Part 1 – Marry the Clues to a Map
Fenn advised searchers “to look for the clues in my poem and try to marry them to a place on a map.”
Solving the nine clues yields nine named geographic locations around Sweetwater Creek in Colorado, all within 10 miles of one another. They are as follows:
where warm waters halt
“Sweetwater Creek” – Sweet is a related word to warm, though not a direct synonym. It halts at the Colorado River.
the canyon down
“Hell’s Gate” – Down as in down into hell and where it forms a canyon.
the home of Brown
“Riland Creek” – Play on Rhode Island, where Brown University is located.
it’s no place for the meek
“Lyon’s Gulch” – Play on Lion.
The end is ever drawing nigh
“Tucker Draw” – Tucker as in tuckered out (synonymous with exhausted or done) and draw as in ending in a tie.
“Deep Creek” – Deep as in heavy, in 60s lingo.
“Turret Creek” – Turret is synonymous with tower, in other words, high.
“Hack Creek” – Hack is a synonym of blaze.
your quest to cease
Part 2 – The Big Picture
Fenn suggested that searchers “look at the big picture”. A phrase synonymous with seeing the big picture is “connecting the dots”.
The town nearest the nine locations identified in Part 1 is Dotsero, CO.
So let’s try our hand at the much-loved children’s puzzle game, connect the dots. Start by taking the nine locations from Part 1 and put a dot on the map for each. For creeks, put the dot at the mouth of the creek.
Now let’s create our drawing. We will ‘begin it’ at the Sweetwater Creek dot (where warm waters halt is dot 1) and ‘take it in’ to the Hell’s Gate dot (the canyon down is dot 2). With no further instructions, we will continue with this pattern. (“Put in” and “From there” apply to the on the ground phase of the quest.) Continue drawing lines to connect to each subsequent dot. When you reach Turret Creek connect that dot to Deep Creek as those two clues are the only which are connected in one line in the poem. Finish up by connecting to the last dot, dot 9 (Lyon’s Gulch).
Here is the architected result (note that “Mason Creek” – mason and architect are synonymous – feeds Sweetwater Creek):
Part 3 – Adjust the Blueprint
If you have a good imagination you may have seen an airplane in the connect the dots in Part 2. But clearly it is incomplete. Fenn did warn us that his “blueprint is challenging so the treasure may be located by the one who can best adjust.”
We are going to have to adjust to complete his blueprint which means we will be bending the rules for connect the dots. To justify doing so, lets look at some of the hints in the poem and see what they may relate to outside of the treasure hunt.
And hint of riches new and old
“Irrawaddy Creek” feeds Sweetwater Creek – The Irrawaddy River is located in the southeast Asian country of Myranmar. Irrawaddy translates to “abundance of riches”. The new name for the country is Myranmar. Of old, and when Fenn served in Vietnam, it was known as Burma. [Some of this hint had to be researched so you may choose to discount it.]
And with my treasures bold, I can keep my secret where
“Treasures” hints at his bombs and “secret where” were his, at the time, secret bombing runs in Laos.
As I have gone alone in there
Hints at being in the cockpit.
So why is it that I must go
And leave my trove for all to seek?
The answers I already know,
I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak
“Trove” hints at bombs left on bombing runs. “All to seek” is the VietCong. “Tired” is short for attired which is synonymous with uniformed.
Outside of the poem, Fenn councils that if one is to read only a single chapter from “The Thrill of the Chase” it should be “My War for Me”. That chapter is about a slice of his time as a fighter pilot in Vietnam.
Taken as a whole, these hints point to Fenn’s time in southeast Asia as a pilot and how impactful and formative that time was for him. The hints give us confidence about how to appropriately adjust the blueprint.
First, lets connect dot 9 to dot 1 to form a complete outline of an airplane.
The hints also suggest adding a cockpit. We will create the largest one possible by connecting dot 3 to dot 7.
Now that’s a plane!
(Stay tuned for Part 4 – A Dash of Logic)