SUBMITTED JULY 2017
I’m from Connecticut, and have been looking for the treasure for four years. I’ve just come home from my third trip to Montana, and I’d decided this was going to be my last trip. I gave the hunt my best shot, and now I can “retire” in peace. I’m grateful that I had an excuse to head out to the Rockies, which are unlike anything in Connecticut or Long Island where I grew up.
Although I never found the treasure, it is my hope that someone does. To that end, I’d like to share my “solve” with the community in hopes that it might help others. Dal, would you mind posting this on your blog? Thank you!
“Begin it where the warm waters halt…”
In chapter 5 of Too Far to Walk (“River Bathing is Best”), Forrest describes bathing in the heated waters of the Firehole River. The Firehole empties into the colder Madison River around Madison Junction, and the Madison continues to be cold.
“And take it in the canyon down…”
The Madison River flows down through a big canyon west of Madison Junction. So, head on down the Madison River.
“Not far, but too far to walk…”
Going back to chapter 5, Forrest mentions riding a bike 20 miles to get from West Yellowstone to his bathing spot on the Firehole. That distance would take about six hours to walk, so follow the Madison River to West Yellowstone, MT.
“Put in below the home of Brown.”
Forrest is an avid fly fisherman. The Madison has brown trout. I’ve read in a book on fly fishing in Yellowstone Park that the trout migrate in and out of Hebgen Lake. So, continue on down the Madison River downstream of Hebgen Lake.
“From there it’s no place for the meek…”
If you drive east along MT 287 past Earthquake Lake, you’ll see a sign referring to the “Night of Terror” – the night that the earthquake that formed the lake. So, continue down the Madison past Earthquake Lake.
“The end is ever drawing nigh…”
In the “Looking for Lewis and Clark” chapter of Thrill of the Chase, Forrest describes how Osborne Russell and his companions were attacked by Blackfeet to the west of Hebgen Lake. I spent a few weeks pouring over Journal of a Trapper and I figured out that the battle occurred near the mouth of the West Fork of the Madison, near where West Fork Madison campsite is now. You can see the area as you drive up Forrest Service Road 209. A flat area by the river where the trapping party camped, beneath tall walls of the canyon, from which 80 Blackfeet shot down at them in the surprise attack. So, move on up the West Fork of the Madison.
“There’ll be no paddle up your creek…”
Lake Creek empties into the West Fork of the Madison not far upstream from the battle site. Except for a small portion – Smith Lake – it is not navigable. The creek runs up a beautiful little valley. So, go up the valley.
“Just heavy loads…”
This was a tough clue, as the only mention of the word “load” or anything that suggest heavy loads in Forrest’s treasure-related writings is with Cody the Buffalo in the “Buffalo Cowboys” chapter of Thrill of the Chase. I believe that incident took place near Denny Creek Road south of Hebgen Lake, but that’s far from Lake Creek. However, if you take the trail up Lake Creak Valley (trail number 732), you’ll encounter a field of boulders halfway up the valley. These boulders are big – roughly the size of buffaloes. I haven’t seen boulders like that anywhere else in my trips out to Montana and Yellowstone, so I’m calling them significant.
“… and water high.”
As you go to the end of Lake Creek Valley, the land becomes rolling hills, ending up with a ridge that separates the valley from Wade Lake.
“If you’re wise and found the blaze, look quickly down…”
As you approach Wade Lake from Lake Creek Valley, all of a sudden the blue waters of Wade Lake comes into view. It’s a spectacular sight. So I interpreted this as the blaze and to head on down the ridge towards Wade Lake, but I couldn’t find a suitable spot to hide the chest. The vegetation around there is insane and somewhat impassable.
If I were to head out there again, I would look for the headwaters of Lake Creek as another possibility for “water high.” Maybe there’s a little waterfall? The creek comes down from a forested area up the valley slope.
If anyone is interested in searching this area, here are three important bits of advice to consider…
- The easiest way to get there is from the trailhead on Forrest Service Road 209. From there, its a two-mile hike up gentle terrain. Walking along the shores of Wade Lake is hard and not recommended.
- This valley has a lot of bear activity. I was told by locals at The Buffalo Bar in West Yellowstone that that valley has a lot of grizzlies. I saw no less than a dozen bear poops in the rolling hills towards the top of the valley. Plan your trip accordingly.
- I met an older gentleman on Forrest Service Road 209 who told me that not many people know of this valley. Try to keep it pristine.
I’ve attached a photo of Lake Creek Valley. I still can’t believe I was there!
So thank you Forrest for starting the chase, and thank you Dal for maintaining your website. And please forward my best wishes and luck to those still on the chase!