TTOTC Solution……

“The Totally Off The Course” (TTOTC) Solution…by TxTH

Grand Tetons Pano

Grand Teton Panorama

Please bear with me as I know this is long and wordy and everyone’s time is valuable.

I know there are lots of discussions about what constitutes a good solve and all kinds of tales and opinions circulating with each one proposed.  I have quietly sat in the background for the last two years or so observing the comments at the different forums on the many blog sites on the web, especially Dal’s.  I have always enjoyed the comments, brilliance, lunacy (imo), bickering, laughing, and even the tears shared by many.

I am 17 years younger than Forrest and recently retired after being a public school teacher for 40 years.  I lived and taught in the Lubbock TX region for many years and was very familiar with Reese AFB, a training center for pilots, as well as the “Lucky me I live in Lubbock” campaign shown on a bumper sticker stuck on one of his F-100s in the book.  I was in the US Army Reserves Field Artillery during the Viet Nam War but never was sent over.  I lost a few friends to that war as many of us did. I once lived about 30 miles from Temple TX and now live at the southern end of the railroad mentioned in the Gypsies chapter.  My wife and I have always been outdoor people and had enjoyed tent and trailer camping and fishing over many summers when school was not in session.  Hmmm, that sounds familiar.  The last few years we had gotten out of the habit but now that I am retired we are beginning again.  In April 2015 we decided to make the trip and started training.  We started walking daily until we were walking 5 miles a day (approx. 10,000 steps).  In June we were ready.

On the road again!

On the road again!

So with that little background about me let me share with you my first fledgling steps into this deep mystery Forrest has given to us.  This is one of my first solves that is just riddled with holes and shows what happens when you force clues to appear, no matter how sound they seem at the time.  All of the content below is “in my opinion” including the clues and the locations and may be completely out in left field.

Here was my thinking about the poem at that time. After hearing about the search and purchasing the book I began reading everyone’s comments on the forums and was immediately drawn to the “normal” conclusions being espoused on the different websites.  Then I saw where Forrest said “Don’t mess with my poem.”  With that I quit looking at everything being posted on the web because it seemed that was all many of the posts wanted to do and I began anew with my own ideas and theories.  First and foremost, he said the poem would lead me to the exact location.  I wondered how something seemingly so vague could point to a specific location?


First, I would like to point out a few of the “hints” that I noticed and attracted me to my search area that were contained in TTOTC.

  1. Blaze – Blaze Mountain
  2. Spanish class – North and South Forks Spanish Creek
  3. Skippy, Forrest, June – Big Brother, Little Brother, Little Sister Lakes
  4. Fenn the Pioneer with Donnie – Pioneer Falls
  5. Map of Gallatin Forest – Gallatin Forrest
  6. Grayling Creek – Grayling Lake
The general area of our search

The general area of our search

 Heading south from Bozeman, our destination in sight

Heading south from Bozeman, our destination in sight

So, starting with what I think is the first clue – “where warm waters halt” – I began narrowing down my choices.  If you are going to start you have to pick something from all of your beliefs and go with it so I picked the boundary of Yellowstone National Park because it just made the most sense to me at the time.  Surely the boundary marked a definite end to the warm waters of Yellowstone as the government would certainly not let any actually exist outside of the park boundaries.  Like I said, start somewhere, no matter how illogical it seems at the time.  Anyway, I’m sure the other clues will “confirm” I was in the right starting place. My second clue – “take it in the canyon down” meant I had two major choices from the Yellowstone boundary, the Madison River or the Gallatin River.  I chose the north canyon (Gallatin River) over the west canyon (Madison River) because of its access to some of the geographic names to the north and of course the Gallatin NF.  The fact that Forrest’s sister had lived in Bozeman also helped me to pick the north canyon.  Maybe there was a sentimental tie-in for Forrest to my location because of some family event in the area. North it would be.

Then the poem says for clue three – “not far but too far to walk”.  Throughout the book, Forrest refers to the number 50.  He said he and Donnie were about “50 miles from where they started” when they came out of the mountains.  I was thinking from the boundary of YNP I needed to go about 50 miles which is definitely too far to walk but not “too far” a distance especially for anyone from Texas.  Hey, after all, Lubbock TX is a lot closer to Denver CO than it is to Houston TX.  My search area happens to be a 50 mile drive from the Yellowstone boundary along US 190 and Spanish Creek Road.

My fourth clue – “Put in below the home of Brown”.  Of course that is what everyone wants to know.  It was decision time again for me as I looked to the north.  Ted Turner has a ranch to the north?  He was kicked out of Brown University but that just didn’t seem to fit.  However the Flying D Ranch is home to 55,000 BROWN bison.  It can also be noted that Forrest was flying an F-100D (Flying-D?) on the last mission that he was shot down. I decided that the elusive “home of Brown” referred to these Brown Bison and their home which is in the rolling hills on Mr. Turner’s Flying D ranch.

Bison on the Flying D Ranch

Bison on the Flying D Ranch

Forrest did say that many (but not all) of the clues existed before he wrote his poem making the ranch a possible choice since Turner bought it in 1989. So, to “put in below the home of Brown”, I put in on Spanish Creek Road from US 191 and travelled along the south border “below” the ranch.

Now where?  Clue five – “From there it’s no place for the meek”.  This next clue really bothered me until I took Forrest’s advice again and quit messing with the poem.  If I keep following Spanish Creek Road it turns south into the Gallatin NF and the mountains.  That is exactly where so many of the “hints” I mentioned above are located, including Blaze Mountain, Pioneer Falls, Big Brother, Little Brother, and Little Sister lakes, Grayling Lake and…wait?   “From there it’s no place for the meek”.  It seems maybe Forrest was not preaching and telling us to be “un-meek”. He is telling us exactly where to go next.  Now that we have put in below the home of Brown, from there we are to go here.  Of course…it is the meek that will inherit the earth (the new earth and heaven).  They will certainly not be found in Hell which means Hell is “no place for the meek”!  So Forrest was telling us to go to Hell, not just to be un-meek! (smile) So having curved south and entered the Gallatin National Forest, I checked on Google Earth and found the Spanish Creek Recreation Area.

Road to Spanish Creek Recreation Area

Road to Spanish Creek Recreation Area

But instead of following the crowd up the main trail head on Spanish Creek to Pioneer Falls, I turned and went where Forrest said – Little Hell Roaring Creek.  OK, now what.

The signs remind us why we carry bear spray.

The signs remind us why we carry bear spray.

Clue 6 – “The end is ever drawing nigh”.  The end of something is where it terminates or stops.  A boundary is where a property ends.  Looking up Little Hell Roaring Creek there are boundaries.

Little Hell Roaring Creek

Little Hell Roaring Creek

Clue 7 – “There’ll be no paddle up your creek”. Little Hell Roaring Creek is a swift running rocky creek with fallen trees blocking it – no canoes here for sure.

No canoes here!

No canoes here!

Clue 8 – “Just heavy loads and water high”.  Heavy loads is plural because it took Forrest two trips, water high means exactly that… maybe it is in the creek somewhere.  But where?  How far?

Then it happened.

Clue 9 – “If you have been wise and found the blaze”.  This is either the weirdest coincidence meaning I am completely wrong or I thought I just might have found the chest’s approximate location!  My clue 6 (“The end is ever drawing nigh”) revealed the boundary of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness about one and a half miles up the creek, with no man-made trails within “close proximity”.  I checked it out on Google Earth and nearly fell out of my chair.  There it was… the blaze in all its glory.

The Blaze

The Blaze

It was a scar on the mountainside right beside the creek exactly where the Lee Metcalf boundary crosses it.  It is like x marks the spot.

The poem has actually led to the blaze and an exact spot or area to search.  It seems maybe the poem is not so vague after all. This all ties back to when I, like a lot of other people, started out looking for the blaze instead of solving the clues.  I immediately discovered “Blaze Mountain” which turned my focus to this area.  But then I read Forrest had said something to the effect, “don’t go looking for the blaze”, so taking that at face value I concluded that Blaze Mountain was not the blaze of the poem since I had searched it out.  So if not Blaze Mountain then what?  And here, it seems the blaze had found me, not the other way around.  Surely I had the correct area. Now all I had to do was to “look quickly down, my quest to cease”, take the chest and go. Only problem… no chest.

It all nicely fits, but I am not so cocky as to believe I have actually found anything before I visit a spot in person.  I cannot reconcile some of the things Forrest said.  Things like he knew exactly where he was going to put the chest when he first started and that it has a very special meaning to him and that he would like to have had his bones there as well.  From what I can tell looking at Google Earth, this area does not seem to contain any spectacular views or any great fishing spots.  But then again, it would be special to him for some reason, not me and my perceptions.  I remember special places my wife and I shared in the wilds that would mean absolutely nothing to anyone else.  It is special because of the moment and who I shared that moment with.

So, this is one of my early solutions and I actually had the opportunity to explore it this past summer and quickly cross it off my list.  Boots on the ground discovered very quickly that it is no easy 1 1/2 mile trek up to my blaze and very doubtful Forrest could have made two trips in one afternoon.  But I think this general area is still a prime candidate for future consideration if the clues once again lead me in this direction.

The look says it all!

The look says it all!

I love this picture of my wife.  It was like “You drug me from the Texas Gulf coast to Montana for this???”  We laughed and re-lived so many past adventures along the road and discovered places we had never been.  It was great to be “on the road” again.

I hope this story has entertained and informed you and made you realize the “possibilities” that lie within all of us.  Though there are many places where this solution fails as I look at it now in a different perspective, at the time it looked very convincing. Forrest placed this dream out there for us to pursue and how we and why we choose to do it or not is a personal decision we each must make.  The only sure way not to gain anything from this quest is not to begin it at all.  It was a lot of fun for my wife and I to get back out on the trail and we look forward to continuing doing so through the remainder of our years as long as we are physically able.  Happy hunting to everyone!  May you find your rainbow in your journeys.

A beautiful double rainbow at Clines Corner NM on the way home.

A beautiful double rainbow at Clines Corner NM on the way home.


69 thoughts on “TTOTC Solution……

    • Nice story. I love that “no canoes here” photo. Ask your wife what she’ll take for the hat. f

    • Loved how you came to the same conclusion as me…Blaze Mountain. And I would like to encourage you to go back there…but take a different that also fits the poem to a T.

      WWH: Firehole river and Madison river junction.
      take it in the canyon down from there to West Yellowstone where Forrest lived as a kid. You get to experience his old romping grounds…neat.
      Put in below the home of Brown…Lake Hebgen in my opinion because of the Brown trout, and also the boat or raft wording of Put in. So put in below Lake Hebgen on the Madison river…or just follow the river downhill from Hebgen lake, either way…
      No place for the meek…your gonna have to raft or drive and follow the Madison river down to where it looks like it ends, past Ennis. The end is ever drawing nigh…right by where it looks like the Madison river ends into a small lake or pond, there is a creek on the right hand side of the river that leads up to Blaze mountain, and all of the lakes that surround it…water high. Like Spanish Lakes, Mirror Lake, etc. Look quickly down once you find Blaze mountain…well there are lakes everywhere. Hmm…does one of those lakes look like the one in Forest’s photo of him next to a stone marker, a bear in the lake, and his hat floating over his head? Because to me that picture speaks a thousand words. To me that picture means Forest would like to hang his hat there…also his hat is covering up one of the peaks to the mountain by that lake, perhaps so it would be hard for people to identify which mountain and which lake it is…Just sayin. Tarry scant with marvel gaze….could be Mirror lake.. Well that’s all i’ve got so far…hope this helps. Loved yalls trip.

  1. Good solve and thanks for sharing. I’ve been looking at that area on GE and also the Lewis and Clark NF area, with the Bozeman connection idea in mind. Hope you and your wife continue to enjoy your retirement years.

  2. HA! “The Totally Off The Course” (TTOTC) Solution…….Man, can I relate to that. 🙂

    That’s a really well written story Tex………And I liked your maps and pictures (and your truck) . I’m from Texas and have stomped around your neck of the woods (mesquite trees) a lot.

    Another thing I can really relate to is “the look” you captured perfectly in that picture……From my wife and the dog. 🙂

    • I loved this response Goofy. There was definitely no doubt of whose side the dog was on! (and still is!) lol

  3. Tex, I really enjoyed the story! It brought back memories of the first search I failed at, in YS.
    After getting home, broke and a little let down, (well, ALOT let down) I sharpened my pencil and got to work on what I thought was a great solve…I’m still working on it, three yrs and dozens of searches later!
    Good to see a fellow Texan sharing the chase.
    Good luck and hope you have many more happy trails!
    Be Safe and Good Luck.
    ¥Peace ¥

  4. Loved this story. Loved your writing, and one of best solves I’ve seen in a while. And scary close to a spot I’m currently looking at. My wwwh is different, but you arrived in a spot close to mine.

    That scar on a mountain is important! 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. The hints that you found in TTOTC are the best. I was really surprised by your discovery of Big Brother and Little Sister lakes. That brings FFs family into the special place.
    HOB as the Ted Turner ranch has a hole in it. But thats all I will disagree with. So, lets just say that Yellowstone NP is the HOB. The rest of your solve will still fit.

  6. I always say “Lord help us all” 🙂
    You did a great job with your search. 🙂
    I’m proud yall had a safe adventure.
    And I can relate to that look your wife gave. I love it. 🙂

    I’m assuming Forrest loves Hats 🙂

  7. Thank you for all the nice comments. It really was a great trip with a lot of new memories. Just a quick note that I received from Dal. I wasn’t aware of the picture size limitations of the blog but he did put them up with the full size I sent. If you click on the pictures, especially the GE maps, they are much clearer.


  8. OH yes, Forrest! My wife said she would swap you the hat even for a simple set of map coordinates. 🙂

  9. TX,
    LOL. Love the picture of the wife.

    I think I’ve seen that exact expression several times in the kitchen trying to explain my next future (soon-to-be) ex-solution.

  10. It was like “You drug me from the Texas Gulf coast to Montana for this???”

    I’d probably have to drug my wife to get her involved in the chase too… 🙂

    Joking aside, nice ideas here.

  11. Tx. I grew up 20 miles south of temple. Now I live 16 miles north of Temple. You must have been from one of the small towns around there. Great adventure for your newly found retirement endeavor. Tell the wife it’s gonna be better. Enjoy it while you can. Thanks for a great story.

  12. I really enjoyed your story Tx and the straight forward approach to the poem. I to have received the same look from my wife when i took her up in the mountains of Colorado searching and heavy snow moved in on us.

  13. “This is one of my first solves that is just riddled with holes and shows what happens when you force clues to appear, no matter how sound they seem at the time. All of the content below is “in my opinion”

    Enjoy the story greatly, and consider the statement above wise and learned. Most here I’m sure can relate. Will you be sharing future solve / stories with us?

  14. TxTh – Great candid pics!

    The best part of hearing another persons search story is the temporary feeling of fully leaving our own myopic thoughts.

  15. I really enjoyed the write up of your adventure and the pics are great. Isn’t it wonderful that FF has gotten us out to find so many treasures? Your wife is lovely, a good sport and dons a fine chapeau.

  16. TxTH, I really enjoyed your story with the pictures…very well written. I felt like I was right there with you…Great solutions to ff’s poem, too.

    Isn’t retirement frigging awesome!!! I hope you and your wife are able to continue many more boots-on-the-ground searches…and that you will share these adventures with us all. cynthia

  17. A great shared adventure between you two!!! Nice story on your trip with the refreshing of memories for you both.

    Best of luck in the future……

  18. Thanks for the great story, I think all of us husbands have had that look from or wives. Take he to the coast while there is snow in the mountains and look for gold from the ship wrecks. I’ve heard of several people that have found a random coin here or there. Good luck and enjoying being together where ever you go. I’ve been married for 40 years to my best friend.

  19. I think there is a lot here worth considering, I just don’t think you have tried to work in the possibility that the nine clues are not so obvious. Other parts of the poem may open things up for you. You might be close sir. Or should I say Master Sargent. Is that how you address a retired army man?

  20. Nice story. You state that Forrest placed this “dream” out there. Is that the treasure chest – a dream and not a bronze box. It seems like there are a lot of stories about a dream.

    • I guess you could say the dream is in the eye of the beholder. Forrest put his dream out there, not just the chest, but the desire to see people move out of their comfort zone and to get out and experience the outdoors. My dream is to become a part of his dream AND to locate the bronze chest while doing it. My dream is multi-dimensional in that, though I am looking for a box 10″ x 10″ x 5″ (500 cu. in.), I am even more aware of the billions and trillions of cubic inches of everything that surrounds it, namely the environment where the chest resides which happens to be in some very scenic mountains somewhere north of Santa Fe NM.

      What is your dream?

      • My dream is for peace which the scenic mountains somewhere north of Santa Fe provide. I also dream about the other peaceful areas of this world that display natural wonders just as spectacular albeit in different ways. I have traveled much over the years and did not need the lure of a box to see God’s creation. But the promise of a box and the challenge involved to solve a puzzle should render more than the beauty surrounding it. My dream about the box was that it would prove thought creativity and adventure combined — Man interacting in God’s creation. An end where everyone involved would be able to “experience” in the correct solution the creativity of the writer/encoder and of the finder/decoder. The box is more than a dream of a good time, but a celebration of accomplishment by all who accepted the ‘challenge’ and venture to work a ‘solve’.

        • Very well said. My tunnel vision limited my reply to the particular dream of this topic. I too have traveled and seen many the wonders in Nature and of Man’s creation around the world, though of limited areas mainly in Europe.

          The dream of actually solving the puzzle and recovering the chest is of course a central reason for being involved in the first place and the side benefits being secondary. However, imo over time the reality of the quest reverses the importance of the two.

          • If it weren’t for the chest, I would have ventured elsewhere. The search is over for me – just the write-up which is rather complicated given my purpose and constraints. I will not be posting it on this blog, but I am confident it will be known when published. Congratulations on teacher retirement – former middle school teacher here — language arts/journalism-newspaper/computers/ESOL. 🙂

  21. Thanks for sharing your story. Hope your retirement will be some of the best times of your lives. I retired this year and it was so the right thing to do and the right time.

  22. I like the way you think TX! Maybe because I think pretty much the same way. 🙂 I like MT very much as the final resting place of the TC because the clues lead me there. There are just so many ways to interpret those clues though!

    Very well written story and great pictures too. As Forrest often says – “Keep Searching”!

  23. I love your story and i love your solve. What a great way to interpret the clues. Thank you so much for sharing! For whomever finds the chest, please leave just enough behind to keep these adventures alive. 🙂

  24. TxTH and wife, what a wonderful adventure and I really appreciate y’all sharing it with us and the pics too. I too am from TX, but a little closer to the coast than you are. I’m going to be up near Waco November 21st if anyone is interested in meeting up for a lunch break. Must be great to be retired! Don’t stop looking and posting it here. Best of luck everyone! Oh, and I have a lot of dreams.

    • Hi Carolyn. We have lived very near the coast for the last 13 years. Before we moved to he Houston area, about an hour drive to the coast, 6 years ago, we lived about 2 miles from the coast near Corpus Christi.

  25. I was pin pointing the locations mentioned in your solution I got a better picture of the details. There is Lake Solitude and Hermit Lake:”As I have gone alone in there”. And, Quickly Down from Blaze Mountain is Mirror Lake. It’s worth it to have a look at the images of this lake because it looks similar to the picture with FF hat in the air. Remember those mirror image references.
    Lat. 45°22’23.04″N Long. 111°23’50.07″W

    Big Brother, Little Brother, and Little Sister lakes are on the other side of Blaze Mountain.
    Lat. 45°24’19.57″N Long 111°28’25.45″W

    I am guessing that the hike would be short enough to make a couple of times in one afternoon from the Spanish Peaks trailhead.
    Lat. 45°26’53.98″N Long. 111°22’41.76″W

    >> That’s if you got two legs.<<
    The most I Might do is up to Pioneer Falls.
    Lat. 45°24'56.11"N Long. 111°24'25.93"W

    Blaze Mountain is located at
    Lat. 45°22'4.95"N Long. 111°24'44.47"W

    I really really really LIKE this solve. I get a good vibe. It's the best one yet.

      • Michael, Cynthia, TxTH, and of course Dal

        Three years, 12 visits, and a hundred miles of walking.

        Yes it all makes sense to me and I also generally agree TxTH with your surprising analysis since you are one of the few that I would concur with but alas no banana. Dal must be squirming is his chair.

        I believe your direction of thinking has great merit.
        Good Job!

        It ain’t over till its over!


    • Michael,
      I too thought about Mirror Lake and there is also an unnamed lake on the north slope of Blaze mountain that looked interesting as well. The problem is the distance. To Mirror lake is 6 miles so that is 12 miles round trip twice in one afternoon. The last mile to Mirror Lake also has a 1000′ elevation change as well. My wife and I can walk a mile in about 25 minutes without a load on level ground so to cover 24 miles, ignoring the fact it is on a mountain trail, would takes us 10 hours, without stopping for rest. I just didn’t feel like this is something Forrest would do in one afternoon, but I could be wrong of course.

      • It’s hard to measure distances on Google earth. I may also have lost perspective by reading about the area on a mountain biking/trail running page.
        But, I have a rule when I go out: the 500ft. rule.
        Limit walking to 500 feet at a time.
        I like your decision to go up Hellroaring creek. I suspect that way has a distance of 500ft. from the Spanish creek trail at some point. That is some distance from a human trail.
        IMO>>> lake names, mountain names, etc. are place names indicating the area where to look. Meaning that the chest may not be at that specific lake. It’s a hint that I am in the right area to look around. That’s why I put pins and flags on the map. When I get a good cluster of them I go, or recommend it. 500 feet.

    • Adding to the points of interest:
      Lone Indian Peak, WY And I believe nearby ‘petrified’ (no meek) inspiration trail

  26. Going in a different direction from Lone Indian Peak:

    Shooting Star Mt., MT blaze

    High Lake, MT

  27. This was an outstanding solve, nice work TxTH and what an awesome adventure for you and your wife. I’ll be going on my adventure in 6 months to check my solve and do some fly fishing.

  28. Great solve and loved the pictures! I was surprised to see that the petrified tree was a Redwood like we have in CA. I had no idea there ever were Redwoods in MT. Interesting to learn about the vast changes that have taken place in the climate in that area.

  29. Well written and a strong solve, TxTH. It is similar to a very rough one in “my bag”. Your telling brings some possible definition to blurred points in my draft. Interesting side reads for me tonight include the myth (contested by later scholars) that the birthplace of YNP occurred in a fireside chat at the junction of Firehole and Gibbon rivers in 1870 (yes, Dal). I then learned that the original park boundaries for YNP were intended to contain the area’s geothermal basins, thus, defining WWWH. Later the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem which contains the Gallatin NF was defined by the range of the grizzlies in the area: home of Brown? The problem, in light of FF comments, is that the 1st clue seems to depend on the 2nd rather than the other way around.

  30. Dear TxTH:
    I can’t believe that Mr Fenn jumped in as the third comment on your great story,
    and no one else has made a comment on this since early 2016. There have been other posts concerning the blaze and looking quickly down. I think that if you were correctly or serendipitously drawn to Blaze Mountain because of the name, that you might consider the blaze that the mountain was named after. It is like a big white vertical streak which stays all summer long.
    There are videos of people hiking up there to ski down it in summertime. If that were indeed the blaze, then there are multiple hikes where you would be walking along (following the clues), and then the blaze would come into view. You are instructed to look down as soon as you spy the blaze. I believe that this would apply at any place in the Rockies where you are traveling along the path of the clues and spot the blaze. The blaze could be quite a long distance away when you spot it, but the chest would be right there at your feet. Of course, if my last name was Fenn, I might try to make Mount Fenn work. (about 150 miles NNW of Mount Blaze). Just general thoughts, I am not claiming your search area or technique to be any better or worse than anyone else’s.

      • Don’t know, but anything is possible except, apparently, someone finding the chest. I don’t think I have had any really original thoughts, I just examine the hundreds of good guesses on the different blogs. I was hung up on a Bible solve until I read the quote about foot-pounds and Bible verses, although, a Bible verse is technically different from a Bible book. Since I already put it out there, if you Google “treasures secret riches” you consistently get “Isaiah” verse 45:3, which has no clue in itself. However, the whole book of Isaiah mentions “Mt. Zion” several times. Note that ff also said he was not devious enough to use the alliteration “www” (where warm waters) to refer to the internet. But then again ff knows how to appear to say one thing but mean another thing.

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