2019 was a pretty mild year in terms of searching for me. I really only had one solve that I was eager to get out into the mountains to try out this past summer, and it obviously didn’t pan out. However, I thought I could at least finally make a contribution to the growing volume of information regarding where the treasure is not, while also providing some entertainment as we all wait for yet another search season to arrive. This wasn’t my first solve & BOTG trip, however this one pretty much stands on its own and doesn’t relate to any of my previous search areas, so I feel fine about sharing most of my thoughts for this one. So grab a drink, settle in, and I hope you find this to be an entertaining read.
Over the previous Winter, I found myself pretty much stuck and back at square-one trying to marry the poem to a location in the Rocky Mountains. However this time there was a new piece of information that surfaced (new to me, at least): It was the anecdote that Cynthia wrote in her book about her conversation with Forrest Fenn about the elusive “home of Brown”. What it amounted to was that Forrest seemed to strongly indicate to Cynthia that the home of Brown was not a man-made structure. This was told secondhand through Cynthia, and Forrest never followed up with a formal announcement confirming that this was true (like he did when he realized he accidentally gave one searcher a special hint that “Where Warm Waters Halt” was not a dam), so there was some speculation among the Chasers if this was truly a reliable hint from Forrest. I decided to take Cynthia’s story at face value and started to think about what the home of Brown could be if not a man-made structure. Perhaps a geographic feature with a name that relates to either “home” or “Brown”? It was a head-scratcher for me.
For inspiration, I found myself revisiting the old scrapbook entries on Dal’s site. To my knowledge, Forrest has never outright said that he has hidden hints in these scrapbook entries, but there are plenty of people who believe that this is true, and I could not see a reason why not. One day, my attention was drawn to one of the earlier scrapbook entries #17 CLICK HERE if you’d like to give it a quick look over.
At the end of scrapbook #17, Forrest shares an excerpt from his hard-to-find book “The Secrets of the San Lazaro Pueblo” in which he shares a poem that his father sent to him a few years before he died. The poem “A Flint Arrowhead” spoke of the wonder and excitement of discovering an arrowhead and linking the past with the present. Forrest ties this poem with a very special memory of discovering his first arrowhead as a child with his father. Forrest recalls this as ranking “among my fondest memories”. The fact that this was one of the earliest scrapbooks, the fact that Forrest decided it was an excerpt from one of his earlier books worth sharing again, and the fact that it seemed to be an especially important moment with his father (his father being very prominently mentioned in the book “The Thrill of the Chase”) all seemed to point to some significance in this poem greater than what it appeared to be at face value. It was a rabbit hole I deemed worthy of jumping down to see where it led.
A simple “copy & paste” of the poem’s words into Google led me to several interesting references. It shows up in Boy Scout Handbooks, Archaeological Society newsletters, and into the lyrics of a Johnny Cash song. Eventually I came upon the name of the poem’s author: Enos B. Comstock. Looking for information about Enos B. Comstock and who the man was yielded very little information on Google, however he was noted as an author and a prominent illustrator. Forrest did seem to know and respect a good few book illustrators himself (Eric Sloane not the least of them). Then I remembered another internet resource that Forrest had specifically recommended people use (though not for treasure-searching purposes): Abebooks.com.
Entering Enos B. Comstock into the Abebooks.com search resulted in a surprising amount of titles for which Comstock was an illustrator. The first title that caught my attention was “A Mountain Boyhood” by Joe Mills. I had remembered hiking up the Flattop Mountain Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park in 2018 and noting that one mountain peak viewed to the north was called Joe Mills Mountain.
Joe Mills Mountain (small, partially tree-covered peak in foreground center left) as seen from the Flattop Mountain Trail
It seemed like an odd name for a peak, but I did not think much of it until this book title came up. Looking into THAT name in more detail, I learned that Joe Mills was the younger brother of Enos Mills, who was one of the strongest advocates for the original creation of Rocky Mountain National Park. Enos Mills was a John Muir-like character (and was actually good friends with Muir himself) who moved West from Kansas and homesteaded in the Estes Park area and was quite the local celebrity. His younger brother Joe moved out West in his older brother’s footsteps and also homesteaded in the area. They both wrote nature books and they both advocated towards the formation of Rocky Mountain National Park, but eventually butted heads when it came to exactly HOW the new park should be run, and they ended up in a bit of a bitter sibling rivalry.
Ok, so anyway now I had discovered a book I had never heard of written by the younger brother Joe Mills, and illustrated by Enos B. Comstock (the man who had written Forrest’s father’s poem). It was also an especially cold Winter 2018-2019 and I wanted some new reading material that I can enjoy inside the warmth of my home, so I ordered myself a copy off of Abebooks.com.
Inside cover of the First Edition of “A Mountain Boyhood” with an Enos B. Comstock illustration
After I got the book in the mail I had a very enjoyable time reading through it. It wasn’t very long, but the descriptions of the time Joe Mills had spent exploring the Rocky Mountains were wonderful. I can certainly recommend this book (as well as many of the titles written by Joe’s older brother Enos Mills) to all as a good read.
First page of “A Mountain Boyhood”
The Comstock illustrations throughout were a joy to look at and I could not help but remember Forrest’s commentary on fine literature at the beginning of “The Thrill of the Chase”. Perhaps the adventurous spirit of young Joe Mills was in the same spirit of the character Holden Caulfield in “Catcher in the Rye”?
Anyways, as related to thinking about the Chase, there were two specific general items that piqued my interest:
1.) Joe Mills wrote almost exclusively about the wonders of a particular area of Rocky Mountain National Park called “Wild Basin”, which was a less-visited part of the park’s southern end that I had never visited myself; and
2.) The book included an early map of Rocky Mountain National Park that I found a bit fascinating to study.
The inside cover map included in the book
(Note: This map was not included in the first edition of the book; only later printings)
The map was not illustrated by Enos B. Comstock and was not made for the purpose of being included in Joe Mills’ book. The map is known as the Cooper-Babcock map and was the first comprehensive map drawn up of the southern portion of what is now Rocky Mountain National Park. In researching the history of the map, I was surprised to have found that its creation was not part of a formal survey operation; William Cooper and Dean Babcock happened to be in the area and took it upon themselves to map the Wild Basin area for fun! How wonderful that must have been to decide to map an unknown area of land in detail for the first time!
Looking at the map, one can see many familiar names of geographic features presently in Rocky Mountain National Park such as Longs Peak or Thunder Lake, however there are other features that are labeled differently than their present names. One name is certainly prominent and ties into the Joe Mills book: Wild Basin! There the name is stretched across the entire lower half of the map.
A closer look at the lower half of the map which is dominated by Wild Basin.
I realize I haven’t even mentioned bringing Forrest’s poem into consideration so far, so at this point I wouldn’t be surprised if some of you are questioning where I’m going with this as a solve. To make a long story short, I had seemed to have followed a twisting rabbit hole that started with scrapbook #17 and it spat me out the other side with the Wild Basin area apparently being waved in front of my face. Could this area be part of a new solve? It depended on if there was anything in this region that could be married up to Forrest’s poem.
Where to begin? Well, I started with the basic things first. There were certainly canyons and creeks aplenty, and if WWWH was the source of a stream (as I have often considered to be a possibility), there were plenty of those in the area too.
In the back of my mind I was still trying to puzzle out a natural feature that could be considered a home of Brown. Studying the Cooper-Babcock Map, I noticed in very small text right between “Wild” and “Basin” the words “Tent Rocks”.
See the Tent Rocks just under the “B” in “Basin”?
Rocks that looks like tents? Could tents be considered a home? Sure, why not? But what about the “Brown”? Well, if the rocks were brown in color, that could be something. I looked at the satellite images in Google Earth and was pleasantly surprised to see that the Tent Rocks were actually labeled there as well.
Tent Rocks as shown on Google Earth topographic view
(image courtesy Google Earth)
Tent Rocks as shown on Google Earth satellite view (zoomed in a little closer)
(image courtesy Google Earth)
The area looked like a smudge of rocky terrain, but did appear to be brown in color. So…. maybe? Searching for any further information or even photos of the Tent Rocks on the internet came up empty, with all queries pointing me to the much more prominent Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rock National Monument in New Mexico (which is south of Santa Fe and thus not in consideration with respect to the Chase). Were there any possible tie-in’s of tents to some sort of a historical home of Brown? The best thing I could find was a very obscure reference to how the abolitionist John Brown lived in a tent during his anti-slavery campaigns which was referred to as “Brown’s Tent”. It seemed like a pretty shaky connection to me, but it was something. Perhaps it was just as simple as being a brown-colored feature that resembled a type of home? At any rate, it was a non-man-made geographic feature that could at least maybe…. possibly qualify as a home of Brown.
I decided to assume for the moment that the Tent Rocks were the home of Brown and see if I could identify a convincing WWWH. I remember Forrest had once responded to a Chaser’s question if they knew where the home of Brown was, then why are they bothering with WWWH? (I’m paraphrasing a bit here; the actual quote can be found HERE.
Well the answer to Forrest’s counter-question is that by finding a convincing WWWH to go along with a hoB, it adds supporting confidence to the entire solve and would not seem to me to be a wasted effort.
The Tent Rocks are located along the north shore of the North St. Vrain Creek, so I followed it upstream. The creek forks a few times as it rises in elevation towards the glaciers and snowfields. There’s a “Moomaw Glacier”; could a glacier be WWWH? Maybe? Ice could certainly be thought of as halted water in a sense.
There were also plenty of named mountain peaks along the divide. My eyes gravitated towards Isolation Peak (labeled as Mt. Hewes on the Cooper-Babcock Map). Could that be a reference to the first line in the poem “As I have gone alone in there”? Perhaps. Looking to the east of Isolation Peak was a smaller peak that Cooper and Babcock did not feel worthy of a label: Mahana Peak. It was only after I looked up the meaning behind the name “Mahana” that my attention suddenly sharpened a good deal: Mahana is a Hawaiian or Maori word meaning “heat” or “warmth”! The snowmelt that drains off of this mountain either to its northern or southern canyons will eventually converge into the same North St. Vrain Creek that flows to the immediate south of the Tent Rocks. Well that suddenly looked to me like a great match between the first half of the poem to the Wild Basin area!
Isolation Peak on the Continental Divide with Mahana Peak just to the southeast. Note how the waters draining off of Mahana Peak would drain either north into the North Saint Vrain Creek or south into Ouzel Creek, but both of these drainages converge further east into North Saint Vrain Creek.
(image courtesy Google Earth)
This gave me some confidence at least about being able to marry the first part of the poem to a place on the map. Now to see if the remainder of the poem could be followed using the Tent Rocks as the home of Brown:
“From there it’s no place for the meek”: Longs Peak’s little brother Mt. Meeker, and its long southeastern Meeker Ridge was almost immediately to the north. I guess I should go in the opposite direction south then?
Mt. Meeker and Meeker Ridge to the north of the Tent Rocks. Mt. Meeker is not labeled, but is the prominent peak directly southeast of Longs Peak, and Meeker Ridge is the long ridge that extends southeast.
(image courtesy Google Earth)
“The end is drawing ever nigh”: If I (and Forrest before me) parked at the Wild Basin Trailhead and hiked the short distance west towards the Tent Rocks, I would have to hang a left in order to travel south (using the old-fashioned interpretation of “nigh” meaning “left”).
The Wild Basin Trailhead to Tent Rocks
(image courtesy Google Earth)
“There’ll be no paddle up your creek”: Heading south from Tent Rocks points me towards Cony Creek and its “Calypso Cascades”, which can certainly not be paddled up.
“Just heavy loads and waters high”: Waters high referencing the Calypso Cascades (or Calypso Falls as Cooper & Babcock called them), and heavy loads referencing the numerous massive glacial boulders lining both sides of the Cascades (that could be clearly seen on the internet from other hiker photos, as well as my own photos from when I hiked there several years ago).
A photo I took at the bottom of the Calypso Cascades from a hike in 2016.
Well now the poem seemed to be pointing me towards somewhere along Cony Creek (labeled Caroline Creek on the Cooper & Babcock map), but I still needed to nail down a more specific location. Calypso Cascades is a fairly popular hiking destination for the area, so I felt like I could dismiss the portion of Cony Creek between North St. Vrain Creek and the Cascades, as this stretch was pretty consistently visible along the trail leading from the Wild Basin Trailhead. When the hiking trail arrives at Calypso Cascades, one can follow trails further westwards or eastwards, but no trails went southwards uphill following Cony Creek (and the Cascades) further upstream. If there had been people and searchers within 200-500 feet of the treasure (presumably at the bridge at the bottom of the Cascades), then it seemed to indicate that it might be worth a try bushwhacking a short distance above the Cascades from the trail. From the photos I had, it seemed that the terrain on either side above Calypso Cascades did not appear to be too forbidding for an 80-year-old man, and was well forested to help conceal from views along the trail below.
Another person’s photo of Calypso Cascades that I found online. Note that the off-trail terrain to the left doesn’t appear to be a difficult grade at all.
Thinking about waterfalls also naturally reminded me of the grave of the French soldier in the TOTC chapter “My War for Me”. While describing his investigation of the tombstone, Forrest mentioned that the pilot was sitting on the edge of the top of the waterfall (I assumed the pilot to be the helicopter pilot at first read, but Forrest was a pilot too….). The terrain I was looking at now at Calypso seemed to evoke a similar image in my mind. There is a fork in Cony Creek immediately above the Calypso Cascades that appeared to be the very top of the falls before the main branch of Coney Creek traveled across flatter terrain towards Finch Lake. Reading the topographic lines, I painted a picture in my imagination where a “marvel gaze” may be possible. If one stood right at that fork in the creek at the top of the Cascades and there was a good break in the trees, one could have an absolutely marvelous gaze across the valley towards Longs and Meeker Peaks. Maybe!
(image courtesy Google Earth)
A few other bits of information I stumbled upon added further to my confidence:
First, the name Calypso comes from the Greek word meaning “to hide”, “to conceal”, or “to deceive”, which seemed to fit in with the whole theme of the Chase (The internet revealed that the Calypso Cascades actually got their name due to a variety of Calypso orchid that apparently grew along its banks).
Secondly, the search location was within the boundaries of a National Park. That seemed to reinforce a notion I had regarding this CBS interview video with Forrest: Found HERE
In the video, Forrest is asked about legal ownership of the treasure depending on where it is found. He only gives specific direction regarding if the treasure is found in a National Park (turn over to the park’s superintendent), and is rather vague and nonspecific about other possible locations such as private property or Indian reservation land. There could be different reasons for why he answered the question in this manner, but what if Forrest only bothered to be specific about National Park lands because that’s really the only instance that matters? It’s nothing solid that I could hang my hat on, but it did make me feel better that I was looking in an area within National Park boundaries.
And thirdly, the route to the location seemed to be reasonably 80-year-old-man friendly. The walk to Calypso Cascades is only about 1.8 miles from the Wild Basin Trailhead Parking Lot. Tack on only a few hundred feet of uphill bushwhacking, and it seemed reasonable that Forrest could have handled two out-an-back trips in an afternoon. Altogether, that adds up to about 7.2 miles of hiking which would certainly be enough to make him tired after all that. The entire route and final location also appeared to be completely within the elevation limits between 5,000 and 10,200 feet above sea level, with the hidey spot being pretty close to that range’s upper limit.
Anyways, I had spent a good deal of time looking over this area and thinking about it while waiting for the snows to melt. An especially late Spring did not help, but finally by early July I had drummed up enough confidence to make a go on a BOTG trip to see if my ideas might lead me to the location of Indulgence.
Some major late-season snowstorms ensured that the snows in the high country would remain stubbornly unmelted until well into the summer, but in July of 2019 I was finally able to put my little Calypso Cascades solve to the test. For the first time, I visited the Wild Basin Entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, which was tucked away well south of Estes Park, Colorado by the small town of Allenspark.
The less-developed Wild Basin Entrance into RMNP
As I had anticipated, the trail leading from the Wild Basin Trailhead was gently graded and pleasant.
The trail followed along North St. Vrain Creek, which was obviously still surging with an abundance of late-season snowmelt, and no one with good sense would attempt to cross such a stream at this time. Fortunately there were footbridges further on along the trail.
At this trail junction, I had hoped to catch a glimpse of the mysterious Tent Rocks, but could see nothing but forested canyon sides rising above me. Try as I might, I would not be able to see any sign of the Tent Rocks at all during this outing. Perhaps they were nestled in the forest close to the various campsites along the other trail branch that I did not take? My confidence in this particular home of Brown was waning a bit.
Heading over the bridge to the south side of North St. Vrain Creek, the trail gradually ascended following the southern stretch of Cony Creek until the footbridge at the base of Calypso Cascades came into view. This was a popular destination, so there were a good number of other hikers passing along through the area with me.
This sign at the base of the Cascades gave special notice to fishermen along the upper Cony Creek. So fishermen liked this area? That made me wonder if Forrest perhaps had fished along this creek himself.
Here is a view from the footbridge looking straight up the Cascades. Somewhere further up there was my little point of land where the creek forked. Not really the same as Forrest’s waterfall in Vietnam that dropped off of a high precipice and turned into mist, but certainly a water high with heavy loads along its banks.
From the base of the Cascades, I could see that the terrain along the left (east) side was solid and actually looked pretty easy to hike up. The land of opposite side was broken and steeper, with some additional streams running down it, so the east (nigh?) side seemed to obvious way for me to ascend the Cascades.
I took a nice break at the base of the Cascades while I waited for a quiet point when there were no other hikers in the immediate vicinity who would see me dash off the trail up along the Cascades. Once I had a good window of opportunity, I was able to quickly head up the bank into the cover of the trees. I don’t know why I decided to be so covert about the whole thing; I suppose I was concerned that a ranger might see me and shout me back to stay on the designated trails.
Once I had a good screen of trees between me and the main trail, I could take my time in continuing to follow the Cascades uphill. The roar of the water blocked out all outside noise and was very pleasant.
The land got steeper the higher up I went, but I still did not feel that the terrain was anything that an 80-year-old man couldn’t handle. There was remarkably little undergrowth to bushwhack through. Then I noticed the sawn log in this picture. I began to wonder if I was actually following a very rough human trail? That might sink my whole solve, but I kept going upwards.
I was pleased as I looked behind me and could catch some wonderful glimpses of the summit of Longs & Meeker Peaks through the break in the forest canopy caused by the Cascades. At least my idea of a “marvel gaze” seemed to be playing out well.
There was no shortage of massive boulders along the edge of the Cascades and I keep my eyes open for blazes and checked a few crevices here and there as I continued upwards.
A lovely surprise was that the Calypso Orchids, which gave the Cascades their name, were already in bloom along the bank and provided a beautiful splash of color. I made sure to give these a wide berth so as not to accidentally trample them.
All in all, the hike up along the Cascades did not take very much time at all. Soon I found myself at top of the steepest portion of the terrain and could look back at the view across the valley behind me.
And sure enough, right where the grade mellowed out again at the top of the Cascades, was that special point of land I was interested in. Here, Cony Creek continues off to the right, while its unnamed tributary heads off to the left. I would need to find a place to safely cross the unnamed stream, and this definitely wasn’t the place!
I knew from my map that the unnamed stream was not especially long from the point where it emptied into Cony Creek, so I simply followed it upstream to find a safe spot to cross. Sure enough, the stream quickly became narrower and its flow less intense, but then I got another surprise: I found myself facing an obviously human-built log bridge. There was no uncertainty in my mind now: Even though it was not marked on any maps, even though it was not signed, and even though it was quite rough the whole way, I had clearly been following a human trail. And as we all know, the treasure is not in close proximity to a human trail. I felt this was pretty close proximity to where I was hoping the treasure would be. Dang.
Well, I had come this far anyway, so I crossed the log bridge anyway and headed back out to my point of land at the fork to see if there was anything worth seeing. Really there wasn’t. I checked all the rocks and bases of trees just to be sure, but nothing that stuck out like a blaze. Also, those great views of Longs & Meeker I was hoping to see had been once again blocked from view. All I could do was stare back down Cony Creek as it rushed towards the top of Calypso Cascades. It was at least a beautiful spot to stop and have a snack.
Just to be sure, I headed just a bit further upstream to see if there might be any aberrations worth taking a look at. Nothing really other than more trees, stumps, and rocks. Just as I was about to admit defeat and head back down, I had another surprise: A group of about a dozen teenaged backpackers walked by me! They had apparently been camping up at Finch Lake and were following the unmarked “connector trail” that I had come up. Well that was just the icing on the cake! I could only laugh and shake my head as I let the group pass by and then headed back down myself.
Once I got back down to the trail at the base of Calypso Cascades, I decided to enjoy myself and hike further up to Ouzel Lake. I had also been considering a few areas further up the trail earlier on, but my hike at least confirmed that some of these locations were too far for an 80-year-old man to make two trips to in a single afternoon. Ouzel Falls was another pretty area a short distance further up the trail, but both its banks and its top were swarming with other hikers milling about.
Past Ouzel Falls, the crowds thinned along with the forest and my hike became a lot more pleasant. It was really refreshing not to have to worry about looking for a treasure for the remainder of this day and I could just enjoy the beautiful scenery.
Ouzel Lake was about as far as a hiker without snow gear could get. I talked to a couple of hikers who had tried to go further up but turned back due to the still heavy snowpack.
At the wonderful shores of Ouzel Lake with the rocky slopes of Mahana Peak rising above.
A pleasant spot on Ouzel Lake to take another relaxing break before turning around and hiking back.
The long walk back to the Wild Basin Trailhead lies before me. At least it’s all downhill from here!
Well, that about wraps up my rundown of this failed solve for me. Many others have shared theirs on this site, so I was long overdue to share one of mine. In retrospect, there were a lot of problems with this one. My home of Brown was pretty weak and amounted little more to a weird label on some maps. I kind of liked my WWWH, but there’s nothing else I can figure out to do with it. The biggest lesson I took away from this trip was that human trails aren’t always signed or marked on maps – even in a National Park.
If anyone feels like exploring any of these areas in more detail, by all means feel free to use any of this if it helps. It really is a beautiful area of the park to visit for its own sake, and I have no regrets about my own visit here. I’m also still happy about being introduced to the literary works of both Joe and Enos Mills by way of this solve, and encourage anyone to give them a read for the fun of it. It was time well spent!
Thanks for reading!