SUBMITTED JULY 2018
by Ron Conley
I recently got back from a week in the Yellowstone area with my son, son-in- law and 3 grandsons. We had a great time despite the rainy weather some of the time. We did horseback riding, white water rafting, fly fishing in Yellowstone, spent two days searching for the treasure and toured Yellowstone for a full day at the end of the week. We each had our bear spray, satellite SOS device, walkie-talkies, and even a hunting knife as the weapon of last resort -yeah, like that would have really worked. We even had a doctor with us. My Son is an Emergency Room doctor that has served in Haiti after the earthquake and as Head of the Mass Trauma Unit in Kandahar, Afghanistan. We were prepared!!
This will make four days that I have searched this area including when my wife and I did an initial recon last October for two days and this past week’s search. In our Chevy Suburban (4WD) rental, we began at WWWH, drove past the “Home of Brown”, past where there’s “no place for the Meek”, parked our car just like Fenn would have done and trekked into the “wood”, up a creek without a “paddle” and with heavy loads above. Nearly 78 years young and with a 20-pound backpack on, I limited it to where Fenn could have gone twice in an afternoon. Between the six of us, we covered a lot of area. If I recall, Fenn once said that children would likely have a better chance of finding the treasure than an adult. Humm, is that a clue? Well, I can tell you that the area we searched was a kid’s playground.
No, we did not find it, but it sure looked like the most likely place Fenn would hide a treasure. It was an area where I would lay my bones. As Fenn said, “the mountains are my church”. The sun came out the second day and everything was gorgeous. Alpine meadows of wild blue flowers sprinkled with yellow set against the tall green pines and grey boulders under a clear blue sky. Everything seemed so brilliant and full of life.
All six of us climbed up nearly 6 or 7 hundred feet the first day and determined that even though it was a fantastic day in the mountains with unbelievable views, it wasn’t a place where Fenn would have gone twice in the afternoon. So, after the six of us had thoroughly scoured the mountain side and with my strength beginning to wane, we ruled out that area and zeroed in on the most promising area for the second day. After a long and treacherous drive over heavily rutted and muddy roads back to our motel, we all sat down to diner and discussed what we would do the next day. Everybody slept soundly that night.
At a lower altitude on the second day we climbed over boulders and tree stumps for hours looking for the treasure. It seemed that around every turn there was a place where the chest could have been hidden. So many places begged an invitation for inspection. If I had been a teenager in the 40’s and my Father was fishing nearby, I would have explored every nook and cranny of this place with my brother. We could have easily walked right by the treasure and not known that it was within a few yards. I was a little worried that we might encounter snakes or other nasty critters when looking into dark crevices, but luckily none appeared. The boys used their flashlights and poked into small places with their walking sticks that they fashioned from fallen limbs. The most dangerous animal we encountered was a chipmunk as it ran across our path.
We did find a recent kill by a bear. By the looks of it, my son said that it was probably a few days old. It was hard to tell what kind of an animal it was since it was scattered and torn up so much. We didn’t investigate too closely or hang around that spot too long. We “tarried scant”. The area was littered with sheep and elk droppings as well as animal bones scattered in a few places. Some of the bones were pretty big but looked suspiciously placed. Almost as if someone had put them there. Anyway, the kids got a kick out of that.
We actually found a “Blaze”, but not the type that I thought it could be. We were looking for some kind of blaze coloring on a rock or some kind of Indian petroglyph that Fenn would have found. Then my Son called me over and pointed it out to me. I said, “Wow, yeah that could be it”, but there was no treasure box to be seen unless we just overlooked it. There were a hundred nearby places where the treasure could have been hidden. The blaze will still be there in a hundred or more years unless someone destroys it.
There have been two things in life that seem to have fascinated Fenn – Indians & Fish. This area seemed to satisfy both. I encouraged the boys to look for arrow heads, but none were found.
There was one spot that could have fit the “worth the cold” clue. We found a downward, opening recess in the side of a hill big enough for a person to enter. It led sharply down for just a short distance (not a cave) where we could go in and inspect with our flashlights. But the interesting aspect was that the air must have been at least 20 degrees (or more) colder. Humm. Anyway, there was nothing that we could see that looked like a chest.
I don’t think at this time that I will return, but just in case that the bug gets to me in the future, I’m keeping my solve to myself. In the meantime, I’m going to closely review all my photos and videos to see if anything shows up. I even flew a drone over the area and recorded some nice scenes; but the bottom line with a drone is that it is useless in finding the treasure. It might make an entertaining video on UTube, but that’s about all.
At the end of the second day, I discretely deposited between a couple of rocks some fake gold coins and colored glass beads that I had carried with me. I then called the boys over and declared that I found something. The boys came over, looked at me and said, “are you kidding. Did you just put them there?”. So much for my surprise.
My first attempt with the drone on day 1 was less that professional. I tried to use the DJI Goggles with my Phantom 4 Pro Plus, but the goggles locked up on me after a minute and I had to rely on the remote built in viewing screen. At one point I thought I lost it and couldn’t visually locate the drone. I then initiated an automated “Return to Home” sequence. The drone was out of sight, approaching 400 ft altitude and maybe a half mile away. Then, the drone failed to respond, and it wasn’t coming home. Well, I could feel panic beginning to set in. The drone was nowhere to be seen and it wasn’t doing what I expected or at least what the manual said would happen. I could see that this was a recipe for disaster and mucho bucks down the drain. If you have ever piloted a plane, then you know that it’s easy to get lost if you’re only VFR qualified and can’t see any recognizable landmarks. Try that while looking at a 5-inch screen on the remote controller and the only thing you can see are acres of green trees. Then superior navigational skills kicked in and I maneuvered the drone so I could see a few landmarks and managed to safely land it back to where it initially took off. The second day I was much more with it. Goggles and drone worked flawlessly. I did discover one thing. If you ever fly one of these drones with the DJI goggles, use the gimbal tracking mode that will slew the drone as you turn your head. Using the camera gimbal mode as I initially did can be confusing since the drone direction and camera are not in sync. Using the gimbal tracking mode is more like driving the drone. It goes where you point your head.
I did make a movie about my recon last October, but it’s for family only since it reveals my search location. Everyone got a kick out of it. Maybe the Grandchildren will look on it in future years and remember Papa and Nana.
I often ask people “what is your most valuable asset?”. Few know the answer. I then tell them “Time is you most precious asset. Time is like water. Some people just let it run through their fingers while others try to drink every drop.”
I’ve included a few photos of our trip.
Good hunting, Ron Conley