BEFORE THE SEARCH
Has anyone here played Zork? How about the much less-known sequel, Zork: Grand Inquisitor? In the game, the main character is guided by a lantern who selects the moniker AFGNCAAP – which stands for “Ageless, Faceless, Culturally Ambiguous Adventure Person.” During my last three years on the search (from my armchair and trolling HoD), I thought this name aptly appropriate to hide my true identity.
Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, and stationed all around the country in the U.S. Coast Guard, I finally landed in Michigan, which has limited my ability to make regular BOTG trips to RM. However, I am in this more for the fun than for indulgence, so decided to marry a work trip out here with a reunion of sorts with my father. As of writing this, we will be heading to Wyoming this weekend to do some hiking and fishing, but also look in my primary search area. I have some other areas as backup in case we find nothing the first day, but I’m hoping they will not be necessary.
Here is my breakdown of how I interpreted the clues in the poem to reach my solve location.
First stanza: Since we all know that “Begin it where warm waters halt…” is the first clue of the poem, what can be said about the first stanza. I believe there is only a subtle hint; Forrest’s “secret where.” I thought to myself; if I was looking for a place to rest my bones, it wouldn’t be out in the open, but could be guarded from view by passers-by. Do you know where would be a good place to hide? Behind a waterfall. I also believe this “secret where” is actually a secret weir, which are used to regulate river flow for management purposes, and result in changes in height of a river. These occur naturally, however, and are called waterfalls. It will be discussed further below, but I believe one of the functions of Forrest’s secret weir is that it prevents many fish species from heading further upstream.
Second Stanza: This is where I believe the “word that is key” is “trout” and is used in each clue of the second stanza. With this key word, clues in the second stanza are not only unlocked for where to go; but when to go as well. There are several rivers that get too warm in the summer for trout to pass through, but at other times of the year are very rich with trout. Gardiner River north of Boiling River is one of these locations. People may have inadvertently started at Boiling River for other reasons, but the true clue is that warm waters halt in the late summer as the trout migrate up the river and must stop in two places; Osprey Falls down Gardiner Canyon or down Lava Creek Canyon towards Undine Falls.
NFBTFTW: my interpretation of this is that you could walk it from Boiling River if you wanted to, but why would you when there is a parking lot much closer to where you should “put in.” HoB again refers to trout (specifically Brown) that have a late spawning run late September through November; this is where I believe you not only put in to one of these rivers “below” where Brown trout stop spawning, but also late enough in the year where most of the snow melt is finished and low flows make it easier to traverse. Another assumption that I struggled with at first was words like “down” and “below.” For a long time, I thought of them as “downstream” and “below” HoB would also be downstream. But I was thinking like a nautical person, not someone following a map.
Third Stanza: This is another place I struggle with my interpretation of some of the clues, because as of this point following the clues has led me to two potential places; however, only one of them is a creek that breaks off “nigh” and has a relatively high climb to “heavy loads and water high.” Is this confirming I took the right path? If not, then I have inadvertently jumped around on the clues to know where (and when) to put in.
Fourth Stanza: “If you’ve been wise and found the blaze.” I’ve always believed that the blaze was a waterfall; there are just too few creeks to follow that would lead to anything but. But “Wise Falls” is not in the Rocky Mountains (its in Washington State, if you are interested). However, Undine are wise, typically female elemental creatures; and there is an Undine Falls that feeds the lower part of Lava Creek. I can’t tell you how anxious I got when Wikipedia had this definition for a very long time, and then someone edited it and removed the “wise” part from the definition. I thought to myself, “someone must be on the same path as I am and is trying to prevent others from making the same association.” Maybe I should have taken that survey on HoD to see if I was paranoid…
I’m still not sure about the rest, as I know I will likely have to be BOTG to interpret the rest of the clues. What I will be looking for is a terry scant, or a leaning flat(ish) stone that may be concealing indulgence from sight.
I don’t know why, but I always wondered why Forrest made two trips from his car to the hiding spot that afternoon. Most assume that one was for the chest, and the other was for the treasure. I actually think he brought the “terry scant” down first, and then returned with the TC and concealed it. I’ll be looking around the bottom of the falls, and even behind it.
Oh, one last thing. Did you know there is an Upper and Lower Undine Falls? From the lookout on the road, you can clearly see Upper Undine Falls. But just around the corner to the left (about 200 feet away) there is a Lower Undine falls that people can hike to and never be seen from trails or pull outs on the road. It would also be a great place to ride your bike out to and throw in the water high.
I’ll write more after my search…
AFTER THE SEARCH
So… I fully believe lower Undine falls is no place an 80 year old man could go; I went once and barely made it back to the car. Cutting down from Lava Creek trail, my dad and I went back and forth over all the cuts of the creek, often backtracking and zig-zagging more than we should have.
We finally got to the lower falls, which I thought was “the wise blaze.” There was a lot to see down there besides the beautiful view that I am sure very few people have had the opportunity to see…
This includes some orange markings on the wall behind the falls, a large group of rocks on the far side of the falls with lots of moss on them, and a large boulder directly down from the falls. I was so exhausted after the trek there I didn’t have much left in me to explore, especially knowing I had to return to my vehicle at the end of it. It might have been there, but from some of the nooks and crannies I could access without chest waders, I didn’t see indulgence in sight; I still have a difficult time thinking an 80 year old person could make it there, but I might just be too out of shape.
So, I promised my wife after a BOTG trip (which also included other trips to Lost Creek falls, Joe Brown trail head, and Bear Creek Canyon), that I would stop talking so much about TTOTC, in hopes that she can begin introducing me in social circles without explaining what I am interested in😊 I still believe that some of my interpretations of the poem are correct, and want to help whomever else is looking for future BOTG locations. My suggestions include:
- I still feel Lava Creek is a good place; I wish I would have started where Lava Creek connects with the Gardner river, and put in there.
- The second stanza (I feel) is most certainly around Brown trout. Whether WWWH is something ecological, or perhaps it is on the border outside of NM where there is a legal definition of “warm waters,” I think that spawning location of Brown trout is a critical part of the solve.
- I felt strongly that “wise blaze” was “Undine Falls;” or more generally that a falls was the blaze. I’m much less certain of this interpretation now. I still feel like it could be a possibility; especially since we are looking for a place where someone can throw their bike into “water high” near the TC.
- It will be a few years before I make another BOTG trip, but I’m not keeping my interpretations a secret anymore; if one of use solves this thing, it will be a win for all of us!