SUBMITTED SEPTEMBER 2016
Let me begin with a few disclaimers. This is long. Everything in this post is my opinion. I reference several quotations from the books and Forrest himself, but I don’t have the specific references to them all and they may not be exact. I hope I have referenced them correctly. I have not done a BOTG search at the location of this solve. I am sharing this publicly because like many of you, I find ‘the chase’ to be consuming my life, so I’m getting this off my treasure chest if you will. If someone does go and find the treasure and this has been helpful, I’d hope you would share a few nuggets…
As a bit of context, I grew up in the Midwest and my roots there are important to my solve. I grew up participating with my parents and later my family in puzzle “road rallies” almost every Saturday night in the fall and spring. These “puzzle” or sometimes “gumball” rallies are distinctly Midwest events which are essentially treasure hunts / scavenger hunts on wheels. See http://roadrallyinfo.com/ as a reference. The basic idea is you are in a car with a group of people and competing with dozens of other groups in their cars. At a starting location you are each given a “clue”. Solving that clue leads to a new destination. At that destination you do something to prove you got there correctly and then get instructions for the next clue and so on. A typical rally covers 10 clues and about 25-40 miles and always ends at a bar/restaurant and prizes are awarded, etc. The “winner” gets a cash prize and to plan the next rally. Coming in second is often considered to be ‘winning’ because planning these takes a lot of effort. I’ve participated in hundreds and planned more than a dozen. They are sometimes fundraisers for church organizations, etc. Unfortunately, where I live currently this is just not an activity that anyone understands. I miss them. Forrest, thank you for giving me a new type of road rally.
So when I first heard about TTOC a few years ago I immediately thought of it in this context. It is very typical for a road rally clue to be a poem or a narrative that has in it embedded instructions/hints as to the destination. Common puzzles would be the first letter of every word would spell out a destination, or perhaps the nth letter (matching the number of the clue). Words that were misspelled, words with double letters, words that matched army call signs like ‘WTF’, anagrams, etc. Clues with codes, changing numbers to letters and such are very common. In any case for better or for worse this is the context with which I approached the chase. I believed that the poem and it’s “9 clues” will at a minimum reveal an EXACT starting location if not the final destination. Otherwise might as well stay home and play canasta. And despite all the commentary on poem purist’s vs needing the books as reference, I believe the poem solution would be self-contained. I think Forrest has said as much repeatedly although the “girl in India” comment most recently may debunk some of that. He has also said that a “two year old” or a “child” could solve it and I believe most importantly said that he felt like an “architect” while creating this poem.
All of this led me immediately to a “grid” type solve. I felt like Forrest was a child playing with letter blocks stacked in 2 dimensions and the “clues” were contained within them. The only thing that has given me any pause about this theory is the typo around “The answer(s) I already know”. Forrest has said that it doesn’t matter and as it turns out it does not, but I think it is critical to understanding how to “solve” the poem as I will demonstrate.
So, I started with a grid with no punctuation (credit to Blake/SidNCharley who first posted a ‘grid’ solution)
I was drawn to the line “If you’ve been wise and found the blaze, look quickly down” and began to search for the blaze. I know about all the discussion about not starting with the blaze, but I did it anyway. The most obvious blaze for me has always been the SUN. It fits everything that has been said about it.
– Can you see find the blaze during the day – “in a word, yes”
– How far is the blaze from the hiding spot – “I didn’t measure”
– A hint in TOTC in Lewis and Clark – “used some mountain man WISDOM, SUN rises in the east”
So off to find the blaze, IN THE POEM.
I looked quickly down.
If you look down a column in the poem you only find the letters, “S”, “U” and “N” together in 5 columns – 2, 6, 15, 18 and 22. There are multiple ways to arrange the lines of the poem to spell out SUN. Words like “AND” and “SO” provide lots of “S” and “N” and many, but not an unrealistic number of combinations.
I know the admonitions against anagramming, but while technically an anagram. This is different. It is in ‘tight focus’ with a ‘word that is key’, “SUN” and while providing many possibilities it is still limiting. I would note btw, that it is only possible to spell “SUN” in 4 of the 5 columns at the same time and that leads to only a few possible solutions.
I just imagined Forrest playing with blocks over 15 years and arranging the lines to hide just the right message
Then I found this.
Blaze. Look quickly down. HALT HOW = ICE. Ok. Random? I don’t think so. Even the “S” in “waters” starts to spell another “SUN”. I will note that just to the left of “HALT HOW” is the word ANTRE. That threw me for a long while. I’ll let the word definition experts dig into that and go down that rabbit hole… I know Forrest has said no ‘red herrings’ but that would be a giant one.
This made me think I was on to something, but despite months of trying, I couldn’t get to a specific solve from the poem – despite lots of places that would fit with the basic clues and ANTRE. Then two things happened. Forrest said something like “to my uncertain knowledge I don’t believe anyone has considered one important possibility related to the winning solve” AND someone posted that ‘nigh’ also meant ‘left’. Forrest has also said that he looked at it from every angle. I’ve also always been bothered by the ‘typo’ of the “The answer(s) I already know” between TOTC and TFTW even though either doesn’t impact the available SUNs.
What if the poem draws nigh?
And now we search for the blaze. Turns out you can only spell “SUN” in … you guessed it 5 columns – 6, 18, 21, 24 and 27 – and only 4 together at the same time. Curious. Well after much experimentation I found.
Nine precise words that lead directly to the treasure. “IN A WELL AT RISING SUN, LOT TEN (FROM) END”. Quickly down in just a few columns. Glowing blaze. Anagram, ok, but really? 5 columns across 9 lines out of 24 and 5 of the 9 from the last 6 lines of the poem, starting with “THE ANSWER”.
And a very nice “X” marks the spot RISING ‘X’ TREASURE and “THE ANSWER(S) ‘I’” pointing right to it.
It also begins with “BEGIN” and ends with “END”. “FROM” may be optional and that is something a BOTG search will need to establish.
I would note that there are MANY “RISING SUN” in the 4 states, but the only one that really makes sense is RISING SUN CAMPGROUND in Glacier National Park (halt how – ice) on St. Mary’s Lake. Several of the lots have potable water wells including number 10 and number 10 from the end. You can find all of this information online.
Why this makes sense….
“Warm Waters Halt” = Glacier / Ice
“Canyon Down” = From the summit of Going to the Sun Road (seasonal search only open July-Sept) also “down” in the poem
“Gone alone in there” = Well (although you really don’t have to crawl in which is why it would still be safe for your kids the reservoir area of these water pump wells looks to be only a few feet deep)
“Hint of riches” = Lots of mining used to be in this area
“Home of Brown” = Brown Mountain or if you prefer a more proper name Brown and his home (it is directly below Pincher Creek, Alberta – Home of the cabin of Kootenai Brown – interesting guy)
“No place for the meek” = In a well and lots of bear activity in the area (in fact it was closed last summer because of bears and then a fire
“Drawing nigh” = Draw water from a well (I would note the picture of the water pipe on the cover of TOTC and also there is a picture in TFTW of the Fenn cabin and its very similiar water well.
“Heavy Loads” = Water buckets
“Waters high” = Lifting water buckets
“Done it tired and now I’m weak”. Ask anyone who has drawn water from a well
“No paddle up your creek”… columns down in the poem is my creek, but maybe Rose Creek trail at the end of the campground.
“Worth the cold” = Wet / glacier. It’s already snowing above 7000 feet there – in August. It’s cold.
“In the wood” = wood casing (and one other possibility that only BOTG would tell for sure)
“it’s wet”, indeed.
Searchers within 200 feet but went right past it. The road is very close, more like 500 feet.
The first two clues WWWH = “Glacier National Park”, CD = “Rising Sun Road”
Why it may not make sense…
No human trails. Hmmm. This one is always challenging. There are trails like Rose Creek at the end of the campground. Is that ‘close proximity?’.
Above 5000 feet. Well it’s at 4950’ish on Google Earth. But only BOTG would tell exactly at the spot.
“Not associated with any structure”. Is a water pump well as structure? Debatable.
“Don’t mess with my poem”. I don’t think I did, but others will disagree.
But ultimately, this is why I like it. It is a safe place for Forrest’s bones to rest (away from animal activity) for a few thousand years – I was reminded of the practice of throwing bodies down the well watching Hateful 8 last year.
And the clincher for me. “tarry scant and marvel gaze”. Look this one up, but the view of sunrise from Rising Sun over St. Mary’s Lake and the ironically named “Wild Goose” Island is considered to be one of the most spectacular ‘marvel gaze’ in the country. It’s depicted in photographs and art and I am certain Forrest would consider it very special as would anyone who has ever seen it. Here is just one example. What do you think?
Well. That’s off my chest. So, please let me know if you find the treasure chest in my well.