SUBMITTED May, 2018
Journalist and traveler Issac Cole kept a podcast titled “On The Road With Charlie”
Charlie is Issacs dog who travels with him and rides shotgun in his truck. His podcast is about traveling the roads and meeting Americans while tracing John Steinbeck’s route in “Travels With Charlie”. Issac’s podcast is an interesting journal and tantalizing journey, well worth the effort of listening.
In 2017 Issac interviewed Forrest. When that interview was published in May of 2017 it chased many folks away from looking for the chest in the Yellowstone area because although Forrest claims to have spent about 19 of his first 20 summers hanging out in that park and nearby, Forrest mentions in the interview that he has not been back to Yellowstone since 1950.
If this is true, Forrest could not have hidden the chest around Yellowstone, since it was hidden well after 1950. So why bother going there to look for it?
The question seems reasonable. The logic impeccable.
But there’s a problem…
Forrest visited West Yellowstone and Yellowstone National Park many times between 1950 and 2010.
This is not something I made up…It is fact. And it begs the question; why did Forrest say he hasn’t been there since 1950, when he certainly has?
I think I know what happened…but lets start at the top..
Below is a transcription of the relevant podcast section of Issac Cole’s interview with Forrest:
FENN: I was a professional fishing guide when I was 13 years old.
COLE: In Texas?
FENN: No, in Yellowstone. West Yellowstone, Montana and I could… I ran a tackle shop all by myself. The guy that owned it was drunk all the time, so one summer I ran the tackle shop. I could make a gross of ﬂies in a day and wait on customers at the same time. But you know, I tied catgut leaders, tapered leaders, I made split bamboo fly rods. I had a name for every fish in that country up there: Mary and Phyllis and Johnny and I knew where all the holes were.
I’m an outdoors person. It wasn’t so much fishing, it was being there. I remember when I could hardly wait to get on the river, and catch a big old brown trout. I’d get out there, get out of my car and look around and walk over and sit under a tree for an hour and watch the Osprey catch fish, and watch the Eagles try to take it away from the Osprey. God has a summer place up there you know?
COLE: I haven’t fished up in West Yellowstone but I grew up going to uh, a cousin of mine owns Campﬂre Lodge.
FENN: What’s the name of it?
COLE: Campﬂre Lodge. It has a little restaurant there and log cabins and it’s right on the Madison.
FENN: That’s after my time.
COLE: Yeah, probably.
FENN: Because I spent 19 of my first 20 summers, three months, in Yellowstone or West Yellowstone but the last time I was up there was 1950.
Issac missed asking the follow-up question that he should have asked. Certainly understandable since Issac was not particularly fixated on the hunt for Forrest’s treasure nor was he knowledgeable of Forrest’s background. Issac really didn’t have the framework to understand that what Forrest just said was going to be a big issue for many searchers for many years…
The question we wish Issac had asked Forrest at that point was:
“Excuse me Forrest but did you just say you have never been back to Yellowstone or West Yellowstone since the summer of 1950?”
Unfortunately no such follow-up was asked and no clarification about that statement has been made by Forrest.
So then, why do I say that Forrest has, in fact been back to West Yellowstone and Yellowstone after 1950? Where is my evidence?
I will share a few pieces of evidence that I have with you.
First is the construction of the Dude Motel in West Yellowstone.
Forrest, his brother Skippy and friend and brother-in-law Donnie Joe built the Dude Motel which is still on Boundary Street in West Yellowstone. They also built a tavern behind the motel, but the tavern is no longer there. Forrest wrote a story in his book, Too Far To Walk, about building the motel. I don’t believe he mentions the year it was built in his story which appears in Chapter 19 of the book. But Forrest answered an email from a searcher in 2011 and we published the relevant part of that email here on the blog. In that email Forrest states that they built the motel in about 1962.
Second is Crayton’s recollection from somewhat later.
Crayton is Forrest’s nephew. Remember that Forrest’s mom and dad ran a motor-court called Fennhaven Cabins in West Yellowstone in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. When they sold the motor-court they bought an airstream and still spent their summers up there. Crayton has vivid memories of Forrest and family spending time in West Yellowstone in the summers to visit his mom and dad and do a little fishing and relaxing. Crayton’s best memories of those visits are from around the end of the 60’s to the early 70’s.
Third is a photo Forrest showed me in August of 2011.
I can’t show it too you because I don’t have it. I was visiting Forrest in Santa Fe and we were sitting on his back porch sipping cold drinks and looking at some photos from his collection. One he showed me and talked about was taken just a couple years earlier. It was of Forrest and Peggy and another couple standing at Forrest’s favorite bathing hole, Ojo Caliente, on the Firehole River. The photo was taken from the bridge that crosses the river and looking down at the folks as they posed for the pic. Forrest and Peggy in the photo looked exactly as they did in real life on that day. Because of their age in the photo it could not have been more than a few years old.
So, why did Forrest say that he had not been back to Yellowstone since 1950?
I don’t think that’s what he said. I think that’s what we heard him say…which is often the case. It’s my opinion that listeners sometimes have different interpretations of what Forrest meant than what he intended. I think this is one of those cases…
I think the words Forrest spoke are clear-
“…I spent 19 of my first 20 summers, three months, in Yellowstone or West Yellowstone but the last time I was up there was 1950.”
But Forrest is not referring to the actual last time he was up there…He is referring to the last time he was up there for an entire summer (three months).
And that is probably an honest fact…
From 1950 to 1970 he was in the Air Force and never had three months off in a summer. After 1970 his life just continued to be busy and he never took three months off again to spend in Yellowstone…
Most people can say the same thing. Few of us…after high school…except teachers, retirees and some college students…ever had three months off in the summer to go play…
So, in my opinion and based on the info stated above (and more)…Forrest just meant to say something that he didn’t. He had one phrase in mind and he spoke another. The interviewer didn’t know enough about the situation to follow-up on it.
But, if you don’t want to waste your time searching around Yellowstone…no problem. There are plenty of great places to waste time looking at the splendid beauty of the countryside…eagles, osprey, buffalo, bear, trout, ants, beaver, otter….