Meeting Forrest….

Forrest & Dal (Note how I am trying to stand upslope so as to appear somewhat equal in height)

I’ve been asked more than a few times since I started this blog, how I met Forrest. Well, the truth of the matter is that although I was introduced to Forrest some sixteen or so years ago I didn’t actually meet him until just over a month ago….

I’m a documentary filmmaker by trade. Telling stories on film and video has been my occupation since the Marine Corps made an administrative error casting me into the real-life role of motion picture cameraman. It was a simple human error that probably saved my bacon.

After four years of shooting government film all over the Pacific I headed to college and began working for a series of TV stations, film units and production companies. I started my own video production company in the mid ’80s. I am probably one of the few jarheads who can actually say that I learned a practical trade in the Marine Corps. One that I continue practicing to this day.

In 1986 I was producing Science News stories for CNN as a freelancer. One of the stories I shot was about a team of divers who were hoping to recover a safe from the wreck of the SS Governor in some fairly treacherous water off Washington State’s coast. The story was about the technology of saturation diving these folks were utilizing to search the sunken ship. Later I followed this team filming their adventures on other underwater explorations including searching for a WWII era B-17 aircraft that disappeared in 1947 in Labrador, a Yukon Gold Rush era ship carrying a large shipment of gold that sank in Alaska and a WWII Japanese submarine carrying a shipment of gold that was torpedoed in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Still later, I joined their team and worked for several years in Uruguay  locating and then diving on ancient wrecks from Spain, Britain and South America. We salvaged thousands of artifacts including beautiful bronze canons, delicate crystalware, jars, navigational instruments, coins and more until a political realignment in Uruguay made it impossible for the project to continue. The Operations Manager for this expedition was a fellow named Crayton.  As a team we all lived together in a rented house in Montevideo and on days when we were not working the wrecks or pulling maintenance on our equipment we often traded stories. Crayton told wonderful stories of his Uncle who lived in Santa Fe and led a fascinating life that wowed even the most jaded team members. This was my introduction to Forrest…

Crayton in his swimsuit...I guess adventuring runs in the family.

As I am sure you’ll agree, Forrest is a fascinating character. So, from time to time I would check on what new thing Forrest was up to by Googling his name or getting an update from Crayton. Such was the case about a year ago when I heard about Forrest’s latest book and the hidden treasure chest.

It was November of 2010 when I started making my plans to go look for the treasure. My search area was likely covered in snow so I decided to wait until spring to head out. I made my first trip out in May of 2011. When I got home, treasure-less, I decided to email Forrest and tell him of my adventure. I had really enjoyed the hunt and saw places I never expected to see on the expedition.  I also saw a problem looming. I knew there was a good possibility that Crayton might have mentioned my name to Forrest over the years that we had worked together. I figured that if Forrest knew I was searching and recognized my name he might assume that I was getting inside information from Crayton. I wasn’t but Forrest might not know that. Things began to feel gummy around the edges.

So I created a new email account and took on the name of Mike. This concern of course was all in my head because as Forrest has repeatedly stated “No one knows where the treasure is hidden except me.”  In fact, Forrest has specifically said that his friends and family are all welcome to search for the treasure because only Forrest knows where its at.

But at the time none of this registered. So I wrote to Forrest as “Mike”. Forrest wrote back and encouraged me to look more. I made a second trip out in June and again came back treasure-less. On the way home I was already laying plans for my third trip in August. I was certain I knew where it was before I even got home and wrote Forrest telling him where I was going to look and sent along some evidence that this was the right place. He said that if I was near Santa Fe when I came back in August I should let him know and he’d buy me a cool lemonade because its hot out there. I knew that although there was the possibility he was familiar with my name, there was no chance he knew what I looked like so it would be possible for me to meet up with him and remain Mike. I was excited about the possibility of finally getting to meet the legendary Forrest after 15 years of hearing great tales about him.

Then the unexpected happened. Forrest wrote back that a TV news guy (Gadi Schwartz from KOB-TV) wanted to hang out with a hunter and would it be okay if he followed me around when I returned. Yikes!!! Does this mean Forrest thinks I’ll find it? Am I that close? Or does he suspect I am not really Mike and he’s trying to smoke me out? Or is my spot so far away that its no problem for the news guy and the rest of the known world to see my useless spot? If I say I don’t want to have Gadi along will it screw up my email relationship with Forrest?…turmoil. I hate turmoil.

There were all sorts of reasons to stay Mike and all sorts of reasons to fess-up and continue the search as Dal. I was stuck but decided to move the question to the background because I didn’t have to worry about it until I met Gadi in New Mexico.

Just before leaving on my third trip to New Mexico I wrote Gadi and we arranged to meet at a specific time near my search location. I thought about what to do with this “Mike” issue all the way down there. For 30 hours my head was consumed about “Mike vs Dal”. I was careful not to give Gadi my license plate number or even the state I was from. He did not have my cell because that would tell him both my real name and my area code. I brought along a pair of license plates from Michigan and planned to put them on my truck if I decided to meet him as Mike. This whole “Mike” thing was getting ridiculously complicated. I began to feel like I was in an episode of “Weeds”. Crap was piling on faster than I could shovel it off. I decided to wait and see what Gadi was like before I committed to Dal or Mike.

I got to my spot a little early and quickly discovered that it was not as good as it had appeared on paper and Google Earth. I had a couple of back-up spots in mind and headed out to one. The next spot looked better than the first so I decided to take Gadi there. He showed up at the appointed early hour and turned out to be a darn nice guy. We went to a cafe for a cup of coffee and I told him who I was and why I had become Mike. He thought that was a pretty good side bar to his story. He went back and forth about whether he should call me Dal or Mike in his story. I shoved the decision off on him and busied myself with looking for the treasure.

We had a great time. Gadi is a good hunter and fine hiking companion. Of course we didn’t find it. But we had a helluva time looking. As Gadi was climbing in his car to head back down to Santa Fe he decided that I should be Dal in his story. I agreed but asked that he give me time to talk to Forrest about this. I didn’t want Forrest to find out I was lying to him from watching a story on TV. I felt I should tell him myself.

I emailed Forrest and told him that I’d like to take him up on his offer of a lemonade. We agreed on a time and met at the Collected Works Bookstore in downtown Santa Fe.  After we got drinks and sat down near a display table that was stacked with Forrest’s books I admitted who I really was and told him the story of why I had concealed my name. Forrest just laughed, shook his head and said it was fine if I wanted to consult with Crayton because Crayton would have no idea where it is. No one does, except Forrest.

From the bookstore Forrest invited me to his office. A few minutes later I was marveling at his vast collection of  incredible artifacts. His office is like the museum of the Southwest and being there with Forrest is like being in the Smithsonian with Joseph Henry. He has stories and tales and he’s just easy to be with. The collection of all kinds of items in his office is frankly, breathtaking. I Took some photos, shot a little video of him in his lab cleaning animal bones from San Lazaro Pueblo. Tried to weasel a clue or two out of him and left grateful for the opportunity to visit.

Forrest in his lab..the artifacts here are from his San Lazaro pueblo

Since then we have emailed both during my searches and when I am at home. I’ve stopped trying to pump him for clues. Sometimes he’ll give out what sounds like a clue but upon scrutiny, is not. One of my favorites is in the Margi Goldsmith interview. “it’s more than 300 miles southwest of Toledo”, he said.

Sounds like a clue doesn’t it? But which Toledo is he referring to?  And does that rule out anything to the west of Toledo?

He’s like a magician but instead of white rabbits he can use words to create an illusion. He is a genuine wordsmith.

dal…aka Mike…

In the Beginning…

What is This Blog About?      This blog is for and about those adventurous individuals searching for Forrest Fenn’s hidden treasure. I am hoping we can share our adventures and ideas because, as Forrest has pointed out, the thrill is in the chase (not in the capture). But first a little background for those who are not yet familiar with Forrest’s hidden treasure.

This is the treasure chest Forrest has hidden…find it and its yours

Who is Forrest Fenn?      In a nutshell, Forrest Fenn lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico where he started an art gallery, raised a family, collects artifacts, writes books and made a fortune. He has hidden aproximately a million dollars of his fortune in gold and gems in an old world, bronze chest pictured to the left (he paid $20K for the chest alone). The whole shebang is said to weigh about 44lbs and much of the gold is collector’s gold, meaning that its worth much more than the face value of gold alone because of its historical importance. For instance, an ancient Aztec golden amulet is worth much more than the current value of its weight in gold because it is unique, unusual, sought after, special, etc.

That’s crazy!      Maybe…Forrest is not a traditional thinker tied to conventional ways of getting things done. If he were, his life would be dull, commonplace, mundane, boring. But his life has been anything but humdrum. He has made his fortune and his reputation by thinking, creating and trading well beyond the bell curve. The hidden treasure  is another way for Forrest to enjoy life. In my humble opinion he looks forward to capable individuals out there trying to out-think him and locate his treasure. Its a contest for him. Forrest versus the rest of the world and the winner gets to keep a million dollars. To meet Forrest is to stand in the presence of a very shrewd, competent and competitive fellow. Someone will most certainly find his treasure chest…why not you?…or preferably me?

Who can go after his treasure?      Anyone and everyone is invited to go out and look for Forrest’s treasure chest. Even his family because no one knows where its hidden except him. When you find it, Forrest says that “its yours to keep”. How’s that for a “shovel ready” program that will put folks back to work?

Where do I start looking?      There are three or possibly four essential items that will help you find where the treasure chest is hidden. Forrest wrote  a poem which contains hints and clues. He has published the poem on his website and it has appeared in a number of news stories about the hidden treasure. You can find his poem at the bottom of this page. Forrest also wrote a memoir, The Thrill of the Chase, which is a beautiful hard cover book with plenty of pictures and lots of possible clues to where the treasure chest is hidden. It’s available for $35 only through Collected Works Bookstore in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Finally, so far, we have been able to get information from  Forrest himself  via email with many who have been searching and taken the time to write him. I also hope this blog will become a source of insight and ideas from others who have already looked and are willing to share their experiences here.

This is Forrest’s hard cover memoir…You’ll need this…

Caution!       There are plenty of speculators, naysayers and misinformed individuals out there including reporters and journalists who have added inaccuracy and conjecture to the trove of hints and clues floating around out in the ether. This is inevitible. As the story is passed from person to person it begins to grow and be embellished and before you know it the facts are hard to find. In truth, what Forrest has said over and over is that only the poem and what he has written in the book contain honest hints and clues that will lead to the treasure…ignore the words that others have put in his mouth. I learned this the hard way.

More caution!       Forrest himself is a master of the double entendre. He chooses his words very deliberately. More than once I have run off suffering from the belief that I had brilliant new information about where the gold is hidden… In fact, I did not pay close enough attention to the precision of his words. He specializes in letting you believe something he never said. (I told you he is clever).

Another place to look for clues      One other source of reliable information is Forrest’s blog which is on his Old Sante Fe Trading Company  website. He occasionally writes about the hidden treasure and in his writings you might just find the puzzle piece you were looking for that will lead you to the treasure. Anyone interested in the treasure should read his website from front to back. Not only will it give you a pretty good picture of just who Forrest is and why he is legend but his real-life stories are entertaining and witty.

Forrest Fenn in Santa Fe

IF YOU KNOW SO MUCH MR. SMARTYPANTS…      “Dal, why don’t you go out and find that treasure chest yourself?”. Believe me, I’ve tried. I have made three trips (as of August 2011) from my home in Washington State to the Southwest to look for this hidden treasure. I am planning another this fall. Each time I started out confident that I knew exactly where it was hidden…excited that I would soon be nervously opening a bronze chest chock full of gold coins, gold nuggets, gold figurines, gold bracelets and jewels, so spectacularly heavy that I could barely carry it back to my truck. On the other hand, each time I have come back empty handed, but not empty spirited. I have absolutely wonderful treks that are crammed with little adventures.  I have walked marvelous American landscapes. I have slept on the high desert mesa and in river canyons under juniper and pinyon. I have hiked incredible stretches of crystal clear trout streams guarded by tall pine and spruce. I have ambled across alpine parks delicious with spring wildflowers and soaked in natural hot springs to sooth my tired feet. I have been within a few dozen yards of antelope, big horn sheep, elk, mule deer and bear. I have visited pueblos, plazas, canyons, hilltops and forests. I have driven thousands of dusty miles through ochre stained, haltingly beautiful, volcanic topography. I have smelled the desert sage and tasted frito pie. I have been in some of the loveliest country a person can picture. Its been a wonderful experience and I am grateful that Forrest tempted me…dared me… to go out and find his treasure…The Thrill of the Chase.

Now you need to get looking too….

Here is Forrest’s poem with nine clues to a million dollar treasure


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