Litter 81 Found……

image1aOctober 2019

By Chris LaFrieda, PhD

Photographs by Digby Greenhalgh and Kai Chang

 

Introduction by Forrest Fenn
Christopher LaFrieda is a treasure hunter by hobby and a designer and maker of microchips when he is not thinking about WWWH. His PhD is in electrical engineering. He was studying my life looking for clues when he became interested in my Vietnam experience, especially the story about me being shot down. Before my mind could catch up with what he was doing, he was looking for my crashed F-100, deep in the Laotian Jungle. Yeah Chris, good luck with that one. This is his story. f


It’s still morning here in New Jersey, but it’s just past 11 p.m. in Laos. I should have heard from Digby and Kai by now. Communicating with my team in Sepon has been a constant struggle. There’s only a small window of time to arrange a call before they turn in for the night, exhausted from the long day spent in the extreme heat and humidity of the Laotian jungle. If that fails, then there’s an eight-hour wait to try again in their a.m. Today is different though.

This was our last shot to find the wreckage of a missing Vietnam-era warplane, an F-100D with serial number 55-3647. The pilot, who safely ejected and was rescued by helicopter over 50 years ago, is home in Santa Fe, New Mexico eagerly awaiting news of its fate. We’ve been growing increasingly confident about finding it over the past few days. I wouldn’t know how to break it to him if we are unsuccessful. I’m also starting to worry about my guys.

The United States dropped approximately 300 million bombs on Laos during the Vietnam War. About a third of those never went off and they continue to maim and kill to this day. The area around Sepon, where we are operating, is one of the most contaminated in all of Laos. Local guides will try to steer my team around unexploded ordnance, but much of it is hidden beneath the surface and you wouldn’t know it’s there until it’s too late. Oh, then there are the tigers.

Kai translates, “The boy says he saw a footprint the size of an open hand. That means the tiger is as big as a water buffalo.” They seemed to feel better when one of the guides offered to bring his AK-47 with them into the jungle. That only made me more nervous. The locals say not to bother worrying about tigers because the giant poisonous centipedes are the real danger. How did I get myself into this mess?

You may have heard that there is a treasure chest filled with gold hidden somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. In 2010, Forrest Fenn hid the chest with the hope that it would motivate people to “get off the couch” and experience nature. Forrest wrote a poem that contains clues to the location of the treasure and published it in his memoir, The Thrill of the Chase. In addition to the poem, Forrest teases that his memoir contains “subtle clues” hidden among its stories.

After nearly a decade, nobody has found the treasure. That’s just the sort of challenge that I can’t resist, so last year I picked up a copy of Forrest’s memoir. Its stories cover 80 years of Forrest’s life from his first steps at the beginning of the Great Depression right up to the time he hid the treasure. All the stories are fascinating, but one perfectly sums up Forrest’s special brand of luck and adventure—his rescue after being shot down as a fighter pilot during the Vietnam War.

image2 On December 20, 1968, Major Fenn was leading a flight of four F-100Ds under the call sign Litter 81. As part of Operation Commando Hunt, their mission was to drop ordnance on the main road leading into Tchepone, Laos (now known as Sepon) to disrupt the movement of North Vietnamese troops and equipment along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. As Forrest made his passes over the target, his F-100 was hit and severely damaged by anti-aircraft fire. Rather than immediately heading for safe ground, Forrest charged the guns and marked them as targets for the rest of his flight (an act that earned him the Silver Star).

Forrest pulled away from the guns and, as instructed, took a heading of 030 for bailout. His plane held together long enough to get him to a remote stretch of jungle, about 20 miles away from the action, before he ejected. As Forrest descended in his parachute, he watched his F-100 crash into a distant cliff and explode in a giant fireball. After spending a harrowing night in the jungle and narrowly avoiding capture, his Forward Air Controller (FAC), James Swisher, found him the next morning and alerted rescue forces.

One Crown C-130, two Jolly Green HH-3Es, two Misty F-100Fs, four Sandy A-1s, and one Nail O-2 with a total crew of 26 all worked quickly to rescue the downed pilot. The Jolly Green helicopters, one low and one high (a backup), took their positions over Forrest, hoisted him out of the jungle, and ferried him safely to their base at Nakhon Phanom, Thailand. As was typical for the time, Forrest was given just a few moments for a photo op and to thank some of his rescuers before they all continued with the business of war. Forrest had the distinction of being the 1,500th combat save in Southeast Asia.
image3 1There was something about the rescue that puzzled me. Forrest was out of radio contact with his flight and rescue forces for about 14 hours. A cursory study of rescue operations from that era suggested that was an anomaly. Usually, a doomed aircraft would be escorted by a wingman through bailout. The wingman would then orbit near the downed pilot until rescue forces arrived, while maintaining constant radio contact with the survivor. In Forrest’s case, he had somehow been separated from the rest of his group and lost, then found the next day.  There had to be more to this story.

With the help of a retired Air Force historian, George Cully, I obtained mission reports from each of the units involved in the rescue. The full picture started coming into focus, but there were details that I would only learn after tracking down James Swisher, the FAC who found Forrest.

Wisher explained, “We [the FACs] were given a heading of 300 for bailouts in the morning briefing. Forrest ended up on a heading of 030, 90 degrees off. He punched up through a break in the clouds and we lost sight of him.” (It’s not clear where the incorrect heading came from, but Swisher’s account makes sense because 030 is toward North Vietnam.) Swisher assumed Forrest turned to 300 and they spent the first day looking for him in the wrong place. Early the next morning, Swisher returned with a pair of Misty F-100s (same plane as Forrest) and sent them along Forrest’s last known trajectory. When they cleared the mountains that were blocking Forrest’s transmissions, he came up on the radio.

“If I was 500 feet above where my chute is hanging in the trees,
I could point to where the plane crashed.”

In April of this year, I visited Forrest at his home in Santa Fe to discuss these newly found details about his rescue. Forrest sang my praises, “Chris is a ferret. I was looking for Swisher for 50 years and he found him in two weeks.” (It was closer to two months.) We spent the next couple of days poring over his collection of Vietnam memorabilia, which included a handwritten log of every mission he flew, his parachute beeper, combat maps, photo albums and letters. The pièce de résistance was a photograph taken by Roger Gibson, the copilot of the backup chopper, just as Forrest was being hoisted up out of the jungle.

At first glance, the photo appears to show only a lush green jungle surround by magnificent stone cliffs. Upon careful inspection, a tiny camouflaged helicopter can be seen nestled in the treetops. As Forrest held the photograph, he told me that in the 1970s, a filmmaker wanted to bring him back to Laos to find the wreckage of his airplane. “I was going to find the flight stick from my F-100 and bring it home. That would have been some trophy.” Forrest raised his hand slightly and closed his eyes as if he could see himself holding that piece of his airplane. For a moment, I thought I could see it too.

The project eventually fell through and it was clear that the passing decades did little to assuage Forrest’s disappointment. Forrest continued to regale me with stories about his tour in Vietnam, but my mind kept drifting back to the thought of finding his airplane. Fifty years had passed. Could it still be out there? I was confident that with the rescue photo and mission reports, I could find the exact spot where Forrest was pulled from the jungle. However, Forrest was the only person to see where his plane crashed. If there was any chance to find it, we’d have to rely on half-century-old memories to get us the rest of the way.

Over the next few weeks, I peppered Forrest with questions about his bailout. I did my best to disguise my intentions because I didn’t want to be the second person to get his hopes up and then shatter them. Forrest was able to recall that he was flying parallel to a cliff wall and that his plane crashed halfway up a distant cliff wall, approximately one minute after ejection. That reduced the search area to a series of cliffs about 3-4 miles from the extraction point. There was still too much ground to cover, so I tried to press him further. That’s when Forrest said, “If I was 500 feet above where my chute is hanging in the trees, I could point to where the plane crashed.” I suspect that was Forrest’s polite way of changing the subject, but it gave me an idea.

At age 88, Forrest wasn’t going to travel to Laos and fly around in a helicopter looking for wreckage. Fortunately, technology could provide an alternative. Forrest’s extraction point is roughly 13 miles north of Sepon, Laos on lands that belong to the Village of Ban Talouay. Satellite images show a clearing in the jungle about 1 mile east from the extraction point. If we can get permission from the village and if we could make it to the clearing, then we could send up a drone, get footage from Forrest’s parachute perspective, show it to Forrest and, hopefully, get a fix on the crash site. That’s a lot of ifs, and there really was no we yet, but the idea was technically sound.

I needed to assemble a team that included a translator, drone pilot and local guides. Due to the remoteness and rugged terrain of the area, it seemed logical to enlist the help of a travel agency that specializes in motorcycle tours of Laos. I reached out to James Barbush, an American expat living in Laos, and explained the situation. James runs Remote Asia Travel with his wife Quynh, and he personally has years of off-roading experience at remote locations in Laos, including near Sepon. James would serve as a one-stop shop of sorts. He recruited the required personnel, handled the equipment rentals, made the travel arrangements, and applied for all the necessary permits. The only caveat was that rainy season had just begun, and they’d have to wait for a break in the weather to proceed. The short delay gave me an opportunity to become acquainted with my team.

Kai Chang would act as translator and guide for this expedition. Kai is Laotian and speaks both Lao and English fluently. He’s worked for James as a motorcycle tour guide for over five years and led many weeks-long tours across the rough backroads of Laos. Over the years, Kai has developed contacts at many of the remote Laotian villages, including Ban Talouay.

Digby Greenhalgh is our drone pilot. Originally from Australia, Digby has lived in Hanoi for almost two decades. His company, Explore Indochina, provides motorcycle adventure tours across Laos and Vietnam. He has been exploring the Ho Chi Minh Trail by motorcycle for the past 17 years and has ridden the trail over 25 times. Digby has been featured on several television shows, including The World’s Most Dangerous Roads and Top Gear. More recently, Digby has been using drones to explore parts of the trail that are too dangerous to get to on foot.

After weeks of daily thunderstorms, the weather improved marginally to intermittent rain. It was decision time. James advised, “Go for it. Wait it out in Sepon and hit your weather windows as you can.” Digby seemed to concur, “The only way to know will be to stick our hands out the window in Sepon.” I brought Forrest up to speed and asked him to be ready to review the drone footage. Slightly stunned, he responded, “This is exciting, Chris. I’ll do what I can.” There was no backing out now. We were a go.

On the morning of June 11, Digby and Kai departed from Vientiane on motorcycle. The 400-mile trek to Ban Talouay was impeded by poor road conditions and the occasional downpour. They arrived at the village the following day and arranged a meeting with the naiban (village chief). Armed with a photograph of Forrest, Kai, speaking in Lao, relayed the story of Forrest’s rescue and his desire to find the remains of his missing F-100. The naiban was sympathetic. Not only did he grant access to their lands, but he also arranged for three hunters from a neighboring village to serve as guides. Their chat was followed by friendly carousing and storytelling into the night.

The naiban has lived in the village his entire life. During the Vietnam War, when he was just a boy, the village was moved farther up into the valley, not far from where Forrest spent the night in the jungle. The naiban revealed that there were Vietnamese bases throughout the area—a fact that underscored how fortunate Forrest was to escape capture. The North Vietnamese fed and looked after the villagers, and in return the villagers helped them. After being on opposite sides of such a brutal and devastating war, the naiban had readily offered us his assistance. In a way, I felt this expedition was already a success.

Early the next day, Kai and Digby regrouped at the naiban’s house for a quick introduction to their guides, Su, Noob and Don. The five men crowded onto three motorcycles and started up the dirt road at the west side of the village. The rocky narrow road cuts a swath through an overgrown jungle that occasionally blocks out the sky above them. They followed the road over streams and rain-filled depressions, passing through a bamboo gate, and eventually reaching its end at a dry creek bed, about 3 miles into the valley. They parked their bikes and continued on foot.

Over the next half mile, the creek bed turns into a stream, then into a full-fledged gorge with sheer stone walls as it squeezes between two mountains. The crew navigated the meandering path as the rocks beneath their feet grew from stones to boulders. Just past the narrowest section of gorge, the grade quickly lessens and the stone walls crumble, yielding to the jungle environment. The guides escorted the group up a steep trail to a hilltop clearing.

“They sometimes go up there to hunt.
There are plane parts along the base of the cliff.”

The clearing offers a unique 360-degree view of the entire jungle valley, which is surrounded by a C-shaped mountain range with 1,000-foot-high stone bluffs. Waist-high and shoulder-high crops with long narrow stalks cover sections of the clearing. Digby inquired, “Kai, can you ask the guys what they planted here?” Kai translated, “They say the tall plants are exported to China or Vietnam to make fiber for clothes. The smaller one, the people use it to make a roof for their house.” The guides further explained that the villagers cleared out the trees just two years ago. Prior to that, our expedition wouldn’t have been possible.

Digby laid out his equipment and prepped the drone for launch. The cliffs in the rescue photo perfectly matched the cliffs to the west of their position; Digby knew exactly where he needed to go. He piloted the drone a mile out to precisely where Forrest broke through the jungle canopy, climbed to 500 feet and scanned the mountains on the far side. With the remaining battery, Digby made a pass along the western side of the bluffs and then hightailed it back to the clearing. He checked the drone footage and made an exciting discovery.

From what seems to have been Forrest’s vantage point during bailout, the surrounding terrain masks all but one 700-foot-long section of distant cliffs—it was the only place that fit his description of the crash site. Digby signaled for the guides to come over and pointed out the location on a map. They became animated and started talking over each other. Kai summarized, “They sometimes go up there to hunt. There are plane parts along the base of that cliff. They say that is where the plane crashed.”

This crash site is one of several nearby sites that are known to the villagers. They normally don’t advertise the locations of these sites, but they felt compelled to after we made the connection. Over the years, these sites were stripped of most of their metal to support construction booms in Vietnam and China. Only small fragments or non-metallic items remain. The guides cautioned that the three-hour hike to the crash site would be difficult, but they were willing to take Kai out there the next day. Kai agreed and the group retraced their steps back to Ban Talouay.

That night, back at the hotel, Digby updated Forrest and me on the recent developments and sent us some drone footage to review. Forrest confirmed, “That is exactly as I remember it.” We planned to have Kai take two cell phones to the crash site and photograph every piece of wreckage with emphasis on anything with a serial number. We scheduled a call for 9 p.m. the following night. Kai should be back before then. That gave me a day to figure out how to identify an airplane from small parts.

Fortunately, the National Archives hosts a database of all aircraft losses during the Vietnam War with their last known coordinates. Those records show that 183 planes were lost within 30 miles of the crash site. Only four of those planes, including Forrest’s, were F-100s. Forrest ejected 3 miles from the crash site. The other F-100s were reported to have crashed or exploded at least 15 miles away. If the wreckage is from an F-100, then there would be no doubt that we found Forrest’s plane.

In my collection of F-100 materials, I had a copy of a technical manual named Illustrated Parts Breakdown. That manual contains a complete list of the F-100’s more than 30,000 parts. If we find any serial numbers belonging to an F-100, they’ll be in there. I placed the manual next to the phone on my desk. I was ready. All I could do now was wait.

A little after 11 p.m. Laos time, the phone rings.

“Mr. Chris” a voice beams with an Australian accent that I’ve become accustomed to. “Yes, Mr. Digby,” I returned, sensing the incoming good news. “Tell Forrest to break out the bubbly, we found Litter 81.” An elated Digby and Kai recount the events of that day…

That morning, Kai rendezvoused with the guides at Ban Talouay and, this time, they rode off on the trail at the northern side of the village. Near the end of the trail, they ditched the bikes and headed northeast into the jungle on a barely visible footpath. After a short walk, the jungle opens at a hidden rice paddy packed with green shoots and dotted with burnt tree stumps, a byproduct of slash-and-burn. They continued along a stream at the northern end of the paddy.

The stream grows in size and intensity as they near its source—a small waterfall flowing over a stone ledge and into a pool of clear water. The last mile of the journey is a steep 1,300-foot climb up the mountain. Stone slabs form a natural staircase and exposed roots act as handholds to aid the group as they ascend. After an exhausting two-hour climb, they reached a relatively flat tree-covered ridge at the base of 1,000-foot-high stone cliffs.

On site, there were no obvious signs of wreckage. The guides grabbed some flat rocks to use as makeshift shovels and began excavating through leaves and topsoil from a squat position. They uncovered tire fragments, bits of aluminum, fuel cell bladders, wires, hoses and screws. Kai carefully scraped the dirt off the parts with his fingers and photographed each item, making sure to capture any serial numbers.

On the return trip, the guides stopped to bathe in the pool at the small waterfall before returning to the village. Ban Talouay was alive with singing and dancing. Neighboring villages had joined in the festivities and they were feasting on a large pig that was spit roasted over an open fire. It was a wedding! Kai said his goodbyes to our new friends and made his way back to the hotel.

As I listened to the story, I felt an adrenaline rush come over me. It quickly turned to panic as I began to worry: What if we found the wrong plane? I needed to research those plane parts ASAP.

The tire fragments are from a Goodyear size 3.0 x 8.8 tire with a ply rating of 22. They match only one type of aircraft with losses in Laos, the F-100. Hose assembly #601335-8-0104 is from the hydraulic oil pump attached to the F-100 engine. Similarly, all the other identifiable parts are a match to the F-100. We did it. We found Litter 81.

Weeks later, a package arrived. I can’t say how, but a small piece of aluminum, vibrating with the spirit of Litter 81, made its way down the mountain and traveled halfway around the world to get to me. I padded a small wooden box, placed the metal bit inside, closed the lid and shipped it to Santa Fe. Shortly after, I received an email from Forrest:
“You are an absolute genius. That fragment is so beautiful. Words cannot describe how I feel about this little thing, Chris. It is a real part of me now. Thank you so much. 
Forrest”

 

Additional Photos:

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Leaving Ban Talquay

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Ride up the Valley

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The gorge narrows

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Digby hauls drone equipment out of the gorge

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Kai (right)and hunters at the clearing

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Digby retrieves his drone

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Rescue site in 1968

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Rescue site today

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Crash site at distant cliff topcezter) as seen from drone

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A hidden rice paddy

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Su crosses a stream the easy way

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The waterfall pool

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Noob scales the stone staircase

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Cliffs at crash site

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Fragments from Goodyear tire, size 30 x 8.8, 22ply

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Hose assembly #601335-8-0104

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Fuel cell bladder

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Test reads: “CLOSED” “OPEN” POSITION

 

Videos:

Digby and Kai at the clearing:

 

Drone footage from extraction site (no audio):

 

Hike to crash site / wreckage:

 

 

 

 

 

Trying To Read Between The Lines…

bbyt
October 2019

By James Collier

 

Trying To Read Between The Lines

For this solve, I tried to keep things relatively simple. One day, about a month or so ago I was reading some replies on Dal’s blog. The discussion was in reference to some of the things Forrest Fenn has said in the past, as well as the 200ft and 500ft quote. I began to wonder why people were able to get within 200ft and 500ft of the TC, but not realize they were so close. How!? In almost 10 years, and the countless amount of searching, on top of the amount of people who have had very intellectual ideas, why has it not been found? So, I began to think. I sat around for an entire afternoon and asked myself the following questions:

 

1.How did people get so close and not realize it?
2.Why did FF tell people if you didn’t read anything else in the book, read “My War For Me.”
3.Why did ff tell a kid when asked if he thought a kid could solve it, “Yes, quite possibly one of the “smart” ones.”
4.Why did he say that “telling people when he found the location” would be too revealing of a clue?
5.Why did ff say there were clues “sprinkled” throughout the book but they weren’t deliberately placed to aid the seeker?
To answer these questions, I wanted to approach my next solve by simply sticking to the notion that all you needed was the book, the poem, a map, and an extensive knowledge of Geography. That’s it. Nothing else. I began this solve by taking Fenn’s advice and re-reading “My War For Me.” I went back to this chapter and tried to focus on what he was saying. I tried to find something that would punch me in the face. I tried to put myself in his shoes, and when I did, something stood out to me. After all of the narrow misses, the war, getting shot down, finding the soldiers grave site, what would I look forward to most? If it was me? I would look forward to nothing more than coming home to my family. Being done with it all and in the arms of the people I love the most. That day was December 22nd for him, and when he walked into his home it was Christmas Eve. This is what hit me in the face…the punch so to speak. “So what?” you might be asking. Well, let me explain as to why this was important to me.

 

This goes deep into question #3 & #4 above. Why would it have to be one of the “smart” ones? Why would the time he found the location be too revealing? I was wondering if there was place in the book he specifically mentions an age. I knew of one for sure, but I wanted to go back to the chapter it was in and read what was being said. This chapter in TTOTC is “Looking for Lewis & Clark.” Fenn states “I was thrilled and wished I could have been part of those great adventures. Sixteen-year-old kids are like that I guess.” Could this be the age he was when he found the spot? A specific age that would be too revealing? It was also in this chapter where question #3 came right back around to slap me in the face. On page 63, ff states “ A few days later with the luxury of hot chocolate, I made some notes that might be helpful to any future “SIXTEEN-YEAR-OLD GENIUSES” who think looking for Lewis and Clark might be fun. “One of the smart ones,” “Sixteen-year-old geniuses.” There is no way this was a coincidence in my mind. It is because of this chapter I believe the “map” you need to have is very specific. The map you need is a map of the Gallatin National Forest. A map that will “come in handy later on.”

 

From here I went on a google search for a Gallatin National Forest map from the late 1800s-1940s. A map he might have used. It was then I found this map:
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When I found this map, my jaw dropped. Could he really have laid everything out for us? Is this the idea he said to his recollection no one has come up with for the possible solution? With this solve, the clues in the book tell you about the location, tell you about a specific time period, but they are separate from the poem. The poem is to guide you from a directional standpoint. The sprinkled clues are literally there to tell you about where you need to be once you follow the poem…IMO. He stated you could find the location by the clues in the book if you could “recognize them.” I also believe this is why he wanted the cover of TFTW to be very specific. I think the cover of OUAW tells something very specific as well.

 

Let me start with the Poem and bring everything full circle so it makes sense to everyone. Now for the explanation:
Begin It Where Warm Waters Halt: Madison Junction

 

Take it in the canyon down: Madison Canyon

 

NFBTFTW: The 10 river miles where he put the rubber dinghy into the Madison River and fished “downstream” towards Baker’s Hole.

 

PIBTHOB: I believe the home of Brown is Bakers Hole. But, we don’t put in there. We put in BELOW the home of Brown. This would be Barns Hole.

 

From there it’s no place for the meek: The meek will inherit the earth, so we are talking about water.

 

The end is ever drawing nigh: FF has stated if you follow the clues and can’t find it, go back to the beginning. I believe this is the meaning of Nigh (One definition states: Draw the covers nigh towards you). Pulling them up towards you before you go to sleep, so we are going back towards the beginning. Back towards Madison Junction.

 

No paddle up your creek: There will be no paddle because we are walking, and you are not allowed to have a boat/rubber dinghy in this section of river.

 

Just Heavy Loads and Water High: FF stated he liked to fish in the bends of the Madison where the water turned green and deep. He also stated he could throw a bike into water high. This is where we start to bring the clues from the book into the solve. Heading up stream from Barns Hole you meet an area considered “Riverside.” This is one area where stagecoaches use to bring people down to the water. Due to this, and the deep water in the bends of the Madison, this was my “heavy loads and waters high.”

 

If you’ve been wise and found the blaze: I believe what we are supposed to be looking for is some kind of “Star.” On a rock, on a tree, something. My reason for thinking this is because of the 3 Wise Men (More on that in a little). Also, because of the cover of OUAW. I thought he was telling us what we are fishing for is a STAR.

 

Now that we are here at this location, let me explain as to why I believe the clues in the book tell us about a specific time, a STAR, and the location.

 

Clue 1: Green Olives
Clue 2: All the references to the color Green
Clue 3: All the references to the color Red
Clue 4: In the chapter Gypsy Magic he stated the Gypsies came through town several times a year
Clue 5: All the references to food and baking
Clue 6: All the references to fire
Clue 7: The references to dancing (gypsies and fairies)
Clue 8: The darkness behind the gypsies dancing
Clue 9: The darkness of him in the cemetery looking up
Clue 10: Page 146 in TTOTC shows a man with an ax, standing with his foot on a stump around cut down trees. Darkness around him. Looking up towards a bird that looks like a dove, and behind it the head of a turtle (More on this in a minute).

 

I think these clues are telling us about a specific time. I then believe he created the cover of TFTW for the same reason, as well as the cover of OUAW. This brings in some of his scrapbooks as well. The Cloves (Scrapbook 49) His Peppermint and Spearmint plants in his yard (Scrapbook 146).  Imagination is more important than knowledge quote.

 

“Come on already!” you’re probably saying. There are some people speculating throughout the blogs that we need to be at a specific place, at a specific time, to see a shadow cast across something. I believe a specific time is correct, but not for that reason.
I believe, he is referring to the Winter Solstice and Christmas Time. The time he left the war was on December 22nd. He walked into his house on Christmas Eve and for the next month “the flourish of activities related to homecoming and reuniting with family and friends put my jungle thoughts on hold.

 

1.Green Olives and Green Olive Wreaths are associated with Christmas
2.Imagination is more important than knowledge (Kids have the most imagination around Christmas time).
3.Green and Red are the colors of Christmas
4.Gypsies celebrate the summer solstice and the winter solstice. They celebrate with fire and dancing just like in the book when they came to down several times a year.
5.The winter solstice is known for: celebrations of festivals, spending time with loved ones, feasting, singing, dancing and fires. It more often than not falls on the 21st or the 22nd of December
6.The bird with the turtle head behind it I considered to be a reference to “Turtle Dove.”
7.The dark night sky in the pictures: The winter solstice is the time when the day is the shortest and when your shadow is the longest (Back to the cover of TFTW (Cast a lonesome shadow across the Madison)
8.In TTOTC he talked about being in the middle: The winter solstice is also referred to as “Midwinter.”
9.The moon during the winter solstice is called the “Cold Moon.” Effort will be worth the cold.
10. Cloves are considered the Christmas Spice
11. Peppermint and Spearmint are candy cane flavors
12. I believe the Blaze is a star due to the three wise men following the north star to baby Jesus when he was born on Christmas. Also, why the stick figure is hooked on a star on the cover of OUAW.

 

This brings back the map above and “Christmas Tree Park.” Christmas Tree Park is entered right across the street from the Dude Motel. Referred to now as “Riverside Trail.” It takes you down to a gated off area that, if you go beyond the gate, leads you down to the area considered “Riverside.” You can also get there from Barns Hole, but the walk is a lot longer walking upstream.

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This is what it looks like today

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The Entrance to the trail

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I hiked around here for a good 4 hours. I did a total of around 9.4 miles and took some amazing pictures. I kept and eye out for grizzly bears while trying to find anything that resembled a STAR and came up empty. The only thing I fo und I considered “Interesting” was this:
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I didn’t want to mess with it because I didn’t feel comfortable doing so. There were rocks all around it, and my gut instinct was to leave it intact. It wasn’t a STAR so I left it alone. I came up empty handed, but the scenery and the sounds of the Madison River are something I will never forget. I still believe my theory make sense, but if it wasn’t for this theory, I would not have been able to see this amazing place. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did:
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Heading towards Earthquake Lake once my searching was complete

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Horses near Red Canyon Rd. I wanted to check that road out due to FF stating they made their way up Red Canyon. Maybe on my next trip I’ll make the hike at the end of the road.

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This was around one of the deep bends of the Madison River, the guy was fishing into water that looked to be at least 15 feet deep.

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Another area between Barns Hole and Bakers Hole

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The Madison River before sunrise

-James Collier

 

 

 

 

Cabin Creek…

cabibcrOctober 2019

By A&M

 

Cabin Creek Solve

As I have gone over many of the reasons for this solve in the related “Beaver Creek Solve”.  Please click HERE and read that one first.

We got up early on that Wednesday morning in order to solve this thing, find the gold and still be able to make it to Canyon Village in Yellowstone to see the waterfalls before heading home Thursday morning.  We started with breakfast at the Campfire Lodge Resort.  It is a campground located at the confluence of Cabin Creek and the Madison River.  The breakfast was only bested by the view while eating.and they have a fly shop if you want to go catch something else to eat.  Our waitress told us that there were two momma bears on Beaver Creek and Cabin Creek one with a cub and one with twins.  We figured one down one to go.  On the way out, this old stove caught my eye and I knew it would be a good day.

BlazeKing

The day before, after the Beaver Creek solve, we had gone to the earthquake visitor’s center and learned about the devastation and the science of that dreadful night almost exactly 50 years prior.  One of the things that visually interested me was the scarp.  I had never heard the word but a scarp is the actual place where the plates of the earth slip and is raised or depressed depending on your perspective I suppose.  The ranger at the center told us that the scarp at Cabin creek was so vertical that it took one of the benches from a picnic table up while leaving the table and other bench in place at the bottom of the scarp.  The picnic table was no longer there but the photos told the stories of this place and many others in the Hebgen area.  We went to check it out.  That is me on the top of the scarp.

Scarp

From there, we walked into a small glade just north of the scarp area and down to Cabin Creek.  We saw this friendly otter having her own breakfast.

Otter

Getting back in the car, we drove to the other side of the creek and began our hike up the creek.  About a quarter mile up the trail, you see a manmade dam.  It was built to keep fish habitats from intermingling or some such thing.  Anyhow, it is made of concrete and I can only imagine the amount of work that went into getting those materials up to that point in the creek.  Maybe I think about these things too much but I’m always amazed at the amount of work we humans do for the “good” just to be lazy and let the “bad” happen the same.

The hike up Cabin Creek Trail is beautiful  at least the first 45 minutes is.  Sheer cliffs of rocks mixed with trees and sloped meadows abound.  After the 45 minutes, there is a turn into the woods that is seemingly uphill both ways with lots of roots to trip on.  This is bear country so if you are hiking alone, find a pet rock and keep conversation with it…Loud conversaion.  This is no place for the meek. 

Our solve was to follow this trail until we got to the crossing at Cub Creek at which time we would follow the trailless Cub Creek upstream to Indulgence.  When we got to Cub, we began crossing the creek back and forth on the rocks available.  We came across one bend and saw a large embankment of red.  This was the closest thing we had seen to a blaze so we checked it out thoroughly.

RedBank

We even checked holes where it seemed like someone had set up some rocks but it was only mother nature smiling.

RedHole

upstream a little bit further, we came across a small pool area that had paw markings and some fur caught on logs and branches.  

BearBathtub

further yet, there was a small waterfall that went into a deep pool.  I took a stick and jabbed it down into the hole.  Right in the center, it made a hollow sounding thud whereas all around the sound or the stick hitting rock was solid.  I’m not one to think that Indulgence is at, near, or under a waterfall so I wrote it off as whatever.  But then I started thinking about it and I knew that I had to make sure so that I could sleep at night.  So I removed my clothing and went into the frigid water.  I was not mistaken that there was a reason for the hollow sound.  Somehow a flat piece of shale or fieldstone was resting on top of other stones making the four walls and a roof.  While climbing out of the small pool in the buff, I realized that a thin layer of clothing makes one a lot more confident in the wild than perhaps it should.  I hastily put on my coat of armour and with the dignity it provided, we decided to head back.  It was at this moment (again) that I found the remains of another creature.  I do not venture to guess what beast this once belonged but I will leave the picture for you to judge for yourself.

Bone

So listen all and listen well we did not find what Forrest hid.  However, by going on this adventure with the love of my life, I have treasure abundant.  If either of these stories helps you find the treasure, good for you.  I don’t know that we will go out searching again for this particular thing as there is so much adventure in this world, it seems a shame to dwell in one place too long but then again as we are all different, so are our goals and ambitions.  

Good Luck to All,

A&M

If you have any questions or comments, please ask away but know that a speedy response isn’t a guarantee.

 

 

 

 

Beaver Creek…

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October 2019

By A&M

 

I learned of  Forrest’s treasure hunt earlier this year and became hooked on it not so much for the money (although that’s what draws people and makes it competitive) but for the challenge of solving the puzzle and being the person to find the dang thing.

I’ll just quickly go over how my wife and I chose our Beaver Creek solve but know that the Cabin Creek / Cub Creek solve was using very similar logic.

Of course this thing could be anywhere that Mr. Fenn has suggested.  However, it would be difficult to convince me that there is a better WWWH than Madison Junction.  The preponderance of thermal hydrogeological water features of the world flow down the Firehole and Gibbon rivers.  When the two come together to form the Madison they move further from the geysers and hot springs.  Add to that the fact that Madison Junction was the origin point or birthplace of Yellowstone and you could see how it would be a good spot to “Begin It….” From there I am not as sure of my solve but here goes.  We took the Madison Canyon down by car as it was too far to walk.  

Put in below the home of Brown:

Ok so I am not in love with the idea that Hebgen Lake is the home of Brown.  Sure there are Brown trout there but they are up and down the Madison from there as well.  Because the lake tilted from the earthquake in 1969, one of the banks was brown from exposed soil without vegetation but that didn’t last forever.  What drew me to this answer may make some laugh but I think it also ties to a story in TTOTC.  When Mr. Fenn talks about sliding down that rusty fire escape slide from Spanish class, he adds that it left the bottom side of his pants brown but it was worth it.  You can’t get to close to it anymore as I imagine you could bet back in Fenn’s day but where Hebgen spills over to reform the Madison, the overspill is a slide of sorts.  You can see the end of the “slide” from Hwy. 287 near Big Wig Loop but to get a better idea of what I’m talking about, look at it from Google Earth.  Anyway, for our purposes this is the home of Brown Damnit so lets put in.

From there it’s no place for the meek:

So I’m not one of those people who is counting every vowel in every line and thinks that this means something astrological or that Fenn was thinkig on so many levels that you need to know 5 different Native American languages to solve this thing.  That said, I don’t see why the word “meek” keeps being misconstrued to mean “less than brave” or “afraid”.  The word means quiet.  It can mean weak as in “easy to convince to change mindset or opinion”.  But I think lets just go with simple.  No place for the meek is no place to be quiet.  You don’t want to be quiet in bear country unless you want to meet a bear.  In Grizzly Bear country, you don’t want to meet a bear period.  Add to that it rhymes with creek and there’s your meek.

So we drove up USFS Rd. 985 that runs adjacent to Beaver Creek.

The end is never drawing nigh;

There’ll be no paddle up your creek,

Just heavy loads and water high.:

I’ve heard the “nigh” equals left idea but I think he’s looking for a word that rhymes with high.  There will be no paddle up your creek means walk up a creek that is very small and obviously unnavigable.

So, with that, our idea was to walk up the West Fork of Beaver Creek which, yes is a fork that enters from the left hand side when one is charting a path up Beaver Creek proper.  We parked at the West Fork trailhead and began hiking.  I am very aware that Mr. Fenn has said that Indulgence is not near a human trail but when you are out there, in order to get away from the road, the only logical solution to enter nature is to take a trail or to start walking in the creek.  The second option is very slow moving and there are fishermen and women that frequent these creeks but if you think it is hidden where there is a moderate amount of human foot traffic, I have no reason to dissuade you from just walking around in the creeks and look for the blaze.  We chose to take the trails and to look for places to diverge from the trail on our quests.

We started down the trailhead and made it about 3 minutes in before I decided that I would like to change out of my shorts and into jeans.  This trail isn’t well trodden and the growth would have been uncomfortable at the least.  Plus, I figured this to be another layer for the bear to chew through so I would at least get to see the annoyance that the bear would face having to chew through the denim of my trousers to get to my leg flesh.  I imagined that, if I was lucky enough to remain conscious long enough I could see the humorous mouth calisthenics of trying to spit the jeans without fumbling my fibula into the canyon below.  Anyhow, I put on jeans.

We walked approximately 1:45 in stopping at several small mountain streams that resembled washouts.  We walked up and explored a few that would have been great hides including this small waterfall next to a log that looked like it had been burnt. 

BeaverCreekPhoto1

We went through a few switchbacks until we came to one, at which point we decided that Mr. Fenn would not have come this far in.  We knew we had at least an hour and fifteen minutes to walk back.  We figured that for an 80 year old this is at least a 3:30 round trip even if you know exactly where you are going and I am not convinced that a man of this age would do it twice in a day.  The unmarked switchback upon which we turned around was the fork at which the hiker would decide to go to the right to go to Avalanche Lake or to the left to go to the triple small lakes.  This junction, and actually the trail in general, was unmarked which is a shame because if we had known that we were that far in, we would have carried on and went up to Avalance to see it.  Oh Well.

On the walk down between scaring off bears with our singing voices, we decided to walk off the trail to see where the west fork met the main Beaver Creek.  When we got off the trail, we began seeing a lot more evidence of animals from trodden grass, moved rocks, and, of course, poop.  We began to get an erie feeling that we were on someone elses land and ignoring the no trespassing signs.  When we saw fresh bear tree markings we felt like we should turn around now lest we make some markings of our own in the aformentioned jeans.  At that thought, I saw a jawbone that turns out is the bottom jaw of an elk.  We decided to take the jawbone home and leave the rest of this elk for some other treasure hunter to find.  

BeaverCreekPhoto2

Good Luck To All,

A&M

 

 

 

 

A Glacier National Park Solution…

gnpbbSeptember 2019

By Kurt

 

This is a Glacier National Park solve my wife and I did in early September 2019.

Here is my interpretation of the poem:

As I have gone alone in there
: He was literally alone.

And with my treasures bold,
: He had the treasure in a backpack and people could possibly see him as he started his trek to the hidden location.

I can keep my secret where,
: He is not going to tell anyone and no one else knows. “Two can keep a secret if one is dead.” ff

And hint of riches new and old.
: Riches new = Treasure State, Montana.  Riches old = The Treasure (Indulgence)

Begin it where warm waters halt
: At the east end of Going to the sun Road where the road begins. Evaporating waters are warm and halt going to the sun in the form of clouds. Fenn also mentioned that kids would have an easier time solving the poem.  Maybe that’s because they learn about the water cycle in school.

And take it in the canyon down,
: Head into the canyon westward.

Not far, but too far to walk.
: Go about 20 miles (see “Too Far to Walk” 20-mile bike ride.) Fenn also commented once when a reporter asked if the treasure really existed, he said what would keep him from riding his bike in there and throwing it in the water high. People do ride their bikes on the Going to the Sun road.

Put in below the home of Brown.
: Park just after Haystack Creek at the base of Haystack Butte. Haystack is in the brown color family. The parking area is about 500 ft from where the treasure may be.

From there it’s no place for the meek,
: Scary to drive with steep cliffs in that area. Walking on the road is dangerous too with cars going by.  There are no sidewalks.

The end is ever drawing nigh;
: The creek is on the left (nigh) as you leave your car. Also, nigh could mean close.

There’ll be no paddle up your creek,
: Head up the side of the creek.  You cannot use a canoe in this creek.

Just heavy loads and water high.
: Big boulders, cascading water.  It’s a very steep creek and very high.

If you’ve been wise and found the blaze,
: At about 200 ft from the road you will walk in a clockwise manner and head towards the road and end up on a small ledge. Is that light-colored rock the Blaze? It looks out of place amongst the dark rocks.

Look quickly down, your quest to cease,
: Maybe treasure is under the ledge that you are standing on. Jump down and look.

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Haystack Creek is very visible to oncoming cars and to sightseers at the pullouts. I did not want to climb up in broad daylight, so we returned the next day just before sunrise with a flashlight.

The first ledge to get up from the road seemed like it may be too difficult for an 80-year-old man with 22lbs in a backpack.  It also didn’t seem like Forrest would want to climb up, twice, in broad daylight with many people possibly watching. This road is very busy, even before sunrise.

When I reached the Blaze, that lightly colored boulder that looked like it didn’t belong, I searched all around the boulder, near the creek, to the left, to the right, up, down, and under every ledge in the area.

Haystack Creek is known for avalanches/landslides so it’s possible that the boulder I saw wasn’t there when Forrest hid the chest or that it might end up getting knocked down in a future avalanche or rockslide.

My wife and I didn’t find the treasure, but we experienced some beautiful hikes while in Glacier National Park.  I highly recommend the Hidden Lake Overlook hike.

Keep searching, stay safe, and have fun!

-Kurt

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Bighorn Ram, Logan Pass

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Clements Mountain

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Going to the Sun Road

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Hidden Lake Overlook

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Hidden Lake Trail

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Lunch Creek

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Red Rock

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Haystack Creek

 

 

 

A Colorado Theory…

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September 2019

By Richard McKeever

 

First let me introduce myself. I am a searcher of 7 years. I am also 62 years old with a lung condition, who has searched in all 4 states. I have found all kinds of treasures from antiques, to silver dollars, to a 4 pound silver surveyor’s ingot.

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Back in July of 2019 while rereading TTOTC I was surprised by a passage I had taken as superficial before. In the chapter “Gold And More” on page 130, I found it curious that Forrest went into great detail about Siler Bracelet. He skimmed most the other items, yet he went so far as to describe not only that he won it playing pool, but who he won it from.

He talks about winning it from Byron Harvey, who was also a collector of native American artifacts, Byron had a collection of over 900 Kachina Dolls, and was a well known scholar and gentleman. As such I can only believe the pool he played Forrest was Snooker a gentleman’s game.

Fenn Bracelet in Treasure Chest

When Forrest described the bracelet as having 22 beads, it struck me that there were 22 balls used to play Snooker. 15 Red balls, 6 numbered balls, and the Que ball. When setting up the table for the initial break there is a place on the table for the brown number 4 ball called ” The Point of Brown.” So I correlated the Home of Brown as the pool table with the Point of Brown on it.

assup

I took these measurements and transferred them to a map of each state and nothing popped. I got to thinking and decided to see if I used only the treasure portion of the maps. Colorado was the only state that would fit as a pool table set up.

So I drew a straight line from Raton Pass north to a point on the Wyoming boarder almost where I-25 crossed. From there    I went to the SW corner of the Colorado, New Mexico boarder, from there I went east to about the halfway mark, and the north about a quarter way up where the Point of brown was located on a pool table. It popped! That point turned out to be Pool Table Mountain.

I knew just to the west of there was Wagon Wheel Gap Hot Springs, and jest east of the spring was the 4 UR Ranch where the WWWH’s at the resort’s spa. From there you can go down the canyon to the base of Pool Table Mountain, following in this vein, I continued going down the canyon to a put in that was not on the Rio Grand River. I found that spot as where you put in on US Hwy 160 at South Fork CO. If you turn right you will be heading up Wolf Creek Pass, and towards the Continental Divide, NPFTM. At the divide you are 10865 feet, to high so you keep traveling west to Wolf Creek Road at 10180 feet. Your at the top of Wolf Creek here, NPUYC because you are already at the top, and a waterfall’s. I was unable to search here as my lung condition warranted me to lower elevation. As you turn onto the FS road there is also an overlook, TSWMG.  As I was unable to search for the blaze, I am certain in my honest opinion that this place warrants an investigation. I am also struck by Forrest’s words,” you end up where you began.” translate to read Hint of Rich’s New and Old. This because you are near the top of Treasure Mountain.

-Richard McKeever

 

 

 

Undine Falls……

bt01

September 2019

By AFGNCAAP

 

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.  

undine

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.  

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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…

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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.

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Next steps:

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!

-AFGNCAAP

 

 

 

 

A Straight Forward Colorado Solve……

leadville train

September 2019

By Aaron R.

 

A little preface before I get into my solution.  I based my solve primarily on the poem, giving it as straight-forward a reading as I possibly could—no hidden meanings or code-type solutions.  I don’t know whether this is the correct approach, its just the only one I was smart enough to attempt.  I ended up with no Indulgence, but perhaps some of my thoughts will aid my fellow searchers.  In any event, I was able to take my first ever trip to the Rocky Mountains which was a beautiful and spiritual experience beyond my ability to put into words.  Also, I didn’t take as many pictures of the clues as I would have liked, sorry.  In any event, here it what I came up with:

“Begin it where warm waters halt”— I chose Leadville Colorado. Just above Leadville is a point where three major watersheds halt (waters). All of these watersheds eventually end up in the Gulf of Mexico (warm). There is also a major molybdenum mine at this point (riches new) and this was a popular area for gold mining during the Colorado gold rush (riches old). Also, as other searchers have noted, Leadville is the highest incorporated town in the US– 10,200 feet. There is an airstrip and a hertz rental so Forrest could have hidden the treasure in a single day if he flew himself up. Finally, Forrest said he followed the clues when he hid the treasure. Any way you drive from Leadville you will, by necessity, have followed the clues.

“And take it in the canyon down, Not far, but too far to walk.”–  For the longest time I was thinking that the canyon started right at WWWH and that you took it in the canyon not far, but too far to walk.  After reading for the 1,000th or so time, I saw a different possibility.  “Not far, but too far to walk” refers to “down”, as in the canyon itself is located some distance away from WWWH.  I choose the canyon just below Red Cliff, Colorado.  

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Its about 21 miles from Leadville, too far to walk, but a fairly short drive.  One feature I liked about this canyon is that a road runs along its rim—about 500 feet up from the bottom.  Plus, its easily accessible via abandoned railroad tracks.  Another bonus that I didn’t realize until I was walking the tracks is that red raspberries grow along the entire canyon, and they were ripe as I made the hike.  Perfect Snacking!

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“Put in below the home of Brown.”—This is one I’m really upset that I didn’t take a picture of, but I’ll show the satellite photo that attracted me to the feature:

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I noticed that the cliff side had a very particular shade of brown coming down from the top.  In person it is even more dramatic.  To me it appeared to be as close to a “true” brown as you can get.  I did some research and the color is emanating from an abandoned mine called the Champion mine.  The primary mineral mined from Champion was siderite.  Siderite’s primary use is as pigment for brown paint.  To me, this sounded like the mine is the “home” of “Brown”—literally the color brown.  As for the capitalization, I’m not sure.  Maybe its because he was personifying Brown by giving it a home, maybe it’s a poet’s way of saying “brown” itself—the color.  In any event, it’s the best “home of Brown” I had come across that wasn’t related to a person.

“From there it’s no place for the meek,

The end is ever drawing nigh;”–  I’m not sure if there are two clues here, or just one.  I had identified Petersen creek from satellite photos as the place I wanted to go.  I had no idea if I could get up there safely from the canyon.  Luckily, it turns out that I could.  I believe that “no place for the meek” means that its time to leave the comfortable path—in this case the railroad tracks.  Just below the Champion mine, the side of the canyon gave way and I was able to head up into the trees.  It was off to the left, but I’m not sure if nigh is a clue for turning left or not, but a left turn into the brush is what I made.

“There’ll be no paddle up your creek”–  Petersen creek drops steeply down the canyon wall.  No paddling or even wading up this creek.

“Just heavy loads and water high.”—As I made my way up towards the creek, I could hear rushing water before I even arrived.  There were several smaller waterfalls and huge boulders on either side of the creek.  

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The picture doesn’t do it justice.  You can barely see it, but the waterfall continues above, through the branches.  This is about 200 feet up from the railroad tracks.

At this point I was pretty jacked.  I can honestly see how people get hurt looking for the treasure given how I was acting at this spot.  All though of personal safety was out the window.  Although it wasn’t life threatening, I could have easily broken a leg scrambling over rocks and criss-crossing the stream looking for a blaze.  Full. On. Treasure Mode.

Then I saw it.  I looked up and saw this large rock looked EXACTLY like a face.  I jumped because it was so startling.  Of course, I took a picture of it, and of course the picture was nowhere on my phone when I had left the area.  Sorry.  I climbed up– not too difficult—and looked all around.  Over, under, sideways, standing on top looking down, sitting on top looking down, sitting underneath . . . and on and on.  Nothing.  

I only spent about an hour looking over the area, but it wasn’t too large of a spot.  No other signs of a blaze (maybe I’m not wise enough) and no chest.  There were remains of mining structures in the area and signs of recent rock falls.  If the chest had been hidden at this spot, there’s no way one could be comfortable that it would remain intact for 10 years, let alone 100.  Plus I couldn’t see any mountains given how narrow the canyon was.  Still, it was pretty exciting.  I felt like I found things that could have represented 8 clues, but close doesn’t count in the chase.

Maybe someone will read something here that helps them find the treasure.  As for me, I might be done.  My only goal in this was to find a spot where the treasure could be located and go on an adventure to try and find it.  Mission accomplished!  

Aaron R.

 

 

 

 

 

Below the Trout Line…

bbfmca

August 2019

By FMC

 

Title reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PcMx7o2_L7I

Disclaimer: If you’ve read my previous two solves, “Going to See the Elephant” and “Crouching Flyer, Hidden Canyon”, you should know by now that this is going to be long. Get comfy.

2nd Disclaimer:  The majority of this was written in between my 2nd and 3rd BOTG in this area.  Where I have updated based on additional research during this interim, I will note so as to try and keep the evolution of the solve understandable/consistent.

“Eddie Dean blew breath into the key-hole of his memory. And this time the tumblers turned.”

– Stephen King, Wizard and Glass

How I Came to This Solve

For those that have been around the Chase for awhile, you may or may not remember my attempt to catalog and share potential specific WWWH. I had a website to submit them, but it didn’t get much traction and consisted mainly of those I culled from solves posted here on Dal’s and from my own ideas. Shortly before I gave up on it, the map looked like this:

1 Warm Waters Found Map

I also had a picture where I overlaid the TFTW map and it looked pretty sweet, IMO, but I couldn’t find that image so… sorry.

One of the last ideas I added to the list was all of the ski areas in the search area, thinking that melting snow/spring runoff halting the skiing season allowed for some poetic interpretation to WWWH, but wasn’t too far out there (like tears, blood, etc.) At the time (late 2017), I couldn’t find any ways to make the rest of the clues fit and I wrote off the idea. After my 2018 solve, which relied on “canyons” formed by the boundaries of wilderness areas, national parks, etc., I came back to the ski area idea to see if there were any fits with this new “canyon” interpretation.  One of the ski areas I looked at… was Red River Ski and Summer Area in Red River, NM.

The Red River area and in particular, the Red River Fish Hatchery as home of Brown, have been considered as potential clue solutions since the early days of the Chase. Cynthia referenced her first BOTG trip to the hatchery 4 years prior to this post from 2017: https://dalneitzel.com/2017/02/11/method_madness/

Dal looked in this area as well: https://dalneitzel.com/2013/03/23/looking-in-new-mexico/#comment-27093

The Wolf covered this area along with Taos in his book/posts and who could forget the infamous Goose Lake “photo of the Treasure Chest”: https://www.abqjournal.com/499766/man-says-he-found-then-lost-fenn-treasure.html

But my canyon down and home of Brown interpretation are different from anything online… could one of these early searchers in the area be the one “within 200 feet”?

A Few More Things on Red River, NM

Before we get into the rest of the poem, a few items (warning: possible confirmation bias) that point to Red River as a possible location. Some/most of these are not “new” revelations, but I’m not hunting down who/where they were first discussed to give credit… claim it as you see fit.

  1. 1)Red River and environs are in the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. Sangre de Cristo is Spanish for “Blood of Christ” which has ties to the “My church is in the mountains and along the river bottoms…” quote.
  1. 2)Also, using the map in TFTW and the latitude lines, Red River is more directly “North” than a lot of the rest of the search area.

1a Map Lines

  1. 3)Where it’s located in the mountains, Red River is one of the two closest getaways for Texans to escape the summer heat (this was born out by my BOTG trips and confirmed by multiple people I talked to). This ties to the target audience for TTOTC per FF: “Every redneck in Texas who has lost his job, has a wife and 12 kids, a pickup truck and a sense for adventure.”
  1. 4)There’s the obvious tie of Red River to “so we laughed and drank red tea” from Tea with Olga, but just south of Red River is Black Mountain – “so we sipped black tea and nibbled on Oreos”. Two of the three colors referenced in the story tie clearly to features in this area (we’ll come to “green” shortly).

2 Black Mountain

  1. 5)Ties to “treasures bold” and “hint of riches new and old” in the names of the Chairlifts at Red River Ski Area. As you can see, we’ve also got our third tea color.

3 Chairlifts

I would argue that gold, silver, and copper would be “riches old” while platinum, which, while discovered long ago, only recently became a popular option for jewelry (source: https://eragem.com/news/the-history-of-platinum-jewelry/) would be “riches new”.

  1. 6)The Ski Area in general as WWWH and the “nearly all are north of Santa Fe” comment from FF.  Obviously, most ski areas are north of Santa Fe, but there are a few that are south of Santa Fe (Sandia Peak and Ski Apache, for example).
  1. 7)This one’s admittedly a bit more tenuous, but in my last solve, I discussed the potential image hidden in the picture on page 28 of TTOTC in the story, Bessie and Me.

4 Shadowsv

And in the following, Flag Mountain (Flag) and Red River (Car/Truck) seem to match up pretty well, including the gap under the car/truck and the gap in the road just south/east of Red River. The man fishing is a less clear, but could be the end of the designated special trout waters (at the border of the Carson National Forest as per: http://www.wildlife.state.nm.us/download/publications/rib/2019/fishing/2019_20-New-Mexico-Fishing-Rules-and-Info.pdf) or, though the distances don’t match up well, the popular fishing area around Eagle Nest Lake.

5 Shadows Interpreted

Post-BOTG #2/Pre-BOTG #3 Interim Update #1

In looking more closely at the New Mexico Fishing Rules linked above, and the “Warm Waters” section more specifically, I noticed the Red River City Ponds listed, with one of the ponds “open only to anglers 12 years of age and younger and anglers/individuals with disabilities” which has some ties to the FF quote “I think kids have an advantage”.  Looking at the map, the city ponds are located right next to the Ski Area and the start of the Pioneer Creek Trail.

5a RR City Ponds

It’s possible that these city ponds are WWWH (people stop to fish in the warm water ponds) and the rest of the solve proceeds from here instead of the Ski Area.  Assuming the same general warm water definition (ponds, lakes, etc.) it would still hold true for the “nearly all of them are north of Santa Fe” comment.

Begin It Where Warm Waters Halt

With our general WWWH identified, there are various interpretations for “Begin it” and “take it in the canyon down”. These are as follows:

6 Begin It WWWH

  1. 1)“It” as the Pioneer Creek Trail down (South) from Red River Ski and Summer Area (primary focus).
  2. 2)“It” as the beginning of NM-578 (splits off from NM-38 which runs through town) and runs down (South) through the “canyon” formed by the borders of the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness (left) and the Carson National Forest (right). I will touch briefly on this route later.
  3. 3)“It” as the chase starting from Red River in a more general sense and down as lower in elevation to the West along NM-38 (I will come back to this in more detail later as an interesting backup solve).

Note: I’m sure everyone is familiar with FF’s “gut feeling” comment (link: http://mysteriouswritings.com/six-questions-with-forrest-fenn-and-the-thrill-of-the-chase-treasure-hunt-double-charmed/) from the 2018 edition of “Six Questions” and the update from June 28, 2018 where his “gut feeling is wavering” (link: http://mysteriouswritings.com/featured-question-with-forrest-fenn-and-the-thrill-of-the-chase-treasure-hunt-gut-feeling/). Potentially related to this is a partial forest closure for Carson National Forest, including the Questa district, of which this entire search area is part of. The closure was announced on June 25, 2018 and became effective on June 27, 2018 (link: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/carson/news-events/?cid=FSEPRD584852). The closures were lifted in early July and lesser restrictions (no fires of any kind) were put in place.

Post-BOTG #2/Pre-BOTG #3 Interim Update #2

After returning from BOTG#2 and after deciding I needed to make one more trip for BOTG#3, I ordered Cynthia Meachum’s book, Chasing Fenn’s Treasure, which you can read more about and order here: https://store.bookbaby.com/book/Chasing-Fenns-Treasure.  I have long respected Cynthia’s efforts in the Chase and have said more than once that of all the other searchers, she’s the one I think most likely to find the chest. Her blog is well worth reading as well: http://www.chasingfennstreasure.com/.  

I referenced before her visit to the Red River Fish Hatchery in early 2017 and in Chapter 9 of her book, she details her Boston Acres/Middle Fork Lake Solve from later in the Spring of 2017 (similar to a solve area I looked at as part of my 2nd interpretation of “it”).  Towards the end of the Chapter, however, she outlines a series of connections she makes from FF Scrapbooks, Vignettes, etc. to this general area and also along Highway 38 west of Red River, all of which were made from early March 2017 to the end of April 2017, while she was looking in this area.  I’m not listing them here – buy her book if you want to see the details. She even provides a picture of her thumb tacks/tags on her map in the book.

6a Cynthia Map

Included with the permission of Cynthia Meachum.

Prior to reading her book, I couldn’t connect her Red River Hatchery post to FF’s “gut feeling” comment as the post was from early 2017 and his “gut feeling” comment was made in February of 2018.  After reading her book and the connections I touched on above, I looked at the book as the link between the two and realized it became available in December of 2017, after the 2017 search season, and just before FF made his “gut feeling” comment.  It’s entirely possible he thought someone buying the book would continue on the path that Cynthia began.

“It” as the Pioneer Creek Trail

I liked the Pioneer Creek Trail the most as it starts directly at Red River Ski and Summer Area. Even more, it starts behind Arrowhead Lodge and we all are aware of FF’s story of finding his first arrowhead and of references to arrowheads in general. Also:

7 Pioneer

If you consider the definition, it’s easy to see a hint to this Trail in “As I have gone alone in there” (unlike some other hints, I don’t think I’ve seen this interpretation anywhere). Additional hints to “Pioneer” include the story in TFTW, the world lost its darling, on Amelia Earhart, who he calls a “pioneer aviator.” If you squint a bit, the story of blotting out Philadelphia with his thumb could be a callback to Jim Lovell, who did a similar thing in blotting out the Earth with his thumb on the first (Pioneer) trip around the moon (source: https://www.newsweek.com/earth-behind-mans-thumb-96783).

Not far, but too far to walk.

Here you can see another view (looking South) of the Canyon and the distance (just under 3 miles) to the parking area at the top of the trail.

8 Canyon and TFTW

Three miles is far shorter than the typical estimate of ~10 miles for NFBTFTW, but there is an elevation gain from 8,670 feet to 10,020 feet.

Disclaimer: This is a 4WD off-road trail, though not an overly technical one. I did it with no off-roading experience twice in a Jeep and once in a large 4WD Dodge Ram (though all were stock rentals) and wouldn’t attempt it in anything smaller/less suited to this type of trail. I’m not going to get into the definition of “sedan” and whether or not this trail is excluded based on that comment. I will note that, based on Youtube videos of people going on this trail from years back and compared with my experience, the trail has deteriorated a fair amount since 2010.

Note: While it’s a hiking/off-road trail in the summer, it is also a snow-mobile trail in the winter which potentially speaks to the “probably retrieve it in any weather” quote from FF.

Put in below the home of Brown

I touched on the Fish Hatchery as a popular early HOB. For reference, in the following image, the Fish Hatchery is on the far left side, Red River is on the far right side, and Pioneer Creek Trail is marked in red:

9 Hatchery Latitude

How do we get below the Fish Hatchery along the Pioneer Creek Trail? Well, we’ve already started the process above, by looking at the big picture. 

The links between the latitude at the Fish Hatchery (36 degrees, 41 minutes, 0 seconds North) and FF’s father selling his ‘36 Chevy for a ‘41 Plymouth have been noted many times, but I like the clarity of Del Shannon in his piece (link: http://mysteriouswritings.com/where-warm-waters-halt-in-the-thrill-of-the-chase-treasure-hunt-by-del-shannon/):

“One evening, while re-reading the In Love With Yellowstone chapter I stopped after Forrest described his dismay after his father sold the families 36 Chevy for a 41 Plymouth. Why on earth was this such an important part of his life? And why didnt he use the numbers 19in front of these dates. Every other reference to a year in The Thrill of the Chase uses all four digits 1926 for example, the year his parents were married.

Forrests attempt at alarm over this car sale seemed insincere. After chewing on 36 and 41, which were details that seemed misplaced, and while using Google Earth to snoop around the Questa area, I noticed the latitude in the lower right hand corner. If I hovered the little electronic hand directly over the center of the village and it read 36 degrees, 42 minutes north. HmmmThen I moved it to the fish hatchery and it read exactly 36 degrees, 41 minutes, 0 seconds north. Holy crap!

10 Hatchery Latitude

Using a new interpretation of “below” (the word that is key?) with the Fish Hatchery’s latitude, you get this:

11 36 Degrees 41 Mins

And zoomed into the Pioneer Creek Trail, it crosses just above the “put in” – the parking lot/turnaround point near the end of the trail (circled).

12 Pioneer Creek Lat Line

Around where the latitude line crosses is also a section of the trail where the creek follows the trail and you basically drive into (alternative possible “put in”) and along the creek.

13 Jeep in Creek

It’s probably confirmation bias, but I see similarities to the cover of TFTW in the rocks/creek (it’s probably just how thousands of creeks in the search area look).

From there it’s no place for the meek

I maintain my simple interpretation of this clue – this is where we exit our vehicle and go into the wild (specifically at the parking area referenced above).

The end is ever drawing nigh

There are two possible interpretations for this line:

14 Drawing Nigh

  1. 1)Search the draw (geographical feature) on the left as you head further along the trail.
  1. 2)Continuing up the trail, you are getting closer (drawing nigh) to the end of the trail, which is gated off.

There’ll be no paddle up your creek

Obviously, there’s continuing along Pioneer Creek from the search area (both upstream and downstream as “no paddle up” could refer to the shallowness of the creek or which direction to take), but looking at a topo map of the area, there’s also a creek coming down from the draw.

15 Creeks

Just heavy loads and water high

For the Pioneer Creek route, this is easy – Pioneer Creek goes past a field of rocks dug out from when this area was mined extensively and goes up to Pioneer Lake.

16 Pioneer HLAWH

It’s less clear interpreting HLAWH up the draw’s creek.  There is the Bunker Hill Mine shown on the topo map, but “waters high” is a mystery… perhaps there’s a waterfall somewhere up the creek.  

17 Draw Creek HL

It’s also possible to interpret NPUYC and HLAWH as still being related to Pioneer Creek and the “no” being not to go that way and to go towards the “end” that’s “drawing nigh”.

200 Foot/500 Foot Searcher Test

For the “along Pioneer Creek” interpretation, I considered the 500 foot test to be anywhere along the actual trail, though most likely originating at the Parking area.  The closer 200 foot test would be if someone decided to go look at the creek or went further up the road to where the gate is.

18 PC 500 and 200

For the “searching up the draw” interpretation, the 500 foot line starts higher up the road closer to the gate. There’s a hiking trail on the other side of the ridge and the 200 foot line intersects would be for someone that went up that trail (possibly not searching).

19 Draw 500 and 200

BOTG for this Solve (Trips 1-3)

In and around the Red River area, I took 3 BOTG this past summer, and searched this area each time, approximately as follows:

20 PC BOTG

There were not too many “blazes” – this is probably the best one (from BOTG #1):

20a PC Blaze

I hoped to be done with this area after my second trip, but I was concerned on trip #1 that we (my wife and I) were above the draw and not in the draw and that we could potentially have missed something. I also considered the possibility that the gate could be the “end” that’s “drawing nigh” and that “no paddle up your creek” could be to not go further up Pioneer Creek and that a pile of rocks  on the east end of the parking area could be the blaze.  I would then apply my “look quickly down” interpretation of “quickly” = one second (of latitude), which is approximately 100 feet (for this location). “Down” could either be south or lower in elevation.

Once I got to the parking area on BOTG#3, I knew my memory of the rock pile had fooled me and that it was not the Blaze.  I searched up the draw again as outlined above, but did not look perpendicular to the rock pile.

End poem interpretation where “It” is the Pioneer Creek Trail

“It” as the beginning of NM-578 (#2)

6 Begin It WWWH

NM-578 starts towards the Southeast end of town and winds down through the Valley of the Pines.  There were three main areas I was interested in using this “it” – Goose Creek Trail (note: the hiking trail, not the off-road trail), the Middle Fork Lake Trail/Bull of the Woods Creek, and Sawmill Creek off of the East Fork Red River Trail.

These were less developed solves with more tenuous interpretations so I’m going to go over them a bit more briefly…

Goose Creek Hiking Trail

This used the same HOB methodology, with the latitude of the Fish Hatchery.  The Goose Creek Trailhead and parking area are the first “put in” below that latitude.

21 Goose Creek Overview

The trail crosses the creek in multiple places without any bridges (“worth the cold”) and the creek is shallow (“no paddle”).  It leads to Goose Lake (“waters high”) and is in the general direction of Gold Hill (“heavy loads”?)  On BOTG #1, I searched up the closest (“nigh”) draw and planned to search up the first draw with a mapped creek on the left side of the Goose Creek (“drawing nigh”) on BOTG #3, but I ran out of time (and also no longer thought it a likely hiding place for the chest).

22 Goose Creek BOTG

Note: There is a bridge that crosses Red River from the Goose Creek parking area to the actual trail that is Private Property. Historically, the land owner had granted hikers use of the bridge, but the property was sold in 2018, and while the new owners initially did the same, something changed in early 2019 that made them stop granting that access (Ranger theory was that there was some kind of altercation with a hiker).  Accordingly, the owners put up a sign that the bridge was Private Property and to contact the Questa Ranger District, effectively making the trail legally inaccessible (barring a sketchy water crossing of the Red River).  The Ranger District plans to get a legal right of way for the bridge based on historical use or build a new bridge further upstream, but the timing of either of those events is unknown.

Post BOTG#3 Note: The sign has since been removed.

Goose Creek Jeep Trail

Though it didn’t work for my HOB interpretation as the entrance is north of the fish hatchery’s latitude, I did consider this trail briefly, primarily because of the Goose Lake “photo” and, per the reporter who wrote the story, FF’s insistence that there wasn’t anything to it (which seemed out of character for him).  While  I never searched up this trail, this spot seemed the most likely, though it was approximately 1.6 miles up the trail (and with 1,000 feet of elevation gain) and I questioned whether it was further than FF would have gone.

22a Goose Creek Jeep

While this is technically a Jeep trail, I wouldn’t recommend going up it for safety reasons (see Travel Tips for Red River #3 at the end of this write-up).

Middle Fork Lake Trail

I tried to search this trail on BOTG #1, but it was still snowed in so I went on BOTG #2. HOB for this interpretation was Beaver Ponds (where marked below) on a map (that I can’t seem to find again). “Waters high” would be Middle Fork Lake.  I considered Bull of the Woods Creek as a potential “blaze” and wanted to get over to the base of it, but I couldn’t find an acceptable way across the river (and didn’t worry too much about it – if Doug Scott couldn’t get there, it probably can’t be done: http://www.dougscottart.com/hobbies/waterfalls/bullwoods.htm).

23 MFL Overview

I also went along the Elizabethtown Ditch for awhile.  Found a blaze or two and some tarry scant and even some marvel gazes, but no treasure.

24 MFL Collage

East Fork Red River/Sawmill Creek

This trail starts east of the Middle Fork Lake Trail with a lot of the same interpretations…  Creek in a draw going to the left, waterfall as “HLAWH” (source: http://www.dougscottart.com/hobbies/waterfalls/sawmill.htm), plus sawmill links to “in the wood.”  For my BOTG trip here, I misread where the actual falls were so I actually went past them without seeing them. I trust that since Dal was here, it’s been well-searched.

25 Sawmill Creek

End poem interpretation where “It” is the Beginning of NM-578

“It” as the Chase and “down” being in elevation along NM-38 to the West (#3)

26 NM38 West Overview

This interpretation started with the Columbine Creek Trail as an emergency backup for BOTG #2 using primarily the Fish Hatchery latitude idea for “below the home of Brown” and not much else in the way of solved clues once heading down the trail (this was born out by my hiking along it for awhile and not finding much else of note…)  I also wanted to re-check The Wolf’s foray up into Bear Canyon as he posted some interesting pictures and I just wanted to poke around/confirm he didn’t miss anything (details of his trips can be found on Chase Chat or by using the WayBack Machine or you can buy his book). As I understand it from his writing, he crossed via a fallen tree approximately across from Bear Canyon and then searched up into the canyon. 

27 The Wolf BC

I forget exactly how he came to this point, but I think I re-interpreted it as Bear Canyon being “home of Brown” with the canyon (on the left coming from Red River) as “drawing nigh”, the power lines as “heavy loads”, and the creek/waterfalls he found as “waters high”.  It wouldn’t matter, however, as I couldn’t find an acceptable way across the Red River.  This was the best option and even in the Dodge Ram, I wasn’t the least bit interested:

28 Hard Pass

Put in below the home of Brown

While I distinctly remember having this thought about FF’s potential playfulness while looking at Columbine Creek ahead of BOTG #2, I didn’t consider it a real possibility until after re-looking at the map ahead of BOTG #3…

Could the Chevron Moly Mine be “home of Brown”?

FF did say in an interview once that “you’re gonna have to solve the riddle that’s in my poem.” (Source: www.tarryscant.com; https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/isaac-cole/on-the-road-with-charlie/e/50089487)

Could this be a play on another popular “home of Brown” choice – the Molly Brown house in Denver (or associated Molly Brown-related places)?  I wouldn’t put it past FF to have it be just that.

It’s been pointed out before, but there are also possible hints to the Moly mine in the image of the Man with the Axe and Cutdown Trees on page 146 of TTOTC as there are no trees on the mine.

28a Moly Mine

With the connection (the Moly Mine as HOB) better established in my mind, I looked again at the area, and the road crossing the Red River from the image above (the closest “official” crossing) is just past (and below/lower in elevation) the entrance to the Moly Mine and is 8.8 miles from Red River (closer to the generally accepted TFTW distance of ~10 miles).

29 River Crossing Overview

30 8 8 Miles

Crossing the river, there are a number of possible clue interpretations, primarily with Bear Canyon as “no place for the meek” both in the not being afraid sense (bears) and also not being quiet (making noise to alert bears to your presence).  There is a small creek that goes up Bear Canyon (“no paddle up your creek”) as well as fallen boulders and waterfalls (“heavy loads and water high”) as identified by The Wolf.

However, there are also draws to the left (south/southeast of the “put in”) and on the left side of the river as you go towards Bear Canyon and Red River itself could potentially be “your creek” and there exist then the same “no paddle up” possibilities for the river being too swift to paddle against or meaning to go downstream.  There are power lines and rock piles/rocky outcroppings (“heavy loads”) all along this side of the river and a creek back towards Red River as potential “waters high”.

31 Options

And the 500 Foot/200 Foot quotes are only marginal help as the road and/or Red River (people fishing) provides cover for people being within 500 feet, while The Wolf’s search up Bear Canyon and searchers potentially staying at Goat Hill Campground/fishing the Red River south of the campground provide explanations for potential 200 footers. (Personally, I thought something up Bear Canyon was more likely.)

32 BC 500 and 200

BOTG #3 to Bear Canyon

In late August, the Red River flowrate was approximately half of what it was for BOTG #2 and I was able to cross without any difficulty.

33 Lower Water

I found the creek and proceeded up Bear Canyon along a trail (I couldn’t tell for sure if it was a human trail or a game trail):

34 Trail

And soon found The Wolf’s spot (and the Iron Bar from his adventure):

35 Iron Bar

(If that’s actually a piece of an old Spanish sword or something, well, you know where to find it…)

I continued up past the waterfalls and soon noticed that, despite going up the only possible canyon, the sound of running water had diminished and eventually disappeared.  As I’d previously considered a natural spring/something with water tables to be the reason behind the FF quote “physics tells me the treasure is wet,” I made a mental note to investigate further on my way back down.

A little further on, I came to a large rock with an overhang/gap on one side. Inside, the gap was filled with sticks (“in the wood”) and dead grass, which, as the gap was well above the creek and on the downside of the rock, seemed unlikely. 

36 Sticks in Gap

I cleared out the sticks and debris, but found no chest.

Continuing up the canyon, I happened to look up and see this:

37 Rock W

I’ve too young to have seen It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, but I’m aware of the “Palm Tree W” from the movie.  Could this be a “Rock W” and be the Blaze?  Given the angle, it’s certainly something that you couldn’t see from Google Earth (FF: “Google Earth cannot help with the last clue”).  I also estimated that it was approximately 200 feet from the trail I was on to the base of the cliff below the “W” – could that be why someone was able to get within 200 feet?

I hiked over/up to the base of the cliff, though I did notice there was still a faint trail to follow.  At the base of the cliff was an overhang with a decent enough view, some blackened (“tarry”) rocks, and some fragrant pine trees.

38 Decent View

But I soon noticed something else… the presence of climbers…

39 Climbers

Okay, I thought to myself, maybe the Climbers were the ones who were within 200 feet.  So I continued along base of the cliff, looking around larger rocks and at the base of pine trees.  I noticed a weirdly colored rock uphill a bit and went to check it out.  It was just a rock, but a little bit beyond that rock was a mine entrance, and in that mine entrance was a plastic bin with rocks on top of it.

40 Bin

 I doubted the treasure chest was inside, but maybe some gold from the mine? Something else interesting (and valuable)?  Not really… it was just climbing equipment that the climbers didn’t want to carry back and forth every time they came to climb.

I looked further around and saw more climbing equipment (carabiners and rock bolts) in the cliff face of the only other way to go and decided to head back.

I went further up the main trail a little bit, before deciding that I’d gone further than FF could have done to hide the treasure twice in an afternoon.  I regret not going a bit further as I think my side trips could have impacted my tiredness estimate relative to FF who would have known right where he was going.  One way, I estimate I hiked a little less than a mile with approximately 500 feet of elevation gain so there’s some potential still for anyone that wants to check further up into Bear Canyon.

On my way back down, I did locate the expected spring, which was just above the 2nd, approximately 3-4 foot, waterfall.  

41 Spring

I considered finding the spring possibly being related to “if you’ve been wise” with that waterfall as the Blaze, but couldn’t find a way to get to the area just below the waterfall.  I did look all around and below the spring itself, but didn’t find anything.

I did also search the dry creek/area southeast of the “Put in” and found a few potential “blazes” but not much else. This area seems like it gets more campers/visitors/high school kids drinking.  Exhausting that area, I called it quits and headed back to town for a beer.

Travel Tips for Red River

Should you find yourself in the area (hunting for the chest or otherwise), a few tips.

  1. 1)The bar at the Red River Lodge has some excellent musicians playing live music most nights from 6-9 (at least during the summer). I also splurged on a steak here one night and it was excellent.
  1. 2)Explore around for dinner as you like, but until you get tired of eating there, I’ll recommend the Major Bean Sandwich and Coffee Co. for breakfast and lunch. 
  1. 3)Unless you’re a very experienced off-roader, don’t go anywhere near the Goose Lake Off-Road trail.  Trail repair in the last several years has faced some serious budget constraints and it is currently unsafe (based on my research).  If you look for them, there are articles outlining approximately 1 death/year on this trail (from vehicles sliding off the road down steep embankments). A lot of the Jeep/off-road rental places in town don’t let you take their equipment on this trail at all.

Conclusion

After eight BOTG trips, zero injuries, and zero bears seen, I’m going to call my TTOTC a success, despite not finding the treasure.  Never say never, but I expect this to be my last solve attempt.  Frankly, I’m out of new ideas.  But in sharing my solves, maybe someone will use some of my ideas in their own solve (I have not applied my “latitude of Red River Fish Hatchery” and interpretation of “below” to the Lamar Ranger Station) or build upon my ideas with their own additions.

Good luck to everyone and please find it (closure would be nice) and thanks to Forrest for creating the Chase. I’ve had some good trips with family, some solid adventures, and a healthy dose of nature and I’m glad for the time I’ve spent in the Chase.

Cheers.

-FMC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Six Square Feet…

August 2019

By Coach Doug

 

What if BIWWWH is the first 3 clues ?

This solve gives you a search area of about 6 square feet, 500 feet from the nearest human trail and just under 4000 feet from the nearest parking lot. 2 trips is 16,000 feet, just over 3 miles, not too far to walk in an afternoon.
Waters is plural in the poem, but if we use it singular twice, Waters becomes the word that is key and the solve comes together.

Begin It where Warm Water -> Water Halt

IT – Forrest is a bit of pirate(April 27, 2015 – KOAT ; Tarryscant ID #9117) FF: “Oh sure, Sure. I would have been a great pirate.” . This is a Treasure Hunt. Start putting an X on a map. You need a good ‘pirates treasure’ map.

Ok, Forrest, but Where? From Warm Water to Water Halt. (FF says in Scrapbook 179 – “Imagination isn’t a technique, it’s a key”, and Imagery has the same root) So using imagery, Warm here is warm colors Red, Orange & Yellow of the Grand Prismatic to Water Halt at the mouth of the Sentinel (a sentinel says “halt who goes there”) Creek into Firehole River. When you do that on Google Earth you get this (which I did on April 13th):

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Which looks a lot like:

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From Forrest around May 1st.
Let Confirmation Bias take hold.
And then what if Canyon has Valley as a synonym and Valley has Basin as a synonym and what if Lower is a synonym of Down. Suddenly, we simply take IT (our X on our map) in the Lower Basin.
But where?

Well, what if the HOB is as easy as the Nez Peirce Creek where Brown Trout were first introduced to Yellowstone in 1889 and the “Put In” means park your car and start walking at the parking lot for Fountain Flats just south of the mouth of the Nez Peirce. But walking where?

The Poem tells us THE END is ever drawing nigh, and Fairy Tales end with Happily ever after NOT The End . A child could have helped with this. It is literally THE END that is ever drawing nigh. So we are looking to the Fairy Creek Area in the Lower Basin. Fairy Creek is quite small and would not require a paddle.

But Forrest, we still need the second line of the X on our map.

Then, what if Heavy Loads were Freight Road and Water High is Fairy Falls (the highest water fall in the Lower Basin). Bikes can be ridden on Freight Rd, but not all the way to Fairy Falls, (FF said 10/2/2012 Forrest Gets Mail ) “…What is wrong with me just riding my bike out there and throwing it in the “water high” when I am through with it?” It should be pointed out that the trail head marker here says bikes and hikers ONLY. It also is not possible to ride your bike all the way to Fairy Falls. By omission horseback riding is not allow. So No Place for the Meek(tame horses) would apply as they are not allowed. There is also bike parking area on Freight Road past which you can only hike, you can’t ride your bike to “waters high”.

Connect those dots on the map and we suddenly have an X on our Google Earth map.

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ZOOM in and just to the North and West of the X on the map, just south of the bend in Fairy Creek, you will see the Blaze. 2 trees on the banks of fairy creek lined up nearly parallel to the lines on the map

image4

What’s that, you want a double Omega?

image5

Since X marks the spot, this would be the primary target you need to look quickly down….under.

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BOTG August 10, 2019.

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What a disappointed with the amount of decomposition of the blaze. The log is only roughly 6 inches in diameter and the cross sections 2-3 inches. The bigger log is broken in 2 pieces. Of course I hand dug in the center and under the roots (quickly down the tree), but to no avail. The trees are too small to contain the chest in a hollow section.

Tarryscant ID# 2698 5/8/2015 FF “ If I were standing where the treasure chest is, I’d see tress, I’d see mountains, I’d see animaIs, I’d smell the wonderful smells of pine needles or pinion nuts, sagebrush”

Mountains, there is sage everywhere, pine trees, ample bison dung as well.
Did I mention that power and phone lines cross Fairy Creek here as well. Tarryscant ID 5176 2/9/2017 FF “ The treasure is out there waiting for the person who can make all the lines cross in the right spot”

Coach Doug