Desert Soliloquy…


desert soliloquy front cover

David Rice spent 29 months living alone in a cave in the desolate wilderness of the Avawatz Mountain Range (which borders the southeast side of Death Valley). “Desert Soliloquy; A Perfectly Sane Misanthrope Hides in the Desert” is like combining Walden with Blazing Saddles with a bit of  history about the East Mojave Desert. How David interacted with the desert and the people he encountered while living in his cave is the theme that binds the manuscript together. The memoir includes original research on the region and the historical people who passed through the East Mojave, and includes the most interesting historical events (such as the “last great gun fight” in the USA Southwest) in an easy, humorous narrative.

“I have read Desert Soliloquy by David Rice and I couldn’t put it down. It is a cynical, fabulous, outrageous, politically incorrect, foul-mouthed and absolutely hilarious modern-day Walden.” — Douglas Preston (Lost City of the Monkey God)

You can find out more and purchase the book at Amazon. Click HERE.

Here’s one of my favorite David Rice (aka Desertphile) YouTube videos..Wine from grape juice..HERE










Desertphile or Bust….


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

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

David Rice aka Desertphile

David Rice aka Desertphile

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

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

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

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

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

I told you he was a character!



Fennboree Report…

Submitted May 2014

The Fennboree was a fun event hosted by Desertphile on the weekend of May 16-17-18 at a remote ranch north of Santa Fe. This report was submitted by Bill who attended with his wife Sandra.


Fennboree (n.) – A gathering of searchers for Forrest Fenn’s treasure.Find all the picture pages. All pictures on those pages will expand with a click which will open in a new window. High resolution files are available to participants only for pictures in which they appear.Cast of Characters, using blog handles when available: (for more pictures, see Cast of Characters page)

  • Old Drum – Your author, aka Bill, from Missouri, on right – the photographer is always the one missing from the pictures.
  • Sandra-in-Missouri – Bill’s wife, Sandra.
  • Desertphile – Our host, of interesting history. Looks like an old desert rat, currently a ranch hand & jack of all trades at Gallina Canyon Ranch
  • Crayola John (not a blog handle) – Auto mechanic & inventor from New Mexico. Nickname given because he invented something to keep kids from swallowing Crayola marker caps
  • Tim Nobody (on right) – From New Mexico, works for the gas company and collects pin ball machines
  • Beachy (on left) – Tim’s wife
  • Grandma – Originally from Connecticut, now retired to New Mexico. Makes bracelets & key chains.
  • Gilbert (not a blog handle) – Friend of Grandma, former Navy SEAL. Wearing a neck brace because of a car accident.
  • Dal – Long time searcher and filmer from Washington state. Runs major blog at
  • Nick (not a blog handle) – Aussie contact of Dal who is filming the Chase for an Aussie TV magazine program.
  • CCJulie – A top wedding planner from Colorado, came down to search and enjoy. She brought her son
  • Brendan (on left in Julie’s picture) – Julie’s 13 year old son, quiet but smart.
  • Jim Hawkins – From Illinois, arrived Saturday afternoon with new wife Angie & youngsters Maggie & Zach.


When we first read of the Fennboree on Chasechat, we thought: “Yeah, that’d be fun.” After resolving a potential medical issue, we decided to sign up for the event. First, though, Bill went to Walmart & bought a tent & double-high queen air mattress, placed them in the back of the SUV, added our suitcases & cooler, and evaluated how much space remained. It fit, so we paid our money and planned our trip.

While it would have been ideal if we’d been able to search after the Fennboree, it was to be the last real stop on our trip since we needed to get back to Missouri and have our B&B ready for the Memorial Day weekend. We’d used Google Earth in conjunction with the Fennboree website ( to get a feel about how the site was set up; we’d been fairly close to it in 2013, when we attempted to get to the Monastery of Christ in the Desert. The Fennboree was held at Gallina Canyon Ranch covering both the Anasazi Ruin Camp & Wild Turkey Camp. The ranch runs along the mostly-dry Rio Gallina, in a wide canyon overlooked by imposing cliffs on both sides. The map link is – just zoom in.

Before the Fennboree, Desertphile put in a sweetener. He placed his “Faux Fenn” treasure, some old Navajo pawn with turquoise, somewhere in the vicinity of the camp – and wrote a Faux Fenn poem with clues to finding it. Bill read the poem, zoomed down with Google Earth, and said, “I can find this!”

We left on our trip on May 6th, visiting places like the Coronado Quivira Museum in Lyons, KS, the dinosaur trackway at Clayton Lake State Park, and the little town of murals at Mosquero, NM. After a few days in Taos, a couple in Santa Fe & Albuquerque, and a visit to Chaco Canyon, we left Cuba, NM, bright and early on May 16th for Fennboree. A quick stop for milk at Bode’s in Abiquiu and north on US-84 to the forest service road that would take us there. The road was rough except when close to the Chama, and we had 8 miles of it until we reached the curiously-named skull gate. Bill figured out how the lock worked, opened the gate to let the SUV in, closed it, and we drove up an even rougher road to the ranch.

We got to the Fennboree site about 11 AM – it was easy to tell that we’d arrived with the prominent Fennboree sign. Desertphile met us and said “camp anywhere.” We’d made a deal with Tim Nobody that he’d handle our food, so we needed to be near where he could park a trailer-tent. That was the Anasazi Ruin Camp, with an actual shelter building (the Wild Turkey Camp shelters were gazebo canopies). It also had a shower with cold and warm (propane instant water heater) water, and an airy 2-hole outhouse – called airy because the back was open from top to shoulder height and the door was a slatted gate with an “interesting” sign. We set up our tent on the west side of the shelter and blew up the air mattress with the blower. First oops – the mattress wouldn’t go through the tent door until we let out a lot of air, which made it rock and roll like a half-full water bed. About that time, Tim Nobody arrived and pulled into his recommended parking place. He got a little too close to a log and got to reattach his front plastic bumper after Bill worked the log out from under his car. He set up his rather unique trailer tent, pulled out his kitchen area, and set up a canopy. Second oops – a gust of wind flipped the canopy. After we got it back in place, that offending log did penance by acting as an anchor.

We now said to ourselves, “It’s time to go find that Faux Fenn treasure.” We followed the plan Bill had come up with and walked to the high bank over the Rio Gallina, then followed the bank upstream until we found a gently-sloping ravine leading down to the stream. We then went downstream until we found a good place to climb out on the north side, climbed the bank, looked around, found some baling twine leading running up into a tree. Below where the end of the twine frayed away, we found a peanut butter jar with the necklace & brooch. We put a $5 bill in the jar and tied it to the tree, and started to return to camp. Once back in the stream bed, we found a partial elk skeleton and a big hunk of white rock, which was later identified as travertine limestone.

On our return, we discovered more people had arrived. We’d previously met Crayola John and now Grandma & friend Gilbert were setting up a tent under some trees not too far from the Wild Turkey Camp outhouse – the one with no door whatsoever. Bill helped them restring the supports, while Sandra moseyed back to the SUV to properly store her find. Before long, another car rolled in. This was CCJulie and son Brendan. They set up a family-size tent in the Wild Turkey Camp area.

During this time, Dal showed up with Aussie TV Magazine reporter Nick in tow. Nick interviewed almost everyone there at the time on how they got into the Chase, how much they’d searched and what their thoughts were on it. He also shot the “Shrine” set up by Desertphile. Dal discussed the latest revelation by Forrest Fenn (Where Warm Waters Halt is unrelated to a dam) and the information about Ojo Caliente and Tres Piedras that he since posted on his blog ( They had to depart, as Dal had to be at work Monday in the Puget Sound area and Nick needed to go to Phoenix for another story. I hope his You-tube video will include out-takes, since he did a lot more filming than needed for a 15 minute program.

Back at Anasazi Camp, Tim fired up his propane oven to cook some pizza. Here came the wind again, and made it rather difficult to keep the oven at the proper temperature. The top was tasty but the crust wasn’t very crusty. I guess we can call that oops #3. Oops #4 was the so-called ‘shark tank,’ a rather large stock tank in which we had expected to freeze our unmentionables off until the sun heated the cold spring water used to fill it. Desertphile, after the cold & snow earlier in the week, had guessed that the weather wouldn’t be warm enough for anyone to want to use it, so didn’t fill it – then a strong south wind raised the daytime temperatures well into the 80s (had he filled it, we might have seen whitecaps in a stock tank).

As evening approached, plans to sit around a fire, roast marshmallows, swap lies and consume adult beverages came to naught. A burn ban was in effect for the whole area, and understandably so. After some idle chatter, which did not relate to the Chase, all retired to their camp sites. We spread out our blankets on the jiggly air mattress and crawled in. Did you know it gets COLD at night out there? Especially when the wind keeps blowing? The air mattress offered no support when it came time to crawl out for that midnight visit to the airy outhouse, and leg cramps from thigh to ankle resulted. Sandra eventually ensconced herself in the back seat of the SUV, while Bill snuggled as best he could into the remaining blankets.

Morning came, with relatively calm winds. Tim was making breakfast, bacon & scrambled eggs to go into breakfast burritos. He had Bill do the eggs, not always a good idea. Sandra went for the burrito, enhanced by green chiles, while Bill savored the bacon and pushed the eggs around on his plate – should have added green chile!

After breakfast, it was time to head for the Rio Gallina and some photos while the morning light softened the harsher aspects of the landscape. Others picked this time to go hunting for the Faux Fenn replacement treasure. Bill had told Desertphile of his find, and Desertphile had added a Treasure Hunter charm bracelet to the trove. Two bracelets had been donated by “Deb” (blog handle), who couldn’t attend, to be awarded to deserving campers at Desertphile’s discretion. After reaching the Rio, Bill went upstream to photograph more views of the mountains and a red outcropping he’d noticed the previous day. Sandra went downstream to take more pictures of the elk skeleton. Desertphile stayed in camp waiting on another camper, Jim Hawkins, who’d intended to get there fairly early (boy, did he miscalculate). Julie and Brandon had driven off to the area of the Monastery, planning to look for Fenn’s treasure upstream from there on the Chama.

As afternoon came, the replacement Faux Fenn treasure had not been found, so we sat around the Wild Turkey Camp discussing the Chase and clues and hunts done and planned. Meanwhile, Jim Hawkins, with new wife Angie and two younger children (Maggie & Zach), finally arrived and set up their tent well down toward the Rio. While the rest of the campers chattered, Tim’s wife, Beachy, said she was going back to Anasazi Camp to take a shower. About 4 PM, Desertphile declared it was time to start supper, and the adventure of starting propane stoves in strong winds was underway. Tim returned to Anasazi Camp to make green chile stew, while Grandma started to thaw her frozen meatballs to complement the spaghetti planned by Desertphile.

About that time, Gilbert came into camp and said he’d seen Beachy heading down the exit road, tried to follow her but she was moving out too quickly. Bill and Desertphile jumped into Desertphile’s truck and started after her, soon meeting Gilbert who said her tracks had left the road someplace & he could no longer find them. Desertphile drove down the road, and verified no further tracks, then went the other direction, again finding a lack of tracks. Then we all decided to think a bit. We went back to camp and checked shoeprints to positively identify Beachy’s tracks. Tim went off with Desertphile in the truck while Bill took the Tim’s stew to the other camp. Meanwhile, Julie and Brendan had heard what sounded like a cry for help from way up in a side canyon.

More thinking – we found that Bill had two radios and Julie had two radios – but they weren’t compatible. We left one of Bill’s at camp with Sandra and Bill took one of each, while Julie used hers. Back to the road and we again heard, faintly on the wind, “help, help,” so Julie and Brendan started up one trail, Bill another, then came Desertphile. We met in the woods, Bill decided he was too old and too much a flatlander to climb further, so he stayed in one place as a relay. Beachy called out just enough for the searchers to home in on her location, way up the side of a steep slope near a cave (she later said “I heard a growl.”). Bill relayed the news to camp and eventually the rescue party returned with Beachy. It was time for an adult beverage or two!

Dinner was restarted, this time without interruption, and a couple of bottles of wine made their appearance. Desertphile presented one of Deb’s bracelets to Julie in thanks for her efforts in finding Beachy that day, along with a Fennboree mug and Fennboree playing cards. Brendan had earlier locked Julie’s keys in the car, but Crayola John had the knowledge to get into the car and rescue her from a bad situation, given the distance from “civilization.”

Night came. We had torn down our tent, re-aired the mattress, and moved to an area inside the shelter. That didn’t help a lot, as the wind continued and we were still cold. The only thing that kept us warm was a good snuggle. About the only improvements in our situation were that the bed was more stable and the muscle cramps when getting up were milder. Naturally, we woke up early, emptied the mattress and loaded everything in the SUV to prepare for an early departure. Tim had made cinnamon rolls, which were very tasty.

We went over to the main camp, where Julie had again failed to find the Faux Fenn treasure (she hadn’t gotten the emails with the poem in advance so hadn’t pre-scouted as I did). Bill said, “I’ll show you” and led Julie & Brendan down the crossing, down the Rio, up the other side and to the proper tree. Meanwhile, Sandra won the T-shirt awarded for naming the Wild Turkey Camp shower. Satisfied, we returned to camp. After farewells, we pulled out about 9:20 for the trek back to a main road – with a stop to pick up a box of those blue rocks we found along the road. Our route included a trip through the Brazos mountains, through Taos & Cimarron to Raton, arriving dead tired a bit after 4 PM.

Later, we learned that the Faux Fenn replacement treasure had not been found, and that Desertphile had awarded the bracelet to Crayola John for unlocking Julie’s car. For anyone who wasn’t there but thought they could have found the Faux Fenn treasure had they been able to attend, here’s the poem and my interpretation of the clues:

[1] Begin it where cold waters halt – Cold water runs into the “shark tank,” where it is warmed in the sun.

[2] Forsake Orion’s winter cold, and
[3] Set out towards the House of Bear – Orion is in the southern sky in the winter; Polaris (north star) is in the constellation Ursa Minor (the little bear). My interpretation was that I should go north from the location of the “shark tank.” Since this couldn’t be done directly because of a fence and a steep creek bank, I used Google Earth to approximate where the line would run.

[4] 36.37 is the altitude, not the azimuth – Interestingly, it’s also the approximate latitude of the ranch. However, I thought it would be about 36 feet over the stream bed. This may not have been exactly correct since the jar containing the treasure was originally hanging from a tree branch.

[5] The six points will stump you – I didn’t find this clue, which was a 6-point shed elk antler on a stump, with an arrow beneath it pointing toward the treasure.

[6] But it won’t be for long:
[7] Your effort will be worth the cold [feet]. – This told me it was across the stream. As it happened, the water level was low enough to cross on rocks.

[8] Visit the home of Little Joe.
[9] Then talk to Adam, or Hoss, or Ben. – The “Bonanza” connection is unmistakable. They lived on the Ponderosa. I used Google Earth to look for a clump ponderosa pines as near to the north of the “shark tank” as possible.

[10] Look slowly up, – I thought I’d find it attached to the tree, but didn’t expect it to be hanging. As it turned out, the twine had frayed & the jar had fallen.

[11] Tarry scant, just open the chest.
[12] I give you title to the turquoise. – Sandra put it with her other prized Southwestern jewelry.




© 2014, Cedarcroft Enterprises.