Lake Creek Valley….



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…

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!



38 thoughts on “Lake Creek Valley….

  1. That was a good trip. I think you may have been close. Finding the blaze and looking quickly down are pretty difficult when you don’t know what the blaze is or how far down you’re supposed to look.

  2. Sorry you didn’t find it. and have decided to retire. Many have searched Hebgen Lake area…and many more will probably follow in your foot steps.

    Good luck in your new endeavors. JDA

  3. I always try to coach chase “retirees” to stay in the hunt. At least in spirit.
    I share your feeling of fully working a search area to the end of the line (metaphorically) without the prize. Doesn’t it sound better to say that you are taking a break or hiatus?
    Besides, I don’t believe anyone really quits the chase completely. 😉

  4. Chris,
    First off, I would like to think your retired from the challenge and not taking more trips out west, and not let the challenge be only an ‘excuse’ to do so.

    But for the sake of the challenge… it seems you rely a lot on the second book, especially for the first clue. Did anything from the first book or the poem point you there?
    Just wondering.

    • Great question, Seeker!

      Actually, I came across that idea even before I got the first book! The story was put on Forrest’s blog back in 2011. I made sure to read all those old blog entries for clues early on.

      Now, my memory is a bit weak here, but I _swear_ I saw a version of that story online in the past with the phrase “it was too far to walk [from West Yellowstone]” included, which solidified it for me. However, I re-read the old blog entry and it wasn’t there… I know that Forrest originally had some of his stories published in the West Yellowstone News before he wrote the first book — maybe it was in that version???

      Either way, I purchased the second book after I came up with that part of the solution.

  5. Hello Chris,

    Thanks for you sharing your exciting adventure and discoveries. I’m not sure I’m willing to venture into Griz country. Currently reading ‘Reel Deep in Montana’s Rivers’ by John Holt and it’s a page burner of ideas of places to search for anyone who feels fly fishing has anything to do with the f’s special spot. Wondering if the fields of boulders are erratics from glaciers? Hoping you have another chance to search some day. Best.

  6. VERY impressive summation of a very difficult and thorough journey. You should be proud. This is at the top of my bucket list, but I am married to a man who has absolutely no interest in this sort of thing…”the thrill of the hunt” etc.

    One thing you mentioned that I had a different thought on was that the House of Brown referred to the house of Mollie Brown in Leadville. Guess I was way off course.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • It is the Home of Brown, not the House of Brown. Although they both can have the same meaning, one is very specific.

    • I appreciate the continuing activity on my thread!

      In my opinion, it is best not to focus on the clues out of order. Starting with Home of Brown gives you infinite options. I used the first three clues to get me to one obvious solution for Brown.

      Best of luck!

      • Hey, I had a question and I’d really appreciate a response. What parts of Hebgen Lake have you guys searchered? Thank you all.

        • My primary area of interest while there was red canyon (the bottom of that creek was very brown). Some of the spots where the creek enters the lake though were rather interesting though.

          My favorite was a spot where a tree’s roots had been exposed and it made a kind of labyrinth beneath it. Nearby was an old fire-pit (so people obviously camped there) and above it was a dirt road that was no longer accessible. I sadly don’t remember the name of the creek but it was on the South side.

  7. Sounds like you a great adventure. Glad that you are back safely. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Chris,
    The more I think about some of the things you wrote, the more I think there might be only two ways to understand the poem.
    1. clues that can be over a large area [ anything beyond a two mile distance and up to many miles across the RM’s ] that can be followed by GE. [ with it’s ability to zoom in, much as having national, state, local type maps ] for most of the clue to land you in a small area to finalize the clues.
    [ to be honest, I’m leaning away from that thought as well ].

    2. All the clue are very near, little hiking involved, from the point of leaving one’s vehicle.. to get to clue 1 and the other references.. to finding the chest. Which imo, gives reasoning to the Little Indy scenario [ or anyone ] “can not get closer” than the first two clues ~ they are all needed and they all connect – So if something doesn’t seem to be working out, start over from the first clue, just makes common sense to do so.
    Yet If you “know” where another clue is or refers to… there’s no need to return all the way to be beginning [ first clue ]. Per the comment; If you “know’ what hoB is why would you be concern about wwh…

    No offense chris, but we should be able to solve this challenge without relying on the second book… such as, Canada went poof! or attempting to use any mileage from the second book,or a story not mentioned in the first book.
    If true, then the challenge from the very beginning was nothing more than a poke and hope.

    • I do agree that the second book shouldn’t be necessary, but I do feel that Forrest probably put it out to add additional help in solving the poem. That feels logical to me. Yes, he included the map, but IMHO, that map didn’t really help beyond pointing out what is and what isn’t the Rocky Mountains.

  9. Chris, Thanks for sharing…your picture of Lake Creek Valley is stunning! Makes me want to get away from my computer and head to….northern New Mexico. Or any place I can hike into this kind of beautiful scenery. In SB163 Fenn said “If I had my way I would die under a tree somewhere deep in a pine forest and let my body go back to the earth.” I think your spot qualifies. I’m glad to hear you had three wonderful adventures, but am sorry to hear you are retiring from the Chase.

  10. Nicely done Chris, an excellent excursion for sure. One two or three times is like a trip to Alaska, once you have been there a part of you stays there and you know you will take those memories of “their” with you forever,

    I predict you will never cease to speak to others about and majestic grandeur of the Rockies..

    Happy 4th of July!

    Tom T

  11. Thank you for sharing your adventure, Chris. It looks like you’ve seen some beautiful scenery.

    • That’s my favorite video Jake. Dal did a great job on those videos but that’s my favorite.

    • Jake dear,
      I am glad Mr. Fenn, enjoyed his days as a logger!
      I would be miserable, wet, no sleeping, no Coffee!
      A ax, are you kidding me!
      Boiling pine needles Again,
      That would have taken off the sap!
      Jake, it was a good interview!
      Log /wood. Wood/ log, definitely fuel in the woods.
      All I know is when the weather changes in Montana, it’s fast and frighting!
      Better be grounded!
      Happy 4th of July Jake, I hope Utah would get the rain were having in Arkansas! The weather is unusually wet, for this time of year!

      • He sure was one active, brave, adventurous young adult.
        I’m not trying coffee without coffee beans.

  12. I appreciate you taking the time to tell your story and share your thoughts on the chase, Chris. Thank you. I followed a girlfriend from Connecticut to Colorado 40 years ago and have never looked back (. . . okay, I do miss good pizza, the Rhode Island and Cape Cod beaches, the Kancamagus Highway, the Berkshires, and canoeing the Connecticut River).

    I especially appreciate and embrace your final thought – “KEEP IT PRISTINE!”


  13. It’s obvious you put a lot of time and effort into this solve but it seems like a lot of specialized (historical) knowledge was required to make it work.

  14. I pondered that area early on… Cliff lake looks like a man from map view. I considered looking in the chest area. I got there (arm chaired it) by the common sequence that includes the put in below Hebgen Dam, but I chose not to pursue this and other variations that head up beaver creek for primarily one reason: it is too easy to start at at put in below Hebgen. Why does one need to know the first 2 clues to guess that one. I came to realize that all of the clues would be needed in some way to direct the seeker toward the treasure. Forrest has decided to make this painfully clear in recent comments. The clues are used to build a map. I sought some image formed overlaying a conventional map (the blaze) guided by the clues. I could not figure one for your area. The closest I came was a kinda lightening bolt that follows up beaver and toward avalanche lake. Problem is that it also lacks any intrinsic dependency on the early clues. So I changed where I was looking and found a way to use the clues to map out a giant “f” on the map! This was enough to get me BOTG, but when I got there it didn’t pan out…too far to walk. But then I discovered I had been looking at it wrong… the clues weren’t forming an “f”… they were forming a different blaze image much more compelling… it went on from there and just got better and better over two more trips..

  15. Nice effort Chris.

    I made the long drive out there too from Massachusetts. I was in many areas you mentioned. My solve was wrong, too but you did great & where brave and in the wood for sure!!!

  16. Very rationale solution. I’m convinced it will be logical and pretty straightforward, and I’m thinking somewhere in that vicinity. Thanks very much for sharing. I’m just to the point of tracking down a copy of „journal of a tracker“ myself. I only differ that the best pizza is in Ridgefield, CT, just outside of NY. 🙂

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