Passages Four

Do you save things? I do. When I’m walking along a creek bed or a forest path I find things. Odd things. Pretty things. Curious things. Sometimes I put them in my pocket. Momentos…

When I return home I put these things on the window sill in my cabin, or my bookshelves, or anyplace I can find to tuck them in. They remind me, sometimes decades later, of trips I took, vacations Kathy and I shared, people I’ve met or moments I am glad I can still recall.

The items are certainly meaningless and practically valueless to anyone beyond me. My descendants will be left scratching their cumulative heads wondering why on earth I kept this stuff. If they only knew the sacred memories they served up.

Below is one of Forrest’s interesting saves…


The Price of Freedom

History will not say that Alex LaFountain was a great sculptor, unless you throw grit and character into the mix as requirements to that end, then he would nicely fit the description.

In 1967, I met him at an art show in Great Falls. His bronzes were spread out on a display in front of us. We spoke about him casting his work in his own foundry. I was impressed because I was lost wax casting in my garage in Lubbock and was just learning the craft. He shared some ideas with me that were helpful.

As I turned to leave, Alex reached into a box and pulled out something that quickly gave me pause. It was an original wax model of a wolf. I thought it was wonderful, and he handed it to me.

The Price of Freedom
-Alex LaFountain

The Price of Freedom
-Alex LaFountain

The poor animal, with hair standing up on his back and ribs hard pressing against his skin, was chewing his leg off to gain independence from a steel trap. His turned up nose posed snarling contempt for whoever lay that horrible device in his wait.

I purchased the model from Alex with the handshake understanding that it would cast in only thirty copies.

I quickly made the mold and started casting bronzes. The first one I poured was #28, thinking that the casting bugs would be worked out before making the lower numbers, which would be more valuable. Twenty-eight of the copies were sold over time, but I liked #28 so much I’ve kept it all of these ensuing 50 years. I also kept the #1 copy, but I can’t remember why.

Valor can lay hidden in the human body for many years with no requirement to expose its existence. Then, with only a moment’s notice, it can reveal itself in astonishing ways. That’s how heroes are made.

In 1971, Alex and some friends were floating down the Missouri River on a sunny afternoon getaway. Near Great Falls, Alex heard a frantic voice crying out, and noticed someone floundering in the water. Although not a strong swimmer, he dove in and swam to the rescue. Evidently, in his struggle to save someone he didn’t know, Alex was pulled under and disappeared in the sweep of water.

Every time I look at my The Price of Freedom bronze I think of Alex, and how tentative life is for all of God’s creatures. f


Passages Three

Do you save things? I do. When I’m walking along a creek bed or a forest path I find things. Odd things. Pretty things. Curious things. Sometimes I put them in my pocket. Momentos…

When I return home I put these things on the window sill in my cabin, or my bookshelves, or anyplace I can find to tuck them in. They remind me, sometimes decades later, of trips I took, vacations Kathy and I shared, people I’ve met or moments I am glad I can still recall.

The items are certainly meaningless and practically valueless to anyone beyond me. My descendants will be left scratching their cumulative heads wondering why on earth I kept this stuff. If they only knew the sacred memories they served up.

Below is one of Forrest’s interesting saves…

A Dark Date with Destiny

In 1974, a relation of Algernon Smith marched into my gallery reeking of a very strong libation, and handed me three little books. Then he started slurring his words about the original owner of the books, not knowing that I probably knew more about the man than he did. When he mentioned his price, which was three times too high, I grabbed my wallet before he could change his mind.

I was excited as the relative strode smiling from my office, rubbing his hands together. He probably didn’t realize that he would soon spend his new money on Jim Beam and then have nothing to show for our deal, and I would have these three treasures warming a shelf near my desk for the rest of my life.

Here is why the books are important to me.

In 1863, Lt. Algernon Smith was assigned as Aide-de-Camp to Major General Alfred Terry, which brings his story close to me because 92 years, and a few wars later, I too would be assigned Aide-de-Camp to a Major General.

Algernon was born in 1842, and his life started on an auspicious roll through college, and even the Civil War. He had several horses shot from under him and each time he toppled to the ground unhurt. He survived the fierce battle at Cold Harbor, the fight at Drury’s Farm, and others. In 1865, he took a bullet at Ft. Fisher, near the Cape Fear River, and was severely wounded.

He bounced back, and in 1867, after the war was over, Algernon found himself assigned to the 7th US Cavalry Regiment commanded by General George Armstrong Custer, a man who washed his teeth with salt, but in whose company Algernon was particularly comfortable.

For the next nine years Custer and Smith fought side by side through some major Indian wars, including The Battle on the Washita in 1868, and The Yellowstone Campaign in 1873. Three years later Mother Luck took a ferocious turn against him.

It was June 25, 1876, when as Commander of Company E, Algernon rode into the Valley of the Little Bighorn River with the whole of the 7th US Calvary. Within a few hours 258 of those fighting men were dead, including Custer. A bullet had cleaved a tunnel through his side even as another pierced his gallant breast. Algernon abandoned his men to join his commander on “Last Stand Hill,” where they fell together, side by side. Algernon’s body, riddled with arrows, lay supine upon the hard baked ground. He was 33 years old. They both failed to hear the last brash roll of musketry as it rolled across the hot Montana sky. Fickle is the finger that points at success.

The best book on the Custer fight, Son of the Morning Star, was written by Evan Connell, who was almost a hermit.

Nevertheless he never failed to walk down the hill from his house in Santa Fe, and meet me for Coffee at the Plaza Café. Both his memory and his golden words are two of my treasures that I will never hide.

In one of my next lives I want to be Evan Connell. f



Passages Two

Do you save things? I do. When I’m walking along a creek bed or a forest path I find things. Odd things. Pretty things. Curious things. Sometimes I put them in my pocket. Momentos…

When I return home I put these things on the window sill in my cabin, or my bookshelves, or anyplace I can find to tuck them in. They remind me, sometimes decades later, of trips I took, vacations Kathy and I shared, people I’ve met or moments I am glad I can still recall.

The items are certainly meaningless and practically valueless to anyone beyond me. My descendants will be left scratching their cumulative heads wondering why on earth I kept this stuff. If they only knew the sacred memories they served up.

Below is one of Forrest’s interesting saves…

Loom of the Desert

Once in a while something like this happens to me and I am drawn to it like ink is to a page. To be different is pleasing, at least to me it is. We printed the bindings of my Secrets of San Lazaro book on linen because I wanted a beautiful cover and no dust jacket. They are used to hide an ugly cover. My printer said he couldn’t print on linen, and I walked. He tried it and it worked, so he called me back. I wanted other publishers to trend back to the old times when books were beautiful to look at, and covers were multi-colored, and were sometimes three dimensional. Dust jackets were not as yet to be. Unfortunately, my trend faded not unlike an echo in a distant canyon.

If I were younger I would still be trying to change a few ideas, but in that stead I’ll introduce you to my friend Idah, who, with her writings, has left a fingerprint on my heart. Her book, The Loom of the Desert, published in 1907, enjoys the mellow class that, wistfully, all of us would have. It was printed in 1,000 copies and in each, Idah tipped in seven photos and, with a wonderful calligraphic hand, ink lettered each caption. That’s 7,000 photos and 7,000 captions.

I found this little volume for $10, languishing and overlooked on a peel-painted wooden shelf in a forgettable bookstore somewhere. It was rebound with money from my pocket that I very much enjoyed spending, because it restored some of the class that this book deserves, and likewise, Idah, who I know is smiling at my concern.

This is Idah’s forward to The Loom

There, in that land set apart for Silence, and Space, and the Great Winds, Fate – a grim, still figure – sat at her loom weaving the destinies of desert men and women. The shuttles shot to and fro without ceasing, and into the strange web were woven the threads of Light, and Joy, and Love; but more often were they those of Sorrow, or Death, or Sin. From the wide Gray Waste the Weaver had drawn the color and design; and so the fabric’s warp and woof were of the desert’s tone. Keeping this always well in mind will help you the better to understand those people of the plains, whose lives must needs be often sombrehued. (How do you like that word? Please don’t say it isn’t correct, or isn’t used correctly.)

In Idah’s book, beginning on page eighteen, is a tale about Martha Scott. Lasting only twelve pages, it relates the story of a woman who perhaps epitomizes many rural women of her day. Let me read you one chapter.

Dear Fred:-

Now I’m going away, and I am going to stay a year. The money will last us two about that long. I asked Mr. Beard to go with me, so you needn’t blame him. I ain’t got nothing against you, only you wouldn’t never take me nowheres; and I just couldn’t stand it no longer. I’ve been a good wife, and worked hard, and earned money for you, but I ain’t never had none of it myself to spend. So I’m going to have it now; for some of it is mine anyway. It has been work-work all the time, and you wouldn’t take me nowheres. So I’m a going now myself. I don’t like Mr. Beard better than I do you-that ain’t it-and if you want me to come back to you in a year I will. And I’ll be a good wife to you again, like I was before. Only you needn’t expect me to say I’ll be sorry because I done it, for I won’t be. I won’t never be sorry I done it; never, never! So, good-by.

Your loving wife,

Martha J. Scott.

That is my book review for today. I recommend the book. You can get reprints on AbeBooks for under $9, and 1st editions for a little more money. f


Passages One

Do you save things? I do. When I’m walking along a creek bed or a forest path I find things. Odd things. Pretty things. Curious things. Sometimes I put them in my pocket. Momentos…

When I return home I put these things on the window sill in my cabin, or my bookshelves, or anyplace I can find to tuck them in. They remind me, sometimes decades later, of trips I took, vacations Kathy and I shared, people I’ve met or moments I am glad I can still recall.

The items are certainly meaningless and practically valueless to anyone beyond me. My descendants will be left scratching their cumulative heads wondering why on earth I kept this stuff. If they only knew the sacred memories they served up.

Below are some of Forrest’s interesting saves…

In Jenny’s recent “6 questions” to me she mentioned a piece of chamisa root that she picked up and saved. She said it was special to her. It reminded me of a few things that are in my box of saves. They are part of my biography in a real sense because they indicate who I am and who I want to be. Of the hundreds of such objects that have punctuated my passage thus far, here are five.

In the 1940s I had a really great fishing hole on the Madison River. It was a long cast to reach the big fish and I had to place my fly precisely. A big ponderosa in my back cast was bent on seeing me fail. Over the years I had 20 flies or more snag in its limbs.
On my last visit to that spot I was saddened to see the tree had fallen. The pimento cheese sandwich I consumed while leaning against that tree didn’t seem as tasty as I remembered, and my can of Coke up righted and spilled on the ground.
A cursory search revealed one of my wooly worms still caught on a limb where it had found sanctuary for maybe sixty-five years. I snapped this twig as a tribute to that great tree and a remembrance of those special times. I don’t know why I keep these things. You tell me.

My hair, collected from a number of barber shop clippings. My plan is to make a cloth doll for my great granddaughter Arden, and stuff it with these trimmings. OK, bad idea.

Bomb shrapnel from the war in Vietnam. I wrote on the side. “Picked up in my right wing Jan 31, 1968.” Instant fuse bombs usually detonate few feet above the ground, and the blast sends fragments in all directions, including up. This piece of iron is from a bomb I dropped myself, although I was several miles from the blast when I felt it impact my wing. It’s as a souvenir to remind me of why I don’t want to do those things anymore, and why no one else should either.

This 3 ½“ seed pod belonged to a beautiful big tree that grew next to the First Baptist Church in Temple where my wife and I were married 63 years ago. The church burned to the ground due to a deed perpetrated by some deranged arsonist fiend. The pod is full of seeds and I don’t know what to do with them. They won’t grow in Santa Fe because it is 6281’ above where their mother died in the fire. I’d like to know the name of the tree, and what to do with these special seeds. Can anyone help me with these problems, please?

I made this guitar pick for Roger Miller (the King of the Road). He and Don Meredith were with me at San Lazaro Pueblo when I picked up the little obsidian knife from which it is fashioned. The two of them graced several hours singing country songs between beers, and laughing at each other. I was looking for arrowheads and picking cactus spines out of my guess what.
I reshaped and polished this graceful little thing. Roger said he used it on stage at the Grand Ole Opry, but returned it to me just before he died because, he said, it was “out of tune.” I don’t know why I keep these things. Maybe I should send it to the Guitar Pick Hall of Fame.

Desertphile or Bust….


David Rice is the kind of guy you’d like to have as a friend. He knows how to fix almost anything. He’s inventive. He’s friendly. His knowledge of the universe is limitless. He’s a good storyteller and he can make wine out of frozen grape juice. I don’t know if he can walk on water but my guess is that he can. What more can you ask of a friend?

Ohh…and David has hosted the annual Fennboree for the past two years. That’s where I met him, at the first Fennboree on the Gallina Canyon Ranch where he works. The ranch is about a million light years away from civilization and that’s it’s stock in trade. If you’re searching for an absolutely drop-dead beautiful place to get away from the world, The Gallina Canyon Ranch is your cup of tea.

David Rice aka Desertphile

David Rice aka Desertphile

What David does in this slice of New Mexico heaven is just about everything. He is caretaker, ranch hand, cow poke, web guru, wine maker and advisor. David also adds a couple hundred feet of character to the place. He is an original.

You might know David better by his screen name, Desertphile. And while we’re talking about him, let’s get back to the Fennboree. This is the reason I’d like to salute David. For the past two years he has organized a camporee type event open to all who want to make the trek. Last year he staged it at a campground on the Chama River. Cynthia was there, took pics and submitted a report on this blog for those who could not go.

The year before, Bill submitted a report with pics from the very first Fennboree held out on the Gallina Canyon Ranch. A sensational setting.

For me, and for others who have attended. The Fennboree provides a rare opportunity for searchers to get together, have fun, exchange ideas, talk chest finding and all things Forrest Fenn. As if that isn’t enough he organizes activities and builds a Fenn Shrine…all in the name of fun. At the first event we even had a spring fed swimming pool that David engineered and built.

Is David a searcher, you ask. You bet your booties he is and if you were to ask David he will tell you in no uncertain terms that he plans to find that chest. So if you like characters, here is a video of David, shot by David.

I told you he was a character!



On Not Giving Up….



“Forrest inspires me”, Katya readily admits. “I wish I had been given teachers like him in school. He has a way of sparking my mind, making me thirsty for knowledge and making the chore of education so much fun.”


As a fellow searcher, I have to admire the resolve of a person who gives up the swaying coconut palms, soft ocean breezes and warm hammock life in Hawaii for the relative discomfort of snakes, pointy rocks and permanent ice in the mountains north of Santa Fe. Katya is a self-labeled eccentric. “I am addicted to adventure.” she tells me. She is a hot-air balloon pilot and ran her own expedition company a few years back. She also lived on a sailboat in San Francisco, tended a gallery on Canyon Road in Santa Fe has been a singer/songwriter, jewelry artist and still works in film production in Hawaii.

The search started for Katya back in the early months of 2013 when she left Hawaii to attend the wedding of a friend in Santa Fe. Her friend just happened to have a copy of The Thrill of the Chase on her bookshelves and suggested that Katya might like to read it…short stories, easy to digest, authored by Forrest Fenn. Katya was immediately attracted to the book because she had met Forrest twenty or so years earlier when she lived in Santa Fe and worked at the Morning Star Gallery on Canyon Rd. Forrest frequently dropped in to chat with the owners and see what was new on their walls. “I remembered how everybody respected and admired him.” Katya pointed out. Her friend didn’t say much about the treasure and Katya’s initial interest in the book was simply because it was by someone she knew and admired and the stories were short and would be easy to read in bed just before falling asleep.

“I didn’t sleep for days after getting my hands on that book.”, Katya said. “Every morning I couldn’t wait for my friend to wake up so I could dart into the kitchen and say ‘I know where the treasure is.’”. She was hooked. Having background on Forrest meant that she never doubted the treasure was for real. Forrest’s reputation was beyond reservation. Katya dropped everything in her life cancelled her flight back to Hawaii and the hunt became her full-time focus.

Katya stayed in Santa Fe for a time, but by July she had moved to Angel Fire in the Sangre de Cristo mountains east of Taos and landed a job there so she could be close to the area she was convinced the treasure was hidden. She begged friends with cars to take her to Forrest’s book signings and talks at Moby Dickens in Taos and Collected Works in Santa Fe. “He has the best poker face.”, she points out. Katya watched Forrest’s reactions closely when hard questions came up from audience members, looking for any signs of agreement or rejection. Nothing was there. No concern. No disdain. No confirmation.”Forrest doesn’t give up anything.”

From Angel Fire she convinced girlfriends to drive her to her search area but finally rented a car and started sleeping in it so she wouldn’t have to waste time driving to and from where she wanted to look. In the summer, searching was easy. If there was daylight, Katya was on the hunt and when it was dark she did research. 4 to 5 trips a week. “I don’t just hop around. When I pick a spot, I comb it.” She soon had a partner to search with. A friend who matched Katya’s own zealous and adventurous spirit.

Katya made over 52 treks back into the hinterlands by December 1st. On one trip with her partner they pushed the envelope a tad too far and ran afoul of both the New Mexico Parks and State Wildlife officials-
“We were just out searching very intently on this “not public” land. I’m in the zone, you know? My partner is in the water with a video camera I am on the side watching what she is shooting on a monitor. I was oblivious to everything around me…and all of a sudden there were these two guys directly in front of me. They scared the heck out of me. ‘Who are you? What are you doing here?’ I yelled…and then I noticed they were carrying guns and wearing badges and I know we’re in trouble. Geeze!” The officials interrogated Katya and her partner for “a couple of hours” about what she was doing beyond the “no trespassing” signs and on the wrong side of the fence. In the end they let her go and also provided advice on how to further her search… legally…so things eventually worked out in her favor.

Katya admits that she loves mysteries and history. She grew up in Miami and adored western movies as a little girl…cowboy and Indian fare. This combination along with professional admiration for Forrest and a love of adventure brought her into the search. The perfect storm of inducement. Although she has a part-time film industry career, friends, and a home in Hawaii, she has sacrificed her savings and given everything up to pursue the mystery of the poem. The lure of Fenn’s hidden treasure is overpowering. The thrill of the chase is hypnotic.

It was during a trip in August, a cooling late afternoon. Blue shadows had moved into her canyon stealing the sunny New Mexico warmth. Katya was solo and quietly headed back out of the woods along a small New Mexico trout stream when she experienced a life changing event that both focused and frightened her. An event that would raise the neck hairs of even the most seasoned hiker out in the wild lands, alone and fully involved in the chase. A searcher’s worst nightmare.

“I will not give up. I feel close.” These are Katya’s thoughts as she heads back, empty handed, after a day of searching in her area. She is moving quickly along a dimly lit trail toward her car. “The first sign of trouble was a very loud scream, followed by more screams. It was terrifying. Someone was in desperate trouble.” Katya describes the terrible sounds she heard that afternoon as clearly a woman, a very terrified woman screaming for help. “I picked up my pace and headed toward the noise because someone was hurting and maybe I could help. All of a sudden this mama deer comes bolting down the path right at me…boing, boing, boing toward the river and the screaming is still going on. As the deer runs past me I can hear her panting and snorting and I can see fear in her eyes. Then I see a baby deer behind mama, running right at me down the same path toward the river. The mama deer stops and starts running back and forth and I thought: Do deer make that screaming sound? That is so weird and it’s really loud. Then I turn back toward the screaming and see with stunned surprise on the same trail..maybe twenty feet right in front..a massive mountain lion. The lion stops. Our eyes lock for what seems like a minute.  It’s huge muscular body is blocking the trail…my only way out of the canyon. I knew not to run. The only defense I have is a can of bear spray. I grabbed for it and then I just froze. My heart was beating out of control. The lion looked at me for a split second longer and then dodged into a bush right next to the trail and stayed there. I couldn’t see it but I knew it was there. I also knew the only way out was on the trail past that bush…just a few feet from the lion. I had no choice. I didn’t want to head back into the wild. I wanted to get to my car. Past that lion was my only escape. I pulled up my hoody. Tried to look big as a bear. I started chanting in a very low voice. I held onto my bear spray and I just marched really, really importantly past that bush. It let me pass and I’m here to tell you that story today.”


By mid-December Katya’s resolve is still, somehow, strong. In her canyon “It’s dark. It’s icy. I’m slipping. I’m falling. I’m exhausted. I can’t even walk across the river anymore. The rocks are iced over. I’m alone because no one will go out there with me in this weather. I don’t care. I can’t stop.”

It’s not easy, Katya is not independently wealthy and making the trek from the middle of the Pacific to New Mexico is not a “loose-change” adventure. This winter she returned to Hawaii for a few weeks of film work, replenished her need for salty air, sandy beaches and greenbacks. But she has to return to New Mexico soon. “When you’re hooked on the puzzle of the poem, nothing can stand in your way long, not oceans and not lions”…her’s is the face of honest commitment.

In spite of her efforts Katya understands it may not be her that finds Forrest’s treasure. She has these words for her fellow searchers-

“I think it’s most important to be open to all the amazing little treasures along the way in your search. I have found a greater treasure within myself, the events, and the gems of lovely beings along the journey in pursuit of TTOTC.”


Wall Sized Map…

Benchmark Maps made the beautiful search area map that is in Forrest’s book, Too Far To Walk.


With Forrest’s permission they made a limited edition, large version of that map suitable for hanging on a wall. There were only 100 of these printed. Forrest signed each one.

I have one in front of me as I write this. These maps are beautiful. They are 30×24, printed on heavy stock using full color archival inks. They are made to last. Each map is numbered and comes with a certificate of authenticity. So…in addition to being a wonderfully detailed working map of the search area…they are also highly collectible and very limited..


You can find out more and place your order at the Benchmark Maps website. Just click here:

These limited edition, really beautiful maps are $100ea and there is a limit of two per person. Remember there are only 100 of them…


Salute to a Warrior….


Renelle lost her fight against cancer a few months after a raffle was held on this blog to raise money for her medical expenses.

The following information is left to honor her memory. She was a searcher who had humor, guts and determination in spite of the fact that she faced a disease that took away her life. Expenses as a result of that cancer were beyond her capabilities alone. But she had us. The searchers on this blog donated enough money to pay her lofty medical bills and permit her the comfort of not owing  anyone and even gave her a small vacation in her last days to a place she always wanted to visit.

Renelle enjoyed the chase, the searchers and the mountains. She had been a ranger at Glacier National Park and at Yellowstone in her short life. She gave, and we gave back.



The searchers looking for Forrest’s treasure chest donated




This is a Thank You note to everyone from Renelle-

Please accept my apologies for the tardiness of this response to the overwhelming gift of the raffle proceeds.  I was away for awhile, and although I tried mightily to finish all of the thank-you cards and messages before I left, I didn’t quite succeed.  My lack of a timely reply, however, in no way reflects the amount of my gratitude.

A cancer patient has a lot of different weights on his or her shoulders.  In my case, there is the constant out-of-state travel to medical appointments, the daily battle to continue some sort of normality through the fog and sickness caused by years of chemotherapy, and, of course, the reality of the never-ceasing medical bills.

In a single, combined effort from all of you, one of my weights was lifted.  To each and every person who participated in the raffle, please accept my heartfelt thanks for your contributions.

Many of you promoted the raffle on your respective blogs, and I want to thank you all for your work on my behalf.  It would be logical to assume that so many searchers looking for a single prize would be ultra-competitive with each other!  That may be, but you are also community-minded and came together to pull off an event that was successful beyond anyone’s imagination.  You all have my respect, my admiration, and most of all, my thanks.

I’d also like to thank the Collected Works Bookstore and Dorothy Massey, who offered a lovely setting in which to host the raffle event.  Suzanne Somers offered her support in the days leading up to the event, and I was humbled and grateful to receive her beautiful message.  The lovely and gracious Ali McGraw was kind enough to participate in the drawing, and I was so very appreciative of her willingness to lend us her time.  Thanks also to Toby Younis, who used his professional abilities to record the raffle event and stream it live. I watched it from my chemo chair and couldn’t contain my smiles.

Every day for several weeks, Dal Neitzel donated so much time to the raffle process that I doubt he ever slept!  Dal, I am so appreciate of all your hard work and selfless efforts.
The incomparable Forrest Fenn turned his raffle idea into reality, as he has done with countless other ideas throughout his lifetime.  This time, however, it was for my benefit, and for that, I give him my endless gratitude.  Thank you, Forrest.  You remain my hero.
Thank you all so very much, and I hope to see you on the trail!




by forrest fenn

When Renelle Jacobson stepped out of her car in my driveway, and walked toward me, I was charmed at first sight. Her smile telegraphed a timeless message: “Look out world, because here I come.” She had read about my hidden treasure in Hemispheres, the in-flight magazine for United Airlines, and, she said, “I ripped out the pages, stuffed them in my bag, and told the passenger sitting next to me, ‘Oh, I am SO going to find this when I get home.”

With a treasure-hunting partner, she soon hit the road for Yellowstone. “I was bouncing off the walls with an overload of excitement. This adventure is for every little girl and boy who have desperately wanted to look for a hidden treasure. I know I’m silly, but some of us are lucky enough to never completely grow up.” She returned from that first road trip empty-handed but, “We had a blast. I’ve since gone back 3 or 4 times.”
However, there is one small problem; Renelle, 41 and single, has a rare bone cancer called osteosarcoma. A few years of chemo and several surgeries didn’t kill the disease, so, in 2011, her left leg was amputated above the knee. She has a prosthetic leg but the ongoing cancer changes her limb shape. “Sometimes I can walk quite well and sometimes I can’t.”






A friend loaded her in his Bell helicopter and they searched the far reaches of Yellowstone Park.



“We discovered some top secret waterfalls (at least that’s how I romanticized them in my mind). They were out in the middle of nowhere.”

“We also flew over Hebgen Lake and had lunch in West Yellowstone. What a grand day for a cancer patient who is trapped inside most of the time.”


 Renelle, whose constitution is made of sinew-tough fiber, is now in her 5th year of chemotherapy. With an expression that reflected her longing, she said to me, “I’m sick 3 to 4 days a week, have low energy the rest of the time and my sleep schedule is often turned upside down. Working on this treasure hunt has given me a way to occupy my time when I’m awake after midnight. When I work on your puzzle for an hour, I can say that I worked toward a goal.” She added, with a voice as soft as her eyes, “I’ll keep working on the poem every night until the moment when I can call my hunting buddies and say, ‘let’s hit the road.” Imagination is her pleasure and faith is her nourishment.

Renelle Jacobson inspires me in a singular way; her spirit holds me in thrall. Each day she tests the extremes in ways I can’t even imagine. To know her even a little bit, as I do, is to love her a lot.

To paraphrase Charlotte Bronte:

Her human heart has hidden treasures,
In secret kept, in silence sealed;
The thoughts, the hopes, the dreams, the pleasures,
Whose charms enrapture when revealed

Below is a link to a personal note from Suzanne Somers to Renelle-
Click Here

Most Important Info On This Blog


Although there is a lot of very useful information here, the top five pages you should read are:


Contains links to stories, reports and news articles about Forrest and the treasure.



This page contains notes sent to Forrest and his responses. Lots of useful tidbits here.



Another page of email to Forrest and his responses.



This page lists common rumors about the hunt and provides information about how we know they are not the truth.



A list of items known to be in the chest and some unreliable values of those items.



A series of interviews with Forrest. Get to know the man who hid a dream.



These are actual tips handed out by Forrest and include the source.



Please note that comments are not allowed on this page.

Janice and Ray From L.A. …

Every once in awhile I get an email from someone out there who has complete confidence in their ability to find Forrest’s gold. Such was the case with a couple I’ll call Janice and Ray who contacted me last summer.

I had been out in New Mexico for several weeks eliminating a number of potential hiding places while following hints in the poem, same as everybody else who’s looking for the treasure I suppose. I generally make a list of places I want to check out before I leave home. I order the list by my excitement level. The places I’m crazy about are at the top of the list. By the time I get to the bottom I’m looking at places that have a lot of flaws. Places so unlikely that no one else would consider them. Places it’s pretty hard to be enthusiastic about but “due diligence” requires that I take a look since I’m in the neighborhood anyway.

While I was out I got an email from someone new to me who was interested in meeting up if I was going to be near Ojo Caliente, New Mexico in two days. Janice wrote me that she, and her boyfriend Ray, were coming in from Los Angeles, had been reading my blog and wondered if we could meet up at the hot springs for lunch. Janice wrote that they knew where the treasure was and were headed out to get it and take it home. Janice thought maybe I’d like to go out with them to write a final story in my blog about them finding the treasure. There was no hedging her bets or use of the words “possibly” or “maybe” in her mail. Just straight forward “We’re going to go get it.”

Wow! How could I pass that up?

My first thought was that they had a lot of hutzpah. I mean by Forrest’s guess there might be close to a thousand folks out looking for his chest and very few that I knew of had the audacity to not only state that they knew exactly where it was, but also invite a witness along to “record” their find.

My second thought was that I only had two days to figure out where they were going and beat them there.

Ojo Caliente is a small town and also a fancy resort in the small town. The resort and the town are built around a bubbling hot spring that has been a source of “healing waters” for Indians and the rest of us since before recorded history. The spring started out as a free and public place but is now under ownership of the spa/resort where you can go to get yourself pampered, soaked, pummeled and re-strung. The resort puts up a striking facade of lovely adobe, pine and stone. The gardens are well tended. The accommodations are for the most part reasonably priced and very nicely appointed. If you want to avoid the resort itself there is one or possibly two Bohemian places you can stay for a less regimented but none-the-less exotic experience on the other side of the road.

It didn’t seem like a likely place for Forrest to hide his chest. But what do I know? I started by looking at the springs itself and then spreading out. I walked those hills day and night for 48 hours trying to understand how on earth this place could match any verse in the poem beyond the first. Sure, warm water at the spring..but then what? No canyon…No creek…No places I needed to be brave to explore. Hardly anything that could be considered a “wood”. At the end of two days I was exhausted, frustrated and, of course, treasureless.

About an hour before the appointed lunch I paid for a shower at the Inn and put on my cleanest shirt and jeans. Then I went out in the parking lot and scanned the vehicles for California plates. You can tell a lot about people by the vehicle they drive. I saw it right away. A glistening, black, pimped out Humvee with white wall tires, spinner wheels and a few thousand dollars in hand painted flames growing along the sides. It was the only California plated vehicle in the lot. I tried hard to find another one. No luck! Bummer!

Everyone has a line in the sand they won’t cross. Mine is the Humvee. Possibly the most over priced, over rated and under performing vehicle turned out in this country since the Dodge Challanger. I understand the desire to associate with military vehicles. I still can’t get over my lust for a Willys MB. But that was a practical vehicle and the idea was to keep it practical not to make it look like a strumpet on steroids. Don’t get me started on the senseless, nincompoop, military wannabes who buy these things.

Okay..that’s out of my system now.

Anyway, in spite of my misgivings about Janice and Ray’s vehicle selection I decided to keep an open mind about their ability to find the treasure. They were apparently wealthy enough to buy a $90K vehicle and add $17K in accessories. They were also smart enough to be wealthy enough to afford the American Dream. Maybe I was the nincompoop. Besides, they were obviously going to be interesting characters and by now you must know that I value those who achieve uniqueness in a world that seems to go out of its way to eliminate individuality and creativity. So, in spite of my misgivings about their transportation choice I was keen on meeting them.

Just before the appointed hour I went into the old hotel and took a window booth where I could monitor the entire room. The place looked like it could hold about 60 diners and there were only about 20 of us in there. I told the Maitre’d that Janice and Ray would be looking for me, ordered a diet Pepsi, leaned back and absorbed the ambiance of the restored historic structure.

Two gulps after my Pepsi arrived I saw a couple walk inside from the desert sun. Their eyes urgently trying to adjust to the comparative darkness of the lounge. The petite woman was  dressed in khaki shorts with cargo pockets and a forest green tee that had a small wren-like figure embroidered in white just below her left shoulder. Her thick dark hair was cut short and framed her attractive brown face in what might have been called a Page Boy years ago. I don’t know what it’s called today. She had a tan canvas bag slung over her shoulder. She was completely devoid of jewelry. A no-nonesense gal. The maitre’d pointed them at my table. Bright red flip-flops made a shuffling noise as Janice walked deliberately toward me across the plank floor.  Ray was about ten feet behind Janice and his gaze was fixed on my table. He was a good foot and a half taller than his companion and the fashion difference between them was stark. Ray was wearing diamond stud earrings, a fat gold chain necklace with a 5 inch silver cross at his neck, a thick twist of what appeared to be gold and platinum around his left wrist and an understated Phillipe Dufour timepiece on his right. He was wearing a complete Lakers basketball home uniform (number 17) and a pair of bright red, unlaced Nike Air something-or-others that made his feet look huge and his shins look skinny. His dark hair was close cropped, more like a five o’clock shadow than a hairstyle. Perhaps his most striking fashion accessory was a series of Chinese characters boldly tattooed across his dark forehead in elegant black calligraphy. I was guessing that the Humvee was his and not hers.

Aside from the same colored footwear the two appeared to have nothing else in common. If I had to guess I would figure Janice for about 28 and Ray about 16….maybe 18. Neither of them was carrying an ice axe.

I slid out and stood up to greet them. Ray didn’t bother saying hi. He just slid into the booth and slumped into the corner. Janice shook my hand and said “Hi, glad to meet you. Really glad you could meet us.”

We both sat and Janice asked how to pronounce my name.

“Day’-el”. I said. “No ‘e’ but pronounced as if there was one.”

“Thats unusual”. She said. “Is that a family name?”

“No.” I said. “Its not even the name my family gave me. I just sort of slipped into it.”

“I had one of those too. Janice said. “My given name was Bitsy…not Betsy but Bitsy. It was fine until middle school. Then when all the girls are developing boobs and you’re not, any name that rhymes with “itsy” can make your life a nightmare.”

Girls do that too?” I asked.

I glanced at her chest. Given the conversation it seemed fitting. I thought everything looked size appropriate. But people are often their own worst critics.

“Probably more so.” She said. “Being smaller is more evident on girls than on boys.”

I smiled and turned to Ray. He was staring out the window. His long legs were stretched out in the booth so his feet could rest on the seat on my side. Those big red Nike’s looked like they were brand new. Not even the soles were dirty.

“Ray.” I said. “Interesting country isn’t it? Have you been out here before?”

Janice jumped right in. “He won’t answer you. He doesn’t talk to anyone. He can’t hear. He’s deaf since he was a toddler. Severe ear infection left him that way.”

I kept on looking at him. Trying to decide what I thought about that.

I turned toward Janice.

“Does he talk to you?” I asked.

“No. Ray writes me letters and cards and notes. He’s very communicative. He knows he doesn’t sound normal when he talks. Its embarrassing for him. So he just stays mute. We sign each other but he won’t do that in public either.”

I looked back at Ray.

“He doesn’t like to stand out.” She said.

I laughed.

“What?” she said.

“Well, if he doesn’t want to stand out around here he should get a pair of jeans and a cotton shirt with a collar…and cowboy boots would be a good choice.”

She laughed. “At home he blends in.”

“Where do you Staples Center?” I asked.

“Young black men like to dress that way.” She said.

I could hear stress in her voice and knew I was crossing one of her lines. It probably wouldn’t be a good time for me to bring up their Humvee either. Anyway, what I know about the fashion interests of guys Ray’s, white or any other color…verged on nothing. Finally, I really didn’t care what fashion trends people followed. At home Ray was probably just another guy. Around here he was unique and I was the guy preaching unique…Ray was preaching ‘blend-in’. I needed to change the subject.

The waiter saved me by dropping by to ask if Ray and Janice wanted anything to drink. Janice ordered iced tea and a Coke for Ray.

“So how did you get interested in Forrest’s treasure?” I asked.

“Emm. She said. “That’s Rays doing. He reads everything. He came across Forrest’s blog and the book. We ordered a copy and then he found your blog and he started spending all his time trying to figure out where it could be.”

“I do the same thing.” I said.

She laughed.

“Have you looked other places?” I asked

The waiter brought their drinks. Ray didn’t seem to notice his Coke. Janice squeezed the lemon into her tea. Took a long swig and then tapped Ray on the shoulder and pushed his Coke closer. Ray looked over at his glass and pulled it the rest of the way to his end of the table then returned to staring through the window.

“No, this is where Ray says it is. No reason to look anywhere else.”

The waiter came back and took our lunch order. Janice ordered Ray a burger. I ordered a Frito pie and Janice agreed to try a pie too. Although she did think the concept was pretty funny. “Why not just call them nachos?” She asked no one in particular.

We talked through lunch about the treasure mostly. Why Forrest hid it. How many people might be out looking for it. The different places people were looking. All speculation of course since neither of us knew anything.

Ray quietly eyed his burger like it might have hidden vegetables in it.

Janice, it turns out, runs a pet boutique in Malibu and her clients include some of LA’s wealthiest citizens.

“What’s a pet boutique?” I asked.

She looked at me like I was from a different planet.

“I live on a small island.” I said. “We don’t have any pet boutiques…that I’m aware of.”

“Its like a spa for pets. We style their hair, trim their nails, give them a shampoo, brush their teeth, make them smell pretty and care for them while their owners are gone.” She said.

“Brush their teeth?. I said.

“We fuss over them. Its probably not a business you’d be good at.” She said.

“The list of things I wouldn’t be good at is more or less infinite.” I said.

She laughed.

“It pays very good money. Ray is a dog walker. He gets along fine with the dogs. He can handle ten dogs at a time. They never fight.” She said this with a great deal of pride.

At some point the waiter cleared the table. Janice thought the Frito pie was okay and Ray wolfed down his burger in about three bites.

“So that’s your hand tooled Humvee out in the lot?” I asked.

“Mr. Nosey.” She responded. “Its Ray’s. Like I said, dog walking in Malibu pays good money.”

I decided to change the subject again.

“When are you going to go get the treasure?” I asked.

“Soon as we’re through here. Ray is excited about getting it.”

“Sounds good.” I said.

“We have to clear our bags out of the room and we’ll meet you out front in twenty minutes. Okay?”

“Perfect.” I said.

“Lunch is on us.” She said as she gathered up her bag. They paid the bill at the bar and then exited the way they came in. I watched them head toward one of the old cabins and thought quietly about their baffling life while I finished my diet Pepsi and set out a tip.

It was about Noon when I left the building. I headed to the truck and gathered up my camera, hat and ice axe. I wondered if I was going to need water. If we were driving or walking. I wasn’t going to ride in the Humvee. If we were driving I’d follow in my truck. I closed the van up and leaned against it while I waited for them to show.

About two minutes later  I saw Janice headed my way. She was wearing the same outfit she had worn at lunch including the red flip flops… sans the bag. To my utter surprise Ray was dressed completely different. He had on a black plain ball cap and a black tee and a pair of black jeans.  No cowboy boots but he did have on a pair of dark brown, leather work boots and the laces were tied. All the jewelry was gone. As he got closer he did a spin around and grinned at me. Janice laughed. I did too. Neither of them were carrying a shovel or ice axe.

“Looks good.” I said and gave Ray a thumbs up. I turned and looked down at Janice’s feet. I’m not sure you’ll want to walk around out here in those I said, pointing at the flip-flops. Not much protection for your feet and there are cactus, sharp rocks and even snakes around here.

“I’ll be fine.” She responded. “ohh…I forgot to tell you.” Janice said. “Ray is a lip reader.”

“Great.” I said. “Thanks for telling me that before I made a fool of myself'”

Janice laughed. “By the way. Ray says that if you ever come to Malibu you’d probably be arrested for vagrancy in that shirt and jeans.”

“Maybe I could stop in at your place and get my nails trimmed and a shampoo.” I said.

“We don’t do mutts.” Janice said.

I laughed. Janice laughed. Ray grinned.

Janice said that we were very close to the spot Ray had in mind. We didn’t need water or vehicles. With that, we started walking down the dusty drive toward the main road. At the street we turned right and walked a few hundred feet before crossing the highway toward the community cemetery.

I had a bad feeling as we walked through the gate into the burial ground. Ray walked directly over to one of the headstones as if he’d been here before and pointed at it. I walked over to take a look. The man buried there had the last name “Brown” as in “below the home of Brown”.

“Okay…what now?” I asked. I was hoping that what I was thinking was not what Ray intended. “Do you think its buried here in this mans grave?”

Ray nodded yes.

“Thats where it is.” Added Janice.

“Lets think about this for a second.” I said. “First, look around. Forrest hid the treasure less than two years ago. Old man Brown here has been dead since 1958. So the treasure could not have been buried with the body. Further, there is nothing in this cemetery that’s been disturbed in the past two years. No recent holes have been dug. Its all well cared for and its all uniform. Nobody buried anything in this cemetery recently. Second, I’ve met Forrest. I cannot believe there is any way he would dishonor anyone’s grave to hide his treasure. Not even possible.” I said. “Third, I don’t see how any of the hints in the poem could lead you to this spot. I’ve been thinking about it for two days now and this place…or any place in Ojo Caliente just is not possible. Finally, I don’t even think Forrest buried it. He never said he buried it. He said he ‘hid’ it…not buried it. Imagine if this was your relative’s grave. Would you want some yokels digging it up on a whim? I don’t think so. To dig here would be morally reprehensible as well as illegal.”

“So even though we know its here you are not going to dig it up?” Janice asked.

“No way.” I said. “And its not here.”

I stopped. I waited for an argument. None came.

Ray turned and calmly walked back out the gate.

“Okay, I win.” Said Janice.

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

Ray said you’d dig up a grave. I said not.”

“What are you talking about?” I repeated.

“It was just a bet.” Janice said. “Ray figured you’d have no problem digging in a cemetery if that’s where the gold was. I said ‘no way’. I won. We’re through here. You pass the morality test. Ray loses a hundred bucks.”

She turned and walked away through the cemetery gate.

I watched her walk. Dumbfounded.

I ran after her. When I caught up I said. “You came all the way out here from LA just on a lousy hundred dollar bet?”

“Of course not.” She said. “Lied about coming from L.A. We were shopping in Santa Fe. Read the story about the treasure on the internet. Found your blog. Ray wanted to bet on what a guy like you would do if the treasure was in a grave. We contacted you. Dragged you out here…”

“I was not that far away…” I interrupted. Trying to prop up my pride.

“Listen.” She said. “Ray figured you’d dig up the grave because that’s what he would have done. Ray’s religion is about money. Not about death and dying.”

“What are you talking about?” I said. “Ray walks dogs for a living.”

Janice stopped and turned toward me. She looked a tad venomous around the eyes.

“Do you know what he makes ‘walking dogs’ Dal? She asked. It was a rhetorical question. I did not answer. “He makes more than what is in that chest in a single year. Ray is not a dog walker Dal. Ray is THE dog walker.He can make a thousand bucks an hour all day long.” Then she turned and walked away down the highway.

I slowly walked back toward my truck. I felt like a sucker. I was pretty certain I had just been taken advantage of. But I wasn’t sure how. I got a free lunch. I didn’t lose any money. I didn’t lose anything really. Maybe a little self respect. I felt like a white rat being tested by egg-head researchers. I stopped and considered my position.

I saw the Humvee pull out of the drive, onto the hardtop and head toward me. I couldn’t tell if I was angry or not.  I saluted them as they went by. I pointed my mouth at the windshield and said “Thanks for the lunch.” The Humvee’s tinted glass prevented me from seeing if they waved back.

“Interesting people.” I thought. “I should have ordered a more expensive lunch.”