La Caja Pueblo Ruins – Final Chapter…



Continued from Part Three…

It was January when I last published Part Three about searching La Caja Pueblo Ruins. I was still trying to get to the “Imaginary Line” where the Santa Cruz River enters the inlet to Santa Cruz Lake. This area of shoreline, I thought, would be directly below the ruins, my home of Brown.

I made an attempt to access this spot in late February via the Debris Basin Trail. My day was cut short when I found a German Shepard caught in an animal trap just to the side of the trail. She was big and beautiful and timid… her foot was pinched and she couldn’t escape. Eventually, I found help, and she was released, unharmed. I wanted to take her home, but she bolted as soon as she was free.


In early March I decided to try a different approach. I parked at the gate to the Santa Cruz Lake Overlook Campground and walked back the road. My plan was to walk across the ridge tops to the inlet and look down at the shoreline at this imaginary line. As I ambled along the edge of the road that day, I found a $10 dollar bill lying there. Another five yards and I found a $5 dollar bill, and then a trail of $1 dollar bills…six of them in succession crossing the road to the weeds on the other side. A total of $21, I was thrilled. I mean, ecstatic…you’d think I had found the treasure.

I continued my hike towards the edge of the ridge-top. Before I got to the final spot, I realized this was too difficult for Fenn to have made two trips…I retreated once again.

The Final Chapter

Here it is the middle of May. Despite being pretty positive by now that Fenn did not hide his treasure chest here, I couldn’t get it out of my head. I had to get to this area to see it for myself.

Plan D: A couple days ago Michelle bought a kayak. I suggested we take it to Santa Cruz Lake for its maiden voyage. I’d drop her off at the boat ramp, where she’d set off and paddle to the opposite shore at the far end of the lake. While she paddled, I’d drive around to the trailhead up by the Overlook Campground, and Molly and I would hike down to the stand of cottonwoods where she would meet us. She agreed.

That night I could barely sleep. I knew, or was at least pretty sure, that I was finally going to get to see the “imaginary line”, both shorelines beneath the La Caja Pueblo Ruins where the inlet meets the river.


It was a gorgeous May day with no wind…perfect for kayaking. Plan D started off perfectly. Molly watched from the end of the pier as Michelle paddled away.


It was an eight mile drive from the boat ramp, around the winding road through Cundiyo, and back the dirt road to the Overlook Campground and Trailhead. In less than fifteen minutes, Molly and I were headed down the trail. The Sangre de Cristos stood out on the horizon to the east, still displaying pockets of snow on the Truchas Peaks.


As Molly and I made our way down the twisting trail, we could see Michelle off in the distance, waiting for us to meet at our destination beneath the stand of cottonwoods.


Click to enlarge and read text


Michelle in yellow kayak on right, approaching the shoreline.

ImageExtract-008 Our plan was under way. Michelle was checking the depth of the water along the shoreline. I wanted to wade to the inlet, if possible.

ImageExtract-009 I carefully made my way to the water’s edge as Michelle continued around to the inlet. I removed the bottoms of my pant legs, and exchanged my hiking boots for old, worn- out sandals to wade through the water.

Molly and I waited patiently for Michelle to return and give us the news. Was the water shallow enough the entire way to the inlet to wade along the shoreline? I crossed my fingers as my excitement swelled…


Michelle returned with bad news. The shallow water soon gave way to really deep- looking water…no wading was possible after about ten yards. I told her to paddle to the inlet and river and asked her to take a lot of pictures, especially the shorelines and bluffs, etc, anything that could be construed as a blaze, or anything that looked like a “special place”.

As she paddled away, I had a good idea…Molly and I would climb up the hillside and cross the ridges on top, and then find a ravine or run-off to get back down to the water’s edge nearer the inlet/river. I was in such a hurry I didn’t bother to put my hiking boots back on. I clutched them in my left hand as I looked for a path upwards.

At first this seemed doable but then the terrain became really steep with scree filling the run-offs that I was trying to climb up. The footing turned treacherous and my feet slid out from under me every few steps. I was even using my hands on the ground as I crawled along and up. I smelled skunk and hoped it was the vegetation and not the animal. I had lost track of Molly and hoped that she didn’t find the skunk, or any rattlesnakes, or anything else. I now was consumed with only my safety as I approached 40 feet up the bluff/hillside and across the first ridge.

Soon I could hear Michelle shouting to me from below…I couldn’t see her but knew she had come back to where we had been. She told me to turn around and go back to the cottonwood stand immediately. She found Molly perched precariously on a crumbly-looking pinnacle 30 feet above her, with only rocks beneath, not even the water. If she fell there, it would be bad.

I wasn’t sure of my retreat path, but decided to try to go down the same ravine of scree I had used to ascend. Almost immediately, my feet went out from under me and I started to slide downward on my knees and elbows…I grabbed a pine tree branch as I slid by but a large rock continued and banged my left ankle…it hurt. Thank goodness the branch was sturdy and stopped my rapid descent. I stood up, sort of and assessed the damage. Abrasions, trace of blood, no broken bones. I turned around and purposely sat down…I would ride down this ravine of scree on my butt. Still holding my hiking boots in my left hand, I began the descent…I thought of Randy. Obsession and over-confidence are probably the worse two traits when we search for Fenn’s treasure. I was ashamed to admit I exhibited both of those this day with my bad decision, even putting Molly at risk.

It wasn’t long until I was at the shoreline, Molly found her way to us, and Michelle landed the kayak so we could come up with another plan. She said she had found a good “special place” that I needed to see. She gave me her life jacket and off I went in her kayak.


A possible special place



A name below the red arrow



Approaching where the river enters the inlet. A rock bluff on one side and a shoreline of thick willows on the opposite shore. Definitely not accessible on foot, IMO.



I did not exit the kayak and search for Fenn’s treasure chest at the “special place”. There was no way Forrest could have arrived there on foot, and I don’t think he used a boat or kayak or canoe to hide the chest. I paddled away, content that at last I had seen the “imaginary line”.

As Molly and I headed up the trail, I turned around to get one last picture of Santa Cruz Lake. I could see Michelle as a tiny dot in the center of the lake as she paddled towards the boat ramp. It was a bittersweet moment for me. I had made many trips to this area to search for Fenn’s treasure since last October, and now it was over.


As Michelle and I drove home, we discussed the day’s adventure. Despite the abrasions, bruises, and her accidently rolling out of the kayak into the lake (near the cottonwood stand which was hilarious but unfortunately not captured on video), we all had a great day…no, we had an awesome day!

As I was explaining to her how I was done there and how I’d need to come up with a new search location, a brilliant thought flashed through my brain…what if Forrest …



35 thoughts on “La Caja Pueblo Ruins – Final Chapter…

  1. Excellent story Cynthia! The photos are awesome! I really felt like I was along for the adventure!
    Thanks so much for sharing.


    • Cynthia,
      I’ve always thought that you had no have a set of wings on you. Could it possibly be that with all of the effort that you put forth for Randy that he shined down on you that day and saved you instead?I do believe that things happen for a reason..I am so glad that your both OK and that you have finally been able to finish that part of your solve. I only hope that I can make the Fennboree just so that I can meet you. I only want 2 signatures Forrest Fenn’s and yours. Both seem to be able to put people they do not know in front of them first.
      Good Luck on all your future treks and Always be safe…..

  2. @Cynthia – great story! You did find treasure indeed. So much treasure that will last a lifetime. Hoping you find lots more treasure in the years that come.

  3. Looks like a fun day was had. I can only imagine what the inhabitants of the ruins saw when they lived there. What a view. So special.

  4. Hello Cynthia. Thank you for sharing your awesome adventure. Memories are the best to make and have. Just walked through the door minutes ago from mine. What a blast! 🙂

    P.S. The chest is still out there. Bummer. 🙂

  5. Thanks for sharing your adventure! I look forward to meeting you in 3 weeks!

  6. I’d like put that trap on the human that left it there.
    I know people have to eat but right next to a trail ?

  7. The treasure chest may have been a mirage, but that beautiful lake was the real deal… And you were meant to help the German Shepherd. Sure hope she made it home.

  8. Thanks for sharing. Definitely looks like a special place, but I agree that its too hard for FF to get there.
    Can you email me at mcmulgl at yahoo dot com ?
    I have something I would like to share with you

  9. My mother and me passed by Santa Cruz lake yesterday, and I thought of you. I thought that we still had one week until the overlook was open. You couldn’t wait. Neither could I. We were searching further up the road.

  10. Thank you for sharing your story and pictures. I’m glad you are ok and thank you for helping the German Shepherd.

  11. Going that extra mile, imagination, diligence. showed it all. Especially compassion! Sorry you didn’t find the treasure in there, but you definately experienced riches, new and old!
    Good luck on your next adventure!
    ¥Peace ¥

  12. Great story and pictures Cynthia. So glad you, Michele, and Molly made it out safely.
    I am sure the German Shepard is happy you were there too.

  13. Hello everyone, That was a great story but, here is where I thank the treasure is; New Mexico, Up the Gallinas Canyon, people in the Las Vegas N.M. area will tale you that this canyon takes you Half Way To Heaven. I be leave Fenn wasn’t going to let nature do this to him, so he was going to take his self at least half way there on his terms. OK, first line of the poem ( Clue #1- alone; a man in there alone is – a hermit, to the northeast of Santa Fe is Hermits Peak, this area has thousands of aches around it. The rest of the poem will take you to the exact spot. Third and forth line of the poem starts the adventure towards the Hermits peak area. Clue #2; secret, You know the saying, What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but he is referring that to Las Vegas N.M. not Las Vegas NV. you must go to Las Vegas N.M. to enter the Gallinas Canyon towards Hermits Peak, that is the only way in. Las Vegas N.M. only has a hint of riches in the old town and the new town compered to Las Vegas NV. The Gallinas river splits the old town and the new town of Las Vegas N.M. Clue #3; where warm waters halt, when you leave Vegas on Hotsprings Blv. it will take you to the beginning of the Gallinas Canyon at Montezuma N.M. there are the hotsprings that halt in some very old rock tubs, one of the tubs next to the road is called cooler then a hotspring ( warm) Clue #4 canyon down if you look up those two words together they means take it all the way in, follow the Gallinas river all the way. Now, Not far, but to far to walk is not a clue its just a hint. Clue #5 Put in below the home of Brown. This is your biggest clue, going in the canyon you are on Forest Road if you follow this road in Forest Road will go straight and there is a Forest Road that turns to the left, put in also means to enter, below the home of Brown means, well I will get to that in just a minute, at that intersection is the beginning of a Forest Reserve, if you stay straight ahead, Clue #6 its no place for the meek, the road gets bad you have to drive across water that is high and there are heavy loads of granite rock hanging over the road, but don’t worry the end is ever drawing nigh. OK, The home of Brown is the Brown trout fishery that is at the end of this road, Charlie Middleton and his wife Nena rented cabins and razed trout in the ponds, also released them into the Gallinas river. Look up the Middleton’s in that area in 1947. Clue #7 this clue if you’ve been wise and found the blaze; means you have to look for it, and if you pass the Middleton’s on the road look to the right up behind the trout ponds there is a large white granite rock all by its self on the hill you can’t miss it, WOW what a blaze ( marker ) the road will end at a circle loop, stop and get out. When you get to the top of that rock, Clue #8 look quickly down; go to the edge and look over it there is another level to this rock he laid down and dropped the box to that level, the reason I be leave he dropped it is when Fenn said as he walked back to his car he laughed and said to himself; Forest did you really just do that, witch tells me he could not by himself go back and retrieve it. Now at this point you have the treasure and you open it, LAST CLUE #9 in the wood; if you have notice on the inside of the lid of the box is wood, it’s a valuable box but you must be brave and take the wood off because behind it is a Will of some sort signed by Fenn and his lawyer giving the finder the ownership to the gold. You must have this document to be able to leave with it without any Forest Rangers taking it away from you. follow every step of this on google map, you will know !

    • Thomas, Can’t say your spot is wrong, but FF has said the he could go back and get it if he wanted to, on more than one occasion.

      • That is true, but at that time after two trips up the hill he was to tired too. ( he’s done it tired but now he’s weak. LOL )

    • If it has a KOA, a chain-up area, and a restaurant with hot coffee- I am there!

    • The treasure is over 8.25 miles north of Santa Fe. Your spot isn’t north of Santa Fe.

      • Has Forrest ever clarified with definity the treasure is over 8:25 miles north of the CITY of Santa Fe? Perhaps he meant southern boundary of Santa Fe County line. I don’t recall him saying the city of Santa Fe.

        • Fundamental Guidelines…by Forrest
          The treasure is hidden more than 8.25 miles north of the northern limits of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

          • Thanks Not Obsessed. Nice of you to locate the quote for searchers in question.

      • oh, but it is, and midway up the Gallinas canyon is on his map, Hermits peak is too.

    • Thomas … interesting theory; some good logic, but two problems here.

      First, somewhere FF said that the reference to ~ 8 miles north of Santa Fe referred to the northern edge of the city of Santa Fe. In latitude your area thus appears to be south of ~ 8 miles north of northern border of the city. Your area would be outside FF’s designated search area.

      Second, by putting your theory in this thread you have, perhaps inadvertently, hijacked Cynthia’s thread about her solution. Perhaps Dal or someone can move your theory to a new thread, together with associated comments. Just a suggestion.

      Ken 🙂

      • I’m new to these sites and was just throwing my theory out there, but I have mapped this out, the latitude from Santa Fe run just south of the town of Gallinas, witch puts Gallinas north, and the rest of the canyon that runs north west in the search area. Now Montezuma and Las Vegas is south but the chest is not there. If you put a 8.25 circle around Santa Fe that spot is farther then that. I don’t now how Cynthia is and have never seen her solve, I would like to. Where could I find that?

  14. Nice adventure and the one before when you saved a canine friend. Now when do I get my lost money back.;)

  15. Exciting but harrowing adventure, Cynthia. Someone once said: “risk is proportional to adventure”, the greater the risk, the greater the adventure … and vice versa. I think you took enough risks to make your search a true adventure.

    Of course, just because you didn’t find the chest doesn’t mean it’s not still there … somewhere, maybe a couple hundred feet from where you were looking. 🙂

    Nice rescue of the dog.


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