First, consider Fenn’s words.
“Your treasure hunt has inspired people worldwide to discover history, culture and nature, but many people, (even in the US) might be deterred because they don’t live near the Rockies or can’t afford to travel. Should they be deterred? Can a little girl in India, who speaks good English, but only has your poem and a map of the US Rocky Mountains, work out where the treasure is? And would she be confident as she solves each clue, or only confident when she has solved them all?”
“I wish I had another treasure to hide in the Appalachians. The little girl in India cannot get closer than the first two clues. There are many disabled people who are deeply into maps and geography, and they are having a lot of fun.”
Given Fenn’s intentional vagueness, I am making a huge assumption that “having a lot of fun” means they have a chance to solve more than the first 2 clues and maybe figure it out.
I could be wrong, but it’s just too time-consuming to start everywhere, so I need to start somewhere.
“Children have the greatest imagination because their thoughts run free”
My approach: Poem, map, extensive knowledge of geography and imagination.
Most people on the search sites appear to conduct their searches by poem, map, imagination, geography, ecology, history, riddles, codes, Fenn’s real or imagined hints, and anything and everything else. They appear to look at anything and everything and hope their mind clicks onto the connection. Doing it this way adds a crazy high number of variables and introduces a very strong cognitive bias that is based on their own experiences instead of reason. I need to set parameters and continually follow them, so I don’t also waste time and go off the rails.
I only need the poem, a map, an extensive knowledge of geography, and my imagination to find the treasure. Nothing else. Get back in the box.
- The poem vs a treasure map: my approach will be this. Fenn created a treasure map that is primarily geographic in nature, but he put it in a poem. Imagination will be needed to turn the poem into geographic terms. My first search will be based on this approach. I could be wrong, but it’s just too time-consuming to start everywhere, and I need to start somewhere.
- Ignore the book: Fenn thinks the book would help, but I think it wouldn’t because it’s a vast sea of words and phrases to analyze and potentially get wrong, vs. a small poem.
- For example, take one sentence out of the book, idk, if he said, “I picked up a stick and threw it into my favorite lake.”…does this mean he hid the treasure at his favorite lake? Or should I pick up “stick creek” at a lake and go about as far as he could throw the stick into the lake???? Maybe, hmmm”. Now multiply that by the number of sentences in the book. I think the book will only make sense after I find the treasure and then it will be like, oh yeah, I can see that. Before that, it’s a massive waste of time.
- Treasure is in the Rocky Mountains, clues may be outside. Include areas bordering 4 states & Rocky Mountains
The first clue:
- I only need a map for the first 2 clues, per little girl in India.
- Map: Why has no one ever asked Fenn what kind of map we need to use? His poem shows a Benchmark map, but they only produce state maps. They also product Atlases, but he didn’t say all you need is an atlas. I have a strong feeling that Fenn owns very many detailed maps of many, many areas in the Rocky Mountains. Because I don’t want to invest in a bunch of detailed maps, I’m going to make a bad assumption that all I need is google earth and google maps. Someone needs to ask him about maps, although maybe they have, and I didn’t read it.
- WW and WWWH: WW is a name on a map, per little girl in India. I need to say this to myself 5,000 times. WW is a name on a map. WWWH may also be a name on a map, or it may be where the WW obviously halts visibly on a map. Don’t forget imagination – for example, Agua Fria peak makes for a nice potential WWWH.
- Go through google earth and map out everywhere in the Rocky Mountains that has a name related to WW or WWWH. It may help to go to the hot springs website & mark all hot springs (https://maps.ngdc.noaa.gov/viewers/hot_springs/)
- Google earth and google maps are a pain to use because it’s easy to miss areas when mapping out everything. I’ll use a benchmark state map to note where I’ve covered area on google.
Rest of the clues/poem:
- Canyon down: For the first search, assume a canyon is a canyon. This is probably the second clue, so will be a name on a map, or a canyon on an elevation map. Small chance it’s not a canyon, but don’t go off the rails on the first search. Down is either down a canyon wall, or it’s following the canyon floor as it goes lower in elevation.
- Far but not too far to walk: For the first search, assume 20 miles, which is a 5 hour walk at 4 miles an hour. It could be a higher number of miles, but it exponentially increases the search criteria. If first search fails, this is the first variable to increase and redo the search, to 30 miles, then 40 miles, etc.
- Home of Brown: Start thinking geographically.
- Most likely Not a name on a map, unless this is the second clue.
- Geography: when most people think of geography, they think of physical geography, but it can also include human civilization & how animals play into it. Physical geography takes priority, but don’t discount the others.
- Physical geography: There are so many brown things in the wild that it’s meaningless to limit by “thinking of brown things”. We know that Fenn knows about the paint color brown (ocher, sienna, etc.), per his writings. It could literally mean an outcropping or a current or past quarry/mine for the main minerals used to create artist’s brown paint. Limonite or an oxide or something. It’s unclear to me whether it’s just the treasure that isn’t in a structure, or if it’s all the clues. Outcroppings are probably more likely, but don’t discount quarries/mines.
- People geography: the only thing I can think of are pueblos or pueblo ruins.
- Animal geography: beaver dam, brown trout, maybe bison, etc.
- End is ever drawing nigh: think geographically, use imagination
- A draw can be defined geographically in terms of water, but to me, it makes more sense to use the definition as a sort of mini-canyon with 2 sides.
- Nigh could be left, either go left or on left side of draw, or nigh could mean nothing
- End could be end of draw, or nothing
- No paddle up creek:
- I can’t see this any way other than going upstream on a river/stream/creek. “No paddle” could limit search to places “too shallow to paddle” but if it’s not, I don’t want to limit my search. In nature, if you’re up a creek without a paddle, you find a pole and pole down.
- Heavy loads and water high:
- Physical geography load: I think it’s most likely a stream load. Either a heavy load bed (big rocks in it), or it’s a stream with heavy load capacity (like a braided stream).
- Physical geography water high: High water mark doesn’t really make sense for fresh-water. Imagination: maybe a waterfall or a perch lake. My money is on waterfall.
- Human geography load and high: Train tracks or past train tracks, maybe a heavy bridge. Maybe a water tower or similar. Could be others, but I’m thinking that Fenn likes wilderness, so I like physical geography better.
- If you’ve been wise and found:
- No idea what this means. Requires imagination. I suspect this is Fenn’s “nobody to my uncertain knowledge has analyzed one important possibility related to the winning solve”
- Past tense probably means the treasure is somewhere on your journey — meaning, you determine where he’s talking about by the clues, but the blaze can be anywhere on the route after and including the first clue
- Could be something complicated like you can only see the blaze when/where “fill in the blank” (looking down from a lookout point – being wise and all-seeing, when the sun is at zenith, etc.). I mean, maybe on the draw, you can see the blaze from far, far away, and the treasure is under the blaze. Find all possible places where other clues exist, and then use imagination to deduce wise/blaze.
- The blaze:
- Based on what he’s said about the blaze, and the within 500’/200′ comments, I’m guessing that the blaze is an unusual 4-sided outcropping of some sort, or maybe (doubtful) water. Trees and vegetation don’t last long enough, and really, what else is out there but mountains, rocks and water?
- The treasure:
- Don’t worry about the treasure, just find and identify the blaze. Per Fenn’s comment: “How far is the chest located from the blaze? Casey, I did not take the measurement, but logic tells me that if you don’t know where the blaze is it really doesn’t matter. If you can find the blaze though, the answer to your question will be obvious.”
Other Fenn hints about pine, sage, from the car in an afternoon, secluded enough area to let bones rest in peace: Fenn is tricky, so don’t trust these during the above search. Only look at these filters when you have a short list of solves. Look at the closest roads and ranger roads to the treasure site. This is Very helpful afterwards. For example, a lot of areas with glaciers are too many miles away from any road.