Here’s the dilemma. You’ve invested your soul in the Chase… and many thousands of dollars. It has rewarded you with views, experiences, and wildlife encounters to last a lifetime. And yet it has also teased you mercilessly – pushing you to keep going with hints, revelations, and yes, even tires! So often you think that you must have reached the end, but no, there’s yet another stage to complete… and then another. Where and when do you draw the line? I confess that I still don’t know the answer to that question, but eventually, if there really is a chest full of gold, it must reveal itself to the persistent searcher. And that’s why I was out there again, clawing my way toward the end of the rainbow.
Let me remind you.
In my search, the “asterisk” marks the start point of the Chase. It lies a little way from another marker that reveals the essence of the trajectory that the searcher must take. Look above the drop-pin for the critical element; then view the wider image for something that may or may not be helpful
After failing to find the treasure at a far distant omega on a previous trip, I had assumed that the trove would therefore be found near the start. As my wife was reluctant for me to search alone following bear confrontations earlier in the year, I asked a friend to meet me there, and we went a-hunting. Here’s the center of the asterisk, which had been submerged earlier in the year, but was now revealed as a circular disc of stone.
After a couple of days fruitless searching, my partner had to leave to rejoin the real world, and I was left wondering where the heck I’d gone wrong. I spent another couple of days retracing our steps, looking down at the significant rock formations, trying to cajole my crumbling brain to make the connections. But it was only when I looked up that the penny dropped. Remember the scrapbook with the tangled telephone cable? How about the Native American “listening” by the telephone pole? Crossed wires! I raced to the nearest cafe with an internet connection and fired up Google Maps. It only took me a couple of minutes to relocate the omega.
I began to use the “measure distance” function and drew lines from point to point until… wow… I landed in a place that I would never have considered part of the Chase… until I remembered another scrapbook. And it fitted perfectly! It was a long drive, but the summer weather cooperated, and I arrived excited and ready for whatever I might find. I will draw a veil over what I actually did find – suffice for me to say that trespassing is neither necessary nor a good idea as part of the Chase, that landowners and local officialdom are not likely to view it kindly, and that, with better planning, awkward and embarrassing situations can be avoided!
My remaining time was spent trying to parse the information I’d uncovered, drawing more lines, and taking side trips to far-flung outposts of the Rockies – all of which poduced a big fat zero. As on previous trips, I ran out of time, and took the flight home more than a little puzzled. I knew I was onto something, but why wasn’t it working? It wasn’t long before I discovered my error. When Forrest talks about following the clues precisely, he’s not merely using a figure of speech. Precisely means with precision down to a few feet. I had made an error of calculation that, over the large distances involved, had amplified itself to an order of magnitude that was bound to lead me astray. I corrected the error and… wow again!
One of my perennial failings is impatience. You would think that after nearly five years of painstaking work on the poem and BOTG, I would have overcome that by now. If so, you would be wrong. I was back in the UK and tearing my hair out. How was I going to get back to search that spot? I emailed my friend in the States and asked if he was up for another adventure. He was (what a trooper)! As he prepared to fly out there, I kept working on the coordinates, coming up with three likely spots, all within a couple of hundred feet. There was the anchor:
And if that was too much of a stretch, there was also the smiling frog, which I shall keep to myself for now. And there was my friend’s frustration as he reported back that he was drawing a complete blank, trudging across the empty landscape. I felt crestfallen, and guilty for sending him on what was turning out to be a wild goose chase. And yet…
It was only later that I spotted the “lighthouse,” flashing its friendly warning like the asterisk so many miles distant. And didn’t it also resemble a keyhole?
I fired up GE and loaded the coordinates. Usually, when you use the time slider on GE, the earlier images are too low-res and blurred to discern much at high magnification. This time it was different. I could clearly see that the “lighthouse” didn’t exist in 2009 and before. I connected the images I’d found, and revealed something fascinating, apart from the fact that they aligned nearly perfectly. A year earlier I had sent Forrest certain coordinates based on something discovered in the poem. I now realized I had been prescient but premature. That was the wrong time to use that clue. Now it fitted perfectly, and it said something about “in the wood” that I would never have guessed if I hadn’t gone on a frantic Google hunt as these revelations dawned. I had to get back there!
It was then that my wife decided that she had to get over to the States within a few weeks to deal with some pressing family business. I would have just been in the way during the visit, but what if I used the opportunity to make one more trip? We’ve reached that point in life where we dread flying – particularly across multiple timezones; it leaves us wiped out for days, and the whole security rigmarole takes any of the remaining fun away. But this was just too good an opportunity to ignore. I left Val at Salt Lake City and headed out to my spot. Two days later, I was as frustrated as my friend had been. I had found nothing… until I decided to check the two “ends” of my specific line of latitude. At one end there was a circle in the ground, and at the other end was… smashed pottery.
Wasn’t there a scrapbook about smashing pottery? I looked closer:
The Garden City Pottery Co., based in San Jose, was big in the early part of the 20th century before going into decline, finally shutting its doors in 1987. As with most of my artifact discoveries, this was found where there was little in the way of human detritus. Why would someone have taken a large and heavy pottery vase – almost an antique – out into the wilderness just to smash and discard it? And why were the pieces arranged as they were, with a few shoved in between sage brush roots, and the others in a line that pointed toward the circle? It was not a major find, but coupled with something else I had discovered out there it told me to head south. And so south I went. In fact I went so far south that I was starting to brush up on my Spanish! After a day or two of this, I turned around and retraced my steps. Sitting down near some water, I tried to think. It’s something that I find much harder to do when I’m BOTG than when I’m in the warm cocoon of my own home. But this time I made a breakthrough. What if I reversed something important? I went down to a key spot – nada. I went up – zilch. But wait… what’s that?
The frog stone set me thinking again. It was the second time a frog had entered the arena for me. Maybe I wasn’t so far off. I hoped that the weather would hold – the temperature was plummeting during the night, but there was little in the way of rain… yet. I was venturing into some territory that might be difficult to extract myself from if a storm hit. Interestingly, by now I had exhausted all of the poem’s coordinates. I used to think that it was simply a question of unlocking these numbers, and they would take you to the treasure. Now, I was beginning to realize that Mr. Fenn expects you to use logic and imagination in spades once you’ve made use of the coordinates. So that’s what I tried to do. And one October morning I alighted from my rental car, walked to the spot my thought processes had indicated, and stared in wonder at a reversed question mark. My photos are not bad, but they can’t convey the clarity with which the 3D image presented itself on site.
Looking from above the reversed question mark is probably the better way to view it:
I knew I had uncovered an important clue, but I had no idea how to use it – and as usual my time was running out. I had to rejoin Val at her sister’s place.
It was on the flight that I thought I had the answer. As soon as I could, I checked coordinates and became convinced that I’d found a potential ending location. The only trouble was that we were talking private land again. I’d learned my lesson on that front, and so I tried to re-plot my next move. Fortunately, my wife and her siblings had more work to do that didn’t involve me, and so I rented another car and drove across three states back to the spot. I checked all possible permutations, and came within a whisker of another bear encounter. I stumbled into a clearing in the trees, saw the disturbed ground and smelled the very pungent odor. I think I was lucky that I’m such a clumsy hunter that there was no way I could have surprised this particular beast. I kept that foray as short as possible, walked back to the car uttering a few choice oaths aimed at the poem’s author, and returned to the hotel to think some more.
That was when it hit. It was a real “duh” moment for me! I had not extended my line from the question mark far enough. The frog had given me the answer. And when I looked online, there it was: the second omega! (I should point out that my “discoveries” are not random, but occur within a few feet of specific coordinates that are derived in one way or another from the poem.) This time the omega was upside down. By now, I had learned to stop assuming that I’d reached the end – despite Google’s suggestions! I’d also noticed that most of the markings I’d found – and was yet to find – are clearly visible on Google Maps, but not on Bing, etc. Food for thought. So, despite this scintillating piece of evidence, I earmarked a couple more places that fit the pattern that was forming for me, before tromping out to the omega.
Of course, there was nothing there, apart from a veiled instruction. Well, that’s not quite accurate. What I did find was this:
Coincidence, quite probably, but it was conveniently pointing toward my next destination. And as I walked back to the car, I came across this interesting skull that has nothing to do with the Chase but makes an interesting photo:
It was what I found at the next destination that was the “aha!” moment for me. When I clambered up to the spot that I’d earmarked as a potential pivotal point, I was met by a pair of stones standing in formation. Bear in mind that the next two photos were taken after I had picked up the stones to examine them. I didn’t replace them as neatly as I found them, but they are roughly as they appeared to me.
Upon examination, the stones, which had a quartz-like core, had been cut to length in order to form a stable triangle, and had been very carefully positioned so that they provided a specific view when looked through. I don’t bend very easily these days, but I managed to get down there and make a mental note of what I saw.
Gradually, things were falling into place, but there was something about the shape formed by the stones that eluded me right then; the answer would arrive later.
There was still much walking to do, and calculations to make, but something was crystalizing in my mind. Exhausted from walking many, many miles in temperatures ranging from the teens to the upper sixties, I returned to my room to think some more. Once again, I thought I had the measure of what was going on, but on my final morning, I failed yet again. I couldn’t quite make the ending stick. I drove away, making it about 250 miles before stopping for the night. And of course, as I pondered my recent finds, I remembered something I’d seen on Google. It was something so obvious that I’d completely ignored it! And it occurred right where my two lines crossed.
As a result, I came up with two possible hiding places and chose… the wrong one. I careened back to the spot, and spent all of 15 minutes checking – with one eye on an approaching storm. It was no good, I’d have to go. But when I Googled the second spot (and its partner), that was when I saw the evidence, as clear as anything I’ve found during the Chase. I won’t say what that evidence is, but it pulls together almost every aspect of the Chase and provides a glimpse into the motivation behind the whole saga. I was tempted to delay my return flight, but with the weather turning and commitments at home, I knew it could wait for another day – even if wild geese are involved…