of course, we paid homage to Old Faithful, although, she was 9 minutes late.
From there, we went to Ojo Caliente, which is the hot spring that Forrest loved to visit and has written about. My interpretation of “where warm waters halt” is a hot spring. Forrest said, “There are many places in the Rocky Mountains where warm waters halt, and nearly all of them are north of Santa Fe.”
I can tell you that warm waters do definitely halt at Ojo Caliente. As I reached into the river where the hot spring flowed in, there was a very strange sensation. The part of my arm around my bicep was warm, whereas my hand, which was deeper in the water was cold. There was only a layer of warm water about 6 inches deep in the river. A very distinct separation of warm and cold water; not something I had experienced before. I have soaked in many hot springs before, but they have all been a consistent temperature. Maybe it’s because I have never been where a hot spring flowed into a cold river.
We drove down the canyon along the Fire Hole River, stopped at Fire Hole Falls and the swimming hole nearby. It is easy to see why Forrest loved this area of God’s creation so much. In his words, “Surely, God underestimated his ability when he created the Firehole River.”
From there, we continued our journey down the canyon stopping at Nine Mile Hole where we saw some elk enjoying the marshy grassy area.
We stopped at Barns Hole to soak in the love that Forrest had for that spot and to tried to imagine the trip that he wrote so fondly about in the Preface of Too Far to Walk. It is a place that is peaceful, and the rippling of the river water flowing downstream calmed my modern-day-overworked heart.
I even took the opportunity to take my version of the picture on the cover of Too Far to Walk. Unlike the one on the cover of Forrest’s book, however, this one is not Photoshopped:
The drive led us out of the park boundaries to West Yellowstone where Forrest’s parents had cabins and he and his brother built a motel call The Dude. Both are still there today. It is a quaint town with lots of bars and grills. It was quiet, as the summer (gold) rush was over and some of the businesses were closed.
We checked into our hotel as this is the area where my initial research led me and we could do our exploring from here.
The next day, we set out to explore the area around Bakers Hole.
The way I see the poem is that it is a self-guided map of the place that Forrest loves, guiding us ultimately to the chest. As far as I can tell, Forrest seems to love the area around Yellowstone National Park more than any other. Is there a better place to rest your bones (or hide a chest)?
I believe that the clues start with “Begin it where warm waters halt” and that it refers to a hot spring (Ojo Caliente) or maybe even Old Faithful.
From there we take it down the canyon “Not far, but too far to walk.” “Too far to walk” for me ties into Forrest’s follow-up book with the same name. And where is “too far to walk?” I believe it to be Barns Hole. The Preface of the book says that the trip from Barns Hole to Bakers Hole is “too far to walk.”
So, that leads us to the home of Brown. In looking at the various blogs, I came across a comment post made by Forrest about Bakers Hole and how there was once a dump above it where the Brown bears would come to rummage in the trash to find food. I found the comment peculiar because, although Forrest does comment on posts, there are not many where he adds that much information or provides that much detail. It seemed to me that it was a clue or a hint. Maybe Forrest is getting anxious for someone to find the treasure? The thing about this line of the poem that I think a lot of people miss is that it says “Put in below the home of Brown.” It says to put in. I did not really consider actually putting into the water in some kind of watercraft before the trip. I thought that I would have to cross the river or something like that. But when my friend insisted that we needed to float in the river, it made perfect sense. In fact, in her intuition, she saw Forrest putting into a river that was a near a boardwalk of some kind. He even chats with a couple that were taking a leisurely stroll on boardwalk. Well, there is a wooden platform at Bakers Hole and it’s located below the old dump where the Brown bears hung out, so we put in with our inner tubes.
To be perfectly honest, floating down the river, with my rear end freezing, was the most enjoyable experience of the trip. It was so relaxing and just a beautiful way to see the area. We pulled out a couple of times and walked around; once in an area that had some elevation. There were pine tress all around, sage bushes under our feet and a sweeping view of the land that was just breathtaking. Certainly, I can see my bones resting there, but without finding any blaze, it would be a lot to search. Maybe a trip by itself in the future?
There was an area that showed up on Google Maps that was peculiar. It was a strange white patch in an otherwise grassy area. I wanted to check it out and see what it could be. Even though there is no cellular coverage in the area, GPS still works on my iPhone so we hiked over to see what it was.
It’s amazing what Google Maps picks up and even more amazing that I can access it from the palm of my hand. By the way, if you are going to use your iPhone as a GPS device, which is what we did, keep in mind that because there is no cellular coverage in much of YNP, your phone battery will drain much faster than normal. We had battery packs to help charge the phone while we explored. Also, there is an option with Google Maps to download the map for offline use which came in handy, because otherwise the GPS will still work, but all you will see is an empty grid on a yellow background.
It took us about 3 hours to meander down the Madison River to the bridge at Hwy 191. It was a magical journey, but a chest we did not find. We explored creeks that came in and out of the Madison and even found some bird nesting boxes. Maybe for wise owls? Have we “been wise and found the blaze?” Maybe, but we didn’t find the chest. No real heavy loads or water high, either. The Madison is very gentle in this area.
If you think “where warm waters halt” is a hot spring, then Mammoth Springs is the grand-daddy of hot springs. It is high and wide and quite impressive.
If you “take it in the canyon down” from Mammoth Springs, you’ll come to Gardiner, MT. There was a Joe Brown that found gold in Gardiner back in 1866 and his name pops up in Gardiner quite a bit. There’s Joe Brown Creek, Joe Brown Boat Ramp, and he had a home somewhere in the area. “The home of Brown” could also be Bear Creek where he first found gold.
The Yellowstone River around Gardiner is a gushing river with Class II-III rapids. This would fit in nicely to the rest of the clues. However, when we felt into the area, it just did not seem like an area where Forrest would want to rest his bones. It was too developed, the highway was too close to the river, and it wasn’t forested enough.
We explored the area and found some wonderful spots, but nothing that felt like home for Forrest.
On our way to Jardine, we found an old shack that seemed like it was some kind of water control house?
The next day, we decided that we would soak our sore muscles in the Gardiner River where the Boiling River dumps boiling water flowing from Mammoth Springs. Again, this was a very unique experience. We found out that hot water and cold water really don’t mix. As you get closer to where the boiling water comes in, there is a layer of hot water that is only about 8 inches on the top surface. The water below is still cold. Because the hot water coming in is SO hot, it was a bit tricky to find a spot where you wouldn’t burn yourself as the hot water fluctuated with the river and people walking around.
Every now and then, the water got so hot that all of these macho high school boys, who were too close to the hot water to begin with, all stood up in unison to avoid getting scalded. To get a picture of the Boiling River coming into the Gardiner River, I had to wade into the Gardiner River and in doing so, my toes got numb and started to tingle from the freezingness of the river. To warm them back up, I had to sit down and stick my feet up just below the surface of the water where the water was warm. There are areas where rock dams have been built where the waters mixed nicely and the temperature was very nice and more consistent.
This next part is a Public Service Announcement. We came across a short piece of pipe attached to a metal chain that was attached to a tree along the Gardiner River. There were no signs or labels on the strange thing so we decided to try to open it.
After going back into Gardiner to secure appropriate tools, we were able to get it opened and found inside a temperature sensor. I guess someone is taking water temperature readings of the river. It would be helpful of them to label it, but for you folks reading this, please don’t disturb it like we did. It’s probably very important work.
We drove along Hwy 89 following the Yellowstone River down to the area around Joe Brown Creek hoping to “put in below the home of Brown.” Forrest could have put in right at Joe Brown Creek and float a ways across, get out to hide his loot, get back in and float down to the Yankee Jim River Access and get out and walk back to his car.
The put in is pretty steep, though, and the area seemed a bit more remote, although the highway is still there. So we decided to explore the area across the river a bit. We tried first to get there from the Tom Miner area, but found the road had collapsed and was closed.
Undeterred, we drove all the way down to Corwin Springs where the other bridge crossing was located and drove up. After what seemed like a half a day of driving on a bumpy dirt road we got to the area across from Joe Brown Creek. If Forrest did put in there and float across, the next creek is Sphinx Creek. But alas, it wasn’t much of a creek anymore. It was getting dark so we decided not to wander around. There was a cool old house that was built halfway into the ground. I peeked inside and there was still an old wood burning stove inside.
On our last day as we drove through the park on our way back to Salt Lake City, we stopped at Two Ribbon Trail just upstream on the Madison River from Barns Hole. The boardwalk there looks very similar to the boardwalk my friend had seen in her mind’s eye.
We walked around a bit and looked around the area. We started to think that maybe the blaze is not visible from land. Maybe you have to be in the water looking at the river bank to see the blaze. Maybe it was a marker used by Forrest to locate his favorite fishing hole as he waded down the river. Maybe when you find the blaze, you need to go over to it and then the chest is there on the river bank. If we had more time, I would have liked to make that float down that part of the river. Maybe I’ll come back some day to search that area, but for now, it’s too far to fly….from Hawaii.
Well, it was certainly an adventure; one that I have many people to thank for. My friend who introduced me to the Chase, my wife for telling me I was crazy to not go, and Forrest for giving all of us this reason to explore. Although we did not find the chest, I found something much more valuable. On the Chase, my friend shared with me openly about her clairvoyant experiences and her journey to reconcile those experiences and her abilities with her life as “normal” person. She shared with me her difficulties and ultimately her acceptance of her gifts and her desire to help others that may have had or are having the same challenges she had living in a world that does not understand those gifts. I think that almost everyone can say that they have had some kind of ESP, deja vu, or prescient dream experience in their lives. Yet, there is still a nonacceptance and maybe fear of people who openly declare that they have such abilities. I was reminded of myself a very long time ago. A much more spiritual self. A much more open self. Probably a more happy self. I feel that my heart has been opened again and I look forward to what new adventures that will bring. And for this, I am thankful…..to my psychic friend.
For anyone who may be reading this, you may be thinking why I am sharing all of this in so much detail.
It’s probably due to my propensity to babble on and on when I write. There are certainly places that I would like to explore further. Why not keep it to myself for later, after all, I’ve only been into the Chase about a month. I guess, it’s the new (renewed) me. Why not share it in hopes that it might help someone else find it. Maybe they’ll want to search an area that we searched. Or maybe they’ll not search an area we searched and be able to focus on another area. I would be happy for anyone who does find the chest.
Some final thoughts. From a purely intuitive view, my friend feels like Forrest put in near a place with a boardwalk, or something that looks like a crate. There were people around and the atmosphere was light and joyful. Forrest was very joyful as he hid the chest. He may have even chatted with people on the boardwalk, and they may have said to him that floating in the river was a great idea. Maybe he floated down the river and on the left bank of the river he got out where his blaze is. Maybe the blaze can only be seen from the river. Maybe you need to look down quickly otherwise you’ll float by?
She also sees an image of a map. There is a drive that makes a curve and then a dotted line. Maybe you drive and then get out and walk the dotted line? The other lines are possibly a park border? Anyways here it is:
I personally think it is in the Yellowstone area. Maybe not in YNP but just outside. I think there are too many issues with it being inside YNP. Maybe Montana? Maybe the Lake Hebgen area? It’s hard for me to see any other area that is as important to Forrest. But of course, we don’t know every detail of Forrest’s life; only what he has shared. After all, he does live in Santa Fe. Maybe my friend who introduced me to the Chase was right all along and it’s in New Mexico.
Good luck to all!