Disclaimer: This solve will probably be at least as long as my “Going to See the Elephant” solve so make sure you’ve got some time to read it all, grab a beverage, and get comfy…
2nd Disclaimer: I will be interspersing my thoughts on ATF comments throughout my solve, but I should point out that my solve came first from the poem/maps and I primarily used ATF items as confirmation (bias) for my solve. I will try to point out/identify possible Confirmation Bias (CB) where applicable.
How I Came to this Solve
I covered how I came to the Chase in my previous write-up so I’m not going to re-hash it here. For this solve, there were a few things that happened around the same time that led me to my WWWH.
1) I was exploring the edge of Wyoming/Idaho on the basis of the Western Interior Seaway – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Interior_Seaway (as potential WWWH) in the following picture.
I was following the Snake River and ended up in Grand Teton National Park and then realized how close it was to Yellowstone.
- 2)I’d always skipped trying to find a solve in Yellowstone because of the number of people that have already searched there and because of the legal questions surrounding finding the TC in the park. But around this time, the following was posted on Dal’s site:
Which, combined with #1, made me reconsider the area (though I still didn’t think it was inside the park).
- 3)I took FF’s advice and focused on WWWH. I’ve long thought that the simplest explanation (especially given the warm “means being comfortable” ATF) is that WWWH is related to a hot spring. I also think the first two lines of the poem (“As I have gone alone in there And with my treasures bold”) point to a hot spring (“treasures bold” being a euphemism for skinny dipping and both lines hinted at in “river bathing is best” in TFTW). I’d searched the hot springs map – https://maps.ngdc.noaa.gov/viewers/hot_springs/ multiple times in each state, but this time, I took a different route – I Googled.
And I found hot springs outside of the parks that weren’t on the hot springs map.
Begin it where warm waters halt
There are multiple parts to this line so we’ll take them one by one. The above picture is from Huckleberry Hot Springs and I think the first article about it I found was this one:
Looking at Google Maps of the area led me to a second, nearby hot spring (Polecat Hot Springs), which you can see in the top left of the image below.
Full disclosure: both springs are now closed to people (effective 2014):
So where do these warm waters halt? Where they enter Polecat Creek or the Snake River? Nope. I think they halt (people) at Flagg Ranch – where you would park to go to them. So in this solve, my WWWH is Flagg Ranch. Now for “Begin it”. My “it” is the Ashton-Flagg Ranch Road (AKA Reclamation Road; AKA Grassy Lake Road) which starts at the intersection with US Hwy 89/US Hwy 191. For purposes of this write-up, I’m just going to call it the Flagg Ranch Road. All told, BIWWWH looks like this:
And just to give you a wider overview of where we are, we’re south of Yellowstone and north of Grand Teton:
The Word that is Key (Possible CB)
For this solve, the word that is Key is Key, as in Francis Scott Key, who wrote the lyrics that became the Star-Spangled Banner.
From Wikipedia: “Key was inspired by the large U.S. Flag, (Flagg Ranch?) with 15 stars and 15 stripes, known as the Star-Spangled Banner, flying triumphantly above the fort during the U.S. victory.”
FF also hinted at this Francis Scott Key/potential flag connection in TTOTC, in“Important Literature”- “If Robert Redford had ever written anything he probably could have done it better than the guy who wrote that Gatsby book.“ The “guy who wrote that Gatsby book“ would be F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was named after his famous second cousin, three times removed on his father’s side, and whose full name is Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald.
Deep Thinking Logic Clue (Possible CB)
Many have wondered about this ATF comment from FF. I think it relates to his motive to “get kids off the couch and away from their texting machines and out into the mountains. “ There are many places in the mountains where there is no cell service, so it would be hard to narrow the search area much based on this comment alone, but I suspect it’s more rare to be without both service and WIFI wherever these hypothetical kids are staying each night. From the Headwaters Lodge and Cabins at Flagg Ranch website:
And take it in the canyon down
So we’re on Flagg Ranch Road, but where’s our “canyon down”? Here’s where we need to “look at the big picture” and “have the right map”. In this case, the interactive map at www.wilderness.net:
When we follow Flagg Ranch Road towards Ashton, ID (the only way we can go on it), and fill in the borders of the National Parks, you get this…
So we “take it” (Flagg Ranch Road) “in the canyon down” (I.e. down the road through the map canyon).
Flagg Ranch Road is part of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (section 2):
From TFTW, again in “river bathing is best” FF talks about riding his bike 20 miles to his secret bathing spot. In ATF comments, on getting to the hiding spot, FF asks, “What is wrong with me just riding my bike out there and throwing it in the ‘water high’ when I am through with it?”
Not far, but too far to walk.
Put in below the home of Brown.
I’ll come back to “Not far, but too far to walk”, but essentially, we’re driving along Flagg Ranch Road towards Winegar Hole Wilderness, my home of Brown. For this clue, I think too many people focus on “Brown” and not enough on “home”. From the wilderness.net map:
So Winegar Hole was designated a wilderness area because it was prime grizzly habitat (North American Brown Bear). Debate all you want about the capitalization of “Brown” – I’m not going to get into it here.
FF ATF: “The clues did not exist when I was a kid, but most of the places the clues refer to did.” Winegar Hole Wilderness was not a designated wilderness by Congress until 1984.
Logically, I initially found 2 “Put in” locations – the Loon Lake Boat Launch, and the Fish Lake Trailhead, both of which are just south of (below) Winegar Hole Wilderness.
From Flagg Ranch, Loon Lake is 19.5 miles away and Fish Lake Trailhead is 20 miles away – “Not far, but too far to walk.”
These two options to “Put In”are good and it’s possible to make the rest of the poem work with them (I’ll come back to these options later as back up solve possibilities), but there was something about an area just east of Winegar Hole Wilderness that I couldn’t let go of. The rest of the clues (and ATF) worked better – if I could only find a “Put in below” that worked.
Calf Creek/Calf Creek Hill
Before I get into the specifics of the rest of my solve, I want to explain that they evolved somewhat between my initial solve and each of my two successive BOTG trips (3 BOTG total). I’ll try to reference this evolution as I go through the rest of my solve by identifying my thought processes prior to each BOTG. To do so, I’ll reference each trip as follows:
BOTG #1 – Northern Route to Big Cliff
BOTG #2 – Along the Creek
BOTG #3 – Headstone Check
Put in below the home of Brown
For each trip, my “Put in” remained the same – the trail just east of Winegar Hole Wilderness that led into the Wilderness, but the thought process for my HOB changed.
Prior to BOTG#1, I had actually modified the HOB I listed above (Winegar Hole Wilderness) to Calf Creek Hill itself, though I recognized at the time that Calf Creek Hill as HOB was tenuous at best.
For Fenn so Loved a Cow (Possible CB)
From “Bessie and Me” in TTOTC:
I think for Calf Creek Hill as HOB, my interpretation was either Brown as the color of the Calf itself (How Now Brown Cow?) or some sort of poop (mudpie) related teenager-esque interpration based on “My mind stays at about thirteen.” from the preface to TTOTC.
I also got some confirmation from the shadows in the picture on page 28 of TTOTC which were pointed out by charlie on Dal’s site (though he missed the Flag):
I initially interpreted the “hill” as Calf Creek Hill, but later revised my interpretation to be an elevation map between Flagg Ranch and the turnoff to the Fish Lake Trailhead (identified by the “Flag” and the “Man Fishing”, respectively). Mapping Flag Ranch Road to the turnoff results in an elevation graph as follows with the car/truck at approximately the parking location by Calf Creek Hill:
Kids have an Advantage ATF (possible CB)
For Calf Creek Hill as HOB, I tied this ATF to the following kids book:
It also works for Winegar Hole Wilderness as HOB:
For each of my two successive trips, my HOB was Winegar Hole Wilderness, but again, still using this trail as my Put in. I’ll detail my change in thought process after I go through BOTG#1, but first, the rest of my initial solve…
From there it’s no place for the meek
In this solve, this is simply the place where you park and get out of your car and go into the wilderness (into prime grizzly habitat).
The end is ever drawing nigh;
From wikipedia: “An example of a draw on a topographical map, and how it would look in the real world. If you are standing in a draw, the ground slopes upward in three directions and downward in the other direction.“
I probably don’t need to point out this relatively obscure geographical feature and FF’s ATF comment about “a comprehensive knowledge of geography”, but here it is for the sake of thoroughness.
This draw also goes to the left (nigh), completing the interpretation of this line in the poem.
There’ll be no paddle up your creek,
Below is a picture of part of Calf Creek (west of the Put in) from Google Earth in June of 2013 (the June/2013 image shows the creek more clearly than the August/2015 image – I’ve been waiting for a Google update for 2018 all year).
In short, Calf Creek is a shallow creek (mostly under 12 inches deep, but occasionally with small pools that might reach 2-3 feet). In addition, there are many small (4-6 feet) waterfalls as it descends into Yellowstone. It’s certainly not a creek that can be paddled and we are also going downstream.
Just heavy loads and water high.
There are a few possible interpretations for this line with this solve. On the topographic map, the nearby trail is the South Boundary Trail (Borders bookstore as a hint in TTOTC?) and is designated on the Topo map as a Pack Trail.
Calf Creek eventually continues into Yellowstone and empties into the Fall River, which has a large number of waterfalls (water high). The waterfalls themselves may also be heavy loads (of water) or heavy loads could be the large boulders in Calf Creek itself.
If you’ve been wise and found the blaze,
This is the part of my solve where things become a bit more trial and error. I wrote about my thoughts on breaking this line up into two parts in my “Full Thoughts on Halving the Blaze” post from October/2017 – https://dalneitzel.com/2017/10/11/halving-the-blaze/ which was directly influenced by this solve.
Also around this time, I was trying to explore whether FF would answer (at the Nov 2nd Book signing) if it was now possible to see the TC on Google Earth as I viewed applying the thought process from the post pretty compelling in light of the GE imagery (notice the flat rock with the dark spot in the middle)…
Under this scenario, there would (in theory) be a blaze near the flat rock that couldn’t be seen from GE.
I also considered, further down the creek, the possibility that this cliff/barren area was the blaze.
Look quickly down, your quest to cease,
With this blaze, the idea would be that TC would be below it, down closer to the creek.
But tarry scant with marvel gaze,
From the June/2013 GE image, there was also an interesting rock formation (tarry scant?) that resembled (from GE at least) headstones.
The zoom.earth view of these rocks also showed an interesting glint, but it’s hard to say for sure what was causing it.
It also seemed that from these rocks, there was the potential for a “marvel gaze” into Yellowstone NP, though BOTG would be needed to confirm.
Paul Harvey Voice: And now… the rest of the Poem
I subscribe to the Lugnutz theory of the rest of the Poem…
Consequently, I don’t think there’s much here with the exception of maybe some legal stuff and one confirmation hint that we’re in the right place.
If you are brave and in the wood
In this solve, this is a line that confirms being in Winegar Hole Wilderness is the correct place (as opposed to further down the creek and into Yellowstone NP or east of Winegar Hole Wilderness closer to Flagg Ranch Road).
“In the wood” relates to the “Wine” part of Winegar with wine being stored/aged in wooden barrels. “Brave” relates to the “gar” part of Winegar and relates to the veterans that made up the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), described by Wikipedia as follows:
The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was a fraternal organization composed of veterans of the Union Army (United States Army), Union Navy (U.S. Navy), Marines and the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service who served in the American Civil War for the United States forces. Founded in 1866 in Decatur, Illinois, and growing to include hundreds of posts (local community units) across the nation (predominately in the North, but also a few in the South and West), it was dissolved in 1956 at the death of its last member, Albert Woolson (1850–1956) of Duluth, Minnesota. Linking men through their experience of the war, the G.A.R. became among the first organized advocacy groups in American politics, supporting voting rights for black veterans, promoting patriotic education, helping to make Memorial Day a national holiday, lobbying the United States Congress to establish regular veterans pensions, and supporting Republican political candidates. Its peak membership, at more than 490,000, was in 1890, a high point of various Civil War commemorative and monument dedication ceremonies.
Additional TTOTC Hints to this Area (Possible CB)
In “Looking for Lewis and Clark” FF writes the following:
Which, combined, can be mapped as follows:
In “Gypsy Magic” FF writes “The gypsies came through town several times a year in their horse-pulled wagons that had rubber tires.” The story also has the following picture:
Teton Wagon Train & Horse Adventure (http://www.tetonwagontrain.com/) runs multi-day wagon tours along Flagg Ranch Road, with an overnight camping area near Calf Creek.
A Hint from TFTW to this Area (Possible CB)
In “my prehistoric friends” FF includes the following picture of one of his arrowheads.
Looking up the Castroville Point on www.projectilepoints.net reveals that these type of points are found in central Texas. What’s interesting is the listing of similar points:
You can go here: http://www.projectilepoints.net/Points/Calf_Creek.html if you want to read about the Calf Creek Point.
Distances (200 feet/500 feet) and an 80 year old FF
Before BOTG, the final questions are whether our prospective path can feasibly be done by an 80 year old man with a 20 pound pack twice in an afternoon… So how far do we travel on this solve?
With a one way distance of 3,500 feet, the total distance for 2 round-trips from the car is approximately 2.65 miles.
The 200 feet and 500 feet ATF comments are hard to define, but above, for the possible TC on Google Earth, one of the trails is approximately 450 feet to the east, while the pack trail is approximately 150 feet to the south.
For the interesting rock formation below the blaze, the assumption is that the searchers were on the South Boundary Trail going into Yellowstone towards the Falls River.
@FF: You talkin’ to me?
AKA The most Confirmation Bias-y thing that that ever Confirmation Biased (and deservedly so, IMO)
I’m sure it will come as no surprise that this relates to FF’s “gut feeling”.
In September of 2017, as I was in the process of developing this solve, I sent the following email to FF:
Obviously, what stands out is my use of “gut instinct” and that I stated I was telling him specifically for his annual update (which I mis-remembered as happening just after New Year’s rather than the actual time of early February.
But what really drives this confirmation bias home is FF’s answer to the first question in the same “Six Questions with Forrest Fenn”.
In a response that only tangentially (IMO) answers the question, he references again (and misspells once), his calf/cow Bessie.
Since I (spoiler alert!) didn’t find the TC, this is obviously just a coincidence and only served to give me a wicked case of Confirmation Bias, but you’ll never convince me it wasn’t at least justified given the above.
I mentioned way back towards the beginning that I initially liked Fish Lake Trailhead and Loon Lake Boat Launch as “Put ins” below (south) of Winegar Hole Wilderness and they became backup solves to check out if my primary search area didn’t pan out. I won’t go into as much detail, but in general, my solves for each were as follows:
Fish Lake Trailhead:
Loon Lake Solve:
The Best Laid Plans
So I’ve got my solve, I’ve got my hints, and I’ve got my ATF interpretations. I’ve got my backup solves. I’ve got my search partners lined up (my Dad and my brother) and we book our BOTG trip for the end of July/early August with 2-3 days of dedicated searching on either side of a drive from Denver, CO (family vacation in the Denver area is the following week).
It is at this point that I see posts from someone else on Dal’s site that led me to believe that they were in my same general area… namely a reference to a bike trail (could it be the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route that I discussed earlier?) and a question about 20 miles (could they be referencing the 20 miles from Flagg Ranch to Fish Lake Trailhead?), along with a direct reference to looking in Yellowstone. My interpretation was that this person was as far as “Put in below the home of Brown” being Fish Lake Trailhead below Winegar Hole Wilderness and that it might only be a matter of time before they started considering Calf Creek/Calf Creek Hill.
Because my wife is awesome and understands that I can be a bit obsessive about things (aren’t we all to a certain extent regarding the Chase?), and maybe because she didn’t want to listen to me worry about someone getting to my area ahead of me for however many months, and maybe because she wanted to do a family vacation to scenic Grand Teton, we booked a short 4-day trip for early June, with a dedicated day for the two of us to search. My in-laws joined us on the trip and wanted to take our two kids to Yellowstone/Old Faithful on our search day. Wins all around!
Full disclosure: that poster has since posted their solve (not on Dal’s) and they were not in the same area. They ended up being further west on a Warm River up to Cave Falls area solve with some dubious (IMO) logical stretches.
BOTG #1 – Northern Route to Big Cliff
We flew into Jackson, WY, landing around 9:00 am, and toured Grand Teton for the rest of the day. The plan was to search on day 2 and we started the day with a huge breakfast at the Virginian before picking up our bear spray and driving up to Flagg Ranch.
At Flagg Ranch, we encountered our first hurdle: a billboard informing us that Flagg Ranch Road was closed after campsite 8. This, despite me analyzing snowpack throughout the winter, and the gauge at Grassy Lake (approximately the midpoint between Flagg Ranch and Calf Creek Hill) being at 0 for 2+ weeks. We elected to drive as far as we could and if the road got bad, we would simply turn around and give up on it as neither of us were interested in getting stuck and hiking out 10 miles back to Flagg Ranch (remember there’s no cell service anywhere nearby). We were, however, in a GMC Yukon, which certainly helped our confidence levels.
At campsite 8, we (don’t tell anyone) moved a few barrels and, with there being no snow to speak of, continued on our way. Approximately a mile past this, we passed someone walking from the other direction, who informed us that he had parked on the far side of the closed section, walked in, and that the road was completely fine all the way to Ashton. We thanked him for the information and continued on to Calf Creek Hill.
What are the Chances? (Or: In which I almost have a heart attack)
As we rounded the corner to our predetermined parking spot by Calf Creek Hill, after seeing/passing only 2-3 other cars on this entire 15 mile stretch of road, we see a jeep and a truck parked in the exact spot we wanted to park and there are four people bustling about by the side of the road. I immediately jump to the conclusion that they’re searchers in my spot, and my wife remains calm and thinks they’re probably there for some other reason.
We drive past them about a mile and park to figure out our next move when another car comes up behind us. It’s a young couple in a Honda Civic that was trying to get through from Ashton, ID to Flagg Ranch/Yellowstone. When they passed the people in my parking area, they saw them loading animal parts and suspected they might be poachers and were trying to get service to call someone to report it. We advised them that we thought they could get through on Flagg Ranch Road (which is a plus given FF’s “it was a sedan” ATF comment about the vehicle he used while hiding the TC). We turned around and went past the people again and it looked like they were packing up so we parked a little beyond that and waited. The young couple in the Civic eventually drove up and let us know that they had stopped and talked to the people. Apparently, they had just shot a bear and were loading up the carcass (the couple also let us know that they had confirmed it was bear-hunting season – I assume from that it was a Black Bear).
Eventually, the Jeep and the truck leave and we park at our spot to begin our search at about 12:30 in the afternoon. As we started up the hill, we did see what remained of the bear – there wasn’t much – and I didn’t take a picture.
BOTG #1 – The Search Itself
Our route was essentially the one I laid out in above:
We searched where the possible TC from Google Earth was. It was a bush. We searched in and around all the rocks we saw between the parking area, the top of the hill, and as we went towards the area marked “Cliff”.
We did find a “marvel gaze” (this isn’t the best picture):
But unforunately, it was a Cliff and there was no way to reach the headstone shaped rocks:
Some promising spots, but no TC. At this point, at the cliff, it was only around 2:30, but this being her first BOTG and the first for both of us in bear country, and after the internal drama of the bear hunters situation, our nerves were both kind of frayed so we searched as we headed back to the car. I knew that I still had my original trip with my Dad and brother coming up to spend more time searching so I viewed this as a bit of a reconnoitering trip to get the lay of the land.
We did start to head towards the Fish Lake backup solve, but the road was significantly worse than Flagg Ranch Road itself (probably not passable in a sedan unless you subscribe to the textbook dictionary definition that allows for an SUV to qualify as a sedan). After a short distance on the rougher road to the Fish Lake Trailhead and with our aforementioned nerves, I called it off and we called it a day.
Rest of Our Trip
This next bit isn’t search related other than we definitely fulfilled FF’s goal of getting our kids out into the mountains (they’re not old enough for their own phones, so there wasn’t any getting them off their texting machines). We spent the next day hiking around Grand Teton NP and took a float trip down the Snake River. The following day, we took the Tram to the top of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, the kids finished up their Junior Ranger booklets and got their badges, and we bought all of our standard magnets/Christmas ornaments/snow globe souvenirs. We didn’t find the TC, but it was a great trip!
Revisions to my Solve Prior to BOTG #2
I mentioned before how I thought Calf Creek Hill as HOB was tenuous. After I got back from my first trip, I looked at some elevation information about Calf Creek itself and made a discovery – on Google Earth, Calf Creek close to Flagg Ranch Road was at a lower elevation than it was as you followed it up into Winegar Hole Wilderness.
And, per GE, it definitely drops back down as CC flows into Yellowstone and merges with the Falls River:
So this change in elevation allows me to use Calf Creek and the nearby trail as my Put In below (at a lower elevation than) Winegar Hole Wilderness, as measured by the elevation of Calf Creek. It also gives me a different possible interpretation of “waters high” – the high point of Calf Creek. Could there be a natural spring there with a stable water level that might account for the TC being wet, but not submerged? Maybe a grotto type structure with a cooler temperature, making it “worth the cold”? Or maybe the GE elevation data was just wrong (probably). But even if it was wrong, we’re still using the poem and a map (even if the map is incorrect). Also, the cliff above the creek is higher than our starting point so “put in below” could be referring to the start of the trail (which is modestly below the elevation of the trail as it goes into Winegar Hole Wilderness).
Regardless, traveling along the creek and reaching this high point would be the focus of BOTG #2.
Along the creek, we would look for our “blaze” while also considering the possibility of it being a waterfall down in the creek.
Other ATF/Hints for Going Along the Creek
There are multiple self-explanatory items here: “worth the cold” as a hint in the poem to having to walk through cold water and the ATF “I know the treasure is wet” from the NM tourism video. I also think the following quote (image from tarryscant.com) is well-explained with FF creek-walking at some point as he took the TC to its hiding place:
BOTG #2 – Along the Creek
I flew into Denver and took the scenic way up to Jackson Hole, driving over the Snowy Range Scenic Byway through the Medicine Bow National Forest and making stops at Saratoga (Hobo) Hot Springs and the Oregon Trail related sights, Devils Gate (https://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/devils-gate) and Independence Rock (https://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/independence-rock).
I met up with my Dad and brother in Jackson, WY and the next morning, we headed up to Calf Creek after picking up our bear spray. The general plan was to go along the creek, getting in and searching the creek where possibly, and searching the rocky area above the creek as well. The planned path was as follows:
There were a number of waterfalls and we were able to get into and out of the creek between them at times:
Though at other times, the drop off was too steep…
In one spot, there was a pre-attached rope that led to the bottom of the creek, which none of us were able to figure out a reason for it being there (I.e. why would anyone be trying to get to the creek here; other than other searchers obviously).
Along the top of the rocky area, there were a number of potential hiding areas; areas large enough for a body to fit in and surrounded by stones (remember the alleged early draft of the poem with “leave my bones” and hypothesis that the corresponding rhyming word would be “stones”) and with plenty of nooks and crannies to hide the TC.
(Full disclosure – the above pic was actually taken on BOTG #3 as I didn’t do a good job photo-documenting BOTG #2).
But the greatest potential spot was one of these areas that also had a “marvel gaze” – down through the valley and out into Yellowstone itself.
You can’t see it from this picture (and I didn’t take a better one on BOTG #2), but just outside the bottom frame of this picture is a headstone-shaped rock. And down in the creek is a waterfall. We remarked on all of this at the time, but getting down to the headstone-shaped rock was modestly dicey and as, you could see behind it and around the rocks from a different angle, we didn’t go down to actually check out the rock. We all said that this was the perfect spot and we didn’t find a better one further down the creek.
We did end up making it beyond where my wife and I went on BOTG #1, but were still not able to reach the creek bottom below the big cliff.
On day 2, we looked at the Loon Lake Backup solve, but the woods from the parking lot were too thick and the area surrounding the lake was too marshy. We also looked at the Fish Lake Trailhead backup solve and made it to here:
I wanted to check out whatever weird thing it is I have circled and also get to where Calf Creek first enters the meadow, but what looks like relatively flat ground is actually a wall of ~8 foot high bushes that none of us wanted to fight through, especially given the possibility of unseen bears in them. The ground was also soft/marshy and this was only at the edges.
This isn’t the spot, but is an example of the type of terrain/bushes (thought these are only maybe 1/2 the size of the what we encountered.
Pre-existing solves exhausted, I came up with an alternative backup solve that put us closer to Grassy Lake with Yellowstone as HOB, the “Put in” as Mountain Ash Creek Trail, “drawing nigh” as a small draw on the left side of the trail heading higher in elevation towards a gravel pit and small pond (“heavy loads and water high”). My “in the wood” interpretation from before becomes leaving Yellowstone and going back into just the National Forest.
It looked nice and there was a small creek running there, but not really ever a “marvel gaze” or any good blazes.
Out of ideas and time, my Dad and brother headed home and I started the drive back to Denver.
300 Miles Later…
I was somewhere around Rawlins, on the edge of the basin, when the doubt began to take hold.
I’m driving along, thinking about my failed solve, when the idea occurs to me that we should have checked that headstone-shaped rock more. What if it is somehow disguising the TC? It did look a bit out of place (whiter) than the surrounding rocks. Maybe it’s buried right underneath it like the dish in “charmay and me” that was hidden under the lid in the floor? What are the odds that a headstone-shaped rock would be in the perfect spot for FF to hide himself and the TC?
(It’s always on the way home that you realize something about your solve that you should have realized before… It’s inevitable.)
I don’t have time to go back before I’m supposed to meet my family in Denver so I decide to explore it more when I get home and re-evaluate whether it’s worth a trip back to check what is most likely just a rock.
Additional Research and an Unfortunate Lack of Pictures
Unfortunately, I only have the picture of the spot… none of the rock itself. Neither my Dad or brother have a picture of the rock either. But GE provides some additional info. In this image, you can clearly see the waterfall lined up with where you would first spot it (essentially the rock I was standing on to take the picture). And I measured the headstone-shaped rock to the actual trail (topo map on top of GE). In looking at this area, there’s also an interesting squarish shape nearby…
But what probably pushes me over the edge is the distance from the trail…
My wife continues to be awesome/understanding of my need to check this and, coupled with a super-cheap direct flight, I book a quick in-and-out weekend trip to confirm the rock is a rock and there’s nothing under it and then I’ll be done with this solve.
BOTG #3 – Headstone Check
I flew into Salt Lake City early Saturday morning, rented an SUV and drove 4.5 hours to Calf Creek, stopping to pick up bear spray along the way. I got to Calf Creek around 4:15 and was at the headstone-shaped rock by 4:45. Upon seeing it, I was pretty sure it was wrong as it was definitely not as whitish as I remembered.
Nevertheless, I carefully went down and checked it out (it was definitely a rock) and not moving anywhere). I looked around it and around the nearby rocks again as well. Nothing. I did also get back down into the creek and attempt again to get to the spot on the creek directly below this point, fighting through these trees/bushes that we skipped last time.
But I called it at the following point as not somewhere a 79-80 year old would go (it’s narrower/steeper than it looks and the water depth in the trench-looking areas is not clear).
I hiked out, drove back to civilization and flew home the next day.
Remember, it’s Inevitable…
Not 3 days later, while double-checking the area around Grassy Lake/Mountain Ash Creek Trail (the “desperation solve” from above), I came up with another solve in the area that I wish I’d checked out – Cascade Creek.
Just west of Grassy Lake is a trailhead for Cascade Creek, also just below Yellowstone (with Yellowstone as HOB, again).
The rest of the clues:
There is even a compelling 200 feet/500 feet interpretation:
But alas, as awesome as my wife is, a 4th trip would have to be summer of 2019 and would require a deft touch to accomplish (flowers, foot rubs, etc.) Let’s call it a long shot at this point and possibly not even worth it (relative to developing a new solve somewhere else and going there).
I’m biased, obviously, because it’s my solve, but I’m pretty proud of the work and thought process that’s gone into this solve and to be honest, I’m still not entirely convinced the TC is not in this area. After three trips, however, I guess I’m convinced enough to be done searching there and either move on to my next solve or call it quits on the Chase (which one probably depends on if I ever come up with another solve that I think is as strong as this one).
Thanks for reading and hopefully I’ve given you some new ideas with my views on the poem.
Also, if anyone has any additional ATF/hints related to this solve (either in support of it or that would rule it out) that I haven’t discussed, I’d appreciate you putting them in the comments. Good luck if anyone wants to re-explore this area or the Loon Lake/Fish Lake Trailhead backup solves or the Cascade Creek solve.
– by FMC