A Bear Trap Canyon Solve…


By Idle Dreamer

Bear Trap Canyon isn’t a new solve area and will continue to get Fenn Searchers drawn to it until the chest is found.  I became interested in the area after making two BOTG trips into the Cody area (the area around Mummy Cave including the UXU Ranch).  The proximity to a lake, a canyon road that you can only gain access from one direction, and the possibility I was on to a new take on that area got me excited.

Begin It Where Warm Waters Halt
The Madison’s 50 mile riffle ends at Ennis Lake and the lake itself is always warm until it freezes over completely in the winter.  This made the lake a literal WWWH’s in my eyes (and no doubt many others).  At the North East end of the lake is the entrance to Bear Trap Canyon where you cross a bridge that always seemed to have at least a couple people fishing who gave a warm wave as you crossed.

Take It In The Canyon Down, Not Far, But Too Far To Walk.
This is where I felt I was on to something new.  The previous solves to this area all went down by the dam and didn’t seem to stop by the first parking area (Solved the first two and went right passed the other seven).  The distance to this parking area is only ½ mile, but is also the same distance that Forrest ran to the Katy railroad tracks.  Plus, I have always read that line with the extension “…far to walk if carrying a heavy chest”.  Thus, keeping the poem in context with the goal, “Put in below the home of Brown” became put in below the hiding spot of the brown chest.  Which would make it hard for people to solve because, I assumed, most attempted to put a location to the Home of Brown instead of just the “put in” and even if you noted the right “put in” if you labeled the Home of Brown as a location you would be technically incorrect.  Plus, Forrest has stated that if he told you where the HOB was you could just go get the treasure.  At least this logic worked for me at the time.

Put In Below The Home Of Brown
The Put In for me was the parking lot for Trail Creek Trail.  I immediately liked it because of the two omegas and the redundancy of “trail” in the name.  The Trail Creek itself follows a large draw up which I felt could reflect on “Drawing Nigh” but the trail itself doesn’t immediately follow the draw.

From There It’s No Place For The Meek
The trail starts with a series of switch backs where you gain a large amount of vertical elevation.  A website on Cowboy Heaven describes this as “Not for Couch Potatoes” which really resonated with that line in the poem as couch potatoes could be considered meek and this hike wasn’t for them.

The End Is Ever Drawing Nigh;
When you reach the top of the switch backs you start to go into the draw and get drawn to the left.  There are a few interesting things as you go including large quartz deposits that shine brightly in the afternoon sun.  They are also large enough, and bright enough, that you can see them on Google Earth.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t at the right line in the poem (though I did check that area without luck) so this solve doesn’t cover that in any more detail.

There’ll Be No Paddle Up Your Creek
This is where I really started to get excited about the solve.  As you get drawn to the left you reach a point where you must cross Trail creek.  If you read the signs where you park, it warns about private property ahead and to stay on the trail.  Before going I made to sure to note the boundaries (Forrest has noted that private property rights are important – MIJ) and the spot you cross the creek is private property.  Thus, going up the creek would get you in trouble and reflects the concept of “up a creek without a paddle”.  The trail itself switches back and goes up the other side of the draw.  This reminded me of TTOTC (p.62) and “If we don’t change course soon we’ll end up where we’re going” stated by Donnie.  Which made me feel like if I didn’t change course I would end up where I started (Circular logic).  Which also reminded me of Forrest mentioning T.S. Eliot and arriving where you started and to know the place for the first time.  I felt that this was a sign that when you got to the top of the other side you weren’t supposed to follow the trail (which headed back towards the private property and on to Cowboy Heaven).

Just Heavy Loads and Water High
This is where I started to run into trouble with my logic.  As I was headed back I reached several large rock areas (heavy loads) where, if standing on them, I could see Ennis Lake (water high that Forrest could toss a bike into).  I was okay with those but the blaze wasn’t forthcoming.  The area itself was filled with sage brush and pine trees and giant boulders that Skippy would consider as rocks.  There was even an old campfire ring, thousands of great hiding places, and plenty of bones to find (I had my bear spray on belt).  No blaze could be found and I reached a large outcropping that overlooked the parking area where I started.

Wise and Blaze

This got me thinking about the rocks across the Madison by the parking area.  The one rock feature that stood out looked like a Sphinx to me (which I felt I was on a Sphinx’s riddle with this solve).  What if that was the blaze and the rock outcropping was where you were supposed to be wise and realize you had seen the blaze when you arrived but had to see it from the correct location.  This rock outcropping was directly across the river (and road) from the Sphinx.

The photos are from the rock outcropping which is wonderfully flat and easy to access (I didn’t feel unsafe being there).  I then looked quickly down and about 10 feet below was another flat area of rock.  This reminded me of the Dizzy Dean story and I could see people at the parking area, but they didn’t notice me at all.  There was only one way to get to that area and it was through a small channel that I barely squeezed through.  The spot was everything I could imagine as it was full of hiding spots and I was surrounded by wood.  The views were amazing but regrettably there was no treasure that I could find.

I’ve Done It Tired, And Now I’m Weak
After that I was finally ready to eliminate the solve (30 hours of BOTG in total) and take a break from the chase.  I can honestly say that area was amazing and when you go off trail it feels like the minute hand on my watch sped up as hours would pass without my knowledge.  There are a lot of interesting spots in that area including a 10-foot waterfall that isn’t easy to find, a spot filled with old tin cans and old glass, and sadly a dead horse skeleton in an area of moss and wet quartz that made the area sparkle brightly from the sun.  My son named the horse Jimmy, so if you find Jimmy, make sure to pay your respects.

by Idle Dreamer






45 thoughts on “A Bear Trap Canyon Solve…

  1. Also, from the highway turn for Red Canyon to the entrance for the Trail Creek Trail is exactly 50 miles as the bird flies.

    • Idle Dreamer,
      Thanks for sharing. Those photos are awesome. I really admire your imagination in developing your solution.

  2. Bear trap canyon has long fascinated me as an arm chair solution. The one thing that I couldn’t figure out was no paddle up your creek. There are plenty of pictures of people rafting down that way through the rocks. Maybe Trail Creek is the answer.

    • Michael, I remember reading your comments on the last Bear Trap Canyon solve that was posted. With Ennis lake as a WWWH I definitely like scrutinizing the canyon. For a little while I got interested in the other side of Bear Trap Canyon as well but the elevation of the Warm Spring Boat Launch was too low to make it practical to get searchers within 500 feet without a significant uphill hike. The Cowboy Heaven site does mention old blazes on the trees on the next creek over but that is a significant distance away unless on a horse.

    • Thank you Amy! That area has a lot of raw beauty. I especially love the giant rock walls between the trail and the outcropping.

      I also thought about the possibility of the Home of Brown being a spot on the border of NPS land and BLM land. The benchmark map at the end of TFTW has their standard colors of purple and yellow which together make Brown. Montana FWP is also purple.

  3. Idle Dreamer,
    That was absolutely one of the BEST solutions that I’ve read. I’ve always appreciated your post and I have to admit that after reading this my respect for you as a searcher has increase dramatically. Not that I ever disrespect anyone or their thoughts on this forum. My personal opinion is that the ones that lock onto their own ideas ’s and act like no one else on here could possibly have a good point, will never win the prize.

    Hang in there and stay safe!

    • Thank you Kanafire I Really appreciate it.

      “My personal opinion is that the ones that lock onto their own ideas ’s and act like no one else on here could possibly have a good point, will never win the prize.”

      I agree completely with you and that is sound advice for anyone.

  4. You folks just are not thinking straight. A man in his 80’s lugging a 40 pound chest into some of the places you have described., just does not make a lot of sense!!

    • “My Thrill of the Chase book is enough to lead an average person to the treasure.f” June 2014, MW.

      Four years later and I think it’s pretty obvious, Terry. No, we don’t think straight. We think crooked. That’s apparently just how sub-average folks think.

      But everyone seems to root for the straight thinker who will eventually come along. Maybe that will be you.

    • Just to note, he never carried the full weight during the two trips. Plus I saw a man there that appeared to be in his 80’s with two hiking poles and he had no issues (was faster than I was). We tend to stereotype those at 80 as barely functional but my mantra is if I can make it there so could he. I work and do school on a computer for most hours of my day so I am definitely out of shape. Especially compared to a man who has spent a lifetime saying yes to new adventures.

      That being said, the hike isn’t that bad overall as it is less than “M” trail hike at the University of Montana which gets all ages.

  5. Beautiful photos – I’m happy you had a great, safe adventure. What is the elevation around there?

    • Thanks,

      The trailhead itself is just under 5000 feet but after the switchbacks you are in the right elevation. I did have a Garmin GPS on me so did make sure to keep tabs on whether I was outside the chest’s elevation of 5’000 to 10’200 feet.

  6. Im sorry that you didn’t find the treasure, ID. I had Bear Trap on my radar a few years ago also, but abandoned it . Looks like you still had a wonderful trip, though!

    • One of the qualities I know has to be there is that I won’t be the first searcher in the area. We may have abandoned that area but I know others won’t as someone will likely see a new angle. Whatever the correct area is someone or some people have abandoned it.

      • Those pics are great! There are so many books and crannies, the chest could be anywhere. I remember when I first found the area above the canyon was “Cowboy Heaven” it really piqued my interest.

  7. ID – Nice write-up and logical solve. Sorry (for you) that it didn’e work out. Safe travels in the future – JDA

  8. “The trail starts with a series of switch backs ”
    Forrest answered a question about switching back years ago.

    Red flag alert!!!

    Thanks for sharing and I find your thinking to be in line with Fenn’s.
    Your blaze does appear to be too big though.
    Nice to get out there and put your thoughts to the test in a most beautiful area.
    You gained in experience and wisdom what you didn’t expect to find.

    • Thanks Jake,

      After the creek my confidence wavered as I felt less confident in my answers for the clues.

      I had forgotten that reference about switchbacks so for others (from Moby Sickens Bookstore 2013 and from this blog):

      “Female: I have one about the poem. If you follow the poem precisely will you find yourself switching back?

      Forrest: If you follow the clues in the poem precisely would I what?

      Female: Will you find yourself switching back, making a loop?

      Forrest: This gal’s dangerous. Would I find myself switching back? I think I can say no to that without giving away too much of a clue.

      Female: Okay.”

      With the added context of making a loop he said no. The switchbacks in my case are just a way to gain elevation and don’t cause a loop. I think that person was asking if you have to switchback on your own trail and to that he said no but he did so in an interesting way.

      • I agree! Forrest did not eliminate what a mountain man would call a switch back. He did eliminate switching back on your own path, though.


      • Yup,
        You got the Moby.
        I don’t think F ever heard the loop.
        Switch backs and loops are out in my book.

    • Thanks TomTom, definitely enjoyed my time there as it is fairly accessible and a nice place for a picnic.

  9. I think you folks are putting a little too much into this. Gotta remember Mr. Fenn is in his 80’s and the box weighs over 40 pounds. He could not have gone too far with it. Think about it,

  10. I always thought put in below the home of Brown could mean Earth. Earth is always capitalized and brown (dirt). He never said if chest was buried , but was exposed to rain and snow etc. so maybe its halfway buried, up to lid so it does not move and that’s why you have to look down to see it clearly. keep up the good work!!!

    • Hey ya’ll, new to all of this and just read the poem a few days ago and I’ve watched a few videos as well. From what I can see thus far one has to find the word key that unlocks the poem as one has to have the right key to unlock their own front door. Without the key the poem remains locked and you might as well play canasta or UNO if you prefer. If you can solve the word key you can have the treasure otherwise you’ll be thinking to literal versus imaginative (vision). Sometimes you have to close your eyes to see a brighter future because the circumstances you can see are too bleak as an example. What is the “it” where Forest says begin “it”? Is it not a chase. Begin the chase where warm waters halt. Take the chase down in the canyon down. Just food for thought. My approach to this is to not ever take a step toward physically looking until I have discovered the word key. To do so is like putting the cart before the horse. The best advice to take is the advice that Forrest has given, after all he’s the only one other then God who knows where that treasure is. I would refer you to the May 13, 2011 youtube interview of Forrest by Lorene Mills. Forest said contentment is the key word when describing the look his dad had when he found his first arrowhead. He said earlier that you need a little imagination and to think the right things. Imagination will unlock what the key word is and cause you to think the right things or be the key to unlocking the poem. The word key causes you to think the RIGHT things. Don’t leave home without the word key unless you bring your canasta with you. All of my efforts will be on finding out what the word key is. Then once discovered (some luck) I will move confidently as Forrest says. Thoughts? Thanks in advance for being kind to this newbie.

      • You’ve definitely hit the ground running and not in a bad way. The word is key for a reason and that reason should, imo, help to unlock the core logic of the poem.

        Good luck Gary!

        P.S. Also, there are different sections on this blog for different things. This would likely get more response in The Key Word page:


      • Hi Gary;

        Welcome to the chase. It sounds like you have a plan. I am not sure that I agree with it, but you have a plan. Congratulations!!!

        I have been at the chase for 32 months, and have made 22 BotG searches. I have had about 5 “Words that were key”. Each time I was sure that I had the right one. I now have my fifth, and I hope, the correct one.

        It is VERY possible to solve the clues, and not know the correct “Word that is Key.” Once you do figure out the correct one, the POEM (as a whole) reveals itself – and it “All makes sense” – and you say “What took me so long.”

        For me. at least, discovering the “Word that is key” allows me to see “The BIG picture.”

        I had “A” wwwh, “A” canyon etc. and they all led me to the correct general area but it made no REAL sense until AFTER I figured out the correct Word that was Key. NOW my wwwh makes sense – it has a reason for being “THE” wwwh. The same for all of the clues.

        Can I prove it? No, not yet, but I feel that I have been VERY close to Indulgence, and that next trip out I WILL prove it.

        It is nice to dream – but SOME dreams do come true

        Again welcome, and good luck with your plan – JDA

        • You know what. I hope you find that chest because I can tell by your replay that you’re one heck of a nice guy. Just remember “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”!!
          Go get that treasure mate!! Best, Gary

          • He is, very clever as well. The only thing he lacks is imagination. If, he focused on that I know he would find it.

  11. Wonderful read Idle, your pictures really do say a 1000 words. But I really liked your interpretation of the clues . Sorry you didn’t find the TC. Next time….?

    • Thanks OS2,

      I think everyone wants their next time to go better but at this stage in the game, I think I am content with just some peace and quiet in the mountains. My greatest treasure has always been waiting for me at the end of my return trip.

  12. If you followed Trail Creek up further at some point you would be directly in line with and see the white blaze on Blaze Mountain in the summer…

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