by Cynthia…


It’s been awhile since I sent you a search story…despite our wonderful face-to-face chit-chats over the past several weeks which I thoroughly enjoyed, I’d been in a funk when it came to going out on a treasure chest hunt. As other avid searchers have mentioned on the blogs, it’s quite difficult giving up one’s primary search area and finding a new one, but I knew that’s what I had to do. As you know I spent much of the last 12 months in Taos Canyon…exploring Soloman Spring, trudging through knee deep snow back OK Canyon, snowshoeing up the ridge on the east side of La Jara Canyon to the CNF boundary to see the Vietnam War Memorial through the trees in the distance, hiking up the trail-less Bull Spring Canyon to witness the panoramic view on top the high alpine meadow, and ultimately making a movie of these searches…

Then, Charmay invited us to your book signing party at La Fonda…what an event it was! I posted a comment on Dal’s blog acknowledging the joy of meeting Dal and many other searchers so I will not repeat that here. But what I do want to mention to you that I did not say prior was the brief conversation I had with Charmay…and the turning point in my mental state to start over with a new search place. I had never met Charmay prior but made it a point to introduce myself and thank her for inviting us searchers to the party. I wanted to be able to engage her in conversation so asked her about her role in San Lazaro. To my dismay, her reply to me was something like this: “In 1977, Forrest told me he had a place he wanted me to see.” (She said the name of a place and it was not San Lazaro.) She continued and said excitedly quoting you “It was here where he told me he wanted to die.” Well, trust me, when I heard those last few words, I about died…of a heart attack. I never expected to hear her say this…my memory is bad, but I tried to remember her exact words…I doubt that I remembered them precisely, but I know it’s close.

Me with Charmay...

Me with Charmay…

Which is what brings me to this story…Tsawari, the Tewa name for “white wide gap” named for the broad stratum or belt of soft whitish rock that crosses the Canada de Santa Cruz. On the south mesa lies the ruin of an old village of the Tano Indians, built by them after they left their ancient home in the Galisteo region (San Lazaro area), adjoining what now is the little hamlet of La Puebla. You’ve mentioned some of your special places as those involving finding old Indian artifacts, or pottery sherds…I felt it was time to take a recon trip to La Puebla and the Santa Cruz Lake area, to find out first hand if this is a feasible search area…and to rack my brain for solves to the poem’s clues…

I’d passed the turn-off from Hwy 84/285 onto CR88 oodles of times on my way to Taos, often noticing the sign pointing towards La Puebla but never thinking much about it. Today was different…I was delighted my route led me through a tiny village I’d never seen before, avoiding the dreaded slow-poking traffic of Espanola. The road through La Puebla was lined with lush foliage and large cottonwoods ablaze in their autumn splendor…the local folks gave a friendly wave as they drove past me, curiously staring as I teetered on top the guard rail with camera in hand…

Here the road crosses the Santa Cruz River…

La Puebla

Crossing the Santa Cruz River

The route left La Puebla and continued east on Rt 76 to Chimayo…I decided to turn south here and wind through the hills toward the southern end of the High Road to Taos, and then take the road into Cundiyo…

The picture below is looking back at Chimayo, near the famous Santuario…


Pic #4 Badlands

The picture above was taken near the spot where Jesse Chehak placed his tripod to photograph the badlands for the July issue of California Sunday Magazine article on Forrest. (I know because I had the privilege of driving him to the photo shoot locations.)

Below are pictures of Santa Cruz Lake: the first one is from the lookout…

Pic #5 Santa Cruz Lake

Pic #6 Santa Cruz Lake one

There were quite a few fishermen and women along the shore…I wondered if you’d ever fished here. I paid my day-use fee, properly placed the permit on the wind shield, and grabbed my pack and Molly to set off to hike around the lake…it was a glorious day!

Pic #7 Santa Cruz Lake two

I stopped and talked to the woman in the picture below…I asked if I could take her picture, yes, she replied. I asked her name…Shelbie. She offered that she was just learning to fly-fish…I found that fascinating since I didn’t know folks fly-fished in a lake (but that thrilled me since I thought that made it more likely you would have fished there years ago.) I told her I was treasure hunting…she wondered if it was for Forrest Fenn’s treasure. I just about did cart wheels along the shore…this was the first person in my almost 3 years of searching who knew your name and that you had hid a treasure chest. (She does not search, or at least I don’t think she did, until now!) I asked her what kind of fish were in the lake…she wasn’t sure and suggested I talk to one of the instructors. A few more steps along the shoreline and I met Phil, a retirement-age fellow who was teaching fly-fishing for the Santa Fe Community College. We chatted for awhile…I asked him about Browns but he said this lake was mostly Rainbows… hmmm…maybe your rainbow is trout. And the hoB is not Brown trout as many folks think…me not one of them. Anyway, he explained this was “still-water” fly fishing, I think. He said other trips/lessons included Cow River in the Pecos and the Rio Grande…another class would start next spring. I said I was interested…he also knew of you. I’m thinking a better approach to solving the poem might be to hang out with people full of information, instead of relying on the Internet…

Pic #8 Shelbie

Pic #9 Two guys fishing

My dog Molly and I continued our leisurely stroll along the lake…passing these fellows along the way…we chatted briefly and they proudly showed me all their fish on the string-thing (how’s that for technical fishing lingo…this is why I need to take lessons.)

I found a nice flat rock for Molly and me to eat our snacks…she spent time slopping in the edge of the water and sniffing inside the exposed tree roots above the receded water line. This would have been a good place to hide the chest…the roots looked liked mighty tenacles, longing to grasp “something”, like a 10 x 10 bronze box.

Pic #10 Molly

Unlike most search trips in the past when I had a specific agenda and was in a hurry, today I spent time just sitting on the lunch rock, enjoying the solitude of our private spot, watching a few kayakers in the distance paddle around the edge and three guys in an old wooden fishing boat lazily drifting around…I’m not even sure they were actively fishing but they looked like they were enjoying their time on the water…

Pic #11 wooden boat

Pic #12 Rio de Medio Canyon

Lastly, the picture above (taken from the over-look) shows where the lake goes back into the narrow canyon, where the Rio de Medio enters. There is a trail that descends from the lookout to the lake’s edge…I think I need to continue my exploration of this canyon…and spend time researching and analyzing and thinking about the poem.

I hope you enjoyed the story and pictures…I don’t know if you get the opportunity to go outside and drive around much anymore…maybe you prefer the comfort of your house and warm fireplace…

The place name that Charmay said to me has nothing to do with Tsawari…in fact, when I googled it, I had a difficult time finding anything about it…

And since winter is approaching and the search season is coming to a close for this year, I think I will make a lunch date with Charmay…she was charming, and I bet she has some great stories. I never heard how the two of you became friends, or maybe business partners…is this something you are willing to share?

Until next time, Cynthia

Post script: Forrest told me he never heard of the place name Charmay mentioned to me. Google only lists one place in New Mexico with that name, and it is a private ranch AND it is off the TTOTC map which makes it even more irrelevant. I agreed not to name this place on the blog for fear some searchers will trespass on this private property. Forrest guaranteed me he never told Charmay where he wants to die and that she knows nothing regardless of the implications. Please do not call Charmay at her home and interrogate her…she has been very upset with the recent deluge of calls. She doesn’t know who “Cynthia” is and doesn’t even remember talking specifically to me. Thank you for your understanding and please respect her privacy. cynthia

97 thoughts on “Tsawari…

  1. Thanks, Dal, for posting. FYI for anyone interested, Forrest replied to me about Charmay…he reminded me there is a story about her in his Too Far To Walk book.

    • I came back and was looking at some of your photos. I’ve not been out to Santa Cruz Lake for some time. It is really low, isn’t it? I didn’t notice until I looked at the one of the little pier. The last time I was there my kids and I caught so many Rainbows from there and you could hardly see the rocks below it. Now it looks as though you couldn’t even cast from there.

    • Here’s a story for you. I was originally looking in Mount Crested Butte Colorado because I noticed you don’t fully spell out a work if you can avoid it. Using a basic cipher I found H=8 A=1 V=22 E=5. That gave me 81225 ( a zip code) that leads directly to the town of Mount Crested Butte Colorado. I’m thinking I just need to go apply more logic there instead of your decoy of Soldierstone. Either way you are brilliant and one of my most favorite humans.

  2. Beautiful fall pictures Cynthia and great write up of your adventure. I’d have lunch with Charmay too if I were you – she may give you some more info about Forrest!

    • One thought Cynthia. There are a few crazies out there searching for Forrest’s treasure and if they think you and Charmay have secret information about where Forrest wanted to die, they may try to follow you. Be careful out there!

  3. Cindy, go for it! My travels thru WY on MT were wonderful. But what made them more special, was talking to all the locals and fishermen/women and getting a more clearer picture of the history sorrounding my search locations.
    I bet Charmay can give you some great insight on F! I would continue searching the area she told you about, I feel you are close to the treasure!
    Make sure you search the canyon rims too, I’m sure F’s place is up high where he would have had a great view!
    Good Luck! Be safe!
    ¥Peace ¥

  4. Santa Cruz Lake really is a nice place. Nice fall pictures too. So, Charmay said Forrest told her where he wanted to die? But it wasn’t San Lazaro? It was somewhere else? What was it? Also, do you recall something from a guy going by Stephan “the pirate” from back around 2012, he posted a picture of a tree that was marked “9-11-11, JB, FF”? And everyone was making guesses about who JB was. Somebody said “jelly beans”. Anyway, there’s a guy named Jeff Burch that has a blog or website or something pertaining to the treasure. I wonder if he might have been the one who marked the tree.

    • Chris-
      Stephen the Pantsless Pirate comes back every once in a while. Jeff Burch is on the blog these days..so you can probably ask him…

  5. I enjoyed your story Cynthia and you are a good photographer…..I have the same trouble on my searches; I end up spending more time taking pictures and sitting on rocks than I do searching.

    I was waiting on the blair witch to pop up. 🙂

  6. Loved the story cindy, thank you. Did you tell us the place that charmay told you about or did I miss something?

        • Desertphile,
          Your words bespoke of facts not true,
          But issued with some jest and jolly.
          You should search the Rockies through,
          And forget that flagrant Kansas folly.

          • It occurs to me that in his profile,
            We never mentioned Desertphile’s skill as poet…
            Perhaps it was an oversight…
            Maybe noet.

          • And his ability to make wine out of your common tool shed.

            To get a better understanding to the man known as Desertphile you need to see his YouTube channel.

          • Desert, Desert, Desert …
            Most of Kansas that I have seen is very flat and plain.
            Thank you Forrest.

          • Poetry is fun
            Poetry can clear
            Poetry can take you here and there
            Poetry is old
            Poetry is new
            Poetry is better when it is a clue.
            Poetry is mine
            Poetry is yours
            Poetry can be read with a can of Coors
            Poetry is the painting of the mind
            Poetry will help you to the find
            Poetry can lead
            Poetry can follow
            Poetry is fun to read in the hollow
            Poetry is simple
            Poetry is hard
            Poetry is a jokers card

          • Hi Mr. Fenn.
            I’m headed out to a particular spot in Colorado (WWWH) and I have spent a few days trying to force the poem to go anywhere other than the place I am going ( just to reverse engineer another location ) and no matter what I do, it keeps taking me to this specific place. ESPECIALLY the blaze. I’m going here regardless and I was wondering( if I really end up being right) -would you care to meet me for a cup of joe so I can give you back your bracelet? Obviously I won’t be able to reveal my solve to anyone but you ( because of the final location) I would absolutely love to have a good ol chat with the guy who reminds me of my grandpa that I miss so much. ( to be honest, he would have solved this thing in hours vs my on and off of 4 years ) Either way…. thank you for this adventure. Please send me an email letting me know if you would like to meet. I can be reached at hersh3ycandy@yahoo.com

      • HA! Desertphile has always loved Kansas…

        Cynthia, pay no attention to the tracking device I placed on your vehicle, or the drones following you around, or the satellites being repositioned, or the slight bit of static on your cell phone.

        And don’t worry about the tingling in your brain; it’s just my Deluxe Wee Gee Board Mouse Pad saying hello. 🙂

        • Goofy, Please follow…if your electronics stop working, my license plate is TTOTC so at least you know where I’m parked…I’d love you to see the many NM treasures I’ve seen over the past almost 3 years…unfortunately, none of them hid Fenn’s bronze chest..as far as I know.

      • Cynthia, I told you there were crazies out there, I think one of them goes by the name of Goofy. 🙂

  7. Cynthia,

    I think of you often almost every time I check in on Dal’s site. Your current story confirms your spirit which was obvious when we met.
    After the book signing I drove to Montana and got dropped in by Helicopter at my search site.
    It’s just too damn far to walk. I stayed over night at 9000 feet plus and was told by the West Yellowstone Forrest Service that two juvenile Grizz were about two miles from my camp site. I slept with one eye open and two cans of bear spray at my side all night.
    After fully engaging my search area I hiked out 8 miles and down three thousand vertical feet. It was exhilarating.


    • Doug, It was great to hear from you…I so enjoyed listening to your ideas / solutions to the poem and drawings in TTOTC at the After-party-book-signing. Sounds like you were able to follow through with your search, and had a most excellent adventure. Let me know if you come back through NM so we can meet and swap stories. Mine are really boring compared to your stories, though…no grizzes (thank goodness) in NM. cynthia

    • Hey doug! Just wanted to say thanks for the pool games! It was a lot of fun. Obviously you made it back and off to search! Yeehaw! 🙂

  8. The pictures are really nice.I will be honest and say I don’t know how I feel about the HUGE nugget of info dangled in front of my face like this.I guess I shouldnt worry about it, but it shows a lack of class towards your fellow blogggers.

  9. You forgot to mention the Tewa legend of the treasure that was left when the Indians moved south. It is buried in bell shaped ars and somewhere in the area of the Tsawari ruins near Santa Cruz. I looked in that area, but access to the lake was closed when I was there.

    • You should return…there is lake access from the main entrance where you can “put-in”. Also, you can access the over-look / campgrounds from the road that goes to Cundiyo just past the turn-off to go to Chimayo. That places you on top the mesa, and if you still want to hike down to the Rio de Medio Canyon, there are a couple trails from the over-look. One of the good things about this place is that it should be accessible to search most of the winter, except for the occasional snowstorm that rolls through. I plan to hike with Molly down each one…gotta see the mouth of the canyon…and how strenuous the hike might be on each trail. I’m betting I can hike two of them from my car in one afternoon…

  10. Cynthia – nic pics of the season changing in NM. Looking forward to your further exploration of the connections you are making. Sounds like you’re onto something!

  11. Great story Cynthia and lovely pictures. Hey, quietly sitting beneath a tree with Molly nearby sounds like a wonderful way to spend a few moments and who knows, it might just be what you need to unravel FF’s poem. Thanks for sharing!

  12. One minor detail that caught my attention at Santa Cruz lake is a plaque that said that the park was established by the Department of the Interior (?) and the BLM. When I was looking specifically for BLM parks, this was a good place to go. There was a comment made couple of years ago that FF was uncertain about whether the chest was on BLM land. Don’t take my word for it. I couldn’t verify the accuracy of the reference. But I will still look for which agency is in charge of the area where I search.

    • Michael, I used a “New Mexico Public Lands Guide” map which verified the entire Santa Cruz Lake Recreation Area and surrounding area is BLM land. I think it extends all the way to where the Tsawari ruins rest…however, I don’t know how old my map is…I should go to the website and verify it is still accurate before i go traipsing around, searching. I believe BLM land boundaries change throughout the years…do you concur?

      • Cynthia, re BLM/PL boundaries changing, here in N. CA where I live, they have been known to market a few of the land locked parcels to adjacent property owners, (no easement issues) and it’s years before any maps get updated. I had a 160 that stayed gold colored for years on the local maps; it had been BLM but got sold off as it was land locked, had two patents on it too! They used the proceeds to add to larger tracts where all the public could enjoy our lands. Good idea to double check and not just rely on out of date maps sometimes, IMO! Thanks again for your story and great fall pics, you are lucky to live so close to the TC!

  13. Cool story and pics Cynthia!! Take all of that info and run with it. Still rereading the poem and book and trying to imagine where Forrest wanted to have his final resting place. Everyone is bummed that Winter is here and no more active physical searching to partake of until next Spring. Maybe our minds can be active this long cold Winter and as we all hibernate give us new fresh clues to begin with in the Spring of 2016!! I know someone will find it soon all of this searching has gone on far too long and all of the old searchers and Bloggers are narrowing in on the exact location and soon one weary inquisitive soul will shout ” I found it, I found it”!! Maybe you since you sound so close. Would not that be a wonderful treat to let Forrest know someone deciphered his puzzle before he left this place we call Earth? We all feel that we know the location is just on the tip of our tongues!!! Well happy Fall and Soon to be official Winter Lets keep up the searches in our hearts minds and on our laptops….Good luck Bon Chance Mon Amiees……. See you in the funny papers and as always Continue the Chase fellow Comrades in Search Mode Arms!!! Ms. Girl

  14. I wonder if FF remembered telling her that when he hid the chest or if had told anyone else about it. Sounds like a great big lead to me.
    Cynthia I think you found the key! Go for it before FF goes and moves it.
    Good luck.

  15. Cynthia,
    Great Story! My work takes up to the Chimayo area from time to time and have made that drive to Santa Cruz Lake. Lots of Tewa history! I’m poking around just above that area and may bump into you sometime. I live in Rio Rancho and if any of the NM Hunters would like to meet up sometime and compare notes I’m in!
    Good Luck to you! – Gregg

  16. Very nice story and the pics are spectacular ! I have visited Santa Cruz lake on a few occasions and was awestruck by the setting each time. The last time I was there, there was no one there but me. Such a tranquil feeling…good luck in your search Cynthia.

  17. Great story Cynthia. Remember that Forrest has many friends and they all have an opinion.LOL
    Lauren told me the treasure surely is in Yellowstone!

    Thank you for sharing your travels with us all. I enjoy reading what you have been up to. Be careful out there if you continue searching into the cold part of the year. It may be a pretty wet winter from all forecasts.

    Thank you Forrest for sharing Cynthias email too. Its always good to hear from you.

    Desertphile may not be far off if he was using a map from a previous century or two! LOL

    • Cundiyo, what a great NM story! Everyone is name is “Vigil”. From “Mountain Villiages” by Alice Bullock (1981):

      “Another one asks me why everyone is named Vigil, so I tell him and then he asks, ‘If a girl marries someone and comes back to live here, her name will not be Vigil, no?” I laugh some more and point to that big cottonwood tree down there,” he motions towards a stately old tree. “If his name is not Vigil in two weeks, we just hang him on that tree.”


      Seems like if someone wants to die there, all they have to do is try to hold on to their surname 🙂

      Thanks, Cynthia. I don’t know what Charmay told you but it led me to poke around online, and the story behind this small village is really interesting. I would have never heard it otherwise.

      Best of luck in your search!

  18. Glad you had time to search, cynthia! Lovely pix and great adventure to add to the books! 🙂

  19. Great story C!! I wanted to comment one thing you mentioned….the winter break from searching.

    Well, if one were to “brave the cold”. Then one would also have the advantage above the summer seekers….the foliage has died off, which makes looking Through and around things, that much easier.

    Just a thought I’ve had for a few months.

    Good luck.

  20. Cynthia, Beautiful pictures and nice story. Thank you for sharing this with us. BTW, I googled Santa Cruz and found this:


    Santa Cruz is called in Tewa, evidently because of the much
    mentioned Canada de Santa Cruz, Kan y ae n ra’i n mbu’u, Canada
    town (kan y ae n ra, Canada, from the Span.; ‘i n ?7, gender postfix;
    bu’u, town).

    I don’t know why, but I see the word rainbow in this: Kan y ae n ra’i n mbu’u

  21. Thank you all for your kind words and contributions to this lovely area. I read all the links some of you provided to the various sub-topics…I especially loved the Indian story about the Stars and Coyote at Cochiti, and was totally amazed that Cundiyo is made up mostly of folks named Vigil.

    Most of you who commented are quite savvy…you understand this is just a story and were able to enjoy it for what it is…no conspiracy taking place.

    • Happy you like the Indian story, there are some good ones. My favorite ones are those that attempt to explain how things were created.

      Hey I just realized I know a person named Vigil from Cundiyo, that was really interesting info.

  22. Great story and Pictures Cynthia, as always, you are a class act. Glad you and Molly got to have lunch in such a perfect settings. Good hunting to you on your next quest and stay safe.

    • In order to level the playing field and be fair to all searchers, Charmay should announce that tidbit of information publicly. IMO.

      • Why does Cynthia, or anyone for that matter, have to share their information to be *fair* to other searchers? That’s crazy. This chase doesn’t have any requirement of fairness? There should be no expectations of such. Cynthia doesn’t owe anyone this information. Obviously, all of us would love for her to share, but you can’t fault her for holding her cards tight.

        I’ll agree that posting that she has the information much the way you might dangle a piece of bacon in front of a bunch of beagles to tease them is a bit annoying, but that doesn’t mean that she should be required to tell all.

        • Edit – Include Charmay in the above. I had misread Rose’s post and realize now she didn’t specify Cynthia.. I don’t believe Charmay owes the intel to anyone either.. I obviously would LOVE to know this tidbit along with others, however.

          • I don’t understand why Charmay would spoil things by doing this if it is the correct place. I agree Clinger about Cynthia. I don’t understand that motivation as well.

      • Along with Fenn, Charmay is part owner of the One Horse Land & Cattle Co. This company published The Thrill of The Chase and Too Far To Walk. Since there’s a photo of her talking with Cynthia and Cythia stated that she received this insider information, it’s only fair to level the playing field and for Charmay to share this information with the public. I’m giving both individuals credibilty in what they have to say and feel it’s very important information. IMO

  23. So serene. Is it an old volcanic crater that is now a lake? Is there a river/creek which flows into it? I could sit there all day and enjoy its beauty. Thanks for the beautiful photos,Cynthia.

    • @Michael D.,
      You already confirmed you received information from Charmay too. Now, since you feel it’s not on the TFTW map, the “case closed.” It’s not that easy. This is a public website.

      • Rose….If you want to know what Charmay said, YOU do the same leg/arm/head work that Cynthia and I did and go get it for yourself…that way ,you too will realize it is a dead end. I will NOT discuss this ANY further with you or ANYONE else, so when you whine expect to be ignored by me from here on out.

      • I agree with Michael.. Rose what part of ” none of your business ” do you not understand.
        There I’ve said it and I’m not sorry. You sound like a little kid who won’t take no for answer..annoying.

  24. Beautiful pictures! I so miss searching and seeing so many beautiful spots. Work is very unpleasant at the moment, so reading this blog is helping to sooth the pain of my work situation. Thanks Cynthia

  25. Lovely story and pictures Cynthia. Love the color on the trees. Been there a couple times a long time ago. Thanks for sharing.

  26. MichaelD wrote:
    “The location Charmay shared is NOT on the TFTW map – so it is out of play and I consider the case closed.”

    I don’t know about that. But I do know what FF said on page 133 of TTOTC: “It was vital that nobody share my knowledge about the location of the treasure”. Even if someone knew merely the general location of the chest, that information would nullify FF’s intention of having the chest found by means of the poem, given that the search area consists of four states.

  27. @Ken, I remember those words too.

    I love searching for the trove and reading about searches. The photos are beautiful and breathtaking. But, after reading the Tsawari story, I realized that it would be a waste of money to continue looking at my current possible area where the trove might be hidden when it’s not in the general area that was mentioned in the Tsawari story. I thought about searching the general area in the Tsawari story, but felt that others will find the trove sooner because of additional information. I loved the mystery of knowing that the trove is out there, but feel that it will be found soon.

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