SUBMITTED january 2016
My first attempt at “The Chase” and what was found
There once was a man named Fenn,
Who much to our chagrin,
Hid a box full of gold
And his treasures so bold,
And he walked away with a grin.
It was early 2015 when I got bitten by the bug that is now known as “The Thrill of the Chase.” I ran across a news article about a box filled with gold and other items, and how its location was hidden within a poem. Naturally, I was a bit curious, and did a quick (and haphazard) deciphering. My initial solution lead me to a location in northern New Mexico, Just north of Ojo Caliente, NM.
Now for some background… My father-in-law had just passed away, and my wife was naturally depressed, more so than I was comfortable with. I made the suggestion in May 2015 that we take a road trip, away from our home in West Tennessee, and get away from it all. Naturally, she was a little reluctant. I took it a step further and suggested we do the entire week camping in a tent. Again, she was a bit taken aback at the suggestion, but slightly intrigued at that option. You see, she had never before been camping. I had quite a bit of experience with our local Boy Scout troop, both as a scout in my younger years, and as a leader in recent times. I had promised to take her camping, just to see how she liked it, and this was my chance.
She finally agreed, and that’s when I sprung up the treasure hunt. She slightly perked up at the thought, and I explained my solution to her, and she thought it sounded good. We both agreed that even if I didn’t find it, it wasn’t going to be a wasted trip, and we were both going to have a good time. Needless to say, a good time was had.
Our trip started out a little earlier than planned. I was planning to leave around midnight on a Saturday night and drive to Amarillo, Texas, where I had made a campsite reservation at a local KOA campground. Amanda was getting aggravated by several events that were transpiring around us (that were beyond our control) and I suggested we just go ahead and leave. It was 8pm Saturday night, so we hit the road in our rented Toyota RAV4. An excellent choice for a long trip, btw.
We arrived at our first campsite in time to eat lunch. I had decided ahead of time that I was going to make an attempt at the 72oz steak challenge at The Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo. Holy cow (pun intended) that was a HUGE steak. I had an hour to eat it and the rest of the meal. After about 45 minutes, I had made it about three quarters of the way through the steak and some of the rest, and my stomach told me to stop, or else it was going to empty itself onto my lap. I promptly threw a white flag, and collected my wife, who had herself had an excellent meal, and got a kick out of watching my attempt at master gluttony on the stage. I made it through 52 ounces of the 72 ounce steak. That’s 3.25 pounds of beef I had just consumed. Never again will I attempt to eat that much at one sitting, but I can at least say I tried.
We left Amarillo the next morning for the last leg of our journey to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Not long after passing into the state, Amanda asked of me, “when do we get to see what it looked like in the old west?” I pointed at the mesas we were approaching on the interstate and just told her, “We’re in it baby!” It was such a sight to behold. Photographs and videos cannot do justice to the scenery our eyes beheld. It’s one thing to see a picture, but quite another to see it in person. We arrived at our KOA campsite 10 minutes southeast of Santa Fe by lunchtime, and checked in. After getting our campsite set up, I was eager to make my attempt at my solution, but Amanda talked me into waiting until the next day.
It’s Monday morning, and I’ve got our route to Ojo Caliente planned. We marvel at the sights along the way, and I wish I had stopped when we passed over the Rio Grande. But northward we pressed. We got to the site at which I had planned for us to park, and found the route to which I was going to hike toward my solution. It was along the Rio Ojo Caliente, a river that began as a convergence of two rivers. My “warm waters.” My “home of Brown” was the mouth of the Canada de la Cueva stream, “Ravine of the Cave,” cave being home of Brown Bear. Crossing the creek was no job for the meek, and I felt the blaze was a tree I had spotted in a satellite image on the internet. Unfortunately, 2 hours later, I had found nothing, and was a little out of breath by the time I got back to the car. Amanda was worried that something might happen to me, but we kept in contact with each other via two way walkie talkies, a good investment.
Slightly down that my solution had failed, we made our way back south, and hunger had reared its head. We found an excellent restaurant owned and operated by a local family, the Socorro. The people we ran into there were the most hospitable, and the food was delicious. I’ve found that I have acquired a taste for green chile sauce. Many meals in the New Mexico area had the option for red or green. I feel that both are a staple of the local cuisine. I’m not opposed to it. After exchanging stories about meteorological differences between northern New Mexico and West Tennessee, we made our way back to our Santa Fe campground. The rest of the week was just as fun, spending time in the Plaza at Santa Fe, and seeing sights around the area.
Our last stop in New Mexico took us west of Albuquerque to Sky City, home of the Acoma Native American tribe. On top of a very tall mesa, stands a village that has been occupied for many, many years. No running water, and no electricity. The view from the top was amazing. After our time there was up, we reluctantly said goodbye to New Mexico, now one of our favorite places. We will return one day.
Our trip home was uneventful, and we enjoyed crawling back into our comfortable bed, but Amanda and I both agreed that it was one of the greatest times we had ever had together, and we found each other all over again with this trip. No treasure could ever compare to this. Not to say that I’m going to stop plotting my next attempt, but that’s a story to come another day.
Amanda and Stephen-