SUBMITTED JULY 2017
I had pictured an arrowhead outline that would naturally correspond to the shape of the Yellowstone River from the Canyon Area to the put in below my chosen home of Brown, and then follow the complimentary section of Grand Loop Roadway mirroring the river and leading back to the Canyon. When I excitedly unfolded the map my confidence was not shaken, but I realized that the arrowhead would need a little more work than imagined. One issue was that to include my home of Brown (actually well outside the park boundary at Joe Brown Creek) would require some deviation from the river to form a natural looking arrowhead tip. I recognized that I could solve this problem if I changed the “put in below the home of Brown” to the North Entrance of the park (in this case the home of Brown would be either the Gardiner River as winter spawning grounds for Brown Trout or a reference to Joe Brown’s mining claim on Bear Creek just upriver from the North Entrance…For the time being I was still attached to my original HoB and I proceeded to trace my arrowhead with a straight line from about Hellroaring Creek to the boating put in. From there I drew straight to the turn off for Sheepeater Cliffs forming a symmetrical arrowhead tip. The next literal bump in the road came just a couple miles south of Sheepeater. The poem indicates that “the end is ever drawing nigh” (which it should when drawing the outline of an arrowhead counterclockwise) but the road turns right to bend around Roaring Mountain creating an aberrant bump in the arrowhead’s edge. I quickly recognized how perfectly the Solfatara Creek Trail would fit into the poem and shave off the bump. From Solfatara North Trailhead there is no creek for three miles as the trail follows a straight path within a transmission line cut: “no paddle up your creek, just heavy loads…” I had seen the trailhead while driving by, and glancing up the cut I wondered why anyone would want to hike under those transmission lines when surrounded by so many other pristine options. The answer gave me “water high”. The trail provides near access to the beautiful Lake of the Woods. The chase was on!! Unfortunately, the blaze was huge and I wasn’t sure how to “look quickly down” and “take the chest”.
My first instinct was to treat the arrowhead blaze as a pointer indicating a precise treasure location either somewhere near its tip or some location distant to the tip that could be found by extending the axis of the arrowhead. My gut told me I should focus on the short game and search the proper tip area, but I had camped at Baker’s Hole and decided that while in the area I would explore the arrowhead’s path through the Gallatin. Only two secondary gravel roadways in the Gallatin offered reasonably close access to the trajectory I had drawn. My line passed straight through a small feature named Timber Butte adjacent to the first access road. I thought of the line: “if you’re brave and in the wood”. Timber Butte sits about 11 miles down a gravel road that follows Storm Castle Creek. The drive is abundant with steep cliff walls and towering spires of rock. The final section of road enters a burned area of steep moss green colored hills covered in charred matchstick trees as far as you can see. The mountains denuded and showing their verdant undercoat made me feel like I had been magically transported to New Zealand. The road climbs up above and behind some rock spires that you can easily walk out onto for dizzying views. Timber Butte is relatively small and sits beside the road. I quickly walked up, over, and around it finding nothing but scratchy vegetation and gritty-rocky terrain. It didn’t feel like a potential final resting place for Forrest, and I was at a loss for more specific direction from the poem here.
The next day I relocated to Eagles Creek Campground and investigated the arrowhead’s tip. I poked around the put-in below Joe Brown Creek for a bit and then headed down the road into Yankee Jim Canyon. I pulled off in the canyon and read a sign that provided a brief history of this area as a travel corridor through the ages with evidence of use dating back 7000 years. This evidence was in the form of arrowheads! Apparently Indians would travel through here on their way to obtain obsidian from Yellowstone. The sign suggested checking out the Yankee Jim Interpretive Trail which shared parking with the Sphinx Creek Trailhead across the river. I had some intuitive curiosity in the Sphinx so I spent quite a while trying to get over there: first driving down from Tom Miner and turning back all the way to Corwin Springs when I found the road closed. When I finally arrived I found a barricade barring the trail: TRAIL CLOSED: GRIZZLIES FEEDING ON CARCASS AHEAD. I looked up at the rock visage of the Sphinx looming above the trailhead. The sphinx was gazing down at the tip of the arrowhead! I was spellbound by this sight and decided that this was a likely location to have secreted the treasure. I could see lots of pockets and crevices in the rock below the face of the sphinx and thought of the lines “just take the chest”… maybe the treasure is in the chest of the sphinx?! I planned to visit the ranger station in Gardiner to inquire about the grizzly closure. I checked out the interpretive trail which contained five signs offering more interesting details on the history of travel through the corridor. Wagon toll roads were created and manned by old Yankee Jim himself. Jim fought, but could not stop, the literal railroading of his business. Before long the railcars were replaced by motorcars bringing us up to the current standard of transport through the corridor. Some rock work from the old roads remains visible, and an old advertisement painted on a boulder is partially preserved. That evening I sat in Tumbleweeds Café in Gardiner and read sphinx facts online: a sphinx often guards a royal tomb with a riddle. Perfect!!!
First thing in the morning I headed to the Forest Service Ranger Station in Gardiner and learned that a ranger had already left to remove the bear closure. Great! When I arrived at the trailhead the ranger’s car was there, but the barricade was still up, and no sight or sound of anyone nearby. I waited around and did a little exploring in the rock-fall below the sphinx. It was clear that a direct route to the sphinx feature would be too rocky and steep. The immediate rock-fall area was abundant with boulders creating enclosed areas, shelters, and caves. A central flat enclosed area had served as an unofficial campsite junked up by careless users. The trash degraded the mystique of the Sphinx so I soon retreated to the parking lot. Two rangers returned to the trailhead and gave me their blessing to enjoy the hike with an approving nod to the bear spray in my hip pocket. They told me that six bears had been sighted eating on the carcass as of one week ago, but had evidently cleared out some days past. It took about 45 minutes to top out the trail, and at least that long to navigate off-trail to the Sphinx feature. I had already pretty much written off this site due to the distance and difficulty to access, but I couldn’t stop myself from scrambling down, around, under, and up into the feature to investigate. Don’t try this! It’s not there.
It took over an hour to make it back to the car. I promptly drove around to the put-in on the other side of the river. With my compass aligned to the arrowhead axis angle I sighted up the slope of Dome Mountain to what seemed like a rock overhang not 200 feet up from the road. I advanced the car to a pull off below the overhang and scrambled around on the rock for an hour or so. At the end of the day I felt a little down. The tip of the arrowhead seemed a bust, I didn’t know what to do with my perfect blaze, and I had only three days left to my trip.