A stout-hearted man if ever there was one! I imagine that all three of his names will certainly ring a bell with searchers. Born in South Africa to American parents and later educated at Cornell, he worked for the Smithsonian, and spent more than a few years roaming the Rockies and the American West. A naturalist, he collected specimens of mammals for display in the museums of his day, rubbing shoulders with some of the 19th Century’s most accomplished taxidermists. He ended his life in South Africa.
It could well be that museums such as the Denver Museum display to this day some of his specimens in their taxidermy collections.
On one of his expeditions, he helped establish a scientific camp high in the Rockies, which was dubbed “Camp Brown Bear Trail”, so named for the many grizzly trails which then criss-crossed that area. He resided there for several weeks and hunted for grizzly.
The following is an actual account from recollections of those days:
“I went up the side of a steep mountain following a small stream to its head. I chose a large flat rock at the edge of a ledge for my camping place. The view was marvelous. On the rock I soon had a fine fire going. Water was heated and venison toasted. Though tired, I was much refreshed and cut a great stock of fir spruce boughs which were to serve for a bed that night. A goodly quantity of wood was gathered for the fire,(which) was now removed nearer the edge of the rock and the spruce boughs spread down. I stretched my weary bones out on that bed of Mexican feathers and really almost went to sleep and would have had not the fire burned low and a horrible dream about a grizzly roused me.”
Well, I figured this small stream he followed was the creek to paddle up and I figured that this ledge just had to be the blaze in Forrest Fenn’s poem, what with campfires blazing and bones and all.. And wouldn’t you know it, after some considerable effort (difficult but not impossible) and some years, I finally found the Ledge and stood upon it. The view was truly marvelous. And yes, I had already considered where warm waters halt: and it led me right to it.
But before I ever went to the Ledge, I figured I had better give the poem a once-over just in case I missed anything. Good thing I did:
Scant (from Wiktionary)- a block of stone, sawn on two sides down to the bed level.
Marvel (from the Shorter Oxford)- see also marvil. A child’s marble.
Tarry- of, like, or covered in tar; splattered with tar.
Clear as day, then: I knew I needed to find a block of stone with black flecks and a marble-like marking of some kind on its face, probably white.
Since I knew Forrest Fenn was a marble champion in 7th grade, I knew I was onto something:
So I climbed to the Ledge at last. It was at an altitude of just barely under 10,200 feet. I took my best friend with me. Together we stood on that Ledge, and we keenly felt that we had found Forrest’s special spot. To stand on the actual rock where a brave and wise naturalist had once camped in the late 19th Cenury, when the wilds were still wild. He had even carried a Sharps rifle, as if he wasn’t already wise enough. And below us, a rare fisherman’s paradise, but virtually unknown, with two perfectly symmetrical horseshoe bends.
Then we turned and gasped as we saw the block of stone beneath us on the Ledge, so scant-like, with a marble on it. We gazed on it in awe. But evening drew nigh and so we resolved to return the next day. And then that night it snowed and snowed.