Report From Saturday by Sacha…

January 30th, 2016




Today was a long, hard, rough, day.  Did I mention it was long?

This morning, I was greeted by some wonderful people at the animal shelter.  Some had been searching with us before, like Scott and Eric, but others were brand new, and a very welcomed surprise.



John B. is from Tucson, but that didn’t stop him from being at the animal shelter promptly this morning.  He drove all the way from Arizona, and slept in his van at a rest stop, just to be sure he was there on time.  John has never commented on this blog, but he is always here.

There were two Davids today.  The first David is known to some as NTMI.  He showed up in his orange Jeep, and saved me more than once from the muddy depths of the roads around Monteso.  David is such a nice guy, he offered to cook us all up some lunch on his mini rocket stove.

The other David was the drone operator for today.  He was fully equipped.  This David works at the Land Rover dealership in Albuquerque, on Alameda.  He took his drone into places they would never tell you to take a drone.  His maneuvers today were both bold and dangerous, especially for his drone.  His drone was the most valuable tool we had today, aside from the brute force of three men pushing my 4Runner out of the mud.


Kevin is new to the search, and hadn’t been hiking in a very long time.  He is also from Farmington.  But, that didn’t stop him from showing up to help today.  He worked just as hard and hiked just as far as everyone else, and you would never know he was ‘out of practice’.  I was very grateful he came today, as he kept me company in some very tight places.

Anthony was a surprise, as well.  He is younger than most of us, but he showed up with his camera prepared for a day of searching.  He hiked the longest route with Scott, and he was almost tipped sideways in the Jeep with me and David, but he never complained once. He was happy to help, and his attitude was just what we needed.

On top of my group, there were two others on the plateau today, that I knew of, and apparently one that I didn’t.


John Brown is an unstoppable force.  That man has searched more ground than any two of the rest of us put together.  Just before I arrived at the animal shelter, one of the other searchers saw John pick up his son and head out – long before most people were there.  He is a man on a mission.

I also had heard from DaisyMae.  She was out before anyone today.  She has a big job to do.  She brought Sean with her, who also doesn’t comment.  But, Sean did something today that was more helpful than we realized.

Slurbs was there today, as well.  This guy spent the entire day lost in the maze of muddy roads.  By the time he reached us, it was midday, and he was covered in mud.  He said he had to put tire chains on in the middle of a muddy road.


DaisyMae got permission from Randy’s family to closely inspect the raft, and its surroundings.  That job took her all day.  She navigated the same disastrous muddy ‘roads’ that we did, and she made it all the way to the rim.  She found the trail, and hiked all the way to the bottom, with her friend Sean.  They then spent an incredible amount of time inspecting the area, taking video and pictures, and even closely inspecting the items.  She did find that one of the oars were broken.  The handle came off completely, and broke the metal clean.  Now we know that it was broken.  She didn’t find anything as far as footprints, but she did find Leo’s ‘home’ that he had made.  He found a safe spot, underneath and behind a tree, where he had apparently spent some time, as it still looks like he lives there.

While Daisy and Sean were working on their task, the remainder of us searchers arrived to the same spot Daisy had parked.  This was the closest spot to our search area, but if you look on a map, it doesn’t look much like a road.  The trip in took almost 2 hours.  There were side roads everywhere, to avoid the bad roads, but it was all bad.  We had to stop twice to check our location, and make sure we took the correct fork in the road.  After the first hour, I had to abandon my 4Runner on the side of the road.  I could see the path ahead, and didn’t think she would make it.  I was proven right, when I was riding in David’s Jeep and it turned sideways, completely lifting the wheels on the driver’s side of the car 3 feet off the ground.  I could have kissed the ground if my window was open.


Once we all got unloaded, we headed to the canyon south of the raft.  We got so close to it with the trucks, we were able to spend all of our time investigating the canyon, rather than hiking to and from it.  David found a great spot right away and launched his drone within a few minutes.  We knew where we had to focus our efforts.

While David was droning away, I went to get a better vantage point.  I kept scooting further back and down the canyon, until I realized I had made it to the bottom.  Kevin followed, and down into the canyon we went.  I can say that no one has been in that canyon for a few weeks, except for a small bobcat.  The snow was deep and pristine, and showed no signs of being disturbed.  Kevin and I hiked down the canyon to the river.  We boulder hopped all the way down, as far as we could go.  Finally, we reached a sheer drop that went over 50 feet.  No one was climbing up or down that thing – not without professional climbing gear.  But, it was only about 50 feet from the edge of the canyon.

We could not see the object we were looking for, so David brought his drone down into the canyon, and launched right from that point.  There was only about a 3ft by 3ft space for him to launch from, but he is very good at what he does, and that was more than enough space for him.  He was able to get to everything, and even drop the drone down very low to get better shots of the objects we needed to see.


What we didn’t know, is just before we got down there, John Brown and his son had hiked down to the raft, headed south, and then hiked up the mouth of that same canyon, to the same waterfall drop.  They inspected it thoroughly, and were able to determine that nothing had been in that alcove for a while.  They also determined no one was climbing up that.

After we were done with the drone, and the battery was almost completely dead, we hiked out of the canyon.  When we got back to our cars, we discovered that we parked right at the top of the path that leads down to the raft!


Scott and Anthony had headed this way before we got to the drone search.  They knew John Brown and Daisy were both around somewhere, and wanted to inspect the rim and try to locate the others.  They hiked all the way from the southern canyon to the one just North of where Randy’s raft was found.  They didn’t find much, but they did find a pair of canvas yard work gloves, which didn’t look too old.  We don’t know that these are related to Randy, but we haven’t put them out of our mind.

As we waited for Scott and Anthony to rejoin us, we all looked down to the river to see how the scouting mission was going.  The people looked barely bigger than ants down there.  But, we saw something very interesting.  We watched a man wade across the Rio Grande – all the way across – both ways.  It turns out that this man is Sean.  Sean waded from Randy’s raft, across to Frijoles Canyon, and back.  The water never got higher than his waist.  He said he could have done it half asleep.

randy12 at 9 min 8 sec

We scoured every inch of the canyon south of where Randy’s raft was found.  We found no trace of Randy.  He is not the object in question from the drone footage.  Sadly, the footage does not do a good job of showing scale.  It is far too small to be a person.  It is just a play on snow and shadows, on two jagged edges of the same rock.  I know that is hard to believe, so you will all be given the link to the footage from today, and you can see for yourselves.  It is not Randy, even though we all very much wished it was.

I watched 12 tired, sore and hungry searchers come in from the search today.  Some were covered in mud – literally – from head to toe.  Some were drained and slightly sunburnt from an entire day in the canyon combined with the hike in and out.  Every one of them came in and greeted me with the same smile they were wearing this morning.  They are all amazing people, and vowed to return for the next search, if they are able.

There were some important things I learned today.

1.       Randy is not in the canyon on the east side, south of the raft, with a 99% certainty.
2.       If Leo ever left the raft, he didn’t go far.  The cactus carpets the landscape so effectively that my shoes were filled with the needles.  Leo’s paws would have been destroyed by all of it.
3.       The water in the Rio Grande, at that point, is so low that a man can walk across it and the water won’t reach above his waist.
4.       The trail to the top of the canyon is almost IMPOSSIBLE to find from below.  John Brown and his son could not find it, and once they made it back up, they had to go back down and mark the trail for Daisy and Sean so they could make it out safely.

We didn’t find Randy today, but we did find where he wasn’t.  He wasn’t in the canyon to the south.  He wasn’t stuck in the water in front of the raft.  He wasn’t on the trail up to the rim.

The weather is going to keep us from searching again for several days.  In the mean time, we will work on the next plan of action, and keep you guys posted.


Thank you so much for all of your help, ideas, theories, pictures, well wishes, prayers, thoughts, and sympathies.  It is what is keeping this pack of searchers going.



123 thoughts on “Report From Saturday by Sacha…

  1. Thank you Sasha and search crew. Is is possible the river was deeper than it is now, (waste deep) on or around the 5th of Jan? I’m guessing pics of raft and report on current condition are still to come? Curious if raft would still hold enough air to use as a flotation to cross if needed. Thanks. – CQ

    • Sacha I don’t Know if you are having any future Search’s. I see in the photo one person is dressed right what I mean by this and don’t take offence anyone. Every one should have a safety vest on with bright colors. I know how easy it is to overlook the small stuff but if someone gets hurt or god forbid separated and lost we need to be able to spot them. A bright Green and orange would help. Its just a thought and I think one worth tossing out to Forrest Safety First. I thought about this going through all the footage of video and pics we all need to where brighter colors from now on. You make shirts maybe you can put a Thrill of the chase safety Jacket together Maybe put a have you seen Randy Pic on the Back or always in our thoughts something let me know if you think its a good Idea. Also what did you find if any in the stone PIC

  2. That last pic sure does look like someone laying in the snow with pale hair. Can we get a high Def of it? I know you guys verified it was not Randy, but how weird!
    So, if the encircling area of raft is pure cactus, then either Leo waded to raft, which I doubt, or he was left there while Randy explored nearby area. So mysterious!
    Thanks to everyone for really pushing it today, I know Randy is with you in heart.

  3. This makes me wonder if the torn raft floated down the river without Randy but containing Leo, the oars and the pump. Did the placement of the oars and pump happen by the raft flipping over, or were these items placed there by Randy? It seems that Leo just stayed behind that tree and did not travel back to the raft from where ever Randy was. Did Randy leave Leo there in a desperate attempt to get out of the canyon? He may have been hypothermic, wet and disoriented. Without any footprints around the raft, you can’t tell for sure if Randy was there. I know it was mentioned that the sand at the river didn’t form good footprints when walked on.
    You all are fantastic people. God bless all you searchers, including the venerable mr. f.

  4. Thank you for the report. And thank you to those who are able to put boots on the ground. Of think of you all and Randy every day, and I pray for answers as we all continue the search.

  5. Sacha and team, you are truly amazing. When “CursingMouse” first found that image, and then when I did what I could to get everyone to see it, I, and others I feel, really believed in it. So sad, on multiple levels.

    Now that I read what you encountered near the raft, I tried to put myself in Randy’s position/mindset before and after arriving at that spot. How had he planned on leaving the spot? To me, he absolutely planned rafting down river (after all he thought he’d have a 40lb chest with him).

    1st – given the broken oar + torn raft, I would go into exit or emergency mode. I try to repair/inflate raft to see if I can continue down the river. (it looks like the yellow pump bellows and tubing were open as if used) Failing this, I go to my next plan.

    2nd – walk somewhere to get help or be seen. loving Leo so much, I would have to try to go over terrain which would allow me to carry him, or for him to walk. Along river: waders help, easier for Leo, might be seen. Into any canyon or climbing up: poorly outfitted for it, tough for Leo, less chance of being seen. Note: there would be no good choices, just the best of the bad ones available.

    3rd – which direction? It looks to me (at least from 2,000 miles away using Google Earth) North along river. I have waders on, and just maybe someone else might come down the river. And North is at least toward my car, I would have seen the terrain on the way down, versus the unknowns downriver.

  6. Excellent job covering those critical areas. Wish I could be there to help out. Have we thought enough about what Randy’s solve for the poem might have been? We know this area is marked on Randy’s map as the “HOB”. As it relates to f’s poem, Randy used this area as a “take out” spot, not a “put in”, as those terms are used in rafting. (Put in below the home of Brown). But i guess the raft got him to the HOB anyways. There is a gulch or “draw” in the area that seems to go nigh/left, which you examined. (the end is ever drawing nigh.)From the gulch you were in, could you see anything that Randy may have investigated as a potential “blaze”? (If you’ve been wise and found the blaze)

    Again, great job thoroughly covering these areas today.

  7. This is great investigative work, doing things that only boots on the ground can do. Testing a river crossing really helps.

    • I feel like I should tell everyone:


      I didn’t know Sean was going to try that today, and I would not have been on board with a walk across the water, without professional help. It could have gone worse.

      With that said, it was very educational to watch and Sean was very brave for attempting it.

      • Hi Sacha, looking forward to the drone footage that more clearly shows the supposed human figure to be nothing more than rocks and shadows.
        I was convinced!

        • Sacha, is there any way of finding out from Sean what he felt underfoot while crossing the river? Were the rocks quite slippery, but he had a good footing? Did he have any slipping? Anything else he can add to this experience? I would appreciate any information given to this matter.

          • Also, how tall is Sean? It might give a better understanding how deep the water is. If I had crossed the river and it was waist deep, it wouldn’t say much for the depth…maybe 2-2/12 feet at the most.

      • Sacha you are correct, I hope people heed your warning. A silt bottom river like that is a death trap. There are many ATV’s and even trucks that have been swallowed by rivers like that. One second you are on seemingly solid ground, the next second it’s like the bottom fell out from under you.

        Thank all of you for going above and beyond in the search for Randy. Please be careful out there in that terribly hostile terrain.

      • Yes, it should be stated that the crossing is not safe with the water at 33-34 F. I’m the one who crossed and I have extensive winter kayaking experience and professional river rescue training. Even with those credentials I can assure you the water was ice cold and capable of sending you into shock upon submersion. If you’ve never been trained in ice water then it can be a death trap.

        The weather was sunny, ~55 F, and no wind at the time. So I went with a wetsuit and not the drysuit as I was worried about getting too hot as I walked around. In hindsight the wetsuit was a little cold and I would have preferred my drysuit even though the drag on a loose drysuit can be an issue with moving water and I like the slickness of the wetsuit in a strong current.

        The crossing is very shallow on the sand bars and the footing better than expected, but it drops quickly into the main channel and in several spots was deeper than 6 ft, but I never went that deep as I tried to keep the water from coming in the suit’s collar. (Did I mention the water is icy cold)
        But at the place the raft was resting, the river was only waist deep and the current was slower than 50 yards downstream where I couldn’t cross because it felt too dangerous to attempt.

        If you see any footage of my crossing, please keep in mind that I’m experienced at crossing rivers and each step I took was deliberate and had my safety in mind. There are techniques you learn to brace before each step and ensure you will not run into troubles when the next step hits a rock or is too deep to touch.

        My current hobbies include winter surfing/kayaking Lake Michigan and so I’m used to the cold water with a wetsuit on.

        (I was wearing a pfd and the wetsuit gives some bouyancy, but waders would give nothing but a drag effect and be very dangerous to cross in)

        • For reference -I’m 5’9″. I could have crossed with a dog in my arms and had no issue. But downstream and upstream had a stronger current and I didn’t try a crossing as it felt like I would be swept away. I never let the water get above my shoulders except for one time and then you would have thought the Broncos had won the SB. It was that exciting as the icy water trickled down my back!

          The sand bars are always shifting, so the main current strength can shift as well and make this spot just as dangerous as the rest.

          • Thank you for the information, Indy. Great description of what occurred. I don’t know the distance to Bandelier’s Visitor’s Center, but I wonder if anyone could hear someone yell out because of the cold that you experienced. It would seem a natural response to yell out because of something being extremely cold to the skin. Just think of how one reacts entering an unheated swimming pool during the summer. One reacts the same, but this is to the extreme. Still trying to think of possibilities and scenarios.

        • I second what Sean (aka Indy aka FF Seeker) said. NO ONE should attempt this without expert support, but both of us had the skills to make this test the safest possible based on our significant experience.

          I used to be a professional raft guide and swiftwater rescue technician and have hundreds of river hours, many on geographically isolated class V waters like Gore Canyon.

          We had proper gear, including a throw rope. We scouted the river from up high and from shore, including the area downstream – just in case of trouble. Nothing on the river is ever “safe”, but we had the knowledge and skills to determine what was within our abilities and we decided this particular crossing test was safe enough to proceed. We were both fully ready to walk away and cancel the test if we didn’t like the situation.

        • Indy, with your experience with cold water rescue etc, is it tricky crossing a river and do you think Randy would know how to safely cross, even in the shallow area? And if he slipped in the shallow area, do you think he would have become hypothermic immediately, became disoriented, and been swept downstream? I’ve seen a few videos of neoprene waders being tested to see if someone could regain balance after falling completely under water and the video showed that it was entirely possible to even swim a bit with those waders and walk to shore. The big difference is that the tests were done in a lake so the water was not moving and the water was not nearly as cold as that river.

          Thanks to you and all the searchers for all your courageous and selfless efforts to find Randy.

          • When we set out to test whether we could cross we decided that even with a wetsuit and pdf on, that there’s too much risk with waders on. After doing the test I believe that a fall in waders in the main current would be fatal if a person had a backpack on as well. The river was similar to jumping in a Jacuzzi full of ice water and you didn’t have long before you felt some numbness in the areas exposed.

            On a nice summer day I could probably get out, but in that cold water I’m worried I might panic and not get the backpack off in time as the waders create the drag on me. You definitely would struggle to stand up in the main channel once you’ve moving as the momentum makes it tough to get footing in the sand.

            Now having said that, the bottom was pretty easy to walk on (other than the actual shoreline of mud) and a person who’s careful could cross in waders if they chose the right spot and went slowly across. (I’m guessing 90% of the crossing is on the sand bar with only your feet still in the water, then the other 10% is the main channel and that’s the really dangerous 15-30 feet.)

            — I don’t know waders very well, but can you put them on over a backpack? That would be a very dangerous combination IMO.

          • Thanks for your reply Indy. I’m wondering if Randy would try to cross the river while wearing one of the backpacks over his waders. If he slipped, I don’t think he would be able to remove the backpack and perhaps the weight of it would drag him down. With no sign of him anywhere, or his backpacks, and Leo waiting by the raft, even in waist deep water, this is one unfortunate possibility.

        • Indy you have done the searchers a great service with your bravery.
          Crossing the river has answered the question was it possible.

          This in and of itself supports my theory that Randy went into Frijole canyon.
          Think about it for a minute. Leo was placed in a place that he had shelter
          from the cold winds and sun. The area id on the eastern side of the canyon.
          A place for afternoon sun. No one has found boot tracks beyond the raft area.
          I can not explain the canvas gloves. Perhaps their location in relationship to the raft may be a clue? The broken oar seems to support the ideal that Randy may broken it while trying to beach the raft. What I do not understand is why the paddle end was near the raft but the handle end was not seen in previous photos.

          Questions: If it had broken off in the river being made of plastic wouldn’t it have floated down stream? Could Randy have purposely broken the oar to use as a walking stick? I seem to recall a roundish mark near some footprints in one of the photos. Maybe he used it to to test footing on a river crossing?
          Is there anything that looks like a creek below frijole canyon?

          • Unfortunately the broken oar is a real mystery. It was aluminum and much stronger than it looked. I used the remaining good oar as a walking stick to see if it would break and it didn’t even bend when I put weight on it. I wish I knew why it broke and where the piece is.

        • Frijole Canyon: Home of brown? Pinto beans are brown when cooked.
          No paddle up your creek, just heavy loads and water high: Frijole falls area???

          One thing is certain. Randy’s search area is relatively close by.
          What are we missing??

      • Sacha,sounds like everyone has gone or flew a drone helicopter,rafted in both directions on both sides of river from randys raft,for miles top.middle and bottom.and he has not been found we know. What is left to you think there is quick sand in the river,i heard someone mention that. I thought it was only in the south of the usa.i still say if he wanted to cross the river,he would of floated to the other side . There are no buzzards,so i say no body.if randy pulled that raft that far from river,like in the helicopter picture i saw.we are all thinking ,where is randy.can an animal eat a human bones,skull and all.or carry them away.i know it’s an awful thing to ask.but must be asked.or could he of left the country. Knowing he could not take leo with him.and fixed the raft so leo could be found.

  8. Thinking about why Randy thought the treasure could have been in this area at all, given that almost every searcher has heard FF repeatedly say he made 2 trips to his car in one afternoon. If he considered this, then the only type of place that would fit his need to now raft 9 miles instead of parking and walking, would be one where the terrain had seen a major change in the past few years. I defer to and call upon people who know the area, but the fact that the very serious flash flooding in 2011 washed out what I think is the lower portion of the falls trail in Frijoles might have caused him to think that since it was there when FF hid treasure, he could have parked his car and walked to it, maybe it was a good fit. His raft is located right at the base of the dotted line of the washed out trail if I am correct.

    Even with the damaged raft he may have tried to work his way up the remains of that dotted falls trail path to try and get all the way to that Visitor’s Center and help. This may have been a key reason for him to buy the GPS, to try and stay on what was the old trail. Has it been searched? I am sure, many times. Could he still be in there, possibly. He has to be somewhere, and I am just trying to logic it out.

    • Since no one has yet replied to your queries, maybe this will give some insight:

      Randy may have had that thought, but if he did any recon whatsoever (as it appears he did), he would’ve certainly realized the pre-flood trail, even just to the upper falls was not an easy “stroll” from the nearest parking area – by a long shot. Also, prior to the floods, it was a very popular trail with lots of people on it and VERY constricted/narrow…not condusive to secreting a chest.

      There are no “remains” of the trail below the upper falls anymore – it is SCOURED out. Regardless, and whatever his reasons, according to the park rangers’ search team, it seems both Randy and Leo were on the west river bank at the base of the Frijoles Canyon and former trail (by virtue of the prints found there, of which no photos have yet been provided).


      • Thank you. With so much info floating around it’s hard to collect it all. I also see that it was never an easy walk even before floods. Here’s my thinking though. We searchers all know that FF said he went from car to hide treasure. It’s been repeated many times. So many are puzzled as to why Randy was there. For Randy to feel so compelled as to take this rafting trip to get the treasure, he must have felt that something about the landscape had drastically changed. Why else do it? The only big change was the flood. So, he feels the only way in (no matter how tough) is by rafting. Like I, looking at old maps, wouldn’t know how tough it was even before the flood, it was “just a walk on a trail to the falls”.

        What level of confidence does there seem to be about Randy and Leo’s prints on the west side near Frijoles?

        I am now coming to believe that he landed raft (at his intended spot near his recon X’s), tried to inflate it (the opened bellow pump and tubing), set it up to try and use to get downriver. After all that had to be how he was going to take the 40 lb treasure out. He certainly wasn’t going to carry it. Once inflated, he may have decided to take a “quick” trip over to the west side while giving the raft time to see if it held air. If those tracks are his and Leo’s, my guess is that once on that side he realized how tough it was and tried to return to raft. I don’t think he made it across. Leo manages to get to raft, probably gets paws damaged running up and down riverbank.

        thanks again

        • With what you are thinking about where he was thinking the treasure was and if the prints where his and leos i would say he could have landed on the west side and found out he couldnt get out that way or thought it was to dangerous. With him knowing about the roads on the other side and maybe knowing he could get out on that side or saw part of the trail going down from the top. (When me and sacha searched on the top of the west side you could see that there was a road or trail that went at least part of the way down the side of the canyon on the east side near where the raft was). So they got back in the raft and went down stream and acrossed to see if he could find the trail that gos up on that side. After getting over there he left the dog there while he looked for the trail. While doing that he eathier went along the side of the river and fell in.

          • When I looked at the photos from Saturday it appears that the only way you know you’re at Bandelier is to pass it and then look back up the canyon and see the falls. Randy’s raft is exactly at the spot you would reach on the river to see the falls.
            I’m not sure what happened after he landed, but if he thought the trail up the falls was still viable then he would have had an easy exit (similar to what any visitor would have experienced before 2011).
            In his mind, Fenn might have hidden the treasure before the trail was washed out and that’s why he went there even though the current route is very dangerous.

  9. The fact that Randy has not been located tells me we are all missing something what is it? Even F is asking why! It seems Randy was not thinking correct or why was he that far south? The search sould reflect his being a little different…

    • “The fact that Randy has not been located tells me we are all missing something what is it?”

      It means Randy is either in the lake, or went eastward along the rim of Rio Grande Gorge.

        • @pdenver, “I agree with you, Desertphile.”

          Poor Leo would have had an exceptionally hard trip back down the east mesa to the river, driven there for the need of (liquid) water. Leo’s “home” in the brush might have been found near the raft (Sacha reported); it makes me think Randy’s waders filled with water, and he was swept down river— which means Leo did not need to make his way to the river. It seems to me Randy would have been found by now if he was any other place than the lake. It makes me infinitely sad.

          • I don’t know the area, but it seems to me the east side is so vast and could still hold answers, but the lake and beyond holds my thoughts, too. I try to close my eyes to see what Randy and Leo may have seen, yet, I probably shouldn’t. I agree with you, Desertphile. It is sad for all accounts you’ve mentioned.

          • Unfortunately, I also concur with you Desertphile, that it is looking more and more like Randy got swept under and never surfaced. It is looking less and less likely that he made it up the Eastern rim to walk out.

  10. Thank you for the report, Sacha. You and the searchers once more have gone beyond what anyone could ask for. To find the answers to, “Was it Randy on the rocks?” and, “Could anyone cross the river?” is a relief to know, whether or not the answers were what we had hoped for. I’m truly in awe of the hard work each of you put in yesterday and continue to offer. A commendable job done by all and I sincerely thank you.

  11. In the 5th picture from the top, with just a hillside and blue sky, there is a man. John B is in that picture. Can you spot him?

    I took that picture to show how someone could be standing right above you, and you can’t see them very easily.

    This is what we are up against. If you aren’t standing within 10 feet of something up there, you could miss it completely.

    • That’s amazing Sacha – it did take me awhile to find him – was looking for something larger. The depth perception in these photos is different than you think.

      It’s heroic what you and the others have accomplished so far………Keep the faith.

    • Sasha,
      Thank you from all of us who are thousands of miles away and cannot search for Randy. Your perseverance, compassion and will are awesome. You have my sincere respect.
      If the resolution of your snapshots were more than 600×338, spotting a man would be immeasurably easier. I have posted about megapixels and camera resolution too many times now… It might seem fennatical.
      Thank You again.

  12. A couple of thoughts about the reason no boot prints were found at the raft, the one pic of Randy showing him wearing what looks like chest high neoprene waders, and because these are used normally with boots that have indoor/outdoor carpeting on the soul, which explains why his hiking boots were still in the SUV also separate wader boots that are made extra large to give better traction on slick, mossy rocks in river bottoms. All this leads me to believe a very wide (splayed) ( ) footprint, so wet sand on a river bank is probably going to fill into the shallow and wide imprint he may have left. Also there was some moisture and even ice that any small amount of precipitation would gloss over any impression.

    Thinking that the neoprene would keep him warm in the water he may have walked along the bank and even in the water to get around obstacles like Rocks, cliffs, trees etc. and he would probably want to avoid crossing the river unless it was absolutely necessary, because if your footing is lost in swift current at a deep hole you may get wet and now you are in danger of full blown hypothermia and the sun is setting and he may struggle much harder at night in the dark heading north toward his vehicle.

    Since I am almost 70 I would have a hard time struggling down to search the east side of the Rio to the, but the North does make more sense along the Rio until such obstacle completely hinders the follow the river east side. That pathway would afford him the best option since he may not have been willing to cross the river.

    If he was wearing the blue back pack and unloaded all the little doggie treats he would find it harder to cross the cold river, because the pack would be a drag in the water, even neoprene is lighter than water and tries to float, I personally would never have gone without a life vest, apparently he did not have one.

    Tom T

    • Tom,
      Looking at the second to last photo begs the question; ” How difficult would it be to hike up that area? That area offers a logical possible path because it is so close to civilization and help in case of an emergency.

  13. That’s right Sacha, that is why you do search patterns and go back and forth and have to cover the whole area. Takes a long long time. Many rocks and bushes to hide behind… It’s a hard and pain grueling search. We pray for you every day. You always just look by your feet and 10 feet around you . Safe searching. Vicki

  14. Sacha, thank you for the detailed description of Saturday’s search. You and all the members of the search teams are amazing, strong, and dedicated human beings. Huge thanks to all of you!

  15. REMARKABLE effort to those doing the hard work on the ground! Guess all of us searchers for the treasure need to take heed and learn never to hike alone without someone knowing our plans; too many possible unknown obstacles in areas where we are unfamiliar. Any of us who have been out THERE know it is way different than it looks on Google or on maps. I have had to curtail several of my solves once I got out to the areas – disappointing, and my husband keeps reminding me that it has to be somewhere a 70+ year old man could go. I hope Randy is found soon.

  16. Sacha, and crew thanks for your dedication and all of your devoted time to find Randy. I know it is a blessing to his family!! Keep up the great work and God Bless you all !All of us searchers of FF Treasure are looking at photos and gathering info to help but you and all of your helpers and hard searching Fenners are the true hero’s everyday. Our prayers and thoughts are with you everyday let us know all of what is going on and keep us in the loop!! Good Luck MS. GIRL

  17. Sacha this is an excellent report on your search. When I looked at the picture of the men about to embark on their difficult task, my thought was “If there is a God in heaven, please let Randy know of their efforts.” Randy without ever knowing he had done so, put the “Chase” back in Mr. Fenn’s hands to do with as he so chooses. I believe Randy escalated the treasure hunt to a historical level, and will forever be connected. I’ll bet he is smiling and saying “I won!”

  18. Again, so much hard work and perseverance from the searchers!

    So, what we’re left with is essentially four main scenarios, and (unfortunately) a countless number of sub-scenarios.

    1. He was wading or fell in the river and succumbed to the water.

    The river has been searched a number of times, and nothing has been spotted. It would seem possible that Randy’s backpack would have separated from his body, but no blue object has been noticed downstream. The lake cannot be effectively searched yet, but I wonder how likely it is that his body would have floated all the way to the lake without getting snagged somewhere, particularly if the water was fairly low.

    2. He crossed the river without Leo to exit via Frijoles (or close by).

    Although there is evidence of Randy and Leo having been there to search, there is no evidence of Randy having tried to exit that way – and the area has been searched fairly thoroughly, by all accounts.

    3. He found his way to the top of the mesa on the east bank – either from the general vicinity of the raft or a little further up or downstream.

    The area of the Mesa above the raft has been searched and no evidence found. It was also discovered that negotiating the cliff was treacherous – but it could be done (as proven by Sacha’s team). In the event that Randy chose to exit this way, he could be anywhere on the mesa, and in any direction, and it would possibly take months of searching daily to cover the terrain effectively.

    4. He waded upstream toward his car and exited the river at a place where he felt able to climb out of the gorge.

    Again, the river and its banks have been searched extensively, and so if Randy chose to exit this way, it’s likely he’s on the east mesa further to the north. He could possibly have crossed the river to exit on the Los Alamos side, but unless the route appeared markedly easier, why would he take the additional risk?

    To me, at the moment, scenarios 3 and 4 seem more likely than 1 or 2. Again, they point toward the mesa. It’s also possible that Randy spent a night with Leo at the raft before heading out to seek help the following morning, very cold and hungry.

    Unfortunately, we have to face the possibility that he may not be found for a long while – (possibly only when the ground is dry and passable). It seems the terrain is horrendously unforgiving, even at the best of times.

    • voxpops, your scenario #4 is probably the most likely: 4. He waded upstream toward his car and exited the river at a place where he felt able to climb out of the gorge.

      Again, the river and its banks have been searched extensively, and so if Randy chose to exit this way, it’s likely he’s on the east mesa further to the north. He could possibly have crossed the river to exit on the Los Alamos side, but unless the route appeared markedly easier, why would he take the additional risk?

      Assuming his last known location was at the sandbar near the raft, and at such point he would certainly be at peril to bushwhack up the east face of the george, certainly would have involved walking at night stumbling along unknown, unlit dangers from steep cliffs, rocks and cacti snares which would tear his neoprene or his skin. I think he would opt to leave his food with Leo and promise to return with a new raft to extricate the doggie later.

      If one were to start at the overturned raft and walk up the Rio as far as possible, that is until a cliff or obstacle completely blocked his way on the east side and he was forced to surmount the object and try to rejoin the river or as a last ditch effort try and across the river which may have been in the dark, I would opt to chance going east far enough to pass the cliff/obstacle and rejoin the river until as you said and easier pathway out to the east.

      We are assuming his neoprene waders were still sealing out the water and weather, remember if something could tear a hole in his raft, tearing the waders may also have happened, especially in the dark. You get wet in that case, hypothermia can set in and you are forced to bushwhack eastward in the dark with all the perils described by those brave searchers as almost insurmountable.

      Tom T

  19. Thanks Sacha and everyone else that has been out searching the past two weeks. I am in awe of all you have accomplished and been through in your heartfelt search. Please stay safe and get some rest until the weather clears and you are able to get back out.

    I wanted to add my two cents about a couple of things. One, is the tear in the raft. Looking at the company’s website that manufactures that raft, the bottom inflates as well. So that means though the tear is visible on the bottom, it may not go through both layers and as a result there was no water entering the raft through the tear. If it did go through both layers and water did enter that way, it still should not affect the basic functioning of the raft. The water in the raft would balance out while in the river. When you bring the raft out of the water is when you would notice the waters weight but you could easily tip the raft upside down to dump it out using the ropes on the top of the raft. The outer tube structure is divided into sections so that if any section was punctured the raft would still float with the other sections. The raft was also rated to carry 600 pounds. I mention all of this because I think the raft was still functional when it arrived where it was located.

    As to what happened after Randy went across to search the Frijoles Canyon and then came back out according to the searchers is of course the big problem. Leo throws a wrench into so many possibilities because he was at the raft and not with Randy. I am adding a link to my website again to the “Other Stuff” section. You will need to scroll about halfway down the pictures to reach the ones about Randy. They start after my map of the search area that shows the New Mexico section.

    Again, I am just throwing these ideas out there and I am sure they duplicate many thoughts that have already been thrown out there but here they are for whatever:

    Thanks again to all of the searchers that are taking the risks and going out on the trail. Wish I could be there!

    • To zoom in on the pictures, if you have a scroll wheel on your mouse simply hold down the control key (Ctrl) and scroll. Otherwise go to the top right hand corner and click on the tree lines in Chrome or the three dots in Windows Explorer and select zoom.

      • TxTH, can you please tell me how I can get those trail images on Google Earth. I want to be able to zoom down and get the detail. Thanks

        • There are two ways. One is under view. Select “Historical View” and a time line bar will appear in the top left area of your screen. Just slide the locator or click on the arrow at either end to select the date. The other way is the clock face on the menu bar across the top of the screen. It does the same thing.

  20. I think we need a comprehensive list of the items Randy may have been carrying.
    I am seeing postings of items I was unaware he may have had…I.E. Gps locator?? We all are aware he had a cellphone. A raft. His dog leo.
    If this information is scattered across several Chats in various blogs. It only makes it harder for everyone to be on the same page.

    Like many armchair searchers, I admire the courage, fortitude and tenaciousness of those out on the ground. It is good to know that
    there is such dedication within the rank and file of our family.
    To the boots on the ground: Imho you all are the Elite,
    if there was a medal for search and recovery beyond the call of duty.
    You all have earned it.

    Most impressive is the development of a systematic search for Randy.
    Gods speed

    • Hi Chad………

      I like your idea of a comprehensive list…….and since that was your idea, when are you going to put it together and post it – I’m sure we would all appreciate it very much. Thanks.

      • Here is the issues I face in doing so.
        Finding factual information in the various chase chats.
        Contacting people with first hand knowledge to verify any and all leads.
        I am the first one to admit that my google foo is lackluster at best.
        For whatever it is worth I made this blog my home. I did so
        after looking over some of the other blogs and they held little appeal for me.
        Sadly I do not have the skills that this requires. So I hope someone that does will take up this challenge.

        Best Regards

    • This is my list of what he *probably* had with him and notes on why I think he had them:
      • Blue backpacks? He owned two (a JanSport and a Gonex) and neither has been found (although I don”t think his apartment has been searched). It makes sense he would have them both since he would need one for his gear and one for the treasure (but could he carry both???). Chances are he had at least one.
      • Whistle – His family says he usually carried one but we don’t know for sure.
      • Cell phone
      • Raft
      • Leo
      • On Jan 4, he told a friend he had a GPS, wet suit and waders (per Linda Bilyeu’s blog). Assuming this is correct, since they haven’t been found, he likely had them with him.

      • Sharman –

        Yes, and perhaps he had………….

        sunglasses,as the glare off the water can be bright.

        some type of gloves (We know canvas gloves were found) would one take that kind if you were rowing – I would take water proof gloves and also a warm pair for out of the water.

        a few bottles of water, as we know there is an open package of water in the car. I wonder how many are still there – and any empties in the car?

        I wonder if anyone ever went hiking with him? Did he always do this alone? That “someone” would know what he would normally take.

  21. Does anyone know the distance from the east rim where Randy’s raft was located to Montoso Peak? If one stood at the rim and looked east, could you see it?

    Also, scanning Google Earth and found what looks like some form of structures. Not sure if anyone owns property out in the middle of nowhere (pardon my expression). What are your thoughts?

    35.744128 -106.161517

  22. Yall did some good work. Very brave. That area in the yellow circle did look like a person laying g there but shadows can trick you. Be safe.

  23. Sacha and Team, I am so proud of you all, Every one is amazing and you are all so dedicated and loving to give your time and the hard work it takes with boots on the ground to search for Randy.
    You make me Proud that the Thrill of the Chase Family is doing so much to bring Randy home.
    Gods Blessings and his Love to you all.

  24. I don’t see the logic that Leo must have stayed by the raft otherwise he would have cut up his paws.

    My understanding was that he had a lot of damage to his paws suggesting a relatively long journey away from the raft area? The damage evident to the Searchers who picked up Leo may have been partially healed.

    If wild canines are able to move around OK in the area without damaging their paws then perhaps Leo walked a fair way to cause his damage?

    I believe Randy was a considerate dog owner so he would be unlikely to have let Leo wear out his paws. This suggests the damage happened after he separated from Randy – That is, maybe Leo made a relatively long journey after he separated from Randy, taking the only option available by retracing his steps back to the raft.

    • Having grown up in Los Alamos and knowing the area, I am wondering why someone would deliberately leave a small dog alone in a place known to be home to coyotes and mountain lions. The fact that Leo was left behind makes me think something tragic and irreversible happened to his owner. I think Leo is lucky to have been found alive.

  25. From the rim above the raft, one cannot see Montoso peak. Someone in the group asked at one point, while there on the rim, “what is the direction of Montoso Peak?” I know that I could not see it at all from that vantage point.

    • Hello Slurbs. Thank you for answering one of my questions. I know I had asked before, but I don’t believe anyone had answered. I had wondered if Randy got lost, if he would spot Montoso Peak and head in that direction to get his bearings or find help by climbing up and signaling an aircraft. Do you know what the approximate distance is from the rim to Montoso Peak? I believe I may have been the “someone” (or one of a few from the group) who asked about what direction Montoso Peak was from the rim, because I had a feeling there was something in the general area from both positions. Once again, thank you.

        • Thank you so much for answering, Sacha. How close would you say you would need to be walking away from the east rim (heading east) in order to see Montoso Peak? 1/2 mile…1/4 mile…closer?

          • IF you managed to find the trail up from the bottom, and IF you are able to stay on the trail without losing it, and IF you are able to make it to the top….it depends.

            If you are walking in a straight line, you would have to be within a quarter mile of it to see it. The juniper are so thick that you have only 10 to 15 feet visibility in any direction. They are also very tall for junipers.

            If you managed to find the road, you would encounter 15 miles of winding roads, and without a map handy, it would be impossible to know the correct sequence of roads. You don’t see Montoso until you are within 1000 feet of it.

            We had a map, and Scott, who has spent over 3 days and 1 night in the area guiding us. We took 2 wrong turns, even with all that knowledge. Also, almost every person has some form of GPS.

          • My gosh…I’m speechless, Sacha! If Randy made it to the top, he literately could be anywhere. It sounds like he could have easily lost his way. It would seem one would need to do like they do to find avalanche victims; create a line of searchers (5-10′ to 10-20′ apart) and walk a grid. Thank you for describing this to me. I greatly appreciate it.

  26. While on the search yeasterday with our newest search alone with the youngest one that has helped who is Anthony. I would like to give him a salute for coming out because he is not one of the treasure hunters or he has not ever met Randy but fellows this blog and came out to help search any way just cto help find a fellow human that has been missing. The two of us went to the north rat first on the top of the rim until we found the gloves where one of them riped. We looked around that spot and found some old prints going down a steep wash and fallowed them down the steep canyon about half way down until it was to late and had to leave. When we where on the search on top we witnessef sean doing his crossing of the river and you could see at times where the river was swift against sean even when he was in shallow water. I have some experence of walking across rivers but not even close to sean. You could see how he was being careful as he took a step and also how he was crossing at an up streem angle where he could use the movment of the water and footing to keep him up right so the water could not push him over. I also would say not to try doing this unless the use of a safty rope or having the right training. Also anthony was doing good to go where we did on the steep canyon side. The spot we where going down would be a place a person could have able to go down with hiking boots but not waders and more likely would fall. The gloves we found most likely some one else had lost maybe a searcher or some one from SAR. I myself would think our next searches should be down stream if we got sweep down stream if he did try to cross or on the west side up stream. Im sure we will go down stream if we get permission to go on indian land to look. Thanks again to the rest of my fellow searchers and also the new ones that seem to keep coming out to help, every time we have a big group going out it seems theres anothet new person coming out. Also thanks to the ones that come out in heart to help that cant be here to help.

  27. Sacha, you & your search team are doing an amazing job. Everyone who posts on this blog is in awe of the effort all of you bring every time you venture out. Glad you all returned home safely.

  28. I agree with others who believe that Randy went into the river and never came out. The fact that Leo was found by the river strongly points to this theory. Dogs are very loyal and wait for their owners. They do not wander away.

  29. I was the one following Sacha down the canyon and it was like following a mountain goat. Especially on the way back up. Didn’t even slow her down. So when I wanted to try a way up and around the falls and she said it looked to dangerous I had to finally defer to her judgement. Good thing after seeing these videos.

  30. I was thinking He may of made that u shape out of stone so it could be seen from the air if he is not as I mentioned up river without a paddle Dal Sent you that Photo did you get it and view it?

  31. Maybe the 10 to 20% of the proceeds could go to help Randy’s Family His girls most important. I do still have hope that we bring him home alive. With Fire he has a prayer without it he was doomed right out of the gate. Put a fire starter on it. Jeff Burch and Titan

  32. There are a finite number of ways out of the canyon: east bank, west bank, and downstream. West Bank and downstream start off with a check mark against them since the raft was on the east bank. The river has been searched by boat and air from Buckman to the ice at Cochiti. This lowers the downstream odds further still. SAR searched the main west bank from Buckman to Frijoles. Nora searched Ancho on foot. I searched it by air. There are other west bank trails to civilization: Red Dot and Blue Dot trails which have likely been hiked by locals since then. They are lower probability in any event because he’d have had to walk past Ancho where he’d already hiked to in order to get to them. Of course the east bank location of the boat is a mark against the west bank to begin with. That leaves the east bank. There are three east bank routes: (1)east bank on the river, (2)rim to Buckman by road, (3)rim to Buckman cross country.
    If he planned on either 2 or 3 I don’t think he made it to the rim. There is the Leo problem for one thing. I don’t know why Leo would return to the raft from the rim. There is water on the rim. It is becoming increasingly unlikely that he is in between the rim and raft as a large number of people have scrambled on those slopes, including SAR. I think I’d have done the trail we used Saturday (and then (3)) but Bob Moore who knows that place like the back of his hand said (1) would have been his chosen route because once you clear the dangerous boulder hopping stuff between Frijoles and the top of Ancho rapid it is an easy walk to the car. The boulder-hopping section has been searched from the river and air but NOT from the ground. I keep a sort of thermal mental probability map if the search. Given the facts, (1) is burning hot now. (1) is dangerous not because it requires technical rock climbing ability but because it is brutal rugged terrain and is very easy to get hurt in*. If he started on (1) and was injured early Leo would likely have had to return to the river because there would be little/no water on the rock. He could easily have had a fall that ended up with Leo below him and unable to reach him. (1) would be very slow going and Randy would likely have been at least a little impatient. Impatience kills.
    *I think the canyon Sam and I went into Saturday is similar. At one point I fell 3′ into the arroyo at the bottom of the canyon because the rock I was standing flat-footed on decided to crumble. I caught my fall with my bad hand but was otherwise uninjured. Could just as easily have broken a leg.
    SAR searched most of the east bank except for (1) from the ground.
    You can put hiking Frijoles, a “big mistake” in Randy’s words as an additional very unlikely west bank route.

  33. Has anyone searched the area of Ancho Rapids for Randy and his backpack? It seems to me that the hole in the raft and the broken oar point to trouble at that location.

  34. Mark,

    Sacha and I received this email Monday from Bob Rodgers who heads the NM SAR:

    ” One of my K-9 teams recently discovered an article of clothing close to the river location where the raft was located. I don’t believe that it was Randy’s but I need to rule out other possibilities first. Could you contact any of your searchers that were down in the river location and see if anyone is short a jacket. If they are, they can contact me, describe the jacket and get it returned.

    If the jacket isn’t a searchers, then it may belong to Randy and it may develop into an important clue that may lead to his discovery.

    I will be contacting other searchers as well.”

    I have not heard if anyone claimed the coat, but this leads me to believe there is still searching under way, even if sporadically. I believe Cochiti Pueblo unlocks the gate to Tetilla Peak April 15th which will allow us to search the east side of Cochiti Lake where the river enters. I have talked to a few guys who are interested in joining me in a search there when we can get to that area.


  35. It is not mine Cynthia, but since we looked everywhere else, and it found South and toward Cochiti Lake, seems that is most likely where Randy may have gone, down stream..??

    Tom T

  36. CYNTHIA when are you thinking of going out to look again ill join you on the search if im able to get to the meeting spot. Give me a call or txt. Thanks

    • I am so sorry for Linda’s loss but do believe that, regardless of what she thinks about Forrest’s treasure hunt, it was Randy’s poor decision to go search where and when he did that lead to his disappearance.

      On a side note, again the article incorrectly stated that the TC is in NM. Forrest never said that although many have interpreted his statements to mean that.

  37. Robert, you wrote a very good article about the disappearance of Randy Bilyeu somewhere in the Rio Grande near Bandelier National Monument so by now I am sure people have let you know that Forest Fenn only said the treasure chest was hidden somewhere in the (Rocky) mountains north of Santa Fe, not necessarily in Northern NM.

    Having been on searches looking for Randy (or his remains) and later to hear that some people advocate stopping the search, like Linda Bilyeu, I am reminded of the old saying “no good deed goes unpunished” so let it be with Forrest Fenn.

    Some time ago a film production group called Moonshots Productions, an Emmy award wining film crew were hired by “Animal Planet Network” to begin a possible pilot series for treasure hunting in the Rockies, we met In Santa Fe, we meaning myself, my brother, my wife and a very attractive young couple all signed contracts as reality actors, the couple had been actors before.

    The first shooting was set in a beautiful adobe home near Upper Canyon Road, we then proceeded up 285 to our first outdoor location, near the Old Embudo Station on the Rio, several miles into the gorge, from there we traversed the Gorge Bridge and traveled thru Taos to Angel Fire into the Moreno Valley near Black Lake.

    My purpose in telling you this is to explain the effect that Forrest Fenn’s hidden treasure has had on our state which for the most part is very positive.

    At the start of our search, I passed out whistles small bells and pepper spray to everyone so if they felt threatened, lost or if they found something interesting we could hear their call and come with help including firepower if necessary, On camera, I told a fictitious story about how our group had only lost one woman searcher, but we found found her safely late that evening because she kept whistling and dinging her bell. I intentionally sounded serious at first but ended it with a laugh and a joke about how you can tell if a Brown Bear is following after you or if its a Black Bear sniffing you out, you look at the bear skat you find along the trail and if it has berry seeds in it it’s a Black Bear, if the Skat has bells whistles or pepper spray containers its a Brown!

    Humor about the dangers of the Rocky Mountains is no laughing matter, admittedly safety is very Important and your first consideration. While I am native New Mexican and an avid outdoors man some of the people who search are woefully unprepared. That is why Forrest is hold harmless and if searchers get in trouble they need to follow the advice we used in the Amphib Navy during Nam, the Boy Scouts and Explores’ everywhere BE PREPARED!

    Tom Terrific

  38. I’ve been a little out of the loop lately and will continue to be for a while, due to jury duty, so please excuse me if someone has already mentioned this….

    SFePD has announced that indeed human remains have been found just north of Cochiti Lake by the Army Corps of Engineers. Speculation is that it is Randy, but that has not been confirmed yet.

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