“The Totally Off The Course” (TTOTC) Solution…by TxTH
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.
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.
- Blaze – Blaze Mountain
- Spanish class – North and South Forks Spanish Creek
- Skippy, Forrest, June – Big Brother, Little Brother, Little Sister Lakes
- Fenn the Pioneer with Donnie – Pioneer Falls
- Map of Gallatin Forest – Gallatin Forrest
- Grayling Creek – Grayling Lake
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.