More on Drone Day…

January 23rd, 2016


This is about the drone activity in the search area that took place on Friday, January 22nd. 

For days since hearing about the on-going search, I’ve been thinking about ways of how I can be of help. I thought about the times I was working with the Travel Channel and being filmed for several days, with all the camera men and equipment. The most intriguing was the ‘Drone’. It followed us every where from a great vantage point, capturing great images from air. So I thought how helpful this tool would be.
Being that I am an IATSE 480 Union Member in the film industry, I have witnessed how extra-ordinary our New Mexico Union is with being involved and helping the Community, aside from its usual film business. So, I thought about my Union Sisters and Brothers and thought to reach out to them… particularly the Drone Operators. I have met a few expert Drone Operators. The best being “Tizz”. So I put out a call to Tizz and right away he responded with interest in wanting to help. He never heard of the Forrest Fenn Treasure, and it didn’t matter who it was, his interest was sincere in wanting to help find a missing person.
I also reached out to our Union main man and representative: Jon Hendry. Instantly he offered his help and support. He offered us lots of water, and the use of the large fully equipped Mobile Unit, to stage on-site to serve as our base operation, and anything else we needed, equipment, and volunteers. Jon also sent out an email blast to all Union Members requesting help.
At the time, conversing with Cynthia and Sasha, our next plan was to be set up at Cochiti Lake, bring in the “Drone Team” and search upstream from there. However, after I spoke to several officials at Cochiti Lake and head of departments in the Cochiti Reservation, getting our mission  Granted Access with a Tribal Escort all set up, I then drove down to Santa Fe with my dear partner; Billy (whom I tease at being my paparazzi, who documents all my searches) to have a meeting with Cynthia and Sasha, just after Cynthia and Forrest did their helicopter search.


We then decided it was not to our advantage to search upstream from Cochiti, since the drones must be within eye shot and signal fades after one mile. I learned some of the advantages limitations of the drones. Even the most northern high peaks of the reservation would not give us enough range to search the area of interest, being the river near and across Frijoles Canyon.
And it was also decided after Forrest and Cynthia’s report, the river was so low, we wanted to focus looking on land, on the east side, where Randy’s XX’s and —– marks were on his map.
Learning that it is nearly impossible to get to the mesa ridge with vehicles, I declined on Jon’s gracious offer of the Mobile Unit.
The community of TTOTC Searchers have been most heart warming and inspiring with all their dedication, that it has inspired me to reach out even more to my community for help. I spoke with my neighbor Cid, who is the owner of Taos local Market; “Cids”, and when he heard of the story and that I was bringing a team of searchers to help, he donated a bag of food for the searchers.
Tizz had called a couple of his friends that were on stand-by to come help us search. One of the guys is also a Drone specialist: Danny Nugent from South of Albuquerque, and his other friend; Sam (Savage) Bawcum is an International Search and Rescue Paramedic, who has been saving lives all around the world.  We all planned to meet up the following morning at the Santa Fe County Animal Shelter.
It was very Brisk and Breezy, as our Friday Searchers all gathered, piling on more layers of clothing, hats and gloves.Then off we went. Our posse then began the first part of our adventurous journey that took a large portion of the day, where everyone’s best skillful driving was put to the test. Some cars did not make it, and we piled in more equipment and guys in to Billy’s truck.  John Brown led the way, blazing down the road, kicking up dust, flinging mud. He obviously knew the road and the way to the top of the mesa.

DroneLaunch01 IMG_0437
After we finally arrived to our base camp, we gathered in a circle, as Tizz passed out radio’s, Savage went around the circle getting everyone’s name and their game plan, to know exactly who was going where. Cynthia announced our time to return to base would be at the latest 4pm, and departure was set for 4:30. There were 11 of us all together. We separated into 3 groups. Billy and I were with the Drone Team.

On our way to the Mesa location where the Drones were planning to launch, the way there was much more intense and vast than what appeared on Google Earth. The little dots of Piñon trees were indeed like a thick forest, who’s branches were very unforgiving, grabbing hair, hat, backpacks and clothing, preventing passage. In fact it even prevented visibility. The land was incredibly gnarly and wretched, covered with wicked cactus donning 3″- 4″ of needles. And if you didn’t step on cactus, it was then covered with volcanic rocks that made the footing entirely challenging the entire way.
I would notice Tizz, our main Drone Operator, flash here and there, amongst the piñon. He was there and then he wasn’t. I decided to call him “Flash”. His high energy never quit. He would sometimes disappear entirely. Not a whistle or word or radio would get a response. Billy calls him the “Lone Cyotee”. Billy, Sam, Danny came to the edge of the Mesa and marveled at the expansive and daunting views of the Canyon, peering in to the Frijoles Canyon….
Really? I thought. Did Randy really think Forrest would make two trips into this rugged and treacherous canyon with 22 lbs of treasure and box?


We were looking for Tizz and the launch location, and I don’t know what made us begin this slow crawling decent on the side of the mesa that increasingly became more and more challenging. “Just think like Spider Woman” I thought to myself as I was required to crawl with hands and feet, scaling the steep side of the Mesa walls. Every other step I took, a rock would slip out from under me and go flying down to the bottom. It was difficult to trust any rock what so ever.

Sam and I sat 50 or so feet apart, on stable rocks, taking a break, discussing possibilities. He then climbed up to continue looking for Tizz. Billy was off to my left, photographing the area, and I climbed closer to him, spotting a cave. I then crawled, clinging to rocks and branches, making my way over to the small cave. It was shallow. Much more than it appeared from the distance. I safely made my way back to Billy, and we rested on a large flat rock, hydrated and snacked when Cynthia and John came out from our right, making their way on the steep, sliding rock terrain. Cynthia paused to take photos of me, as Billy was taking photos of Cynthia.
Billy's photo of blue thing

This turned out to be more of a Photo Op than we expected it to be…. for what a couple of those photos unintentionally revealed later…
Then down the mountain Cynthia and John continued.  Billy and I began to continue looking for our team, and as we were walking, I heard in the distance the sound of Hornets….


Ah! That must be our drone flying around somewhere, cause there is barely anything else around making noises… and sure enough, the drone lead us to the launch location and we joined the rest of our team.


I learned a lot watching and assisting Tizz. One of the limitations of the drones is that it can only fly for 8-10 minutes, then return home and replace the drained battery for a charged one. So, the process takes some time to get plenty of footage. It was interesting watching the monitor and seeing that it gets best images in the shadows vs the bright light. Tizz directed the drone in front of a few little caves, perhaps a bit too high to reach on the rugged sliding rocks. We focused mostly on filming the small canyon just NE of where Randy’s flotation device was found.
Each time we attempt at returning to our area where we were keeping our gear to get more batteries or equipment, we seemed to loose our way directly there, the pinons again, disoriented us. We became aware of time and all of us were encouraging Tizz to wrap it up, though he  was on a roll and ignored our pleas. I radioed Cynthia, and she confirmed all the teams but us were back at base camp and waiting for us. I suggested I’d start to head back solo, since Tizz walks much faster than I can keep up, but all the guys, especially Billy, insisted we go together.
At last Tizz wrapped it up and we began heading back. “Just follow your shadow” said Sam directing us back to camp. More cactus, snow and rocks, our footing wobbling, except for Tizz. He bounced thru the woods and flashed here and there again. The rest of us began to loose our way again. Sam checked his GPS, got us back on track. Billy and I slowed our pace and lost Sam and Danny, though we’d holler now and then and get kind of close. Sam calls Tizz on the radio to get his location, Tizz replies “Just follow my voice!” Sam looks down puzzled at his radio with Tizz’s voice in the little box. Oh, I see, just follow the radio. More circling around more pinon trees and the light is darkening.
We understand well how easy it is to get lost and disoriented in that territory. We can hear the car engines in the distance leaving camp. We are still off to the left, now too much to the right. Whew! At last! Back at base camp where Billy’s big red truck is the only vehicle waiting next to his ceremony drum and bag.
We piled all the gear and headed down the deeply rutted slippery muddy road, with Tizz running in front of us, guiding our way down the path. We caught up with a couple cars, that nearly flipped over wildly sliding their way. There were some large impressive Bulls in the meadow on our left, stretching their necks up high to see the posse go by. Their eyes widely peering at the rare visit.
Tizz continued running ahead, then he noticed a set of footprints leading OUT down the road. It went on for about 1/2 mile til the road came to a fork then disappeared. Billy got out and photographed the footprint. Billy is size 11 and he placed his foot next to the print which appears to be approx size 13 and narrow.
As we continued slipping and sliding down the crazy road, flinging heavy waves of mud all over the truck, and then suddenly to our left, there was a small heard of beautiful healthy wild Horses! Billy got out to photograph them and the mares shied away as the Stallion came forward to defend his lady tribe.


At last, we made it out of the road, which took as much energy out of us as the hike did. All the cars and teams met once again at the Animal Shelter, and said our good-byes. A few of us met at Forrest’s home and shared our days and thoughts.
Of course, like all of you, we are filled with wonders and unanswered questions. As Treasure Hunters on TTOTC, we understand a bit more of the thinking, though at times, may not agree with it, and we are all still standing in the mystery of it all.
After we closed our meeting at Forrest’s home, Billy and I began our long and winding trip through the Box Canyon home to Taos. Bewildered and exasperated, Billy randomly chooses a few photos to send to Cynthia and Dal to update everyone on the blog.
Saturday Morning…. I wake with a message from Cynthia. “Kat, you gotta look at one of the photos Billy sent! One of the Blog viewers has noticed in one of the images a blue thing hiding in one of the ledges covered by a branch! We need the high res image to examine it!”
So I run over to Billy’s house and sure enough, there it is, Blue shinny fabric, like a sleeping bag or backpack. Right there below Cynthia’s feet, just below where Billy and I took a break on the big flat rock. Looking at the image blown up, you can see, it is not old fabric, it is intensionally placed and not been there long.

Billy's photo of blue thing
Interesting, isn’t it? How a trivial collection of small events: one leaning on a rock, two others pass by, another takes a photo and snap! Something more get’s in the picture and changes the story.
It show’s us how close we can be to something, and even if we are intensely focusing, we can totally miss it! And so, it makes me wonder, how many times have we come close to the Treasure, and totally missed it! Only this time, we were lucky to have Billy’s camera capture something hiding that our own eyes missed. We were focused on Cynthia, and missed the blue object peaking out at us!
I do hope that the continuing searchers can find our location. If not, I’ll have to return with Cynthia to recap and find our spot. It’s something, even if it turns out to be nothing, at least we have a sliver of hope.
As I close this entry, the full moon is shining brightly upon the wintery towne of Taos and the wild cyottes are partying it up!

After the Search on Friday…

January 22nd, 2016



As I pulled into the Santa Fe Animal Shelter parking area this morning, I was astonished to see the number of vehicles awaiting my arrival. Despite the brisk 34 degree temperature, most of the folks were already milling around, introducing themselves. I immediately joined the gang and handed out a few packets of photos of Randy’s maps that I had printed for 3 teams. We discussed the plan for the day. We all would caravan in seven vehicles as close to Montoso Peak and the canyon edge as possible within the red circle on the maps. If any of the vehicles could no longer tolerate the muddy, slippery conditions, we would stop as a group and place those folks in the vehicles that could climb and grip the sloppy tracks to a spot close to the canyon edge.

We put John Brown in the lead because he knew the way to the mesa area we intended to go… he had been there previously with Gene, I believe. I followed in the FJ, Radcrad and Mike Hendrickson were next in line, followed by Katya and Billy who had organized three guys to help search using their drones (Tizz, Sam, and another). Eventually Tom G and Amber and her little dog June fell into line.


One nice thing that Katya mentioned before we were under way was that Cid’s Market in Taos paid for a bag of groceries for us to make a nice lunch in the field. Kudos to Cid’s…really cool.

About the time we hit the asphalt, Katya received a call from her 3rd drone operator that he was running late but he’d catch up on the dirt road to Montoso Peak. If you don’t know the area, you’d likely get lost in a second. So anytime we came to a fork, Roger (Radcrad) tied an orange ribbon to a branch to mark the way.


During one of the stops, some of the guys revisited the map of the area.


I wish I had pictures of the “road” once we started the journey around Montoso Peak because I’m not sure I have the proper words to describe the drive…for me, it was basically terrifying… and I was the one driving the probably most capable vehicle for the conditions out there. The path twisted and turned and tilted between the juniper trees, all the while our tires slinging mud and snow. To make it even worse, there were sections of jagged rocks poking up here and there, as well as an area the guys referred to as “the steps”…large rocks that we crawled over and around going down a short section of steep grade…which I knew we had to climb up over on the return trip. The only saving factor for me was that there were no cliff edges on either side, so even if we’d slide off into a ditch and flip, we likely wouldn’t be killed. Sometimes the path through the trees was so tight the branches would sweep both sides of my car….one branch was large enough to knock my side mirror against the side…

John finally stopped ahead of me, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I realized he was parking…we had made it.

After each person gathered their gear, we teamed up, traded cell phone numbers (yes we had a good signal), and Tizz handed out radios to each team. We agreed on the return time to the vehicles as 4:00 pm since we knew returning home would be difficult as well and we needed daylight.


Amber from Texas and her dog June, Roger, and Mike Hendrickson.


Billy blessing us and our surroundings before heading out. Drone operators Tizz, Sam, and ?…

Even though we were sort of close to the mesa edge, we still had quite a distance to the river. I teamed with John Brown and Roger…our destination was to sweep the gully along the hill in front of us as we made our way to the edge. Tom G and Amber headed to the edge farther south, and the drone team meandered where needed to find the best place to launch the drones. According to my GPS coordinates, we were exactly where I’d hoped we could go… within the red circle on Randy’s map.

You will see my day through pictures of John. Roger searched a bit away from us so I have few pictures of him or the other teams.


John heading down the mesa hill into the gully.



As I walked, I searched every nook and cranny along my route…


Heading towards the rim…three searchers near center of photo.


John ahead of me as we made our way down into the gully.


I was above John about 6 feet when he said he saw “something”…”what” I anxiously asked. 
He described it as a place where branches and pine needles may have been placed on the ground. There was a small yellow spot in the snow where someone may have urinated and what looked like dog kibble scattered about. He picked up the kibble and told me to look at it…it was a stretch but we made the exchange. Excitedly, I examined it and said I thought it was rabbit scat, but I couldn’t be certain….I handed it back. He broke it in half and smelled it… confirming what I suspected. We discussed the yellow snow…even if it was human urine, it could have been from SAR…we left it alone.

John and I continued our hike and search for Randy down through the gully…we eventually got to an area that was too steep to continue, so we started a diagonal descent out of the gully and across the hill side. We wanted to get to the river… to the raft.





I included a lot of pictures of the terrain, trying to capture the unfriendly ruggedness…there are no trails per se in the area we were at. There was a lot of scree…the loose stuff that causes people like me to fall on their butt and slide part way down…it worked, and I was happy to be wearing my heavy canvas pants.
I think John and I got about half way down the side of the hill to the raft area when we decided we just didn’t have enough time. Disappointed, we both agreed to be safe…we didn’t want the burden of time along with the uphill struggle when we had to climb back up the hillside to the vehicles.


We ran into Katya and Billy taking a breather. Notice the steepness of the side of this hill. Tough hiking conditions, IMO.


John and I continued a diagonal path up and saw the slab of rock in below photo. It would be our break stop. We each used binoculars…looking for Randy.


The teams began streaming to the vehicles a bit early…the drone folks radioed to us that they’d be a bit behind schedule. We agreed we all leave together…we’d wait. No man left behind.

As we began the dreaded drive out of there, I noticed it was already 4:30. The progress was so slow due to the horrible road conditions that sometimes my speedometer barely moved off zero. It wasn’t long before twilight fell upon us…seeing all the ruts and jagged rocks became even more difficult. At the last stop while I waited for the others to catch up, I took the photo below… Despite all that mud, and snow, and ice, and rocky terrain, this was the view as we went home…an almost full moon over the mountains above Santa Fe…


I’m sorry to say that none of us found clues to find Randy. The drone crews each took over an hour of videos which they will download and analyze over the next day or two. They filmed the entire side canyon just south of where the raft was found. They also filmed, I believe, the edges of the Rio Grande canyon as well.

We all said our good-byes at the SF Animal Shelter where a few of the cars awaited their owners. Forrest requested a small group go to his place and provide him with an update of the day’s activities. I was delighted he was so kind as to have a platter of snacks available for us… with 6 little cans of Dr. Pepper. I was famished and ate accordingly…

There is no organized group search planned for tomorrow. A few individuals are going to go out on their own. Katya and her crew will analyze their drone videos, and we will go from there.

I want to thank all you awesome people who helped search today…everyone used good judgment and stayed safe. We really worked as a team and made sure we didn’t leave anyone on the mountain or stuck in the mud. I’d also like to thank all those who post their ideas on Dal’s blog. Because of the maps that Stephanie made available, we had a good idea of where to go today. We realize this area had been searched by the professionals previously… I guess I just had to see it for myself.
God bless Randy and his family and all you wonderful folks in the search community…



Friday’s Plan…

January 21st, 2016

by Cynthia


Meet at drive way to Santa Fe Animal Shelter which is on Caja del Rio Road at 10:30 am.

The exit is off 599, I think at South Meadows exit : Follow the signs to the Animal Shelter/ Humane Society. (see map at bottom of page)

Katya Luce will meet us there with some friends from Taos who will bring drones.

We will then drive back towards Montoso Peak and drive the muddy 4-WD road until the first person gets stuck, which will likely be me. We all will park there.

From there we go on foot as close to the mesa edge as possible. GPS: Latitude 35: (degrees) 44’56.63”

Longitude 106:13’56.21”
I believe this spot is where Randy’s dotted line from the river joined the road around Montoso Peak to the mesa edge where the picture of him may have been taken in Dec.

We will walk as far as possible and then use drones with cameras to search closer to the top edge above where his raft was found and where the 4 X’s on his “treasure map” are.

Randy’s raft coordinates are: 35:44’55.20” N, 106:15’30.96”W which I believe are the bottom most-left on the picture below (the x closest to the river.)

(click on images to see them larger)


The red arrow on picture above points to dotted line on Randy’s map.


GPS coordinates on Google Earth picture above. The right arrow is so I can find the correct spot to know we are on the correct “road”. It should be easy because the power lines intersect with the road here.

Everyone invited. Please bring lots of water and snacks. Cynthia


Map to meeting area.

After the Search on Thursday…


January 21st, 2016

KOB-TV in Albuquerque had a news story on their 6PM newscast. The link is below.

Short brief by Forrest

We searched 4 hours with Doug Christian flying the helicopter. He is the best and was able to put us in positions that gave us great search vantage points. We flew up and down Rio Grande, searching the water, and 300 feet either side. The water is low and conditions were ideal, no wind, no ice, and air temp at 42 degrees. We flew up two canyons for maybe 6 miles, until they got so narrow we couldn’t get through. We were met with nothing but disappointment. Tom Cremeens, the medic who first discovered the boat, was with us and we put him out on a sand bar for an hour while we continued up and down the river to Cochiti lake and back. Tom had a hunch. Cynthia Meachum and Roger Craddock were in the back looking. We had 8 eyes searching. I wish I had good news to report, but I don’t. My 85 year-old bones are ready for a beer, while we think about tomorrow. (more from Forrest below)


Short Brief by Sacha

I did not go on the helicopter adventure today, but rather I worked behind the scenes.

I had dinner with Cynthia and Katya this evening.  Katya is pooling her vast resources to find people with both ATVs and high end drones, to see if they can cover the rest of the east side of the river, down from where Randy’s raft was found.  She has already had some people respond, and she is arranging to take a crew out, with Cynthia, this weekend – pending good weather.

So far, searchers have searched the site where Randy’s car was found, visually inspected the contents of the car, searched the site where his raft was found, along the river banks south of the raft location all the way to the lake, the river and the banks all the way from the car to the raft, the north side of Frijoles Canyon, the canyon walls between the raft and the lake, and part of the trail and mesa on the east side above Randy’s raft.

We have exhausted all of our easily accessible areas, and we are now forced to focus on the more remote possibilities.  All of these possibilities require access to restricted areas, or areas impassible by any kind of vehicle.

We did receive a bit of good news, by accident.  At dinner, Katya called a connection in Cochiti Pueblo, and was setting up a meeting tomorrow , to ask for permission to access gated areas for drone searching.  During her call, she discovered that they had granted the NM SAR permission to search the area TODAY!  We were so happy to hear they were on the case, once again.  I don’t know the details of the search, but knowing that it happened made me feel better.

Someone in the TTOTC community has benevolently decided to cover the cost of high resolution aerial imagery.  Not only will this happen, but it is going to happen tomorrow morning, beginning at 7:30 am.  I have been in contact with the pilot, who tells me that he will be able to cover quite a bit of ground, but since this service is not free, we had to carefully decide where to have him go.

After much deliberation, we have decided to focus our efforts on the west side of the Rio Grande, from south of Frijoles Canyon all the way to the lake, and hopefully cover up to 2 miles from the river bank.  This area is the most remote, and most difficult to access.  Essentially, it requires camping, so this is the hardest place to get to, and where he will do the most good.

I should have access to the images TOMORROW, and I will give them to all of you.  You said you wanted to help, and if this actually happens tomorrow, you will get your chance.

Each of you will need to scour images and look for clues.  If it is larger than a helmet, you should be able to see it.  This is your opportunity to pitch in, no matter how far you live.

Once I have the video, I will give it to Dal, and he will put it somewhere so that all of you can look at it.

Finally, I have to leave town, but only for a couple of days.  I will be back on Sunday, and Cynthia will run things on the ground.  I will continue to work behind the scenes, and will be waiting on reports from anyone who finds any clues.

I wish you all luck in your search.  May your years of research experience serve you well.




Full Briefing by Forrest

The short hours made a long day for me. We met at the airport at 11:30, Cynthia, Roger, Erin (the flight nurse who found Leo), and her husband, who is a tall, good looking fireman. And Tom Cremeens, the medic who was in the Helicopter with Erin. (He is also a M/Sgt in the AF Reserve). Leo, the star of the day, was not short of cuddles. He was thin, and had a raw paw from his ordeal. The banks of the Rio Grande are cluttered with large boulders and cinders of basalt (volcanic lava) that left their mark on Leo, but not bad.

The photos were all taken by Cynthia.




Shortly after noon the helicopter arrived from Double Eagle airport and we ran through a quick briefing and planned for our four hours of flying time that was about to come. We were jabbering and full of optimism. The pilot (Doug Christian) loaded Tom and I in the chopper and we flew the ten minutes to the river. We searched up and down for about 30 minutes, then landed on a lonely sandbar and let Tom out. He wanted to search an area where Randy might have seen the blaze.


While Tom was thrashing through the rocks and thick brush, Doug and I went back to the airport and picked up Cynthia and Roger. We started looking just above Buckman Road where Randy’s car was parked, and slowly worked our way down river, searching and circling. Fifty feet above the water and cruising at 30 mph, large numbers of ducks and geese passed under us flying at 40 mph, and outran our chopper. Bald eagles were ever present. Nothing else.

The river was a beautifully faded green color, with the bottom showing most of the way. No ice or turbulence to worry about, and wind temperature at 42 degrees. It was an ideal searching situation. At first we flew down the river, looking 300’ on either side. We saw nothing but inhospitable brush and rocks. Side swamp-looking lagoons 200’ wide made periodic appearances. Humans cannot walk across those things. We saw no footprints anywhere, and no buzzards. The unclimbable mountains kissed the water in most places, and where they didn’t, salt cedar trees were so thick that no animals could struggle passage.


Paramount in my mind was the thought that man is not supposed to get out of a boat from Buckman Road to Cochiti Lake, where the river widened as the lake backed up into the river.



After burning 2 hours of sunshine we returned Cynthia and Roger to the Santa Fe airport and took on fuel. Then Doug and I returned to the sand bar and picked up Tom. What he thought might have been the blaze, wasn’t, so we flew upstream a couple of miles to Randy’s boat and landed on another sand bar. To my surprise the boat was only about 100’ from the river. To get to the boat Tom and I waded through several places where water was running over sticky muck. It was so sticky that my left boot evacuated my foot and quickly filled with water. Tom and I were wet, and I told myself that Randy was probably smarter than we were.

The boat had a tear in the bottom so water had to flow in. Randy’s feet and pants were wet. One paddle had a broken handle, but no matter, because the boat had no oar locks, which meant Randy was paddling with one oar and not rowing with two. No sign of a warming fire anyplace.

Everything I saw made me uncomfortable. There was no way Randy could take his boat back to his car. There was no way Randy could climb to the mesas on top. If he had maps on his person they had to be almost useless. Canyons that dumped into the river were every half mile on both sides, and from the river one could not tell which was which. We flew up three of the larger canyons on the west side of the river and we didn’t know which ones we were in. They are easy to identify on a map, and from the air, but from the river it’s highly unlikely, especially for someone who had never been there before.



After 4 hours of searching, and circling, and backtracking, and straining, Tom and I looked at each other in bewilderment. Doug saw our expressions and slowly pulled up on the collective pitch, and I saw the vertical speed rise to 500 feet per minute climb. After several minutes we were out of the Rio Grande canyon and looking at Cochiti Lake, a few miles distant. We were going home.


The Next Steps…


January 20th, 2016

by Cynthia and Sacha


This briefing from Cynthia for end of day Wednesday, January 19th
Today’s update: There were only 4 of us searchers who met in SF this morning to discuss today’s plan. Most guys had to return to work. The weather at that time was cloudy with expected precipitation, so we decided not to go out and search the muddy mesa top again. During the afternoon, the clouds cleared and 3 of them  drove out there. I had to return home and did not go with them. I spoke to one of them a few mins ago and Randy was not found.


This from Sacha about plans for Thursday, January 20th
Forrest, Cynthia, and Radcrad will take off in a helicopter tomorrow at noon, to search the deep canyon of the Rio Grande, and any other close areas we have time and access to.  We will rally about 4 tomorrow afternoon to discuss the findings.

Here is a report from the Santa Fe New Mexican about the helicopter search:


Beyond Thursday
Katya and Sacha are working with a team of professional drone operators who want to spend some time in search area. These are incredible tools and experienced highly skilled operators. Depending on the amount of time they can remain on site (batteries and fair weather) they can provide a very useful and quick way to examine nooks and crannies and very narrow places that a full sized helicopter can’t go.

The team is also working with a high resolution aerial imagery company, that can pick up something as small as a helmet.  They hope to deploy this tool for additional detailed examination.


Randy has not been found. New information continues to be gathered, scenarios tested and tools deployed to look better and closer.


Thanks to everyone on the team and the generous searchers and supporters who seem to be determined to leave no shadow unexamined.


Just want to share this comment that Slurbs made earlier this evening on the blog:

The feelings felt within myself today were unexpected. They were unexpected because I didn’t know Randy on a personal level. We met in Santa Fe during the Leon Gaspard book signing. It was a brief meeting, not much more than quick introduction. Being a fellow searcher brings the feeling of family amongst us “Fenners.”
Randy’s disappearance has carried weight which I felt overloaded with today. I was feeling like we (more I) had not given enough effort in trying to reach the area where Leo was found next to Randy’s little raft. Then the thoughts of the mud we were driving through came back to mind. The roads in the area are so bad that I felt we shouldn’t go any further fearing we would have to send out a call for help to get out the muck. At one point, Mike D made note that he had his display saying he had 90 miles left until he was out of gas. About a mile of mud later his display said he had 80 miles left until empty. Yup, we spun our wheels 10 miles worth to travel a single mile. Small hill’s became enormous obstacles. We both had our vehicles facing about 60 degrees off of the direction of travel because of terrible muddy ruts down some of the path before us. Who knows when these roads will become more passable.
I didn’t join the search today. The whole day I felt bad for anyone searching for Randy. The winds were relentless and frigid in the area. I’m sure the searchers are red in the nose from all the tissue used to control the running nasal drips.
My heart goes out to everyone involved in the search for Randy. I’m sure the high winds kept the drones grounded… I have not heard the updates of such grounding yet though.
After sharing my thoughts with my wife and you, my fellow searchers, I feel that anyone involved in searching for Randy are, in fact, giving it their all. Some of us Treasure hunters involved in the search are painters, plumbers, sailors, project managers, semi coductor workers, collectors, pilots, custodians, a Commodore of Water Preservation,  prayer givers, disabled men, women who take care of their man, many many more and yes, even pond scum whom are tough as nails and don’t come anything close being a scummy scallywag (I got your back DaisyMae, you’re alright in my book). All giving all.
Just heard on the local news that Forrest is chartering a helicopter to help in the search for Randy over the next two days. Yay! Thanks f. I can not picture f not doing the things he was attributed to do in this life. You are the most upstanding citizen I have ever met, f. Stay safe everyone. Pactice Safety first so that you can accomplish your desires.




Aerial Search for Randy…

January 19th, 2016

by Cynthia

When Forrest told me a couple days ago that he’d been in touch with a guy from Durango who volunteered to fly his little plane to Santa Fe to help in the search, I thought that was really cool… Forrest explained he wasn’t going along to be the spotter but he had someone else lined up to go. When I expressed gratitude that Erin the rescue girl who found Leo was helping out again, he said no, not Erin, YOU!

For a moment I had a sick feeling…I sort of hate to fly but didn’t want to tell Forrest.

I didn’t sleep but two winks last night…I actually was excited that I was going to get to fly and be the spotter…I secretly prayed for the calmest day of wind ever to take place in New Mexico…I mean like minus knots…

Forrest met me at the little Santa Fe Municipal Airport and then about a half hour later than scheduled, we watched William make his descent and his wheels touch down. I thought, my God, it’s a toy…it is really small! (By the way, I had conversed with William the night before and when he mentioned he had built his plane from a kit, I did not get a warm fuzzy feeling! More praying took place the moment we hung up.)


Forrest is telling William how to “drive”…

Trying not to look terrified...

Trying not to look terrified…


buckle up…William is 6’4” tall…he barely fit. I think the canopy was almost touching his ball hat when it closed.

Our strategy was to fly as low as possible along each mesa edge of the river, with the opposite edge out my window so I could concentrate on looking for Randy along the river. Earlier I had seen the picture where Randy was wearing a light gray parka with blue trim and a royal blue backpack. The blue pack should stand out, we hoped. After sweeping both edges, we started moving east and then west out across the mesa top and sweeping the mesa tops. We’d start at Buckman Road and fly south to Cochit Lake where we’d turn and fly north again. Sometimes we’d fly really low around the high peaks in the area, in case Randy had wanted to get to high ground for a cell signal. William would tip the plane with my wing pointed down so I could get a great view of the terrain, and hopefully see his blue back pack. Sometimes, we’d concentrate on the smaller side canyons and arroyos, in case Randy tried to walk back via the high ground and needed a path from the river. Again, William tipped the plane sideways, alternating his wing with mine. We did this for 1 hr 15 mins.

I did not take many pictures but here are a few. This gives the folks who aren’t familiar with this particular area an idea of what the search teams are facing…


William got me and his little plane safely back to the airport. I was so pleased I did not vomit in his beautiful little plane (or anywhere else)…his pride and joy. (It wins a lot of awards at plane shows…it was like riding in a Ferrari..all leather and shiny wood inside. I even had to take my boots off to be allowed inside it.)

The end of the day was both solemn and satisfying…Sacha said it best when she described the couple dozen searchers who dragged themselves into the restaurant after a day of searching… frazzled, tired, and sad that we did not find Randy. But, we all made our journey safely back from the river’s edge, no one had to be towed out of the mud (which was a miracle in itself), and we have newly found friends…

As always, Forrest made the rounds at the tables where nearly two dozen hungry searchers eventually found their way. He took time to thank and hug and shake hands with each individual and ask him/her about their day. He made everyone feel special…

The first group of searchers to arrive...I guess we were the hungriest. We added several more tables as the crew expanded...

The first group of searchers to arrive…I guess we were the hungriest. We added several more tables as the crew expanded…

What a day…what a fabulous group of folks!

Sincerely, Cynthia

La Caja Pueblo Ruins – Part III…

SUBMITTED January 2016


Continued from Part Two…

It was now December 8th, and I still hadn’t been able to get to the specific location where the Santa Cruz River enters the inlet. Looking at both Google Earth and TopoQuest, the La Caja Ruins site seems to be immediately above the cliff-face at that imaginary line.

I was positive Fenn didn’t hide the treasure chest on the ruins site…there was just no way up to the mesa top. So my dilemma still was: did he hide it on top the mesa edge not far from the Overlook Campground where he could sit out of view beneath a juniper tree and gaze across the river, imagining the puebloans from 800 years ago? Or did he secret it among the trees along the shoreline beneath the pueblo, where ancient artifacts may have fallen off the cliffside or washed over the edge during the past eight centuries? Did he take a boat to this particular spot to fish 40 years ago, or walk there from the Debris Basin and wade across the stream… and discover pottery shards or other ancient artifacts partially buried in the sand?


I woke to beautiful blue skies that Tuesday morning…my obsession with seeing this specific place, where the river entered the inlet, had not waned; in fact, it was worse than ever. I decided to make one last trip there…I would park at the Overlook Campground, and Molly and I would walk out across the ridge to the point where it overlooks the inlet. I knew from there I could see both shorelines, and search for the treasure chest if he did indeed hide it on top the mesa across the river, at some obscure place out of sight of others. The red arrow in the picture below shows you where I planned to go.


It was barely above freezing as we made our way to the turnoff to the Overlook Campground… no matter, though, I was psyched…I knew today was the day I was going to finally see this spot I’d been trying so desperately to reach. And then I saw it…there was a locked gate across the dirt road to the campground. My heart sank….I think I had tears in my eyes from the overwhelming disappointment. I could park there along the highway and walk the 1.5 miles back to the campground but that would add a lot of time and walking to our day, and I wasn’t prepared.

Quickly, I had to come up with a Plan B…I told Molly we wouldn’t give up…this day was our last chance of finding this place until springtime, and I knew my patience wouldn’t hold. We drove around to the main entrance to the Santa Cruz Lake Recreation Area and parked. I decided we could hike along the eastern shoreline again on the Laguna Vista Trail, and instead of stopping at the dead-end like last time, we would climb across the ridge-line towards the inlet, then scamper down the side to the lake edge where maybe we could see the confluence of the river and inlet.


This fallen tree was as far as we could go. I carefully stepped out onto the limb and slowly slid across the smooth bark, balancing precariously as I zoomed in with my camera…maybe I’d see something helpful in the picture later. From the middle of the tree limb, I squinted to see as best I could into the inlet and beyond…it looked like there was already a thin sheet of ice covering the inlet. In my mind I thought…today, this is where warm waters halt…


The hike back to the truck was quick and quiet…I was not especially pleased with another failed attempt trying to reach the imaginary line, the spot…But one positive thing did enter my mind…

Back in October, 10-yr old Thomas and I had made a 10 x 10 x 5 box, and then placed it 200 feet from the edge of the street. To my amazement, 200 feet was much farther away than I expected…and that little box was hard to see. I thought about the three trails I had hiked over the course of the last couple months there…I bet I was about 200 feet from the “spot” at the end of each trail. And another thing, the “spot” was not visible from the end of any of the three trails…Forrest could have secreted the chest there, or died there beside it, and he would not have been visible to hikers, or boaters. Few fishermen would have tried to wade across the river there, making it the perfect place…easy for him to get to but isolated… Is this where he found “solace in the solitude of the trees”?

Over the next couple weeks, I continued researching this area…looking for better “blazes” or anything that could help…using Google Earth to zoom in on the mesa top where La Caja supposedly sits.

I continued to study Scrapbook 107, one of the few I thought actually contained hints…I especially like the word “CruZ” that was formed by the edge of the envelope, the “r” in Mr, the “U” in the guy’s first name, and the “Z” formed by the layout of the pen, pen cap, and $5 bill.


I reread the stories in TTOTC, and studied each and every drawing…I remembered Forrest saying ”The hints are in the aberrations at the edges”…I was not one to previously believe the drawings in the book were of any help…but I knew it couldn’t hurt to look.

I noticed in the drawing on page 43, the woman’s boot that I circled is an aberration…it is not


connected to a person…is this a hint to the picture of the inlet to the lake, which also resembles a woman’s boot? Did Forrest add this to the drawing?


Then on December 17th, Dal posted the Air Force Interview. I reserved a block of time the following afternoon where I could turn off my cell phone, close the door to the library, sit back in my big comfy recliner, and listen attentively. Forrest did not disappoint…his stories were both informative and entertaining. In part three, he described with great detail ejecting from his wounded fighter jet that was about to crash into the countryside…but what stood out to me was his description of his landing spot…he called it a “karst”, to us a bluff or cliff. At that moment, I pictured the drawing on page 99 of TTOTC.

Back in October, Mindy posted a story on her blog about Diggin’ Gypsy. In that story Diggin’ talks about her discovery of Fenn’s treasure map. She surmises that Fenn is the one who drew this drawing, not the artist who drew all the other ones in the book. At the time (this was posted Oct 28th on The Fenn Hotspot), I looked at this drawing…this “treasure map”…I was impressed with the ideas Diggin presented…they were cute, clever. Then I closed the book and never looked at that drawing again…until Dec 18th.


I am not going to add to my story Diggin’s specific hidden gems she has shared with the world… you can go to Mindy’s blog to see each one. But the one she didn’t highlight was the “arrow” circled in red above. What if…Forrest did draw this picture? What if…the arrow points to his special place…both where he safely landed and where he hid the treasure? What do the ladders signify (look to right of red arrow)? Puebloans used ladders in their multi-story pueblos…

Now Diggin’ turned the book/drawing upside down to understand the clues…one small scribe says “FLY TAOS”. It appears the man wearing the large brimmed straw hat is wearing sunglasses (for the ArcLight?), and possibly carrying something. I studied this drawing for hours over many days…I compared it to pictures I had taken over the course of the last two and a half months…

Do the palm tree fronds or the propellers and “FLY TAOS” scribe represent this aircraft marker?


Or do the palm tree and man-in-shades dressed for a picnic represent the Overlook Campground with it’s covered picnic tables…a place for local folks?


In the drawing, it looks like a river runs between two mesa tops…does this suggest the area where the river enters the inlet to the lake? It looks like the arrow circled in red comes out of a formation shaped like the right-hump of my “M” shaped blaze, the cliffside just below La Caja.

Many times throughout the past five years, Forrest has mentioned the word “IMAGINATION”… Is “imagination” the word that is key?

In Diggin’s story she says “Forrest said he melded the memories of his experience in Vietnam with his favorite spot.” I do not know where she saw that written or if he said it to her. What if… he did? What if… he drew this particular drawing? What if …it is his secret “treasure map”?

To quote Shakespeare, sort of: “ To be(lieve), or not to be(lieve), that is the question?”

I never had time to get to the imaginary line separating the river and inlet before the last snow fell…I do believe that ultimately someone will follow their crazy idea…their vivid imagination… their “what if…” and Fenn’s treasure will be waiting for them…

Until springtime (nah, I won’t wait that long)… Cynthia


La Caja Pueblo Ruins – Part II…

SUBMITTED January 2016


Continued from Part One

Molly and I continued to the edge of the mesa east of the Overlook Campground to get a better look at the mesa top across the chasm where the Debris Basin arroyo separated the two hills. The deja vu I had just experienced was still vivid in my mind…what the heck was I thinking. Too late now…I pulled the large binoculars from my backpack, brought them up to my eyes, and carefully focused each eyepiece…to my relief, this is what I saw.


It looked like rocks, or whitish stones…but maybe there were remnants of old pueblo ruins mixed in. Too far away to tell…I couldn’t wait to return…

I barely noticed the ride home…I was in auto-pilot…my mind was racing trying to remember the exact words of the article I found online describing the La Caja Pueblo site. I didn’t even check Google Earth for the location because the description was so detailed “The La Caja site is a large pueblo ruin located within the Santa Cruz Lake Recreation Area, west of Cundiyo, New Mexico. The pueblo is situated on the edge of a flat ridge top, overlooking the La Caja box canyon, between the confluence of the Rio Medio and Frijoles and Santa Cruz Lake. The site is in the high vegetated mounded category, denoting a series of room blocks, which here partially surround two plazas…Analysts of ceramics collected from the site suggest that the pueblo dates to the early fourteenth century.” When I first read the details, I thought, oh my God, this is the perfect place for Fenn to die beside his treasure chest…

A couple tortuous weeks passed before I could return…Once again, my mind was racing as Molly and I made our way around Santa Fe and turned east on the High Road to Taos. This time we passed the turn to the Overlook Campground, continuing about half a mile or so to Mile Marker 9 where I made a left onto a dirt “road” that wound back into the hilly terrain above the Debris Basin. My nerves were on edge as I drove slowly through the ruts and loose sand…I desperately was hoping not to get stuck. I decided to drive up a short but steep and tilted section of “road” and park in the trees where the truck was mostly out of sight. It looked like the main dirt “road” continued all the way down and along the east side of the debris basis where it stopped at the bottom of the mesa I was about to climb. I didn’t know about pushing my luck further…maybe Fenn drove there when he hid the treasure chest…but on this day and all those searches in the future, this would be our parking spot, and we’d walk from here.


It was what I considered an easy climb up the hillside to the mesa top. To my liking, there was no trail…we wound our way between the junipers and piñon trees and scurried across the top to the edge that overlooks La Caja Canyon, to the large, whitish rocks we witnessed weeks ago through the binoculars from the edge of the Overlook Campground. My God, once again, I thought how perfect this place seemed…it definitely could be his “special place”. It was easy to get to…I looked around and could hear the river rushing through the canyon below me. I could see the lake off in the distance…I could see the Sangre de Cristo mountains to the east…and there was no one in sight.


The number of possibilities where Fenn’s trove could be hidden was overwhelming that first trip. I did my best to scour each and every nook and cranny along the edge…in, under, and around all those boulders, even searching beneath the trees.


When I found this flat rock (is it the “scant”, a large flat stone?) beside the boulders, I about had a heart attack…I was almost positive I’d find the chest secreted beneath it. It was heavy…I used my rock pick to dig along the edge… I slid my fingers beneath the edge and secured my grip. As I slowly titled the stone onto it’s edge, I rested it against my leg so as not to accidentally drop it on my toes, and stood it up. My jaw dropped…I “marvel gazed”…there was just another rock under it…no treasure to behold.


As depressing as this story might sound, it was a glorious day…I had found a new place where I could sit and ponder in silence…and soak in the beauty of this desert environment…But I wasn’t through…I was not about to give up on this area…this flat mesa top where I knew there had been inhabitants 800 years ago…



I made three more trips to search this entire mesa top. I moved my searches east along the edge but also searched the top where there was less vegetation…maybe that’s where the ruins sat…I searched for pottery shards with every step. I perused the shallow draws between hilly areas where the rain water would run off the mesa top down into the canyon. I soon became more obsessed with finding the pueblo than I did finding Fenn’s treasure. The photo above is one of several “blazes” …it reminded me of a Thunderbird, or an eagle. I even found a circle of rocks during one of my searches…it was the only sign of another human being’s presence. I meticulously moved each rock to see what lay beneath…it was an old campfire that had been carefully covered with rocks. Maybe Fenn had been there after all … I carefully put the rocks back.


Over the course of these few weeks and multiple searches, this mesa top became my “special place”. Molly and I always ate our snacks on the “pueblo floor” in the picture below. I don’t believe it is really a pueblo floor but it sure looked like one the first time I discovered it…

Some days when we searched in that area, I made Molly wear her boots…too often she’d stepped on the low creeping cacti, and it was as painful to me to remove the thorns as I’m sure it was to her. The boots worked great, and it didn’t take long for her to get used to them.


By now it was the beginning of November…I hadn’t even found one single pottery shard. The search season would soon be ending…and I felt empty…well, at least empty-handed. I decided to use Goole Earth to try to find a better blaze, or something I missed that would lead me to the treasure. I tried searching GE using “La Caja pueblo” but nothing came up…then I believe by accident I just used La Caja and GE zoomed right into the Santa Cruz Lake Recreation Area. But WTF… it zoomed onto a spot on the other side of the canyon, closer to the inlet where the river enters the lake. I laughed out loud…for a full month I was looking at the wrong spot.

(I hope this made everyone reading this laugh. And you all can breath a sigh of relief…the odds of me finding Fenn’s treasure is pretty low it would seem!)

But wait, this was actually good news…I felt rejuvenated. I was excited all over again. I studied Google Earth. Now my solves had to be revised but I still liked this area for the same reasons. The actual pueblo site on top the correct mesa looks unaccessible…maybe Fenn fished beneath the cliff along the inlet when he was younger….maybe he found artifacts there when he went there to fish. I couldn’t wait to return…


My new “blaze” is the cliff shaped like an “M” where the pueblo site sits above what I believe is the right-side hump…it reflects into the lake to make an abstract “W”. The “M” and “W” are like the wings of two eagles…ff said to use our imagination. For Michael D if you read this, you once used Fenn’s CC double eagle coins as your blaze, “If you’ve been wise and found the blaze, Look quickly down, your quest to cease” = 2 C’s. Hmmm. My dilemma at this point: is his special place where he secreted the treasure chest along the shoreline, or on top the mesa where he can look across the inlet and see the old pueblo ruin site on top?

My strategy was to hike along the Laguna Vista Trail which ends at the land protrusion on the left side of the picture above and try to see into the inlet along the shoreline. Even though it was November by now, it was still relatively warm… I couldn’t wait to begin searching once again.

I felt rushed the first morning Molly and I made our first hike along the east shore of the lake to the inlet. The Laguna Vista trail is only 1.2 miles long and a fairly easy hike, but it seemed to take forever to get to the end…It was a nice surprise to see a fisherman drift by in his boat as he entered the inlet. Unfortunate for me, I couldn’t see around the bend in the lake inlet good enough to satisfy my curiosity at what lay below the M hump along the shoreline…was it a place where Forrest could have stood on land and fished…and ate a pimento cheese sandwich beneath a cottonwood tree…and looked for artifacts long ago buried in the sand?



Plan B: I decided the best way to see beneath the right-side hump of the “M” blaze was from across the inlet/river. The Overlook Trail extends from the Overlook mesa west of the campground area, northward to West Canyon, then down to the lake shore, where the trail divides, one section going east along the shoreline towards the inlet…where I needed to go. By now northern NM had it’s first snowfall but much of this area is in full sun, so I figured if Molly and I were careful, we should be able to make our way down the trail to the inlet.



Once again, we got to what seemed like the end of the trail…there was a rock outcropping in our way…it was snow covered and too risky to keep going. We were so close to where I wanted to be…but I wanted to be safe…the lake looked deep there, and too cold to fall into this time of year. And I’m still not sure if Molly can swim…that day was not the day to find out…

Plan C: The Debris Basin Trail begins at the basin and descends an arroyo to the Santa Cruz Canyon and river, about 200 meters downstream from where the La Caja Trail ends on the opposite shore. The trail then follows the river downstream to the lake, supposedly.

The mornings are now cold and the days are shorter. Nevertheless, my obsession with seeing the entire shoreline beneath the “M” blaze has taken control of me. I packed Molly and my gear in the truck for what I hoped was the last search of the year. As I approached Mile Marker 9, I was concerned I might get stuck in snow going to my secure hiding spot off the dirt road above the Debris Basin. I slowed, and tentatively crawled along the snow-covered dirt until I got to the section that is steep and tilted. I was already in 4-WD…I hesitated…thought WTF, and stepped on the gas pedal. The truck made it up the tiny hill and I breathed a sigh of relief…

The trail from the basin down through the arroyo was relatively easy…there was a fence-like “weir” near the bottom, just before it met the trail along the river.



At the river’s edge the trail became more difficult…there were willow branches to push away and rock slides to cross as we trod downstream to the inlet. And once again, just before the turn in the river where the “M” stood, we hit a dead end.


Stay tuned…I’m not done yet!

Part three coming soon…

La Caja Pueblo Ruins – Part I…

SUBMITTED December 2015

My biggest dilemma: How can he “walk out into the desert” but stay “in the mountains north of Santa Fe?” How can the spot be described as both desert and mountains? I think the following picture visually explains it…


The most important question: What makes the place where Forrest secreted his treasure chest “Special” or “Dear” or “Fond of” to him?

Fenn says you have to look at the big picture. There are no short cuts…This means you have to use the entire poem to understand his special place… Then you must use the nine clues to locate the specific area: WWWH, the canyon, the hoB, the put-in, the heavy loads and water high, the blaze, and ultimately the treasure chest. I believe the poem describes an old pueblo ruin, even comparing it to his dig at San Lazaro. He has often referred to his favorite fishing places as “special places”, and finding pottery shards when he planted flowers at his former gallery/home as “special”. This area at Santa Cruz Lake combines both…

The Poem
As I have gone alone in there …And with my treasures bold: This means he went to the spot (his special place) at least twice, the first time alone is when he discovered it, the final time was when he took the treasure chest there. Bold implies he was somewhat exposed or out in the open when he hid the treasure, or just that he hid it in the afternoon in broad daylight. I walked across the mesa top in the picture above multiple times without seeing a soul, and the only way I would have been noticed is by someone specifically looking from the Overlook Campground mesa edge across the Debris Basin canyon/arroyo onto the top of this mesa. There are no trails there and absolutely no reason for anyone to be up there wandering around…unless you are searching for Fenn’s treasure or old Indian artifacts / pottery shards.

I can keep my secret where, And hint of riches new and old: “Riches new and old” describes an old pueblo ruin. Did Fenn find this pueblo before the archeologists? The first record of La Caja Pueblo site was in 1973, a year after Fenn moved to Santa Fe…hmmm. (Tony Dokoupil wrote in 2012 “From the sky, he (Fenn) learned to spot ruins by the pattern of cacti.”) Is this where he can keep his secret? Is one of his secrets that he visited this place before the archeologists? Is the word “hint” implying his treasure chest is not on top the un-excavated pueblo but near it? Is his special place and the treasure on top the mesa across the river/inlet from La Caja Pueblo? Where he could sit in solitude and look and imagine the inhabitants from 800 years ago?

One of the hints in the book TTOTC which might help unlock a clue is Fenn wrote that he and Eric Sloane as his co-pilot used to fly just above the tree tops between Santa Fe and Taos. I drew a straight line between the SF and Taos airports, not the towns themselves. This area is dead-on the line. This also supports the supposed quote from Fenn when he said not only do you need a good map, you need the “right” map.


Begin it where warm waters halt: The Santa Cruz Watershed specifically at the confluence of the Rio Medio and Rio Frijoles. Both these rivers flow west out of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and eventually flow through a wide valley where the waters slow down and warm from the abundant sunshine. At their confluence at the Cundiyo bridge, they hesitate as they combine into one river which now becomes Rio Santa Cruz, makes a turn in direction and begins the way down the narrow La Caja Canyon (also called Rio Santa Cruz Canyon on some maps) where the flow hastens and the water becomes colder due to little sunlight hitting the water through this narrow canyon.

I believe another hint in TTOTC which will help unlock the clues is the word “warm”, when Forrest describes the kids that touched the bronze and said it felt cold (because their hands were warm.) Fenn’s description of “warm” waters is about temperature but relative to the temperature later on downstream.


And take it in the canyon down: La Caja Trail through La Caja Canyon. This trail dead-ends 1/2 mile downstream from the trailhead (at the bridge over the Santa Cruz River near Cundiyo) at a point along the north side of the canyon due to steep terrain. You can wade across the stream here and pick up the trail on the other side to continue down the canyon…or drive around and “put-in” below the Debris Basin, where you follow a trail and eventually walk through the arroyo to the river’s edge.

Not far, but too far to walk: This means there is a road CR503 to the “Put-in” spot instead of dangerously wading across the river where the trail dead-ends.

Put in below the home of Brown: I believe the home of Brown is the un-excavated La Caja Pueblo ruin which sits on top the mesa at the edge of the cliff overlooking La Caja Canyon. I have two different places to “put-in” that lead to the same location, sort of. The traditional phrase “put-in” refers to the boat ramp or put-in at Santa Cruz Lake. Years ago, there was even a place to rent boats there. Forrest’s friend from Texas Laurens said (to our table of folks at the book- signing) that when he used to fish with Marvin Fenn and Forrest as kids, ‘Put-in” referred to where they got into the boat to go fishing. I do not believe Forrest used a boat to get to the hiding spot when he hid the treasure, though…The Laguna Vista Trail starts near the parking lot and boat ramp and follows the shoreline to the end of the lake where the Santa Cruz River enters, where La Caja Pueblo sits un-excavated at the top of the cliff edge there, just above the inlet. OR, the other “put-in” is at the Debris Basin area, which is my first choice, and ends up below the hoB, but on the other side of the river inlet. Or you could wade across the river (put- in) where the La Caja Trail dead ends and end up at this same spot.

From there it’s no place for the meek: From the Debris Basin area there is a trail part way to the river but then you have to follow the arroyo to the river’s edge (no human trail in close proximity), and you need a 4-wheel drive, high clearance vehicle to get to a place to park.

The end is ever drawing nigh: Hike up the “draw” to the top of the mesa if the chest is hidden on top and not along the shoreline.

There’ll be no paddle up your creek: The (dry creek) arroyo coming from the debris basin.

Just heavy loads and water high: The Santa Cruz Debris Basin whose purpose is to collect the debris (heavy loads) washing down the arroyo during heavy rains (water high), keeping it out of the river and lake.

If you’ve been wise and found the blaze: Wise = Y’s. Look at the big picture on a topo map. The confluence of the Rio Medio and River Frijoles make a Y with the Santa Cruz River. Further down stream towards Santa Cruz Lake, another Y is formed by the emergence of the debris basin arroyo where the Santa Cruz River then turns north, making another Y. Fenn wrote “If you’ve been wise and found the blaze…” which means you have already found the blaze by the time you get to the top of the mesa and the pueblo. Pictures of the blaze are later in this document.

Look quickly down, your quest to cease: Here Fenn tells you to “look”, not “dig” because it is not buried. Quickly down means close to the top of the mesa. Look near the edge…ff has stated in emails: “How will you know where the edge is if you don’t go out there and look?” “The hints are in the aberrations at the edges.”

But tarry scant with marvel gaze: You can see the road (CR503) from the top of the mesa here. You marvel as you gaze at how close (scant) this spot is to the asphalt (tarry) road. (SB70, Forrest wrote “…Esmeralda, who still glides the tartop…”

Just take the chest and go in peace: Means exactly what it says…the last of the nine clues. (Caja means box or chest in Spanish…hmmm. Is “chest” the word that is key?)

So why is it that I must go…And leave my trove for all to seek: Future archeologists who might excavate this site someday, find his bones, and the treasure chest.

The answers I already know,…I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak: Fenn spent 30 years excavating San Lazaro, until the ripe old age of 84, and knows the answers to why excavate.

So hear me all and listen good,…Your effort will be worth the cold: The cold is the loneliness when you search for the treasure, (or you waded across the cold river to get here) but he knows the end result will be worth it just like when he discovered the artifacts at San Lazaro…he is telling us “listen to me…I have already done this”, again implying the special place is an old Indian ruin.

If you are brave and in the wood…I give you title to the gold: Brave implies Indians (pueblos); in the wood refers to the old saying meaning aged, old which is the old pueblo. Title to the gold may be a reference that gives land owners title to archeology, putting artifacts in the same category as oil or gold (like San Lazaro).

Fenn statements:
Fenn said “some searchers have figured out the first two clues but didn’t understand the significance of where they were, and went right past the next seven.”

“Some folks correctly mentioned the first two clues to me in an email and then they went right past the other seven, not knowing they had been so close.” They figured wwwh is confluence of Rio Medio and Rio Frijoles, the two rivers of the Santa Cruz Watershed, that combine to make Rio Santa Cruz. They went downstream on La Caja Trail through the canyon, but it dead ends. What they didn’t understand is home of Brown is the un-excavated La Caja Pueblo which sits atop the cliff above the inlet where the Santa Cruz River enters Santa Cruz lake. They didn’t know they could skip wading across the river but instead drive to the debris basin area and walk down the arroyo to the river. Instead they drove around to the main entrance into the Santa Cruz Lake Recreation Area and parked where everyone else parks, thereby going “right past the other seven, not knowing they had been so close.”

“Some searchers have been within 200 feet of the treasure”. This statement stumped me for awhile, but I think the 200 feet distance is elevation. La Caja Trail and canyon where the Santa Cruz river flows to the lake is at 6500 feet, while the mesa above and treasure location is at 6700 feet.

Fenn said “there are a lot of places in the Rocky Mountains where warm waters halt and most of them are north of Santa Fe.” I believe warm waters has to be something obscure by Fenn’s definition but something common enough for many to occur, like the confluence of two separate rivers that combine to become a new river before flowing downward through a narrow canyon. Maybe Fenn considers the confluence of these rivers as “halting”, momentarily, when they combine and turn direction drastically to make one river. Or the wwwh refers to the Santa Cruz “water shed”.

SB116 Peek-a-Boo Art about the shower tiles. Is this a hint to warm waters (taking a shower) halting/draining, collecting water that’s delivered down stream? Is it a hint for his bathroom (water closet to Europeans. Does water closet mean water shed?)

SB115 Proper Dental Care about his tooth brushes. Again hinting warm waters draining, and includes a photo of his frog jar in his bathroom (WC).

SB99.5 I have rules: about his bathroom (WC)
SB98 Closet Stories: about his walk-in clothes closet. Is this the predecessor about the word closet (shed?)

Fenn said “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.” I believe the word that is key is chest, in Spanish caja (also means box).

Fenn wrote in TTOTC “So I wrote a poem containing nine clues that if followed precisely, will lead to the end of my rainbow and the treasure.” Does “rainbow” allude to the state record rainbow trout caught in 1999 at the end of the Santa Cruz river in the inlet where it enters the lake? Which is just below (in elevation) La Caja Pueblo.

Fenn said “People will be surprised when they find out where it is.” Because it is close to the road. And only about 25 miles north of Santa Fe.

Fenn said “When it’s found, people will say ‘why didn’t I think of that?’ “ Could be the key word caja.

“It seems logical to me that a deep thinking treasure searcher could use logic to determine an important clue to the location of the treasure…” He uses the word “deep” which suggests “elevation”. He often said you might as well ask him, how deep is a hole? IMO, this is the important clue to the location of the treasure…200 ft above La Caja Canyon/river.

“What surprises me a little is that nobody to my uncertain knowledge has analyzed one important possibility related to the winning solve.” I believe this to be the same…200 ft above canyon.

Fenn said: “The clues did not exist when I was a kid but most of the places the clues refer to did…” Santa Cruz Lake was finished in 1929. Some of the trails were developed later.

I warned the path would not be direct for those who had no certainty of the location beforehand, but sure for the one who did.” The path is not direct because the La Caja Trail dead-ends before you get below the La Caja Pueblo ruin. You can either choose to wade across the stream there to pick up the trail on the other side of the river, or drive to the Debris Basin area and walk down the arroyo to the river where you come out at almost the same spot.

Boots on the Ground

I started searching this area in late September of this year…I felt confident in most of the solutions to the clues beforehand, but couldn’t find a good, solid blaze prior to starting my searches. My original plan: hike all the trails in the SCLRA (Santa Cruz Lake Recreation Area, which by the way is governed by BLM), along with scouting the tops of the mesas that look across the Santa Cruz River inlet to the site where Google Earth shows La Caja Pueblo. Below is a picture using GE of one of my more interesting “blazes”…a martini glass! Forrest once said on Jenny Kile’s Six Questions More with Forrest Fenn: “It is important that I drink a martini at least once a year so I can continue to remember why I don’t like them.” La Caja supposedly sits above and just to the right of the rim of the glass.


Almost every square inch of the area in the picture above is fairly accessible, even for an “almost-eighty” year old physically fit man, except for the mesa top where La Caja sits (near the martini glass.) I’ve studied the sides of the canyon and the sides along the lake, looking for a way to hike up onto that mesa top. If Fenn hid the treasure chest on the un-excavated pueblo, I think he would have had to parachute in, or get there by helicopter and I am almost certain he did neither. This is why I think he wrote “And hint of riches new and old.” His treasure chest is a hint away…

La Caja Trail…
I found the small parking area on the north side of the bridge just beyond Cundiyo where the Rio Medio and Rio Frijoles merge, change directions, and proceed through the canyon.


The air was still and crisp that morning as Molly and I departed the truck…she anxiously climbed the log steps from the parking area to the trailhead as I gathered my pack and slid the handle of my rock pick under my waist band…The undulating trail started high above the river… it was narrow but easy to follow…we made a few stops along the river’s edge to take pictures… there were small waterfalls and deep pools along the way. Occasionally yellow leaves drifted lazily to the ground, making a soft amber mat beneath my feet.


We reached the beginning of the end of the trail, where the stream continued it’s flow through the canyon towards the lake…here the trail led us through thick clumps of willows that slapped across my face and grabbed at my hair like tentacles, as it started to rise up the canyon wall.


Molly and I went as far as we could go…we looked all around us for a blaze. There were various rock-outcroppings…if the sun hit just right, the rocks gleamed from the mica, glistening like diamond flecks…but none stood out. There were no petroglyphs to be seen, no owls (If you’ve been wise…) to contemplate…

We left after a short break and snack…but our day was not over.

The next part of the agenda was drive to the Overlook Campground and walk to the edge of the mesa where I could use binoculars to look at the top of the mesa where I thought the old ruins stood. Previously, I had seen whitish “rocks” or something from the distance but couldn’t tell what it was…

We paid our daily use fee at the station and parked in one of many empty campsites … only one site was occupied. I could see a nice big 5th wheel and pickup truck with Utah plates…hmmm, “maybe other treasure hunters” I jokingly said to Molly…but I really doubted it. It was quiet… there was no one around.

I picked the way across the sandy terrain, trying to be careful not to lead Molly into the low growing, creeping cacti that looked like patchwork on a giant quilt. All of a sudden we came upon this…a marker for aircraft, maybe? Did Fenn fly his plane over this exact spot between Santa Fe and Taos when he and Eric used to fly just above the tree tops?


As we approached the edge of the mesa overlooking the chasm between the two flat ridges, I discovered the folks from the campsite…their mountain bikes lay under a cedar tree and their yellow lab cautiously approached…the woman followed. I asked if the dog was friendly…yes. I asked its name…Ella (sounded familiar). We exchanged a few pleasantries…then her boyfriend/husband appeared holding powerful binoculars. I asked if they were treasure hunting…no, she is a rock-hound and they were looking for a way to get down into the Debris Basin arroyo. (It wasn’t JDiggins…I met her in person at the La Fonda book-signing a week before.) She said they’d just arrived in New Mexico three days ago.. I asked if they’d heard of Forrest Fenn…an immediate “no”…I said google him and treasure. I told her I thought the treasure might be in an old pueblo across the chasm, pointing to the top of the mesa. I told her they might as well be searching for Fenn’s treasure while they rock-hound around northern New Mexico. She asked again his last name…I replied Fenn. She said oh that’s easy to remember because my last name is Finn. Then Molly and I departed to go look through my binoculars at “the ruins…”

All of a sudden a sick feeling of deja vu overwhelmed me like a heavy veil…In my exuberance to pass along Fenn’s Thrill, did I just give away his special place and the location of the treasure? to another treasure hunter? They already had powerful binoculars and were looking the same direction I was about to look (See very first picture…my dilemma). If they were there for the same thing, I knew the race had begun…

Part Two



by Cynthia…


It’s been awhile since I sent you a search story…despite our wonderful face-to-face chit-chats over the past several weeks which I thoroughly enjoyed, I’d been in a funk when it came to going out on a treasure chest hunt. As other avid searchers have mentioned on the blogs, it’s quite difficult giving up one’s primary search area and finding a new one, but I knew that’s what I had to do. As you know I spent much of the last 12 months in Taos Canyon…exploring Soloman Spring, trudging through knee deep snow back OK Canyon, snowshoeing up the ridge on the east side of La Jara Canyon to the CNF boundary to see the Vietnam War Memorial through the trees in the distance, hiking up the trail-less Bull Spring Canyon to witness the panoramic view on top the high alpine meadow, and ultimately making a movie of these searches…

Then, Charmay invited us to your book signing party at La Fonda…what an event it was! I posted a comment on Dal’s blog acknowledging the joy of meeting Dal and many other searchers so I will not repeat that here. But what I do want to mention to you that I did not say prior was the brief conversation I had with Charmay…and the turning point in my mental state to start over with a new search place. I had never met Charmay prior but made it a point to introduce myself and thank her for inviting us searchers to the party. I wanted to be able to engage her in conversation so asked her about her role in San Lazaro. To my dismay, her reply to me was something like this: “In 1977, Forrest told me he had a place he wanted me to see.” (She said the name of a place and it was not San Lazaro.) She continued and said excitedly quoting you “It was here where he told me he wanted to die.” Well, trust me, when I heard those last few words, I about died…of a heart attack. I never expected to hear her say this…my memory is bad, but I tried to remember her exact words…I doubt that I remembered them precisely, but I know it’s close.

Me with Charmay...

Me with Charmay…

Which is what brings me to this story…Tsawari, the Tewa name for “white wide gap” named for the broad stratum or belt of soft whitish rock that crosses the Canada de Santa Cruz. On the south mesa lies the ruin of an old village of the Tano Indians, built by them after they left their ancient home in the Galisteo region (San Lazaro area), adjoining what now is the little hamlet of La Puebla. You’ve mentioned some of your special places as those involving finding old Indian artifacts, or pottery sherds…I felt it was time to take a recon trip to La Puebla and the Santa Cruz Lake area, to find out first hand if this is a feasible search area…and to rack my brain for solves to the poem’s clues…

I’d passed the turn-off from Hwy 84/285 onto CR88 oodles of times on my way to Taos, often noticing the sign pointing towards La Puebla but never thinking much about it. Today was different…I was delighted my route led me through a tiny village I’d never seen before, avoiding the dreaded slow-poking traffic of Espanola. The road through La Puebla was lined with lush foliage and large cottonwoods ablaze in their autumn splendor…the local folks gave a friendly wave as they drove past me, curiously staring as I teetered on top the guard rail with camera in hand…

Here the road crosses the Santa Cruz River…

La Puebla

Crossing the Santa Cruz River

The route left La Puebla and continued east on Rt 76 to Chimayo…I decided to turn south here and wind through the hills toward the southern end of the High Road to Taos, and then take the road into Cundiyo…

The picture below is looking back at Chimayo, near the famous Santuario…


Pic #4 Badlands

The picture above was taken near the spot where Jesse Chehak placed his tripod to photograph the badlands for the July issue of California Sunday Magazine article on Forrest. (I know because I had the privilege of driving him to the photo shoot locations.)

Below are pictures of Santa Cruz Lake: the first one is from the lookout…

Pic #5 Santa Cruz Lake

Pic #6 Santa Cruz Lake one

There were quite a few fishermen and women along the shore…I wondered if you’d ever fished here. I paid my day-use fee, properly placed the permit on the wind shield, and grabbed my pack and Molly to set off to hike around the lake…it was a glorious day!

Pic #7 Santa Cruz Lake two

I stopped and talked to the woman in the picture below…I asked if I could take her picture, yes, she replied. I asked her name…Shelbie. She offered that she was just learning to fly-fish…I found that fascinating since I didn’t know folks fly-fished in a lake (but that thrilled me since I thought that made it more likely you would have fished there years ago.) I told her I was treasure hunting…she wondered if it was for Forrest Fenn’s treasure. I just about did cart wheels along the shore…this was the first person in my almost 3 years of searching who knew your name and that you had hid a treasure chest. (She does not search, or at least I don’t think she did, until now!) I asked her what kind of fish were in the lake…she wasn’t sure and suggested I talk to one of the instructors. A few more steps along the shoreline and I met Phil, a retirement-age fellow who was teaching fly-fishing for the Santa Fe Community College. We chatted for awhile…I asked him about Browns but he said this lake was mostly Rainbows… hmmm…maybe your rainbow is trout. And the hoB is not Brown trout as many folks think…me not one of them. Anyway, he explained this was “still-water” fly fishing, I think. He said other trips/lessons included Cow River in the Pecos and the Rio Grande…another class would start next spring. I said I was interested…he also knew of you. I’m thinking a better approach to solving the poem might be to hang out with people full of information, instead of relying on the Internet…

Pic #8 Shelbie

Pic #9 Two guys fishing

My dog Molly and I continued our leisurely stroll along the lake…passing these fellows along the way…we chatted briefly and they proudly showed me all their fish on the string-thing (how’s that for technical fishing lingo…this is why I need to take lessons.)

I found a nice flat rock for Molly and me to eat our snacks…she spent time slopping in the edge of the water and sniffing inside the exposed tree roots above the receded water line. This would have been a good place to hide the chest…the roots looked liked mighty tenacles, longing to grasp “something”, like a 10 x 10 bronze box.

Pic #10 Molly

Unlike most search trips in the past when I had a specific agenda and was in a hurry, today I spent time just sitting on the lunch rock, enjoying the solitude of our private spot, watching a few kayakers in the distance paddle around the edge and three guys in an old wooden fishing boat lazily drifting around…I’m not even sure they were actively fishing but they looked like they were enjoying their time on the water…

Pic #11 wooden boat

Pic #12 Rio de Medio Canyon

Lastly, the picture above (taken from the over-look) shows where the lake goes back into the narrow canyon, where the Rio de Medio enters. There is a trail that descends from the lookout to the lake’s edge…I think I need to continue my exploration of this canyon…and spend time researching and analyzing and thinking about the poem.

I hope you enjoyed the story and pictures…I don’t know if you get the opportunity to go outside and drive around much anymore…maybe you prefer the comfort of your house and warm fireplace…

The place name that Charmay said to me has nothing to do with Tsawari…in fact, when I googled it, I had a difficult time finding anything about it…

And since winter is approaching and the search season is coming to a close for this year, I think I will make a lunch date with Charmay…she was charming, and I bet she has some great stories. I never heard how the two of you became friends, or maybe business partners…is this something you are willing to share?

Until next time, Cynthia

Post script: Forrest told me he never heard of the place name Charmay mentioned to me. Google only lists one place in New Mexico with that name, and it is a private ranch AND it is off the TTOTC map which makes it even more irrelevant. I agreed not to name this place on the blog for fear some searchers will trespass on this private property. Forrest guaranteed me he never told Charmay where he wants to die and that she knows nothing regardless of the implications. Please do not call Charmay at her home and interrogate her…she has been very upset with the recent deluge of calls. She doesn’t know who “Cynthia” is and doesn’t even remember talking specifically to me. Thank you for your understanding and please respect her privacy. cynthia