” Begin it at Altos de Jaliscos “
I first heard about Forrest Fenn’s treasure late July of 2014. My buddy John had picked up a magazine with an article about the treasure on his way home from Yellowstone the week before, but it wasn’t until he got to Texas that he read about the search. About 11:45 a.m. one day I received a text from him wanting to meet up for lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant because he had something he wanted to show me. Instantly I, as many people are, was hooked. That lunch break was filled with the who, what, and why’s that everyone seems to ask when first discovering the search. Like many people I memorized the poem and began intense searching on Google Earth for geographical landmarks that the clues could refer to. Instantly I found the Red River Confluence in New Mexico and my heart started pumping. I mean how could it be that no one else could have put 2 and 2 together at this location! For goodness sake there was a town nearby called Questa! It soon became apparent that this location FOR MY TASTE didn’t fit the poem well enough. More research was necessary. I devoured every interview on youtube, every podcast, everything written I could find. I ordered “The Thrill of the Chase”. After a couple of weeks of intensly putting the clues together a plan was made for John, our buddy Luke, and myself to head to Montana September 1st 2014 to go claim what was obviously ours. The following is our solve for our 2014 trip. To be very clear we don’t believe there is much chance the treasure is where we thought it would be, and after a year we feel like it would be good to let this interpretation out to the world. I feel like its a good solve but it has it problems and maybe by addressing its problems we can all learn a little more about how to go about the search, including myself. So here goes…
The best WWWH that I have found to date is the Madison Junction in Yellowstone. Here two thermal rivers, the Firehole being very thermal, converge to form or “begin” the Madison, which I can tell you is not warm, not even close to as warm as the Firehole. I still hold this to be the best interpretation of the first clue that I have found. I realize many people have interpreted this spot as the first clue before me, but at the time I can honestly say that I had no knowledge of others and this spot. I think that multiple people independently interpreting this location as WWWH says a lot to its credence. OK, so what is the downfall of this clue? Not much, I still like it, but after extensive search in the area no one to anyones knowledge has found the chest yet and that makes me wonder if it really is the spot. Only time will tell. One side note to mention about the Madison Junction: From the first moment the clue WWWH was explained to me I knew there had to be a river running north involved. I don’t exactly know why. I guess to me the phrase “halt” doesn’t make sense unless there is a deliberate stop. Two rivers converging while flowing the same direction doesn’t really do it for me. Thats just what I think. The Firehole River does indeed, coincidentally or not, run north.
“Take it in the Canyon Down”
Madison Canyon. I as well as the search team feel like we have solid reason to believe that Madison Canyon is the next clue. This is still our number two clue so I’m not going to reveal why we feel that way. If you can put 2 and 2 together to figure out what I’m talking about good for you, but I don’t think it will help you find the chest. It didn’t help us and for all we know the chest is in Colorado…
“Not Far but Too Far to Walk”
Madison Canyon road that follows the Madison River to the inlet of Hebgen Lake outside of West Yellowstone. This is the exact location that Forrest talks about in his book “Too Far to Walk” where he took a fishing trip as a young man and because he said the poem is contiguous it couldn’t be a coincidence could it that clue number 3 fit exactly where that stretch of the Madison River is. So what is the downside of this clue? It sure does make sense when in context with the interpretation of the preceding clues. It is still part of our current solve. The problem is that if you don’t know the next clue you may not know exactly how far is too far to walk. Forrest has said that people have gotten the first two clues correct and walked right past the chest. In my personal interpretation that means people have gotten the first two clues correct and then they simply missed their turnoff so to speak. If you were to take Forrest literally when he says that people have gotten the first two clues correct and come within 200 feet of the chest that means that the last 7 clues are within 200 feet. I simply don’t believe that is possible. To me what Forrest meant is that people have gotten within 200 feet of the next clue. This is the only thing that makes sense to me and I continually struggle making sense of some of the things Forrest has said. How could it be that searchers have only gotten the first two clues correct yet someone has come within 200 feet of the chest? Maybe by accident? What do I know?
“Put in Below the Home of Brown”
The most important thing to me in interpreting these clues is that they are contiguous. Forrest has made it clear that they are in order with one step in front of the other. For our 2014 solve the most logical “Home of Brown” was Hebgen Lake, Montana. It just so happens that the clue right after “put in below the home of Brown” you are literally BELOW Hebgen Lake. So why did I think Hebgen Lake was the “home of Brown”? It is without a doubt a home to Brown Trout. In fact from extensive research every fall Brown Trout swim upstream into the Madison River into Yellowstone and then return as the weather changes. Im no trout expert but this made sense to me at the time especially being in line with the previous clues and the following clues. So how do I feel about Hebgen Lake now as the “home of Brown”? I don’t know. Im not as confident as I was a year ago. This is a pivotal turn in our solve. The following clues are good but they led us to a place that we felt wasn’t special enough to hide the treasure. Hebgen Lake has Brown Trout, but it also has other trout. Forrest has said in the past that if one were to know the location of the “home of Brown” they would go right to the chest and if Hebgen Lake was the HOB you certainly wouldn’t go right to the chest. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Heck if I know.
“From There Its No Place For The Meek”
To us this clue is a definite direction change. Its a different kind of place than where you were before in the search. Not a place most people would be comfortable going. I realize that Forrest has said that he didn’t hide the chest anywhere dangerous. He has also said that the last place he wants to be is close to a human trail. If it really isn’t in a place that is dangerous then that would exclude most of the mountainous regions of Wyoming and Montana. In those two states almost anywhere you go off of a human trail in the mountains, at least around the Yellowstone area, you have a chance of running into a Grizzly Bear and to me that is dangerous. In my personal opinion Forrest has to say that to keep people who shouldn’t be in those areas out of those areas. So where is “No Place For The Meek” for our 2014 solve? Beaver Creek road BELOW Hebgen Lake. This is the first time from Madison Junction that you are on a dirt road heading into the wilderness. I realize that many who have searched the area would say that Cabin Creek is actually the first creek after Hebgen Lake, but that creek simply does not have solutions to the clues that fit anywhere near as good as Beaver Creek.
“The End Is Ever Drawing Nigh/There Will Be No Paddle Up Your Creek”
We interpreted “Nigh” as meaning take a turn to our left and “No Paddle Up Your Creek” as the west fork of Beaver Creek. I combined these two clues because although they are different clues they both sort of take you to the same spot, the west fork of Beaver Creek. From my understanding now a clue refers to a specific geographical location. We may have messed up here. Nevertheless there would be no possible way one could paddle up that fork of Beaver Creek. Not only would you be going against the current which is strong you would also be going uphill. The following contiguous clue was one that had us really excited.
“Just Heavy Loads and Water High”
The west fork of Beaver Creek ultimately leads to a high mountain lake. That certainly qualifies as “water high” to me. I am one of the ones that has never thought a waterfall made sense as water high. The mountains are filled with high mountain lakes or high water. So what about the heavy loads part of this clue? What feeds the high mountain lakes in the rockies? The answer is snowmelt. What causes avalanches? Heavy loads of snow. What is the name of the high mountain lake that is the source of the west fork of Beaver Creek? Avalanche Lake. Bingo! It turns out that there are several high mountain lakes in Montana that are named Avalanche Lake. The question is do they have the preceding clues that lead you to them in the search of the chest? After I explain the next clue i’ll begin to unravel why this location as well as the previous few clues have problems. So that brings us to the final clue.
“If You’ve Been Wise and Found The Blaze”
Who the heck knows! We certainly couldn’t find anything definitive. One thing that caught our attention as we drove down Beaver Creek Road for the first time was that from the road when you first come to the opening where the west fork of Beaver Creek merges with Beaver Creek for a moment, a high peak comes into view that looks exactly like an Egyptian Pyramid. From my research this is an unnamed peak that is directly behind Ramona Lake. I could be wrong about that. As the sun rises in the morning that peak indeed blazes. Could it be that this is the blaze and that Forrest wanted to “entomb” himself under such a magnificent pyramid shaped mountain peak? It all made sense except for one problem that convinced us that the treasure was indeed not up Beaver Creek Road.
Forrest said the treasure was hidden in a special place. Forrest said that he planned to hide the treasure and then in his last day go to that location and throw himself on top of the chest and dare us to come looking for him. Forrest also said the last place he wanted to be was close to a human trail. Pretty much the only way to hike up the west fork of Beaver Creek is by way of human trail. Believe me we have been all up and down that creek on the trail and off and when you get off of the trail it is extremely difficult hiking and we are experienced hikers. The other problem is that during hunting season that whole area is filled with hunters and from our backcountry hiking almost everywhere we went we saw evidence of people falling trees for firewood. Nowhere did we see a spot that looked like a good hiding place and certainly nowhere did we find a spot that looked like a place where someone would go to die and turn his body back to nature. Maybe we missed it. Anything is possible at this point. Maybe Forrest constructed his poem so that it fit multiple locations to act as decoys. He said it was perfect.
One reason that I like this overall region is that it obviously meant a lot to Forrest. What stood out to me about his poem is that there seems to be a general theme in that Forrest is taking the reader on his last tour of the area that meant so much to him as a child. “As I have gone alone in there” and “Hint of treasures new and old” only adds to my feeling that this is true. Here a young Forrest developed some of his greatest family memories and to my thinking and from the clues in his poem it only makes sense that he would return to that location with an accumulation of his lifes endeavors to “take with him” when he dies. As Forrest says I could be thinking on “the edge” here. I wish the treasure was in New Mexico. It is a lot closer to me than Montana/Wyoming. Perhaps in the future I can find a solve in that state that makes sense to me, but for now I think ill stick with the Yellowstone area until I can feel good about giving it up. Am I sorry or disappointed that I’ve been out looking for the treasure in three separate trips? Collectively I have traveled over 10,000 miles. ABSOLUTELY NOT! Those mountains are the only place I dream of being now when I’m back at work in the 100 degree Texas heat. So where do I go from here? One of the reasons I wrote out this solve is to perhaps give everyone some perspective on their own search. I believe it is going to take a humble yet confident person to find the chest. Are you willing to admit that you’re solve could be completely wrong? Are you willing to admit that some parts of you’re solve don’t make sense in relation to the other parts of you’re solve? See I believe that critical yet logical thinking is the most important aspect of this whole thing. Its easy to get excited about a location and then have it ultimately lead to nowhere. Will you be discouraged when you don’t find the chest, or will you take your solve back to the drawing board and work out the problems? The good thing about it is that as long as everyone stays safe there really are no losers in this thing. Thanks to Forrest for getting me up north in the mountains, a place that I would move to if I could, and thanks to Dal for continuing to operate this blog and give us a sounding board to knock our ideas around.