Not Just Another Solution…

SUBMITTED January 2015
BY SIDncharley

Not Just Another Solution

One guy’s take on solving Forrest Fenn’s Poem
(psssst…it’s wrong)

by
Brock Swensen
aka SidnCharley

Disclaimer 1:  This solution is long.  Very long.  My thoughts here are the culmination of more than a year of thinking, memorization, recitation, collaboration, exploration, interpretation and imagination.  So, yeah…it’s a lot.  However, don’t mistake the length for difficulty.  The concepts are not difficult, but complex.  I believe the poem is a series of simple directions masterfully disguised and intertwined so as to allow for a game-changing misstep at the first falter in focus.

Disclaimer 2:  This solution is wrong.  Obviously.  I do not have the treasure.  I have not seen it.  I do not know where it is.  Everything I’ve written here is entirely my opinion and should not be mistaken as fact.

Disclaimer 3:  This solution is not your average solution.  I’m not going to spout off a series of physical locations and tell you why or how they’re related to words in the poem.  There will be no lake or waterfall, no creek, no canyon or mountain and certainly no brown cabin, bear, trout or anyone by the name of Brown.

Disclaimer 4:  This solution contains numbers.  Yes, I rely HEAVILY on numbers.  If you think that’s too much of a stretch, then you probably shouldn’t read any further.  In fact, I think using numbers is the ONLY way to come to a solution and be able to validate your path along the way.  Go with confidence.  Numbers don’t lie.

Disclaimer 5:  I am stubborn.  Even though I know the final answer is wrong, I believe that most of this solution is correct and I refuse to believe otherwise.  Call it the foibles of hubris or what have you, but I cannot turn a blind eye to the numerous “coincidences” throughout the poem from start to finish.

A Word That Is Key
Now, with that delightful introduction out of the way, I want to give you something promising, a reason to keep reading.  On February 4, 2014, Jenny Kile was kind enough to post “Six Questions More with Forrest Fenn” on her website mysteriouswritings.com (blog post link).  (As a side note, I am a huge fan of Jenny’s site and want to thank her for all her work.  If you have not checked out her site, I would really encourage you to do so.)  The first question in this series was:

“My previous 6 questions were asked shortly before last year’s February 27th segment of the Today Show. Reporting on your extraordinary treasure hunt, it resulted in an explosion of new seekers from all across the world. What are some of your thoughts about the flurry of activity over the past year?  Did the excitement towards the Chase surprise you in any way? Does it make you think the chest might be found earlier than first thought?”

Forrest’s response caught many by surprise and made a revelation that sparked a fire on a number of blogs and forums discussing The Thrill of the Chase.  His answer was:

“It is interesting to know that a great number of people are out there searching. Many are giving serious thought to the clues in my poem, but only a few are in tight focus with a word that is key. The treasure may be discovered sooner than I anticipated.”
A word that is key.  To my knowledge, this was the first time Forrest had ever confirmed the existence of one word that was, in some way, “key”.  Since then, every solution I’ve seen has had some mention of a word the author believes is key.  Mine will be no different, with the notable exception that my word that is key has been key all along, not just since Forrest made the revelation.

However, before I tell you what I believe that word is, I want to briefly comment on how I view the poem and the clues.  Upon first reading the poem, it’s easy to become spellbound by notable words that demand attention.  To me, some of those words are “alone”, “treasures bold”, “secret”, “riches new and old”, “warm waters”, “canyon”, “home of Brown”, “meek”, “creek”, “heavy loads and water high”, “blaze”, “chest”, “trove” and “gold”.

Early on I spent an inordinate amount of time searching maps and the internet for references to warm water, hot springs, dams, waterfalls, Brown this or that, wise creeks, Blaze or Brown mountain, etc., etc.  After a while I grew tired of chasing a rabbit down a hole whose depth knew no limit.  I began to think about if I were to hide a treasure that I didn’t want found for a long time, why would I tip my hand by making major clues so obvious?  The reality is, I wouldn’t.  If I were to hide a treasure, I wouldn’t put it next to something that naturally begged for attention.  I would hide it in the most non-descript, out-of-the-way hole I could find.  Why?  Because there’s no reason for people to go there.  They wouldn’t be there unless there was an explicit purpose and there would be no way for anyone to simply stumble on such a valuable treasure.

I have the same take on the clues in the poem.  They’re not going to be the words that immediately pop out and scream for all your time and energy.  I believe it’s much more clever than that.  The most important words are those that we read every day and never suspect they’re hiding something more.  We take them for granted.  I don’t know how many times I’ve read posts where searchers say, “we must be missing something”…well, I think this is it.

One such word appears in the poem 8 times.  Really, the frequency doesn’t matter as there are other words (ie and & the) used more.  What matters is how this word is used and concealed throughout.  It often goes unnoticed because of its simplicity, commonness and conjugation.  Yes, conjugation.  You know the process by which you modify verbs depending on the subject, tense and sentence structure?  Here, let me demonstrate:

I am stubborn. –> I’m stubborn.

He can be stubborn.

She is stubborn.  –> She’s stubborn.

They are stubborn.  –> They’re stubborn.

I have been stubborn for a long time.  –> I’ve been stubborn for a long time.

Mark was not stubborn until he met me.  –> Mark wasn’t stubborn until he met me.

Did you see what I did there with the word I think is key?  The verb TO BE appears in every single one of the sentences above, but is in a different form.  It’s easy to mask by changing the subject, tense or even disguising it in a contraction.  This verb, then, is the word that is key.

Looking at the 8 times the verb TO BE shows up in the poem, we see:

1.  From there it’s no place for the meek
2.  The end is ever drawing nigh
3.  There’ll be no paddle up your creek
4.  If you’ve been wise and found the blaze
5.  So why is it that I must go
6.  I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak
7.  Your effort will be worth the cold
8.  If you are brave and in the wood

I know you’re skeptical.  Right now it’s almost impossible to see the significance of this single verb, but I assure you, it’s there.  You don’t realize it, but I am doing the exact same thing Fenn does every time he writes something related to the Chase for public consumption – hiding snippets of clues in simple words.  For example, take a response presumably written by Forrest himself and posted on Dal’s blog.  A searcher going by the handle Tom H claimed to know where the blaze and chest were, but that someone arrived there first and removed both.  In the ensuing chatter, Fenn felt it necessary to interject with this gem:

I had an enjoyably (sic) visit with Tom and his brother at the Downtown Subscription Coffee Shop in Santa Fe. They seemed like nice guys and avid treasure hunters. But there is confusion somewhere. While it’s not impossible to remove the blaze it isn’t feasible to try, and I am certain it’s still there.”  [Originally posted by forrestfenn on dalneitzel.com 9/26/14 4:06 pm]

You’ll immediately notice the verb TO BE used multiple times.  The beautiful thing about using this verb to hide information is that it’s so common, no one ever pays much attention.  Additionally, the method used to hide something can be used as needed, or not at all.  Fortunately for us, Fenn uses the method consistently every single time the verb TO BE appears in the poem.  With a 100% occurrence rate, it’s beyond hard for me to write it off as coincidence.

So, how does he do it?  Well, let me show you.  First, the verb is used to imply some sort of comparative equality/inequality between two objects or subjects.  It can also convey a state of being or condition.  For example:

She is smart.
She is not feeling well.
She is strong and brave.

In all 3 examples, she is/isn’t something.  After reciting Forrest’s poem in my mind and aloud dozens of times, I began to listen to individual words and phrases.  I would say a few words and pause to reflect on the meaning of what I had just said.  When I came to the line “From there it’s no place for the meek”, I fixated on the words “it’s no”.  If I break out the contraction I get “it is no”.  It is no.  It is no.  I began likening the words to a math problem similar to 2 plus 2 equals 4.  Said another way, 2 plus 2 is 4.  Alternatively, 4 is 2 and 2.  I couldn’t get past the principle of equality: it = no.  But on the surface, that makes no sense.  The letters aren’t the same.  The words don’t sound the same.  The letter count is identical, but that hardly seemed of any consequence.  The more I thought and associated it with numbers, the more I tried to assign some sort of value to the words themselves.  Then, the most logical and simple thought came to me and I assigned each letter a value based on the letter’s position in the alphabet.  This meant A=1, B=2, C=3 and so on.  Next, I compared the words and summed their values:

IT = NO
IT: I=9, T=20      NO: N=14, O=15
IT = 9+20 = 29   NO = 14 + 15 = 29

Both words summed up to 29; they matched exactly!  I was floored.  Immediately I began the same exercise with the next occurrence of the verb, “The end is ever drawing nigh”…”end is ever”

END = EVER
END: E=5, N=14, D=4     EVER: E=5, V=22, E=5, R=18
END = 5+14+4 = 23         EVER = 5+22+5+18 = 50

Huh?  Well, that didn’t work out so well.  END = 23 while EVER = 50.  I’ll have to admit I was really discouraged at this little hiccup.  So discouraged, in fact, that I stared in disbelief at the numbers for quite some time.  I guess the staring paid off as another thought made its way into my brain.  Why not add the digits just one more time?  I think that was my last ditch effort at rationalizing something that may actually have been just my mind playing tricks on itself.  In any case, I gave it a shot:

IT = NO
IT = 9+20 = 29 = 2+9 = 11
NO = 14+15 = 29 = 2+9 = 11  Big shocker there, right?

Next…
END = 5+14+4 = 23 = 2+3 = 5
EVER = 5+22+5+18 = 50 = 5+0 = 5

Wait, wait, wait…okay so they’re equal now.  Are you happy?  Of course you’re not happy.  Right now you’re thinking to yourself that I just made that up and it happened to work, but it’s just a coincidence.  Fair enough.  But how many times do coincidences repeat themselves?

We already know that the word I think is key is the verb TO BE.  We also know that this verb appears 8 times in the poem (see above).  What if I told you this fun little math game worked 4 out of 8 times?  Would you believe me then?  What about 6 or 7 times?  Would you believe me then?  At what point does this stop being a coincidence?  Well, as luck would have it, the math works EVERY SINGLE TIME!  8 for 8.  Let me show you two more:

“There’ll be no paddle up your creek” – now let’s find the verb and break out the words:

THERE will be NO
THERE = 20+8+5+18+5 = 56 = 5+6 = 11

NO = 14+15 = 29 = 2+9 = 11
SAME number, 11!

“So why is it that I must go”

WHY is IT
WHY = 23+8+25 = 56 = 5+6 = 11
IT = 9+20 = 29 = 2+9 = 11

For a fourth time, it works!  Do you believe me yet?

If you’ve been paying attention, you probably noticed that I skipped right over the fourth occurrence of the verb (If you’ve been wise and found the blaze) in favor of the fifth occurrence, “So why is it that I must go”.  You’re also probably thinking to yourself that yours truly must have a habit of concocting solutions that meet an agenda with no real substance.  I’m okay with that.  After all, a heavy dose of skepticism goes a long way in producing the most ardent converts.

Actually, I have a very good reason for skipping the fourth occurrence of the verb TO BE.  The answer lies in what I think the real puzzles in the poem are.  Confused?  Think about this: when reading the poem, we know who the author is – Forrest Fenn.  It makes perfect sense, then, to assume that when we come across the pronoun “I” in the poem, it’s referring to Fenn himself.  But what if it isn’t?  What if the “I” in the poem is something different entirely?  What a perfect way to disguise the real solution!  This is the ultimate in misdirection.

Similarly, we have to ask the same question about “YOU”.  Typically we’d assume the “YOU” in the poem is the reader.  But what if it’s not?  Who then, is “YOU”?  Finally, much has been written on the blogs about what is “IT”?  Well, does anyone have an answer?  I do…

These three puzzles can all be solved thanks to the word that is key.

Who is “I”?
Who is “YOU”?
What is “IT”?

So, earlier when I skipped over the line “If you’ve been wise and found the blaze”, I did so because the answer deals with finding out who “YOU” is and that is not done until later.  So, rest assured, we’ll get there in a bit…oh, and by the way, the math works then too.  Trust me.

The Beginning
Now that I’ve given away what I think the key word is and introduced how I use numbers when the key word tells me to, it’s time to get started.  Many searchers devote significant time trying to determine where to start solving this puzzle.  Logically we start reading the poem at the first line of the first stanza; some argue this is the beginning.  Others contend that we need to start at the first line of the second stanza to find where warm waters halt.  Still, others say we must start at stanza 5 because stanza 4 directs searchers to “take the chest and go in peace” and thus represents the end, leaving stanza 5 as the de facto beginning.

In my opinion, reading the poem as a set of instructions makes it clear where we need to begin.  In fact, the poem tells us in no uncertain terms that we must “Begin it where warm waters halt.”  I don’t know how much more obvious it gets than that.  Of course, the natural question is why would you skip stanza one?  My response is that stanza one doesn’t tell me to do anything.  There’s no instruction for me to follow.  What I’m looking for in the poem are explicit instructions to do something or go somewhere.  Stanza one just doesn’t have anything like that.

Having said that, please don’t think that stanza one has no value, because it does.  Actually, stanza one is crucial to this solution and contains vital information which we’ll use later on.  So don’t worry.  Every part of this poem is important for one reason or another at different times.  What we’re trying to do is go in the order dictated by the poem, not some order we think, assume or hope is best.  So for now, keep stanza one in the back of your mind and let’s go to the starting line:

Begin it where warm waters halt
And take it in the canyon down
Not far but too far to walk
Put in below the home of Brown

Here’s where the misdirection starts and, consequently, where most go off course.  Our first explicit direction is that we need to “Begin it where warm waters halt”.  As I mentioned earlier, this line is famous for surfacing two interesting questions:

1. What is “it”?
2. Where do warm waters halt?

It’s all a matter of interpretation.  In fact, this whole poem is subject to interpretation.  I tend to look at things a bit more abstractly and literally.  I am also a firm believer in the notion that the poem contains everything you need to solve the clues and retrieve the chest.  Everything.  So, to answer the first question of “what is it?”, naturally I look to the poem.  Luckily, on two separate occasions, the poem itself tells us exactly what “it” is, and we’ve already covered them both:

1.  From there IT is NO place for the meek
2.  So WHY is IT that I must go

IT is NO and WHY is IT.  Thus, IT is NO and WHY.  The verb TO BE (think “a word that is key”) is answering the question directly.  Now, from the math we did before, we know that all three of those words have a value of 11 and are equal, so IT really is NO and WHY.

IT = 9+20 = 29 = 2+9 = 11
NO = 14+15 = 29 = 2+9 = 11
WHY = 23+8+25 = 56 = 5+6 = 11

Wow.  That’s weird.  I know, right?  I told you this was an atypical solve and very abstract.  It will all make sense, I promise.  For now, just think that the word IT is related to the number 11 and that we have to begin IT, or 11, where warm waters halt…which reminds me of question 2:

Where do warm waters halt?

Many people, myself included, have spent dozens upon dozens of hours researching physical waterways, lakes, streams, hot springs, dams, glaciers the continental divide and more trying to answer this question.  In that scenario, the best we can hope for is a possible right answer that can only be confirmed by visiting the site and finding the chest.  To me, that is a game for bored rich people who have the time and resources to explore every last possibility.  I want no part of a game like that.  To me, the answer must be concrete, unambiguous and make sense in the context of the solution.

To that end, if we think about the poem as nothing more than a collection of letters, words and lines on a page, then there is only one place warm waters could halt.  Indeed, we can confidently state as fact that the words WARM WATERS halt at the letter S.  Said another way, the letter S is the last letter in the word WATERS so that is where WARM WATERS halt.  Simple.  Factual.  Indisputable.

Finding the Blaze
Oh the elusive blaze.  After just having decided on the starting place, I know it’s a bit premature to bring up the blaze.  But, what you may not realize, the blaze actually has its origins at the starting point.  Again, I know that doesn’t make a ton of sense right now, but as soon as we discover the blaze, you’ll realize we’re right back where we started!

I often feel like the overwhelming consensus amongst the contributors to the various blogs is that the blaze is a physical object one must find in the Rockies.  When found, retrieving the chest is a mere formality followed almost immediately by fortune and fame.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there probably is no such thing.  Again, why would Fenn place his chest next to something that blatantly marks the path?  He’s not giving this treasure away.  In my opinion, the blaze won’t be found in the Rocky Mountains, but rather IN THE POEM just like the answer to every other clue.

By following the directions precisely, I promise that we will uncover the blaze.  In addition, the poem will confirm we have the right blaze and we won’t be left wondering.  Don’t believe me?  Just watch…and keep in mind that before the poem confirms that we’ve found the blaze, it tells us we won’t find a paddle up our creek, only heavy loads and water high (in that order).

Remember, we’ve already determined what IT is and found the exact spot where warm waters halt.  That is our starting point.  From there, we need to continue interpreting the clues and following them with precision.

Getting back to where we left off, the next lines in the poem read:

And take it in the canyon down
Not far, but too far to walk
Put in below the home of Brown

The first line here references IT again and tells us to go in the canyon down.  Now, remember my penchant for paying less attention to words that immediately make you think of something grandiose in the physical world (think back to warm waters or treasures)?  Well, I think the word canyon was deliberately chosen for 2 reasons.  First, to make you think of some physical canyon in the Rocky Mountains and distract you from the really important words (take IT and go DOWN).  Second, well…I’ll get to the second reason shortly.

When following any set of directions it’s essential to know a few pieces of information.  At a minimum, you need to know a starting point, which direction to travel and how far you must go.  Even if you don’t know exactly where you’re going, knowing these three items (and following them precisely) will get you to the right spot.

In our exercise with the poem, we already have a starting point: the letter S at the end of the word WATERS.  That leaves us in need of a direction and distance to travel.  The next instruction says to take it in the canyon down.  To me (and hopefully to you) the direction is obvious, DOWN.  But what about the distance?  Well, the poem told us we need to begin IT where warm waters halt and take IT in the canyon DOWN.  This is why it was so important to answer the question of what is IT.  Fortunately we’ve done the math and already know what IT is, 11.  So, if we use that as our distance, we now have a starting place, a direction and distance!

What’s more, the poem tells us this distance is too far to walk and that wherever we end up, it will be below the home of Brown.  These two lines really make me believe that the instructions were never meant to be followed in the physical world.  Technically one could walk anywhere in the Rocky Mountains even if the journey took some time.  No distance is theoretically too far to walk.  In that context, the home of Brown wouldn’t be a physical location.  In fact, the home of Brown is nothing more than a few words on paper.  That’s the brilliance of Forrest’s poem – it makes people chase something that doesn’t really exist.  Are you seeing the pattern here?  Everything in the poem seems to point to some real, physical object, but really only exists in the letters, words and lines of the poem.  Brilliant!

To be sure, the concepts here are abstract and can be hard to follow.  In my mind, I don’t see the poem as a set of instructions related to physical objects or places in the Rocky Mountains.  I interpret the instructions as telling us to go from one point in the poem to another point in the poem.  Eventually, we will end up at a certain place (or places) that will make sense once we arrive.  I believe the chest’s actual physical location can and must be known before one even leaves the house.  Moreover, you will not know anything about the location until you solve the poem completely.  This means you won’t know the state, city, zip code or anything else until the last clue is solved correctly.  Only then will you be able to confidently go, with a smile, to pick up the chest.

Given the abstract nature of this method of solving the poem and my freakishly counterproductive need for order and neatness, I put the letters of the poem into a grid to help facilitate my efforts in counting.  Think of writing the poem on graph paper, one letter per box.  Also, because I am only counting and assigning numerical values to letters, my graph paper omits all spaces and punctuation.  It looks a little something like this:

graph01

Notice that I’ve highlighted our starting point, the letter S at the end of the word WATERS.  Also note that it falls in the 5th line of the poem and is the 22nd letter in that line, from left to right as you would read.  Having the poem in a grid like this will make sure that we count properly and go from point to point as directed.

Getting back to following directions, the poem gave us a starting point and told us to go DOWN 11.  I interpret this to mean that from our starting point we go DOWN 11 lines in the poem.  Since our starting point was in line 5, going down 11 lines puts us at line 16.  Subsequently, if we find the 22nd letter in from the left on line 16 we end up at the letter I of the word IN (go In peace).  This is our second point and now becomes the starting point for our next set of directions.

In the following table I’ve highlighted our path thus far.  I’ll continue doing this throughout the entire solution as it makes it much easier to visualize and comprehend.

graph02

In case you’re wondering, we’re not completely done with the two lines that say, “Not far, but too far to walk.  Put in below the home of Brown.”  The first will be crucial later on in the solution.  At that point you’ll understand why Fenn had to use the word walk even though it doesn’t rhyme with halt.  As for “Put in below the home of Brown”, it goes hand in hand with the second reason Fenn used the word canyon.

Earlier I mentioned the first reason for the word canyon was to distract us from other, more important words.  The second reason was to serve as a confirmation that the first move we made to go down was correct.  Here’s how – if we read the line a bit differently, looking for a spot that could potentially be used to conceal an actual distance, we might see something like this:

And take it [in the canyon] down

…where the bracketed words “in the canyon” could be replaced by a number (say 11) and still make sense.  By replacing those words with the number, we get:

And take it [11] down

So, does [in the canyon] really equal [11]?  Let’s find out:

In the canyon = 9+14+20+8+5+3+1+14+25+15+14 = 128 = 1+2+8 = 11

Perfect!  The math works and confirms our move.  Coincidence, you say?  Fair enough, but let’s not be so quick to dismiss it.  I did say that the use of the word canyon went hand in hand with “Put in below the home of Brown”, and I stand by that.  In that case, let’s look more closely at that line to determine if we can find something similar.

On the surface, it’s clear.  After we followed the directions from the starting point and went down 11 lines, we ended up at line 16.  In my view, line 16 is certainly below the words home of Brown which reside in line 8.  Am I wrong? Going further, while the line told us explicitly that we’d “put in” below the home of Brown, it didn’t tell us how far below…or did it?  Get this – if we play our little numbers game with the words “PUT IN”, just like we did with “in the canyon”, some exciting things happen.

PUT IN = 16+21+20+9+14 = 80 = 8+0 = 8

Substituting the number 8 for the words “put in”, we get this:

[8] below the home of Brown.

Whoa. We ended up on line 16.  The home of Brown is on line 8.  This means that our second spot is exactly 8 below the home of Brown!  Just like the poem told us it would be.

It’s incredible how Fenn built all this into his poem.  Over and over this pattern repeats and it only gets better.  So, if you’re one to believe in coincidences that happen repeatedly, you may want to spend your time elsewhere!

Alright, we made it through stanza two and now we’re at the second spot which is the letter I of the word in, 16th line, 22nd letter.  The next lines in the poem are:

From there, it’s no place for the meek,
The end is ever drawing nigh;

We already used the first line to help us figure out what IT is.  Something I didn’t mention before is the use of “From there”.  I believe this has reference to the word “there” as used in the very first line of the poem (As I have gone alone in THERE).  Basically it’s saying that “From the word THERE in the first line of the poem, IT is NO place for the meek.”  Again, the words “place for the meek” are nice and all, but don’t really help us.

The next line of the poem is very helpful as it gives direction to the third spot.
The END is EVER drawing nigh

Since we’ve already done the math, we know that:

END = 5+14+4 = 23 = 2+3 = 5
EVER = 5+22+5+18 = 50 = 5+0 = 5

Both words equal five.  As far as directions go, we have two of the three required pieces: starting point and distance.  Now we just need a direction.  By now you should know Fenn’s not going to leave us stranded right?  Of course not.  He very clearly told us the end was drawing NIGH.  If you’ve paid any attention to the blogs at all, you’ll know that many, many people have correctly stated that nigh also has reference to left.  Left.  That’s our direction!

From our second point in line 16, we’re going to move left 5 letters.  Looking at the grid, that puts us at the letter A in the word And (And go in peace).  Now we’re still on line 16, we’ve just gone from the 22nd letter in that line over to the 17th letter.

graph03

Carrying on to the next line in the poem:
There’ll be no paddle up your creek.

By now, you’ve probably gotten so good at recognizing the directions that you don’t need my help anymore.  But, just for the sake of thoroughness, I’ll lay it out for you.  Remember, we have our starting point and now we’re looking for the distance and direction.

As was done in other lines, the verb TO BE will give us our distance.

THERE will be NO
THERE = 20+8+5+18+5 = 56 = 5+6 = 11
NO = 14+15 = 29 = 2+9 = 11

Okay, so we need to go 11.  And our direction?  Yeah, this one isn’t hard.  There’ll be no paddle UP your creek.  I guess we’re going UP.

By going up 11, we land on the letter W from the word Waters.  Strangely, this is in line 5; the same line 5 where we started.  Stanger still is the fact that we landed on the W of the word waters, which happens to be the beginning of the same word at which we started.  Coincidence?

We’ve come to the moment of truth.  Earlier I told you to keep in mind that when we went up the creek we weren’t going to find a paddle, but we would find heavy loads and water high.  It’s also at this exact time in the poem that we are to have found the blaze.  Well, have we?  In order to answer that we need to identify the heavy loads and high water.

Think back on our last step after we went up 11 lines.  We landed on the letter W.  If you’re anything of a scientist or metallurgist, you’ll recognize the significance of this rather quickly.  For the other 99.9% of us who aren’t so fortunate, let me explain.  The basic elements found on earth are all nicely documented, classified and categorized on the Periodic Table.  Each element has a symbol (typically a letter or abbreviation) and other unique identifying information.  Interestingly, there is an element identified by the symbol W, Tungsten.  Tungsten just happens to come “from the Swedish language tung sten directly translatable to heavy stone.”  (see the Wikipedia entry for Tungsten)

Are you serious?  Let me get this straight, we just started at some letter, went down because the poem said to go down, 11 seemed like a good distance because of the word IT and we ended up below the home of Brown.  Then we went left because the poem said nigh and the words END and EVER told us to go five.  After that we went up because the poem said to go up and 11 seemed like a good distance because of the words THERE and NO.  Up there we were never supposed to find a paddle, but we were supposed to find heavy loads and water high.  Now, you’re telling me that the W is meant to represent the heavy loads because W is a symbol for Tungsten which is a Swedish word that translates to heavy stone?  Well, in a word, yes.

We’ve done nothing that the poem hasn’t told us to do.  We’ve followed each direction perfectly and we’ve come to a precise location at exactly the right moment for the poem to confirm that we’re on the right track.  And I haven’t even said a word about the water high part.  Let’s do that now.

Since we landed on the W, we’re back up to the same line we started on, line 5.  The W happens to be the first letter of the word WATERS.  If you look at our path in the grid of letters, we’ve made a perfect rectangle.  Notice, then, the top line of that rectangle contains a single word…WATERS, and it’s at the TOP.  Well, if something is at the top, it can also be said that it is HIGH.  Get it? WATER HIGH!!  The word water is at the top of our rectangle and thus is high.

graph05

Heavy Loads and Water High?  Call me crazy, but I think we’ve just found our blaze!  Have you ever seen a blaze that’s a rectangle?  No?  Perhaps you should ask the kind folks at the Appalachian Trail what their blazes look like.  Better yet, just visit this website to learn more:  Appalachian Trail.

Look Quickly Down, Take the Chest

What really excited me about finding the blaze was how consistent the method was in tracing a path to specific locations while the poem, on more than one occasion, confirmed our route.  The biggest positive signs for me were the realization of heavy loads and water high, along with the precise timing of when we completed the blaze.  In fact, we identified the heavy loads and water high in order, which completed the blaze just before the poem told us we should have already been wise and found the blaze.  The timing is simply amazing!

We’re now halfway through the poem (I realize we still need to get to stanza one, and we will), we’ve found the blaze, which will help mark the path later on, and are well on our way.  But there is still a ton of work to do.  Our approach to stanza four will be no different than before in that we need to look for explicit instructions on where to go and what to do.  The first two lines tell us:

If you’ve been wise and found the blaze,
Look quickly down, your quest to cease,

The first line served as confirmation that, by this point, we should know exactly what the blaze is and provides a glimpse into the question we posed earlier, who is “YOU”?  Again, notice the use of the verb TO BE which will be key to unlocking that mystery.  While we’re not quite ready to tackle that puzzle just yet, keep this line in the back of your mind.

The second line here does give us a specific instruction that we need to follow.  The only difference from before is that this line instructs us to do nothing more than LOOK, whereas previously we actually moved from one spot in the poem to another.  The key to this line is interpretation: where exactly are we supposed to look and what are we supposed to see?  Traditional readings of this line leave the reader believing that once you have seen the blaze in the Rocky Mountains, all you need to do is turn your gaze downward and you’ll see the chest.  Well, there may be some truth to that, but we’re not looking for partial truths are we?

First, it’s easy to notice the direction this line gives us – Look quickly DOWN.  So, we’re going to look down, but we also need a distance.  Think back to when we used the line “Put in below the home of Brown” to confirm a specific distance.  The words “put in” gave us a numerical distance to confirm how far below the home of Brown we needed to put in.  Well, if we use the same number method here, maybe it will give us a clue.  The most logical word to help us with that is QUICKLY.  Why?  Well, because the word LOOK tells us what to do, while the word DOWN tells us the direction.  Quickly, then, becomes the remaining, natural choice.  Let’s do the math:

QUICKLY = 17+21+9+3+11+12+25 = 98 = 9+8 = 17

Okay.  17 is kind of a strange number, but we’ll go with it because the method has worked very consistently thus far, and, well, numbers never lie.  Notice that the blaze we recently found starts on line 5 and extends to line 16.  Currently, the poem says we need to look quickly (17) down and if we interpret that as looking 17 lines down in the poem, we come across the line immediately below the blaze.  Recall, “If you’ve been wise and found the blaze, Look quickly down…” Quickly down indeed.  One line below the blaze seems pretty quick to me.  Hopefully this answers the oft-asked question of why Forrest used the word quickly.

Right, then.  Looking down to Line 17, it says, “So why is it that I must go”, but remember we’re only looking at this point.  We still need to finish the second half of line 14.

Look quickly down, your quest to cease

I think the first part of this sentence gets us looking in the right starting place (line 17) and that it then directs us to look somewhere else…to cease.  This idea is really abstract, but it helps if you just remember that the words are simply letters on a page.  Think of the word CEASE as a place which is located precisely at the end of line 14.  So, we are instructed to look to the word CEASE.

Look 17 DOWN, your quest TO CEASE

Following the directions, then, your eyes would start at line 17 (look quickly down) and move up and across to the end of line 14 until you see the word CEASE.  Essentially you’d be seeing all of lines 17, 16, 15 and 14.

Granted, there’s not much to this instruction as we’re just looking and nothing else.  The beauty of these lines is the letters used to make up the words.  These letters become crucial later on.  Each word, each letter is precisely where it needs to be in order to set us up later, with one minor exception, which we’ll cover soon.

Now that we’ve looked from line 17 to the word CEASE in line 14, we can move on to the next instruction:

But tarry scant with marvel gaze

I don’t see much in the way of instruction here, other than we’re not supposed to look too long because there are other things to be done.  Perhaps a more elegant interpretation is that while looking from line 17 up to the word CEASE, our eyes crossed over the words MARVEL GAZE.  Now the poem is telling us not to spend much time focusing on those particular words.  In fact, what comes next is much more important.

Just take the chest and go in peace

Let me just say this now.  Some of you are not going to like what comes next.  Indeed, the next move is as close to chase-related blasphemy as one will ever come.  The reason is because Fenn is famous for having mandated that we do not mess with the poem.  I don’t have the exact quote, but I know it exists.  If you’ve been around this chase for any amount of time, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.  Altering the poem in any way will surely lead to disaster.

But wait.  What if the poem itself explicitly instructs you to change some things?  Would you do it?  I would!  Until now, we’ve interpreted the poem extremely literally, in ways mostly foreign to how your mind typically comprehends things.  This time will be no different.  So let’s do it!

Remember that the words on the page are just that, words on a page, nothing more.  They don’t represent anything in the physical world even though that’s exactly what Fenn wants you to believe.  When I read the line “Just take the chest and go in peace”, I see an explicit instruction that tells me to take the words “THE CHEST” and move them into the word “PEACE”.  Take THE CHEST and go in PEACE.  Crazy?  Perhaps, but I told you numbers never lie, right?  If we can interpret this line properly, there should be something that gives us a distance so we know exactly how far to move “THE CHEST”.  This distance, then, should also put us squarely in the word “PEACE”, since that is where we need to go in.

Reading the line with an eye toward logic and trying to find a spot where a distance would naturally fit, we see:

Just take the chest and go [some distance]

Obviously the bracketed words replaced “IN PEACE” which will hopefully give us a precise distance.  Let’s try.

IN PEACE = 9+14+16+5+1+3+5 = 53 = 5+3 = 8

Just take THE CHEST and go 8

Looking at the grid of letters, the words “THE CHEST” occupy the 9th through 16th letters in that line.  If we start moving the words “THE CHEST” to the right one letter at a time, we’ll first leap over the letter A in the word AND.  Next we leap over the N and D too.  That’s three.  Skipping over the next five letters gets us past GO IN P.  Unbelievably, the final resting place for the words “THE CHEST” is right after the P in PEACE!  Just like the poem said, “Take the chest and go in peace.”  “THE CHEST” is precisely in the word PEACE.  We end up with something like this:

Graph06

Having taken THE CHEST and gone in PEACE, we’ve now set up the poem to reveal some additional answers going forward.  I realize how odd it all seems now, but later on everything we’re doing now will make sense and their purposes will be clear.

Who am “I”
If you’re still sticking with me, I applaud you.  That last part wasn’t easy, but none of it is really.  That’s what I like about it.  Whoever solves the puzzle and finds the chest will have earned it.  At this point I’d just like to remind you how everything we’ve done so far is purely based on the poem and its instructions.  We’re not looking at maps, reading books or scouring Fenn’s genealogy (or anyone else’s for that matter).  Everything we need to unlock the solution is in the poem!

Near the start I mentioned three puzzles we need to work out in order to really unravel the clues.
What is “IT”?
Who is “I”?
Who is “YOU”?

We already nailed “IT” which helped us discover the blaze.  Now it’s time to move on to “I”.  Earlier I noted that in the normal course of reading, the reader typically has a pretty good idea of who the subject “I” is.  I think Fenn is using this tendency of presupposition to mask the real identity of the subject “I” in the poem.  Our minds are conditioned to not even question the true identity of “I” because we simply attribute it to the author.  It’s a brilliant way to hide something.  So, if “I” in the poem isn’t Fenn, who exactly is it?

Stanza five begins:
So why is it that I must go
And leave my trove for all to seek.

Immediately we notice the TO BE verb, indicating there will be numbers in play which will serve as our distance.  However, before we return to the math, I want to draw your attention to a curiosity that I’m not sure I fully understand yet, but is interesting nonetheless.  Fenn is an accomplished writer by any standard.  His numerous books, articles, papers and poems stand as a testament to his skill.  Perhaps this poem is the crown jewel of them all.  Why then, would someone so well versed in writing use the same “filler” word to begin both the fifth and sixth stanzas?  So.  So.  Could he think of nothing else to keep the rhythm?  Maybe.  Although, I’d like to think his purpose was a bit more meaningful than that.  I have a hypothesis.

As we start deciphering stanza five, we’ve come to a point where we need to determine who “I” is and we need other parts of the poem to lend a hand.  Recall that we have not yet employed the use of stanza one and, as luck would have it, that stanza does mention “I” a lot.  Just for fun, repeat the words stanza one a few times.  Stanza One, Stanza One, Stanza One.  Notice anything?  As a hint, I capitalized 2 letters.  Stanza One.  SO.  My hypothesis is that Forrest used the word so at the beginning of stanzas five and six as a way to turn our attention to the beginning of the poem.  He’s telling us exactly when we need to go back to get a little extra help!

So, then, stanza one will help us identify who “I” is.  Let’s look at the first two lines:

As I have gone alone in there
And with my treasures bold

From these lines I’m inclined to believe that whoever “I” is, they have gone alone, somewhere.  Now, repeat those two lines very slowly over and over.  As. I. Have. Gone. Alone. In. There. And. With. My. Treasures. Bold.  This is another instance where I think he’s using attractive words that distract us from what is really important.  Any guesses as to what those words are?  If you said “my treasures bold”, you win!  With that in mind, repeat slowly the rest of the phrase: As. I. Have. Gone. Alone. In. There. And. With.  Did you catch it?  Whoever “I” is, they have gone alone in “THERE”, and they have gone alone in “WITH”.  Remember that these are nothing more than words on a page; there is no reference to any real place (think back to when the poem told us to go in peace).  That means the word THERE is a place and the word WITH is a place.  Strange, I know, but by now you should expect nothing else.

My interpretation of this is that “I” is some letter that appears in the word THERE as well as in the word WITH, but only appears once (alone) in each word.  Two letters fit those criteria, T and H.  Both T and H appear only once in both words.   Now, that helps narrow it down, but we need to know for sure who “I” is.  Getting back to the first half of stanza five:

So why is it that I must go
And leave “MY TROVE” for “ALL TO SEEK”

If “I” must leave “MY TROVE”, then it stands to reason “I” is already in “MY TROVE”.  Stanza one helped us narrow down the identity of “I” to either the letter T or H, and since there is no letter H in the words “MY TROVE”, then “I” must be the letter T!  That means the letter T must leave the words “MY TROVE” and move right, toward “ALL TO SEEK”.  Now we just need to know how far “I” is going to travel.

Earlier we identified the TO BE verb that would tell us exactly how far “I” needed to move from “MY TROVE” toward “ALL TO SEEK”.  Since we’ve already done the math, we know:

WHY is IT

WHY = 23+8+25 = 56 = 5+6 = 11
IT = 9+20 = 29 = 2+9 = 11

Bingo!  “I” (think, the letter T) must go 11 from the starting point of “MY TROVE” to the end point of “ALL TO SEEK”.  That means we’re going to take the letter T from the word Trove and move it 11 letters to the right, in much the same way we moved “THE CHEST” into the word “PEACE”.  Looking at the line in the poem we see:

And leave my T-r-o-v-e-f-o-r-a-l-l-To seek

Graph07

It just so happens that the 11th letter to the right is also T, as in “for all To seek”.  That’s kind of a funny coincidence that “I” is the letter T and moving it 11 letters to the right resulted in meeting up with another letter T.  Curious.

Actually, it’s no coincidence at all.  It had to be the letter T and it was meant to join forces with another letter T, by design.  Look at the next line in the poem for confirmation:

The answer(s) I already know

“I” already knows the answer!  Of course “I” knows the answer…the answer is “I”.  Confused?  Well, look at it this way.  You know who you are; you could recognize yourself in the mirror on any given day.  Since “I’ in the poem is the letter T and the “answer” or destination of the last move was also the letter T, “I” knows himself and we’re left with TT.  Twins – a mirror image.  If you don’t believe me, let’s go back to the poem for yet another confirmation.  Remember, numbers never lie!

I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak.

The first half is true because if “I” is the letter T, then “I” has certainly done IT.  After all, you can’t spell the word IT without the letter T.  Furthermore, we’ve established that the word IT has a value of 11, so moving “I” 11 letters to the right really means that “I” has done IT.  What’s really fun is the second half of this line.  I’m sure you already noticed the verb TO BE cleverly hidden by a contraction.

And now I’m weak –>And now I am weak

Originally “I” was the letter T and we moved it 11 letters to the right and it ended up pairing with itself, another letter T.  Thus, after the move T became TT.  “I” is now TT.  So our little math problem would look like this:

I am WEAK

I = TT = 20+20 = 40 = 4+0 = 4

WEAK = 23+5+1+11 = 40 = 4+0 = 4

It’s true!  Now “I” is WEAK!

At this point, if you’re still skeptical about the numbers or this method, it’s probably best if you just save your time and walk away.  I don’t know how many times we’ve walked through these numbers and had them work out exactly as we needed them to at exactly the right times.  All we’re doing is following the directions in the poem precisely as the words tell us to.  There is no doubt in my mind that this is the correct method.  None.  Oh, and if you’re brave enough to continue, you won’t be disappointed.  The directions, the numbers, everything continues to work just like you would expect it to.

One additional, important piece to the “I” puzzle is the first line of stanza six:

So hear me all and listen good,

This line is interesting as it appears to be telling us to do the same thing twice, but with different words, hear and listen.  As with the earlier line where we were directed to “Look”, this line doesn’t require us to do anything more than hear and listen, right?  Well, yes; but it’s a bit more involved.  The line says, “So hear ME…”  We just determined that “I” is now the letters TT, which means we have to hear TT and listen good.

I briefly wanted to draw your attention to the word SO at the beginning of the first line of stanza six.  As I mentioned before, this is directing us to refer back to stanza one for additional help in solving some of the final clues.  Previously, with stanza five, we used the first two lines of stanza one to help us out.  Now we’re going to use the next two lines of stanza one, lines three and four, to really bring it home.  However, we need to sort out one more thing with “I”.

Getting back to the first line of stanza six, it probably comes as no surprise that my interpretation differs from the more generally-accepted interpretations.  When the author says “hear me all”, he’s not saying “You all hear me”.  Rather, he’s saying “hear all of me”.  To understand this better, look at the poem in grid form, remembering that the “me” we’re trying to hear is TT.  Since we’ve taken out the spaces between the words in the poem, it’s interesting to note that the letters TT appear side by side a number of times.  In fact, TT appears seven times including the one we created in line 18 by moving the T from MY TROVE 11 letters to the right.  I’ve highlighted all occurrences of the TT pairs in the grid below.

Graph08 Finding ALL seven instances of TT (“hear me all”) is fine and dandy, but don’t you want a little reassurance from the poem?  Me too.  Well, if ALL is the operative word, let’s play our little math game and see what we come up with.  I don’t think I even need to tell you how this is going to turn out…

ALL = 1+12+12 = 25 = 2+5 = 7

Of course it works.  The poem told us to “hear me all” and we took that to mean find all the occurrences of the letters TT because that is who “me” / “I” is.  Originally there were 6, and when we moved the letter T from MY TROVE to ALL TO SEEK, T became TT, thus giving us the 7th instance of “me”.  Hear me all.

That same line in the poem continues:

…and listen good.

To me, hear and listen are similar, but carry different meanings.  I think the word hear is much more passive, while listening requires effort and attention.  Thus, it seems the poem is trying to tell us we’re going to hear ALL of TT, but we’re really going to listen good.  As I type this in Microsoft Word, the word good is constantly underlined by a green squiggly line indicating there may be an issue with grammar.  Indeed, the software tells me that the correct grammar would be “and listen well”.  I wonder if the word good was used for more than just to simply rhyme with wood?  As I’ve said before, when in doubt, run the numbers.

GOOD = 7+15+15+4 = 41 = 4+1 = 5

Hmmm, perhaps the poem is telling us that we need to find ALL instances of “me” (TT), but that we really only need to pay attention to 5 of them.  That seems plausible to me, but which five do we chose to listen to and how will we know if it’s correct?  As I thought about this, my mind returned to the blaze that’s typically employed to mark a path or trail.  Of course!  The blaze will show us which 5 to use.  But how?

Look again at the grid with the blaze outlined and the TT pairs highlighted.

The blaze starts at line 5 and extends to line 16.  It also has a left boundary at the 17th column, or letter, and continues to the 22nd column, or letter.  What’s interesting to note, is that if you find the TT pairs that fall in the same rows to the left and right, or in the same columns above and below the blaze, you end up with exactly 5 instances of the TT pairs.

Graph09

Looking at the poem this way sheds a whole new light on the blaze and its purpose.  Note how it forms a plus sign (+), or, dare I say it, an X…in any case, what I really want to focus on is the five instances of the TT pairs that occur in the yellow-highlighted area.

1.      Line 7 – Not far buT Too far to walk (I told you this line would be crucial!)
2.      Line 14 – Look quickly down your quesT To cease
3.      Line 15 – BuT Tarry scant with marvel gaze
4.      Line 16 – JusT Take * and go in p “the chest” eace
5.      Line 18 – And leave my *rove for all TTo seek (we created this one)

So hear me (7) and listen (5)

My Secret
We discovered all seven occurrences of “I” and we’ve narrowed them down to five, to which we’re going to listen.  At this point we need to return to Stanza One for a little extra help.  The last two lines read:

I can keep my secret where
And hint of riches new and old.

To me, the first line reveals that there is, indeed, a secret being kept “where” and “I”, or “TT”, is the one keeping it.  At this point, we don’t know what the secret is and the poem doesn’t exactly spell it out, but I’m confident we’ll understand it soon enough.  For now, I think it’s more important to figure out precisely where this secret is.  That way we may be able to identify it more easily.

The first idea that came to mind is that the word WHERE could be just another place in the poem.  We can find it in line 5, Begin it WHERE warm waters halt.  In that case, the secret could be hidden in line 5 somewhere.  The problem with that logic is that “TT” is the one keeping the secret and I would surmise that, in order to keep the secret, “TT” would need to be found in the same line.  Obviously, “TT” is not in line 5.

Then I got to thinking about the way we’ve been using numbers.  If “where” is the location of the secret, perhaps we need to use that word to determine the location.  Here we go:

WHERE = 23+8+5+18+5 = 59 = 5+9 = 14

Line 14?  As luck would have it, “TT” does make an appearance in line 14, but there’s still no sign of a secret.  Although, given the way the rest of this poem has gone so far, I’m sure the secret will pop up soon enough.

If we look at the last line of Stanza One, we read:

And hint of riches new and old.

My take on this line is that “TT” has a secret in line 14 and he’s going to start hinting of “riches new and old”.  To me, new and old could certainly represent things that have come before (old) and things that will come after (new).  Keeping with the theme that the words in the poem don’t refer to anything in the physical world, I have to assume that this line is meant to point to other places in the poem (ie other letters perhaps) and not the actual riches in the Rocky Mountains.

My hypothesis for this line, then, is that whatever hints “TT” is going to give out, they will be located before and after each “TT” pair.  Said in another way, when the poem tells us “I can keep my secret where and hint of riches new and old”, I take that to mean “TT” has a secret in line 14 and he’s going to show us that secret by hinting at letters that come before and after each occurrence of “TT”.  But how do we know which letters are the hints?  The answer is, of course, the poem will tell us AND confirm the answer!

Look at the next line:
Your effort will be worth the cold

Right away you see the verb TO BE, so we know there will be math involved.  However, I don’t want to address that just yet.  The line references “YOU” and we still haven’t figured out that little piece of the puzzle yet.  So, let’s do that now.

Who are “YOU”
There is one more pressing issue we need to resolve first and that comes in the next line:

If you are brave and in the wood

We’re almost entirely finished with the poem, having only one line left.  Of our three original puzzles, we’ve finally come to the last: who is “YOU”?  We now have two lines that contain “YOU” along with the verb TO BE:

If you’ve been wise and found the blaze

If you are brave and in the wood

Notice how the sentence structure of the two lines is virtually identical.  Essentially, they both follow the pattern of saying “YOU” [insert TO BE verb] THIS and THAT.

YOU [are] THIS and THAT
YOU [have been] WISE and FOUND  –>  YOU = WISE + FOUND
YOU [are] BRAVE and IN  –>  YOU = BRAVE + IN

Certainly you don’t expect me to believe the numbers will work out here do you?  Oh come on…as a matter of fact, the numbers do work out here, perfectly.  The problem is we still don’t know who “YOU” is.  Remember when the poem told us “I am WEAK”?  At that point we actually knew that “I” had become “TT” and the math worked perfectly.  In this instance, however, we don’t have letters for “YOU”.  That is until we read the final line of the poem:

I give you title to the gold.

This may be the most clever line in the entire poem.  Not only is it going to tell us who “YOU” is, it’s going to confirm that we were right on “TT” and reveal the secret that’s hiding in line 14!  Look at the first part:

I give YOU title

If “I” is “TT” and “TT” gives “YOU” title, then we know who “YOU” is!  Think of it this way: if you take “YOU” (whoever that is) and add “I” (who is “TT”), you get TITLE.  Are you seeing this yet??

The word TITLE contains both “I” and “YOU”.  If “I” is “TT”, then “YOU” must be the letters “ILE”!  Get it?  If we put “I” (“TT”) with “YOU” (“ILE”), we get the word TITLE.  Of course, I would never expect anyone to believe that nonsense; so let’s let the poem confirm our little suspicion.  If “YOU” is really the letters “ILE”, then:

YOU = ILE
YOU = WISE + FOUND –> ILE = WISE + FOUND
YOU = BRAVE + IN –> ILE = BRAVE + IN

ILE = 9+12+5 = 26 = 2+6 = 8
WISE + FOUND = 23+9+19+5+6+15+21+14+4 = 116 = 8
BRAVE + IN = 2+18+1+22+5+9+14 = 71 = 8

I can’t help but chuckle incredulously at Fenn’s ingenuity.  No way did that just happen.  Can anyone seriously write that off to coincidence?

Your Effort
We’ve now solved each of the three puzzles and know what “IT” is, who “I” is and who “YOU” is.  But we still don’t have an answer.  Recall that we glanced over the second line of stanza six:

Your effort will be worth the cold

Fortunately we found out who “YOU” is and now we know that “YOU” has some sort of effort that will be worth the cold.  We also know that “I” is still going to hint of riches new and old which, I think, will be letters located in front of and behind the five “TT” pairs as identified by the blaze.

At this point, I should say my confidence takes a slight hit when dealing with the effort.  Here’s why – until now we’ve used the verb TO BE to help us find an equality that results in a number.  Well, this case is no different, but the application varies just a bit.  Looking at the line, we see:

Your effort will be worth the cold

Logically, our numbers would go something like this:

EFFORT will be WORTH

EFFORT = 5+6+6+15+18+20 = 70 = 7+0 = 7
WORTH = 23+15+18+20+8 = 84 = 8+4 = 12

Well, that’s no bueno.  What happened?  I’m not sure.  I guess you could say that this invalidates everything we’ve done to this point, write off the time spent reading this garbage and move on.  Personally, I think that’s a bit drastic, but I understand the rationale.  Earlier, I said that the math worked 100% of the time when the verb TO BE is used and I stand by that.  If you go back and look at each of the 7 previous occurrences we can classify those into a few different categories.

  1. The blaze
    1. END is EVER drawing nigh
    2. THERE will be NO paddle up your creek
  2. What is “IT”
    1. IT is NO
    2. WHY is IT
  3. Who is “I”
    1. I am WEAK
  4. Who is “YOU”
    1. You’ve been WISE and FOUND the blaze
    2. You are BRAVE and IN the wood

In 1 and 2 the equality was always found by using the word right before and right after the verb TO BE.  In 3 and 4 we had to know the identity of the subject before we could verify the equality.  With “I”, we just needed one word to complete it, WEAK. To validate the equality for “YOU”, we used two words on the right side of the verb, WISE & FOUND, BRAVE & IN.

In all of this, I like to look for patterns.  You’ll notice that in 1 through 3 above, we just needed one word to the right of the verb TO BE.  In number 4 we needed two words.  So, would it bother you if I said that to find the EFFORT we needed to use 3 words?  If not, you’ll like what I have to say next:

Your EFFORT will be WORTH THE COLD

EFFORT = 5+6+6+15+18+20 = 70 = 7+0 = 7

WORTH THE COLD = 23+15+18+20+8+20+8+5+3+15+12+4 = 151 = 1+5+1 = 7

Yeah, I know. I kind of forced that one, but it works.  There is an equality.  And you know what?  I’m not even sorry about it.  You know why?  Because of what comes next.  I think Fenn needed to use 3 words to get the sum up high enough to make believers out of you and me.  I’ll explain in a bit.

Just to summarize the last stanza, we found ALL 7 occurrences of “TT” and the blaze told us which 5 we were supposed to listen to.  We also know that “TT” has some secret in line 14 and is going to hint of riches new and old which I presume are letters that lie before (old) and after (new) the 5 “TT” pairs.  Furthermore, “YOU” has some effort that will be WORTH THE COLD, or 7.  The key now is to put it all together to give us some plausible solution that will tell us where the chest is hidden.

The way I approached this was to look at the letters which were 8 spaces to the right (new) and 8 spaces to the left (old) of the “TT” pairs.  Remember, 8 is not random.  “YOU”, or the letters “ILE”, have a value of 8.  If “YOU” is doing the work/effort (YOUR EFFORT), it makes sense to use the value to count the distance from “I” who is giving the hints.  “I” and “YOU” give TITLE.

In the grid below, I’ve done the counting for you and highlighted the letters that fall exactly 8 spaces to the right and left of each “TT” pair.  In the case that the “TT” pair occurs at the beginning or end of a line, I simply continued the count on the previous or following line.  Here’s what it looks like:

Graph11

It can be a bit hard to keep straight, but the letters highlighted in green are all exactly 8 spaces from a certain “TT” pair.  Notice that one of the cells in line 16 is blank.  That’s because we moved THE CHEST and went in PEACE.  This leaves us with 9 letters and a space.

Stanza one told us there was a secret “where”.  The poem also tells us to “Begin it where…”  Both of these lead me to line 14 and the “TT” that resides there.  If I start at line 14 and take the green-highlighted letters in the order they appear as you read, you would get the following letters:

YOUNL VENW

Remember how we also learned that our EFFORT would be WORTH THE COLD??  This is why I think Fenn needed all three words (WORTH THE COLD) to confirm that we had actually gotten the right answer.  Watch this:

EFFORT = 5+6+6+15+18+20 = 70 = 7+0 = 7

WORTH THE COLD = 23+15+18+20+8+20+8+5+3+15+12+4 = 151 = 1+5+1 = 7

YOUNL VENW = 25+15+21+14+12+0+22+5+14+23 = 151 = 1+5+1 = 7

Unbelievable!  The 9 letters and space that we found by using “YOU” and “I” resulted in a sum that is exactly WORTH THE COLD.  Not only is the final sum the same, 7, but the first sum is too.  151 seems to be a pretty odd number, but to have it occur twice by following the directions in the poem exactly seems even more absurd.  I have no idea what the odds are on that, but they can’t be good.

End of the Rainbow
I’d like to just take a second to remind you of the passage that appears right before the poem in the book “The Thrill of the Chase” and the Old Santa Fe Trading Co. website.  It reads (website version):

“This poem written by Forrest Fenn contains nine clues that if followed precisely, will lead to the end of [his] rainbow and the treasure.”

9 clues?  Are you serious?  We ended up with exactly 9 letters!  Moreover, think about the part where he said we’ll be led to the END of his RAINBOW and the treasure.  Well, think back to the part in the poem where we began it where warm waters halt.  Interpreting that line very literally, we determined that the beginning was the S in the word waters because that is the end of that particular word and where it stopped.  Now, think about the word rainbow.  Using the same logic we applied to the word waters, what is at the end of the word rainbow?  Uh, W?  YES!  Now look at the 9 letters we found using the directions in the poem.  The letter W just happens to show up right at the end; so technically we have 9 clues that led us to the end of Fenn’s rainbow!!

YOUNL VENW

Now you know why Fenn had to use the word WALK even though it didn’t rhyme with HALT.  The letter W had to be precisely in that exact spot for all of the clues to come together and make sense.

Our problem now is that we’re left with 9 letters and a space that don’t seem to mean much, but we know they’re correct because the poem confirmed it by telling us our effort would be WORTH THE COLD.  So what do we do now?  This is where imagination kicks in.

I spent a lot of time looking into anagrams, but I always felt that was too subjective and there would be no way of confidently knowing that the answer was right.  Then I got back to the basics.  I simply reviewed the entire poem and realized that all along I’ve been taking letters, converting them to numbers and summing them up.  This method produced distances and confirmations that allowed us to navigate all the way from the first line of the poem to the last.  However, up to this point, we’ve had entire words to give us numbers.  Now we’re just left with 2 sets of letters.

YOUNL VENW

Given that the letters don’t produce anything meaningful at face value (at least not to me), I looked at each one individually and noted their value below:

cw01

Then, I decided to sum the values for each individual letter like so:

cw02

Still, there’s nothing here that would help me with a solution.  Unless…of course!  Look at the two groupings.  Could you somehow interpret those as GPS coordinates?  Let me format them like this:

76.353, 45.55 or even 45.55, 76.353

I guess that’s progress and could be seen as legitimate coordinates, but they certainly don’t land us in the right area.  Not even close.  At this point I’m a bit excited, but discouraged at the same time.  I take to reading and re-reading the poem in hopes of finding something I’ve missed.  Then it occurs to me, I don’t think I really ever found out what that “secret” was.

Remember, my interpretation was that the “secret” was in line 14 and that is why we started there in collecting the letters which were 8 in front of, and behind the TT pairs.  So, if there’s some secret to be had there, now is when I need it most!  As I continued reading the poem and thinking about the secret, a thought hit me as I read the final line of the poem:

“I give you title to the gold”

Earlier I said it was my opinion that this was the most amazing line in the poem because of everything it unlocks and the information it hides.  Not only did it help us uncover the identity and value of “YOU”, but it confirmed that “I” was TT and that “I” and “YOU” together gave us TITLE.  “I” and “YOU” together…interesting.  Maybe I’ll say it another way”

“I” + “YOU” = TITLE

Now, look again at the two groups of letters we found:

cw03

Is it just me, or does anyone else find it coincidental that the first three letters of our final nine are “YOU”?  This got me thinking, what if this is the big, final secret?  What if we’re supposed to add “I” to “YOU” to get the real title to the gold?  Along those lines, I decided to add TT to the YOU at the beginning of our nine letters.  It looks like this:

cw04

Hmmm, let me re-write that like I did before:

1110753 4555, or what about this:

111.0753, 45.55, or this:

45.55, 111.0753

For those of you adept at looking up coordinates on a map, are you surprised?  For those not as adept, let me explain.  You see, 45.55N, 111.0753W points to an exact spot on a hillside just south of Bozeman, MT.  At right around 7,000 feet in elevation, it fits perfectly within Forrest’s requirements.  The first time I saw this on a map was January 23, 2014 and I was met with mixed emotions.  First, I was astonished that I was able to use a singular method consistently to derive a set of nine seemingly random letters that pointed to an exact spot which met every requirement of the chase.  On the other hand, I was confused at the spot.  There was no remarkable geography or natural feature.  It wasn’t near anything named Brown.  I just had a hard time understanding its importance.

If you’ve read The Thrill of the Chase or spent any time reading the stories on the Old Santa Fe Trading Co. website, you’re probably familiar with the chapter “Looking for Lewis and Clark”.  In that story, Fenn tells about how he and Donnie set out from Red Canyon on Hebgen Lake and headed north.  After wandering lost for a number of days they finally grew tired of the situation and wanted to head back to where they started.  They knew they needed to go south, but weren’t exactly sure of the way.  Finally, their horses led them to a dirt road and they were in good spirits again. At that point Fenn says they were 50 miles from where they started.

As fate would have it, the spot designated by the coordinates we found from the poem is almost exactly 50 miles (as the crow flies) due north of Red Canyon!  This seemingly insignificant fact from Forrest’s own story served as the final confirmation I needed to venture out to retrieve the chest.  I’ve already made the trek to the spot three times.  Twice it was blanketed with snow, rendering my search virtually futile.  On my third try, however, there was nothing to hamper the search.

Needless to say, I didn’t find Fenn’s treasure chest and I’m still not fully convinced it’s there.  I did not have a metal detector, nor did I dig.  So, it may be that I didn’t search hard enough, but I don’t think that’s the case.  To me, I don’t think it’s buried, or at least I hope not.  That would multiply the difficulty exponentially; but maybe that’s what Fenn wants.

Regardless, for me the chase has become more about solving the puzzle than recovering the chest.  Don’t get me wrong.  There would be few things I would love more than to put my hands on that little bronze box full of gold.  However, it’s just not feasible for me to search at this point.  I will continue thinking about the possible solutions and wrong turns I’ve made using this method, but with a less hurried pace.

In any case, I hope this method was enlightening or at least brings a new, fresh perspective.  I do believe the chest of gold is out there just waiting for someone who’s a bit cleverer than I am!

One more thing – remember at the very beginning of this nonsense I quoted a post from Dal Neitzel’s blog at dalneitzel.com that went something like this:

I had an enjoyably (sic) visit with Tom and his brother at the Downtown Subscription Coffee Shop in Santa Fe. They seemed like nice guys and avid treasure hunters. But there is confusion somewhere. While it’s not impossible to remove the blaze it isn’t feasible to try, and I am certain it’s still there.”  [Originally posted by forrestfenn on dalneitzel.com 9/26/14 4:06 pm]

Well, now that we know what the blaze is, we certainly can say it’s possible to remove the blaze, but why try?  The result would be disastrous!  Also take note of the final line: “I am certain IT’s still THERE”.  Of course the blaze is still there.  As long as the poem is around, the blaze will be too.  And YES!  IT is still THERE.

Thank you Forrest Fenn!

The End