Gauging Value…


August 2019



What’s the true value of the Forrest Fenn treasure hunt? Ask this to a handful of people and you’re likely to get a handful of different answers. The truth is that there are several different motivations for pursuing the chase, the chase not limited to just the promise of sudden wealth and fame. 

I, for one, fall into this other group of searchers, the chase being less about fortune and fame and more about the mystery and the adventures associated with the chase. While many others are chasing the gold I want to know what’s inside the olive jar? I want to know how he did it and I want to know why he felt the need to include a biography in the chest when there is already so much known about him? This is where my personal curiosity resides, the gold and precious stones, etc., just being a pleasing sidebar. But then again, my personal involvement with the chase was originally motivated by different factors.

February, 13th, 2015, a Friday no less, and in just a few minutes I suddenly had one foot squarely planted on the other side of life. They call them “widow-makers” because they generally happen without any advanced symptoms or warnings and they are usually fatal. I was one of those lucky survivors because my widow-maker took place at a residence where there was experienced medical help, forty-four minutes later a waiting surgical team was cutting my cloths off of me on a stainless steel table at a hospital seventy miles away. They saved my life but not before permanent heart damage had set in. 

I only have three walls of my heart functioning now, at the time of my release from the hospital my injection fraction rate was only 30%, the normal being roughly 60-70%. What this meant was that I had a significantly reduced blood flow, any type of activity wearing me down quickly and causing me to struggle for breaths. This condition wasn’t expected to change and the prognosis for my future wasn’t good. Suddenly my entire life had changed, my typical active lifestyle no longer a possibility, or so they said. 

Now there were a couple of things that came into play that helped inspire my road to recovery, the first being the gift of a DSLR camera from my best friend because he knew that I desperately needed that distraction in my life. He reasoned that if I could no longer run and climb around in the wilds then at least I could photography those wilds, this then offering me something to help me refocus my future. I cannot explain to you just how big of a roll this simple gift ended up playing in my recovery other then to say that it was absolutely HUGE. 

A glass of water, I’ll never forget that first glass of water after my surgery. It was the absolute best glass of water I ever tasted. That first flower I saw after that surgery, it was absolutely the most beautiful flower I had ever seen in my life, and so on and so on. All of these things that I had previously taken for granted I was no longer taking for granted, that camera helping me to see what I had been missing all of those prior years. Suddenly the little things meant so much and I was finding great appreciation in all manner of new things, even in the simplest of things. Trust me when I say that near death can certainly show you what’s truly important in life. I know first hand. 

So first came the gift of the camera, the required distraction that allowed me to slowly let go of all the Post Traumatic Stress Disorders and those related fears. Through the lens of that camera I was slowly strolling further and further away from the house, then further and further away from the truck, then further and further away from the phone, then further and further away from all of them. My injection fraction rate was suddenly up to 50% so the next year it was bicycles, trekking poles, backpacks, kayaks, etc., and slow but sure my injection fraction rate was nearing 60% with only three walls of my heart working. But what inspired the trekking poles, backpacks, bicycles, kayaks, etc.? 

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In mid-2016 I came across the Forrest Fenn treasure chase, still weak at that point from the widow-maker but making slow progress. How awesome it would be if I could recover enough to finish something I had previously started with younger brother who had suddenly passed away in the fall of 2014 of the same illness, just a few months prior to my widow-maker. How awesome that would be! And so this is where the trekking poles and backpacks and bicycles and kayaks, etc., started coming into play. I had promised my brother that I would spread his ashes at one of his favorite locations in the Rocky Mountains and Fenn’s treasure hunt was that one grand adventure that I never got to take with my younger brother when he was alive. It was one of those 1+1 moments, something that’s hard to explain, but the moment I arrived at 2 it was, “game on!” 

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My first Forrest Fenn BOTG adventure took place in the fall of 2018, my brother’s ashes finally reaching their promised destination on that trip. It was a real triumph and success even without a chest full of gold or an olive jar full of information. It took me three years to make the trip, four years to conclude my promise to my younger brother which I was in route to do when I had my widow-maker. This summer, 2019, I stood at the top of the Continental Divide, my “M A 19” now carved in a tree. Do you believe it, I was running around up there without a single issue or care in the world. I was finally standing at the top of the world at over 13’000 feet in the sky. 

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People ask me if I’m ever concerned about being off the beaten track, no cell phone signal or help should I experience heart problems? I smile, chuckle, and reply, “Are you kidding me!” Hell, I’m fearless again, fear being the one thing that would have prevented my having ever gotten as far as I have. Now the Grand Tetons are on my radar, as are other places of natural beauty in the Rocky Mountains. I know that I’ll never see it all but I’m going to do all I can to see and to photograph as much of it as possible.  

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Gold, the contents of an olive jar, these are now sidebars in the chase, my winter theories just serving to create new paths of discovery for my summer adventures. Treasure? Heck, it’s everywhere in the Rocky Mountains if one only takes the time to look for it. It is a national treasure, for sure. I think this is Fenn’s point, my avenue of pursuit just being one of many different avenues. Heck, if were to ever be so fortunate to find Fenn’s treasure chest I’d be tempted to give it back to him just so he could hide it again. This is a chase that should truly never end. 

I’ve been a treasure hunter most of my adult life but this chase isn’t about monetary gain, it’s about life and the simple things. If this article helps to inspire others to take up the chase then I feel that I’ve already found and shared Fenn’s treasure. Gold and the promise of sudden wealth, it can’t buy life, but it can sure inspire you to live it! I think this is Fenn’s message…










58 thoughts on “Gauging Value…

  1. It sure is amazing isn’t it? I never in a million years would have thought to visit Dinosaur National Monument. Mr Fenn lead me there. I’ve always wanted to move to West Yellowstone or Bozeman, and now Mr Fenn is going to lead me there.

    Even if the gold is never found, the amount of beauty you will see can never be taken away.

    • Are all of our stories the real gift? When I consider that olive jar I often think of TTOTC Volume ll.

  2. Look at how blessed you have been. I would love to know what the autobiography says as well, it was written by a sharp and wise man.
    Whoever finds the treasure will u please come forward and share it’s meaning, and let us know what the autobiography says. I think the meaning of the poem will be worth far more than that gold.
    Forrest does say having plenty of money is better than having a lot.
    Glad u overcame that spider bite.

  3. Yes, the real value has been the thrill of the chase. My personal WWWH has been in the stream of consciousness. Following it down the canyon I find all of nature ‘s clues.

  4. Hello MA. Let me first start off by saying I’m glad you survived the Widow Maker, and you’re living life in a pleasurable way that makes you most happiest. In the beginning for me, the lure of treasure was striking. As time went by, my searches found me in beautiful places and the pace was carefree. Simply being there was a treasure in itself. Tomorrow, I celebrate my 5th year in the Chase, and I still find it just as thrilling as the first day.

  5. YEA for you MA. I didn’t experience a widow maker, but my heart problems included a much decreased EJection Fraction. At my on-set my EF was only 19%. I joked that I was dead, I just forgot to lie down. With meds my EF increased to 49%, and has slowly decreased again to about 38%. since 2005. Harder to do things, but am still kickin’ Y E A ! ! !

    Lovely, lovely pictures, and a great write-up. Keep on gettin’ out there my friend. The only real limits we have, are those we put on ourselves. Thanks for posting. 🙂 JDA

  6. A beautiful post, M.A. During one of my first interviews with Forrest, he told me he wrote the bio so “at least people would know who I was.” He did not want them to find nothing but his bones— after he took the 52 sleeping pills because he didn’t want to wait around and die of the cancer which had an 80% chance of recurring. The Kinko-shrunk scroll was also to become part of TOTC.

    • “It only matters who people think you are.” Think olive jar! Think about everything we are all experiencing and writing about. There is a common link to all of it. Fenn hadn’t lived the rest of his life yet when he placed that bio in the chest so how could HE write what he had yet lived?

      In a previous writing I suggested that the chase contains a teaching, a life lesson, something of “value” that is hidden in the olive jar. One really has to consider these things……

      • Yes, the olive jar. Red or green. New Mexico ‘s slogan. The bully who everyday shook an olive jar at FF in school . Same bully died in disgrace of his wife and family in a drunk driving accident.
        The olive jar is “key”. (As per pic of jar with a key in it) Seriously can’t figure this out, if it means a moral to life in general or means look in New Mexico (?) Or look where pimento is made and how..I’m leaning towards stupid events or careless events why people pass away. Sorry if this post seems random but from years ago, this line of thought has intrigued me.

  7. MA –

    I love this. Beautifully written.

    “I’m fearless again . . . .”

    That first glass of water.

    Zen and the art of treasure hunting, me thinks.

  8. Inspiring post MA. Gracias.

    Remember that the things you take for granted
    Someone else is praying for.

  9. MA, thank you for sharing. A great message. Last time I was on a search trip, I drove through
    some gorgeous, magnificent scenery that gave me a new appreciation of life (even without having found the TC). This treasure hunt — as well as, broadly speaking, Forrest’s writings —
    can be seen as a great gift to all of us. Thanks, Forrest. As always, IMO.

  10. M A,
    Thank you for sharing your story with all of us . You are a true Inspiration and thank you for putting the chase into perspective .

  11. MA,
    Congrats on an awesome come back, but at the risk of sounding stupid, can you please explain what “injection fraction rate ” is..

    • in simple terms, which is all I understand, it’s the volume of blood that the heart distributes to the body each time it beats.

  12. MA,
    Thank you,
    That is what “the thrill of the chase” is all about. You are a brave soul, and I wish you all the best in the Tetons!
    As for the pictures, they are fantastic. I spend about 2hrs searching for the treasure and the rest of the day taking pictures!
    Thanks again for the inspiration.

    • Jeff, that is my weakness in this chase, I’m too easily distracted by everything else around me…….lol

  13. Nature and Wilderness have been there to be enjoyed for more than a couple months before f hid his TC. They’re always there. Many do enjoy them and abide by low-impact and leave-no-trace practices when doing so. Sadly, f’s treasure has brought many who do not.

    If only more would take a camera rather than a gun into the wilderness. But small minded people exist.

  14. MA said, ” I want to know how he did it and I want to know why he felt the need to include a biography in the chest when there is already so much known about him?”

    Interestingly, I think that I just figured out the answer to this question over the weekend. I wasn’t even looking for the answer, so I was surprised to find it. I think the biography is included in the treasure chest, because it expains the “big picture” that FF has told us we need to look at. I thought I knew what he meant by the “big picture”, but it is a bit more complex than I thought it was. I think FF’s life is the map to the TC. Of course you can’t know where the put in is if you don’t have the poem, but I think his life itself is the map. I’m fascinated by something I discovered over the weekend.

    I don’t think it is very likely that whoever finds the TC will really see the entire big picture without the biography that is in the TC. Sure, someone might decifer the clues, but the clues are only a tiny portion of the map. In my opinion.

  15. MA, very inspiring write up. Tarry for a few weeks, and I will be posting an inspirational story as well, of the solution which I feel has no equal within the Chase. But unlike you, my radar is shutting down. I would like to sacrifice everything that is me in this hunt, in order to help people like you…hopefully use parts or all of my information, to end what I could not…one of the most incredible “scavenger hunts” I’ve ever had the honor of participating in.

  16. Thanks for the inspiration. I am in it for the money and fame, as 99% of the searchers are. If he hid a pair of old, smelly sweat socks, I doubt anyone would be looking…

  17. MA,
    What an awesome and amazing story!
    You are so correct that the value is relative!
    Is it the chase or the gold we seek? Either way, we all find treasure in the memories.
    I have been fortunate in many ways during my near 6 year tenure.
    I lost a home and business, I learned how compassionate my fellow man can be, I’ve got a new family in all of you, ive got a new life and just today a new granddaughter!
    Where would I be had I not attended that rock meeting back in 2014 and never googled Forrest fenn?
    I thank Forrest for his gift to the world, and all of you for the gift of yourselves!
    Rock on MA!

    • lol….my granddaughter runs the show….just ask her! But she is my little princess, my weakness…..sometimes it’s good to feel weak.

    • Congrats on you new granddaughter jdiggins!!! Yes you have been through some very tough times, but it’s good to see your still strong as ever.. you go girl… until next time… see ya my friend

  18. The value is what you think it’s worth, mentally, spiritually, physically, emotionally, monetarily.
    Most of us are on the short side of the straw and would hope the ones with the long straws will see it as getting out in nature and enjoying life without the device I’m typing this from.
    Ya, I’m a hypocrite at times but I do see the big picture.

  19. The value is leaving the world a better place when you’re gone. If you didn’t do that you missed your turn.

  20. Hi MA, wonderful story that is so familiar to me. First off to answer the question posed above … the ejection fraction is the percentage of blood pumped out of the chamber of the heart relative to the total amount of blood in the heart at the time of ejection. With that said, I too have been on both of your shoes … ejection fraction in the 20’s accompanied by atrial fibrillation requiring a 30 day hospital stay as the docs mystery patient. No procedure could maintain a normal heart rhythm so after cardioverdipm failed o received a dependent pacemaker defibrillator. That was app 10 yrs ago and the ventricular fibrillation or so called widow maker occurred during that month long stay in the hospital . I can certainly appreciate the way such a near death experience affects your outlook on life and how you live life. I have had three near death experiences … first was when I was 15 months old and I was in a coma for 21 days … then the a fib widow maker app 10 yrs ago … then this past April when my pace maker battery droz cpped to zero charge and having had my SA node, natural pacemaker abated, I was flat lining for a duration of 22 beats and then the doctor said other cells in my heart would kick in and start it again … followed by flat lining again … this happened over and over until the electro cardiologist got together an emergency surgical team. Because my heart kept stopping I could only have a minimal amt of a local anesthesia. Three weeks later. I travelled from PA to my search site for botg. Nothing. Keeps me down any more. Due to unforeseen circumstances I lost out on my allotted search days. But, all was not lost because I accompanied my travel partner throughout additional states taking in and photographing breathtaking southwestern scenery. My travel partner is not a searcher and has no interest in the thrill of the chase. If not for forest fenn and his treasure hunt, I never ever would have had the pleasure of touring the southwestern area of the USA.

    • Correction … in one instance above I referred to the widow maker as a fib when in fact it is v fib short for ventricular fibrillation Sorry about that.

    • I’m glad your health is stable and you had the opportunity to tour the Southwest, Lyzee.

  21. Hi Ma, The Western slope of the Tetons, Looks like a fairy tale world to me.

  22. Hi MA,

    You have already made the world a better place with this share.

    Beautiful days and beautiful views to you, As you look out and look in too.

    Hopefully, you will share more of your journey pilgrim.

    Thanks to you and Forrest the kind magician.

  23. Thanks MA, dal and Mr. Fenn,
    Lemons to lemonade, an enjoyable and refreshing recipe well worth sharing. A valuable reminder to keep your shutters open and always share with measured care. Thanks

  24. Nice, all. And thank you for reminding me to get all my favorite and treasured photos on actual photo paper form and on several scattered flash drives. I like to reminisce on occasions with my photos of how and who I am., and don’t want them lost in space as 0s and 1s. Beyond that there is something else about my pictures that feels important to me that sits on the peripherals my of understanding. It feels like wanting to preserve a moment in past time for the future time and anyone who might be interested. And for evidence of my existence to not be lost. I was once driving by a cemetary overseas and saw men digging up graves. I asked my wife who was from the area what they were doing. She said they were making room for more, the cemetery was full and the graves were so old nobody remembered them. A life perception shift for me I would say. Maybe bones are just bones and never meant to stay. Gone eventually anyway. But like the man says, if you want to stay around, record and write it down for another day. Oops, that got kind of dark, but IMO it is what life and the chase is all about. Live it to its fullest. See the beauty. Come to terms with it. Leave something for the future, and there will be peace. g

  25. Thanks, MA.
    It’s EJECTION and I have been there, doing that. FF treasure is just a lot of icing on a really big cake. It is almost like an illness and I have infected my grandkids and a sibling with TTOTC. I had one BOTG and it was both magical and spiritual. I really wanted all those that I loved (present and those that have past) dearly to be a part of it and with almost every step I felt they were. Thanks always to FF

  26. I appreciate your work(write up and Good photos). I see a lot of things in this one. I immediately thought of Gage Heights and noted the value. Heck, missing A[post]trophy, avenues of pursuit, sharing, already found, I, for one, fall…

  27. Glad you found the way back to being active.
    Lost my wife back in 95. Enlarged heart attack took her. ;(
    Today I deal with bone issues, some days I have no go.
    That was untill a M38A1 military jeep landed in my yard.

    I spend a lot of time trying to get it restored. That is when pain levels allow me too.
    So for those out there dealing with issues, find your passion and follow it.


    • Sorry to hear about your health issues. And yes, you are correct, those enjoyable distractions are vital.

  28. MA, I too have had my foot planted firmly on the other side of life. Mine was a blockage of the main trunk of the left coronary. I coded 3 times, each code lasting longer than the previous… I totally understand what you say about the little things meaning so much. Like you, I didn’t let it slow me down, heck, I think it sped me up…lol I share my thoughts in words, you share yours in your photography which is beautiful… thank you…
    Live each day as if it’s your last, and when it is, you’ll look down pleased with the trails you’ve traveled….
    Have a great night…. until next time… see ya my friend

  29. Hi Ma-
    Glad you’re still around. Stories just aren’t the same with a missing piece.

    • Funny you mentioned missing pieces as I just referenced that same thing myself today. Still have a a lot of life’s pieces to collect.

  30. Great story MA. The problem with those mountains is that once you visit them they get their hooks into you and it becomes all you think about. I’m glad you lived to find a new purpose. We all need purpose.

    I survived a WM as well when I was 6. Don’t search farther than your guardian angel can fly and best of luck.

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