A Straight Forward Colorado Solve……

leadville train

September 2019

By Aaron R.

 

A little preface before I get into my solution.  I based my solve primarily on the poem, giving it as straight-forward a reading as I possibly could—no hidden meanings or code-type solutions.  I don’t know whether this is the correct approach, its just the only one I was smart enough to attempt.  I ended up with no Indulgence, but perhaps some of my thoughts will aid my fellow searchers.  In any event, I was able to take my first ever trip to the Rocky Mountains which was a beautiful and spiritual experience beyond my ability to put into words.  Also, I didn’t take as many pictures of the clues as I would have liked, sorry.  In any event, here it what I came up with:

“Begin it where warm waters halt”— I chose Leadville Colorado. Just above Leadville is a point where three major watersheds halt (waters). All of these watersheds eventually end up in the Gulf of Mexico (warm). There is also a major molybdenum mine at this point (riches new) and this was a popular area for gold mining during the Colorado gold rush (riches old). Also, as other searchers have noted, Leadville is the highest incorporated town in the US– 10,200 feet. There is an airstrip and a hertz rental so Forrest could have hidden the treasure in a single day if he flew himself up. Finally, Forrest said he followed the clues when he hid the treasure. Any way you drive from Leadville you will, by necessity, have followed the clues.

“And take it in the canyon down, Not far, but too far to walk.”–  For the longest time I was thinking that the canyon started right at WWWH and that you took it in the canyon not far, but too far to walk.  After reading for the 1,000th or so time, I saw a different possibility.  “Not far, but too far to walk” refers to “down”, as in the canyon itself is located some distance away from WWWH.  I choose the canyon just below Red Cliff, Colorado.  

20190830 115412

Its about 21 miles from Leadville, too far to walk, but a fairly short drive.  One feature I liked about this canyon is that a road runs along its rim—about 500 feet up from the bottom.  Plus, its easily accessible via abandoned railroad tracks.  Another bonus that I didn’t realize until I was walking the tracks is that red raspberries grow along the entire canyon, and they were ripe as I made the hike.  Perfect Snacking!

20190830 114300

“Put in below the home of Brown.”—This is one I’m really upset that I didn’t take a picture of, but I’ll show the satellite photo that attracted me to the feature:

20190903 170458

I noticed that the cliff side had a very particular shade of brown coming down from the top.  In person it is even more dramatic.  To me it appeared to be as close to a “true” brown as you can get.  I did some research and the color is emanating from an abandoned mine called the Champion mine.  The primary mineral mined from Champion was siderite.  Siderite’s primary use is as pigment for brown paint.  To me, this sounded like the mine is the “home” of “Brown”—literally the color brown.  As for the capitalization, I’m not sure.  Maybe its because he was personifying Brown by giving it a home, maybe it’s a poet’s way of saying “brown” itself—the color.  In any event, it’s the best “home of Brown” I had come across that wasn’t related to a person.

“From there it’s no place for the meek,

The end is ever drawing nigh;”–  I’m not sure if there are two clues here, or just one.  I had identified Petersen creek from satellite photos as the place I wanted to go.  I had no idea if I could get up there safely from the canyon.  Luckily, it turns out that I could.  I believe that “no place for the meek” means that its time to leave the comfortable path—in this case the railroad tracks.  Just below the Champion mine, the side of the canyon gave way and I was able to head up into the trees.  It was off to the left, but I’m not sure if nigh is a clue for turning left or not, but a left turn into the brush is what I made.

“There’ll be no paddle up your creek”–  Petersen creek drops steeply down the canyon wall.  No paddling or even wading up this creek.

“Just heavy loads and water high.”—As I made my way up towards the creek, I could hear rushing water before I even arrived.  There were several smaller waterfalls and huge boulders on either side of the creek.  

20190830 122155

The picture doesn’t do it justice.  You can barely see it, but the waterfall continues above, through the branches.  This is about 200 feet up from the railroad tracks.

At this point I was pretty jacked.  I can honestly see how people get hurt looking for the treasure given how I was acting at this spot.  All though of personal safety was out the window.  Although it wasn’t life threatening, I could have easily broken a leg scrambling over rocks and criss-crossing the stream looking for a blaze.  Full. On. Treasure Mode.

Then I saw it.  I looked up and saw this large rock looked EXACTLY like a face.  I jumped because it was so startling.  Of course, I took a picture of it, and of course the picture was nowhere on my phone when I had left the area.  Sorry.  I climbed up– not too difficult—and looked all around.  Over, under, sideways, standing on top looking down, sitting on top looking down, sitting underneath . . . and on and on.  Nothing.  

I only spent about an hour looking over the area, but it wasn’t too large of a spot.  No other signs of a blaze (maybe I’m not wise enough) and no chest.  There were remains of mining structures in the area and signs of recent rock falls.  If the chest had been hidden at this spot, there’s no way one could be comfortable that it would remain intact for 10 years, let alone 100.  Plus I couldn’t see any mountains given how narrow the canyon was.  Still, it was pretty exciting.  I felt like I found things that could have represented 8 clues, but close doesn’t count in the chase.

Maybe someone will read something here that helps them find the treasure.  As for me, I might be done.  My only goal in this was to find a spot where the treasure could be located and go on an adventure to try and find it.  Mission accomplished!  

Aaron R.

 

 

 

 

 

Below the Trout Line…

bbfmca

August 2019

By FMC

 

Title reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PcMx7o2_L7I

Disclaimer: If you’ve read my previous two solves, “Going to See the Elephant” and “Crouching Flyer, Hidden Canyon”, you should know by now that this is going to be long. Get comfy.

2nd Disclaimer:  The majority of this was written in between my 2nd and 3rd BOTG in this area.  Where I have updated based on additional research during this interim, I will note so as to try and keep the evolution of the solve understandable/consistent.

“Eddie Dean blew breath into the key-hole of his memory. And this time the tumblers turned.”

– Stephen King, Wizard and Glass

How I Came to This Solve

For those that have been around the Chase for awhile, you may or may not remember my attempt to catalog and share potential specific WWWH. I had a website to submit them, but it didn’t get much traction and consisted mainly of those I culled from solves posted here on Dal’s and from my own ideas. Shortly before I gave up on it, the map looked like this:

1 Warm Waters Found Map

I also had a picture where I overlaid the TFTW map and it looked pretty sweet, IMO, but I couldn’t find that image so… sorry.

One of the last ideas I added to the list was all of the ski areas in the search area, thinking that melting snow/spring runoff halting the skiing season allowed for some poetic interpretation to WWWH, but wasn’t too far out there (like tears, blood, etc.) At the time (late 2017), I couldn’t find any ways to make the rest of the clues fit and I wrote off the idea. After my 2018 solve, which relied on “canyons” formed by the boundaries of wilderness areas, national parks, etc., I came back to the ski area idea to see if there were any fits with this new “canyon” interpretation.  One of the ski areas I looked at… was Red River Ski and Summer Area in Red River, NM.

The Red River area and in particular, the Red River Fish Hatchery as home of Brown, have been considered as potential clue solutions since the early days of the Chase. Cynthia referenced her first BOTG trip to the hatchery 4 years prior to this post from 2017: https://dalneitzel.com/2017/02/11/method_madness/

Dal looked in this area as well: https://dalneitzel.com/2013/03/23/looking-in-new-mexico/#comment-27093

The Wolf covered this area along with Taos in his book/posts and who could forget the infamous Goose Lake “photo of the Treasure Chest”: https://www.abqjournal.com/499766/man-says-he-found-then-lost-fenn-treasure.html

But my canyon down and home of Brown interpretation are different from anything online… could one of these early searchers in the area be the one “within 200 feet”?

A Few More Things on Red River, NM

Before we get into the rest of the poem, a few items (warning: possible confirmation bias) that point to Red River as a possible location. Some/most of these are not “new” revelations, but I’m not hunting down who/where they were first discussed to give credit… claim it as you see fit.

  1. 1)Red River and environs are in the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. Sangre de Cristo is Spanish for “Blood of Christ” which has ties to the “My church is in the mountains and along the river bottoms…” quote.
  1. 2)Also, using the map in TFTW and the latitude lines, Red River is more directly “North” than a lot of the rest of the search area.

1a Map Lines

  1. 3)Where it’s located in the mountains, Red River is one of the two closest getaways for Texans to escape the summer heat (this was born out by my BOTG trips and confirmed by multiple people I talked to). This ties to the target audience for TTOTC per FF: “Every redneck in Texas who has lost his job, has a wife and 12 kids, a pickup truck and a sense for adventure.”
  1. 4)There’s the obvious tie of Red River to “so we laughed and drank red tea” from Tea with Olga, but just south of Red River is Black Mountain – “so we sipped black tea and nibbled on Oreos”. Two of the three colors referenced in the story tie clearly to features in this area (we’ll come to “green” shortly).

2 Black Mountain

  1. 5)Ties to “treasures bold” and “hint of riches new and old” in the names of the Chairlifts at Red River Ski Area. As you can see, we’ve also got our third tea color.

3 Chairlifts

I would argue that gold, silver, and copper would be “riches old” while platinum, which, while discovered long ago, only recently became a popular option for jewelry (source: https://eragem.com/news/the-history-of-platinum-jewelry/) would be “riches new”.

  1. 6)The Ski Area in general as WWWH and the “nearly all are north of Santa Fe” comment from FF.  Obviously, most ski areas are north of Santa Fe, but there are a few that are south of Santa Fe (Sandia Peak and Ski Apache, for example).
  1. 7)This one’s admittedly a bit more tenuous, but in my last solve, I discussed the potential image hidden in the picture on page 28 of TTOTC in the story, Bessie and Me.

4 Shadowsv

And in the following, Flag Mountain (Flag) and Red River (Car/Truck) seem to match up pretty well, including the gap under the car/truck and the gap in the road just south/east of Red River. The man fishing is a less clear, but could be the end of the designated special trout waters (at the border of the Carson National Forest as per: http://www.wildlife.state.nm.us/download/publications/rib/2019/fishing/2019_20-New-Mexico-Fishing-Rules-and-Info.pdf) or, though the distances don’t match up well, the popular fishing area around Eagle Nest Lake.

5 Shadows Interpreted

Post-BOTG #2/Pre-BOTG #3 Interim Update #1

In looking more closely at the New Mexico Fishing Rules linked above, and the “Warm Waters” section more specifically, I noticed the Red River City Ponds listed, with one of the ponds “open only to anglers 12 years of age and younger and anglers/individuals with disabilities” which has some ties to the FF quote “I think kids have an advantage”.  Looking at the map, the city ponds are located right next to the Ski Area and the start of the Pioneer Creek Trail.

5a RR City Ponds

It’s possible that these city ponds are WWWH (people stop to fish in the warm water ponds) and the rest of the solve proceeds from here instead of the Ski Area.  Assuming the same general warm water definition (ponds, lakes, etc.) it would still hold true for the “nearly all of them are north of Santa Fe” comment.

Begin It Where Warm Waters Halt

With our general WWWH identified, there are various interpretations for “Begin it” and “take it in the canyon down”. These are as follows:

6 Begin It WWWH

  1. 1)“It” as the Pioneer Creek Trail down (South) from Red River Ski and Summer Area (primary focus).
  2. 2)“It” as the beginning of NM-578 (splits off from NM-38 which runs through town) and runs down (South) through the “canyon” formed by the borders of the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness (left) and the Carson National Forest (right). I will touch briefly on this route later.
  3. 3)“It” as the chase starting from Red River in a more general sense and down as lower in elevation to the West along NM-38 (I will come back to this in more detail later as an interesting backup solve).

Note: I’m sure everyone is familiar with FF’s “gut feeling” comment (link: http://mysteriouswritings.com/six-questions-with-forrest-fenn-and-the-thrill-of-the-chase-treasure-hunt-double-charmed/) from the 2018 edition of “Six Questions” and the update from June 28, 2018 where his “gut feeling is wavering” (link: http://mysteriouswritings.com/featured-question-with-forrest-fenn-and-the-thrill-of-the-chase-treasure-hunt-gut-feeling/). Potentially related to this is a partial forest closure for Carson National Forest, including the Questa district, of which this entire search area is part of. The closure was announced on June 25, 2018 and became effective on June 27, 2018 (link: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/carson/news-events/?cid=FSEPRD584852). The closures were lifted in early July and lesser restrictions (no fires of any kind) were put in place.

Post-BOTG #2/Pre-BOTG #3 Interim Update #2

After returning from BOTG#2 and after deciding I needed to make one more trip for BOTG#3, I ordered Cynthia Meachum’s book, Chasing Fenn’s Treasure, which you can read more about and order here: https://store.bookbaby.com/book/Chasing-Fenns-Treasure.  I have long respected Cynthia’s efforts in the Chase and have said more than once that of all the other searchers, she’s the one I think most likely to find the chest. Her blog is well worth reading as well: http://www.chasingfennstreasure.com/.  

I referenced before her visit to the Red River Fish Hatchery in early 2017 and in Chapter 9 of her book, she details her Boston Acres/Middle Fork Lake Solve from later in the Spring of 2017 (similar to a solve area I looked at as part of my 2nd interpretation of “it”).  Towards the end of the Chapter, however, she outlines a series of connections she makes from FF Scrapbooks, Vignettes, etc. to this general area and also along Highway 38 west of Red River, all of which were made from early March 2017 to the end of April 2017, while she was looking in this area.  I’m not listing them here – buy her book if you want to see the details. She even provides a picture of her thumb tacks/tags on her map in the book.

6a Cynthia Map

Included with the permission of Cynthia Meachum.

Prior to reading her book, I couldn’t connect her Red River Hatchery post to FF’s “gut feeling” comment as the post was from early 2017 and his “gut feeling” comment was made in February of 2018.  After reading her book and the connections I touched on above, I looked at the book as the link between the two and realized it became available in December of 2017, after the 2017 search season, and just before FF made his “gut feeling” comment.  It’s entirely possible he thought someone buying the book would continue on the path that Cynthia began.

“It” as the Pioneer Creek Trail

I liked the Pioneer Creek Trail the most as it starts directly at Red River Ski and Summer Area. Even more, it starts behind Arrowhead Lodge and we all are aware of FF’s story of finding his first arrowhead and of references to arrowheads in general. Also:

7 Pioneer

If you consider the definition, it’s easy to see a hint to this Trail in “As I have gone alone in there” (unlike some other hints, I don’t think I’ve seen this interpretation anywhere). Additional hints to “Pioneer” include the story in TFTW, the world lost its darling, on Amelia Earhart, who he calls a “pioneer aviator.” If you squint a bit, the story of blotting out Philadelphia with his thumb could be a callback to Jim Lovell, who did a similar thing in blotting out the Earth with his thumb on the first (Pioneer) trip around the moon (source: https://www.newsweek.com/earth-behind-mans-thumb-96783).

Not far, but too far to walk.

Here you can see another view (looking South) of the Canyon and the distance (just under 3 miles) to the parking area at the top of the trail.

8 Canyon and TFTW

Three miles is far shorter than the typical estimate of ~10 miles for NFBTFTW, but there is an elevation gain from 8,670 feet to 10,020 feet.

Disclaimer: This is a 4WD off-road trail, though not an overly technical one. I did it with no off-roading experience twice in a Jeep and once in a large 4WD Dodge Ram (though all were stock rentals) and wouldn’t attempt it in anything smaller/less suited to this type of trail. I’m not going to get into the definition of “sedan” and whether or not this trail is excluded based on that comment. I will note that, based on Youtube videos of people going on this trail from years back and compared with my experience, the trail has deteriorated a fair amount since 2010.

Note: While it’s a hiking/off-road trail in the summer, it is also a snow-mobile trail in the winter which potentially speaks to the “probably retrieve it in any weather” quote from FF.

Put in below the home of Brown

I touched on the Fish Hatchery as a popular early HOB. For reference, in the following image, the Fish Hatchery is on the far left side, Red River is on the far right side, and Pioneer Creek Trail is marked in red:

9 Hatchery Latitude

How do we get below the Fish Hatchery along the Pioneer Creek Trail? Well, we’ve already started the process above, by looking at the big picture. 

The links between the latitude at the Fish Hatchery (36 degrees, 41 minutes, 0 seconds North) and FF’s father selling his ‘36 Chevy for a ‘41 Plymouth have been noted many times, but I like the clarity of Del Shannon in his piece (link: http://mysteriouswritings.com/where-warm-waters-halt-in-the-thrill-of-the-chase-treasure-hunt-by-del-shannon/):

“One evening, while re-reading the In Love With Yellowstone chapter I stopped after Forrest described his dismay after his father sold the families 36 Chevy for a 41 Plymouth. Why on earth was this such an important part of his life? And why didnt he use the numbers 19in front of these dates. Every other reference to a year in The Thrill of the Chase uses all four digits 1926 for example, the year his parents were married.

Forrests attempt at alarm over this car sale seemed insincere. After chewing on 36 and 41, which were details that seemed misplaced, and while using Google Earth to snoop around the Questa area, I noticed the latitude in the lower right hand corner. If I hovered the little electronic hand directly over the center of the village and it read 36 degrees, 42 minutes north. HmmmThen I moved it to the fish hatchery and it read exactly 36 degrees, 41 minutes, 0 seconds north. Holy crap!

10 Hatchery Latitude

Using a new interpretation of “below” (the word that is key?) with the Fish Hatchery’s latitude, you get this:

11 36 Degrees 41 Mins

And zoomed into the Pioneer Creek Trail, it crosses just above the “put in” – the parking lot/turnaround point near the end of the trail (circled).

12 Pioneer Creek Lat Line

Around where the latitude line crosses is also a section of the trail where the creek follows the trail and you basically drive into (alternative possible “put in”) and along the creek.

13 Jeep in Creek

It’s probably confirmation bias, but I see similarities to the cover of TFTW in the rocks/creek (it’s probably just how thousands of creeks in the search area look).

From there it’s no place for the meek

I maintain my simple interpretation of this clue – this is where we exit our vehicle and go into the wild (specifically at the parking area referenced above).

The end is ever drawing nigh

There are two possible interpretations for this line:

14 Drawing Nigh

  1. 1)Search the draw (geographical feature) on the left as you head further along the trail.
  1. 2)Continuing up the trail, you are getting closer (drawing nigh) to the end of the trail, which is gated off.

There’ll be no paddle up your creek

Obviously, there’s continuing along Pioneer Creek from the search area (both upstream and downstream as “no paddle up” could refer to the shallowness of the creek or which direction to take), but looking at a topo map of the area, there’s also a creek coming down from the draw.

15 Creeks

Just heavy loads and water high

For the Pioneer Creek route, this is easy – Pioneer Creek goes past a field of rocks dug out from when this area was mined extensively and goes up to Pioneer Lake.

16 Pioneer HLAWH

It’s less clear interpreting HLAWH up the draw’s creek.  There is the Bunker Hill Mine shown on the topo map, but “waters high” is a mystery… perhaps there’s a waterfall somewhere up the creek.  

17 Draw Creek HL

It’s also possible to interpret NPUYC and HLAWH as still being related to Pioneer Creek and the “no” being not to go that way and to go towards the “end” that’s “drawing nigh”.

200 Foot/500 Foot Searcher Test

For the “along Pioneer Creek” interpretation, I considered the 500 foot test to be anywhere along the actual trail, though most likely originating at the Parking area.  The closer 200 foot test would be if someone decided to go look at the creek or went further up the road to where the gate is.

18 PC 500 and 200

For the “searching up the draw” interpretation, the 500 foot line starts higher up the road closer to the gate. There’s a hiking trail on the other side of the ridge and the 200 foot line intersects would be for someone that went up that trail (possibly not searching).

19 Draw 500 and 200

BOTG for this Solve (Trips 1-3)

In and around the Red River area, I took 3 BOTG this past summer, and searched this area each time, approximately as follows:

20 PC BOTG

There were not too many “blazes” – this is probably the best one (from BOTG #1):

20a PC Blaze

I hoped to be done with this area after my second trip, but I was concerned on trip #1 that we (my wife and I) were above the draw and not in the draw and that we could potentially have missed something. I also considered the possibility that the gate could be the “end” that’s “drawing nigh” and that “no paddle up your creek” could be to not go further up Pioneer Creek and that a pile of rocks  on the east end of the parking area could be the blaze.  I would then apply my “look quickly down” interpretation of “quickly” = one second (of latitude), which is approximately 100 feet (for this location). “Down” could either be south or lower in elevation.

Once I got to the parking area on BOTG#3, I knew my memory of the rock pile had fooled me and that it was not the Blaze.  I searched up the draw again as outlined above, but did not look perpendicular to the rock pile.

End poem interpretation where “It” is the Pioneer Creek Trail

“It” as the beginning of NM-578 (#2)

6 Begin It WWWH

NM-578 starts towards the Southeast end of town and winds down through the Valley of the Pines.  There were three main areas I was interested in using this “it” – Goose Creek Trail (note: the hiking trail, not the off-road trail), the Middle Fork Lake Trail/Bull of the Woods Creek, and Sawmill Creek off of the East Fork Red River Trail.

These were less developed solves with more tenuous interpretations so I’m going to go over them a bit more briefly…

Goose Creek Hiking Trail

This used the same HOB methodology, with the latitude of the Fish Hatchery.  The Goose Creek Trailhead and parking area are the first “put in” below that latitude.

21 Goose Creek Overview

The trail crosses the creek in multiple places without any bridges (“worth the cold”) and the creek is shallow (“no paddle”).  It leads to Goose Lake (“waters high”) and is in the general direction of Gold Hill (“heavy loads”?)  On BOTG #1, I searched up the closest (“nigh”) draw and planned to search up the first draw with a mapped creek on the left side of the Goose Creek (“drawing nigh”) on BOTG #3, but I ran out of time (and also no longer thought it a likely hiding place for the chest).

22 Goose Creek BOTG

Note: There is a bridge that crosses Red River from the Goose Creek parking area to the actual trail that is Private Property. Historically, the land owner had granted hikers use of the bridge, but the property was sold in 2018, and while the new owners initially did the same, something changed in early 2019 that made them stop granting that access (Ranger theory was that there was some kind of altercation with a hiker).  Accordingly, the owners put up a sign that the bridge was Private Property and to contact the Questa Ranger District, effectively making the trail legally inaccessible (barring a sketchy water crossing of the Red River).  The Ranger District plans to get a legal right of way for the bridge based on historical use or build a new bridge further upstream, but the timing of either of those events is unknown.

Post BOTG#3 Note: The sign has since been removed.

Goose Creek Jeep Trail

Though it didn’t work for my HOB interpretation as the entrance is north of the fish hatchery’s latitude, I did consider this trail briefly, primarily because of the Goose Lake “photo” and, per the reporter who wrote the story, FF’s insistence that there wasn’t anything to it (which seemed out of character for him).  While  I never searched up this trail, this spot seemed the most likely, though it was approximately 1.6 miles up the trail (and with 1,000 feet of elevation gain) and I questioned whether it was further than FF would have gone.

22a Goose Creek Jeep

While this is technically a Jeep trail, I wouldn’t recommend going up it for safety reasons (see Travel Tips for Red River #3 at the end of this write-up).

Middle Fork Lake Trail

I tried to search this trail on BOTG #1, but it was still snowed in so I went on BOTG #2. HOB for this interpretation was Beaver Ponds (where marked below) on a map (that I can’t seem to find again). “Waters high” would be Middle Fork Lake.  I considered Bull of the Woods Creek as a potential “blaze” and wanted to get over to the base of it, but I couldn’t find an acceptable way across the river (and didn’t worry too much about it – if Doug Scott couldn’t get there, it probably can’t be done: http://www.dougscottart.com/hobbies/waterfalls/bullwoods.htm).

23 MFL Overview

I also went along the Elizabethtown Ditch for awhile.  Found a blaze or two and some tarry scant and even some marvel gazes, but no treasure.

24 MFL Collage

East Fork Red River/Sawmill Creek

This trail starts east of the Middle Fork Lake Trail with a lot of the same interpretations…  Creek in a draw going to the left, waterfall as “HLAWH” (source: http://www.dougscottart.com/hobbies/waterfalls/sawmill.htm), plus sawmill links to “in the wood.”  For my BOTG trip here, I misread where the actual falls were so I actually went past them without seeing them. I trust that since Dal was here, it’s been well-searched.

25 Sawmill Creek

End poem interpretation where “It” is the Beginning of NM-578

“It” as the Chase and “down” being in elevation along NM-38 to the West (#3)

26 NM38 West Overview

This interpretation started with the Columbine Creek Trail as an emergency backup for BOTG #2 using primarily the Fish Hatchery latitude idea for “below the home of Brown” and not much else in the way of solved clues once heading down the trail (this was born out by my hiking along it for awhile and not finding much else of note…)  I also wanted to re-check The Wolf’s foray up into Bear Canyon as he posted some interesting pictures and I just wanted to poke around/confirm he didn’t miss anything (details of his trips can be found on Chase Chat or by using the WayBack Machine or you can buy his book). As I understand it from his writing, he crossed via a fallen tree approximately across from Bear Canyon and then searched up into the canyon. 

27 The Wolf BC

I forget exactly how he came to this point, but I think I re-interpreted it as Bear Canyon being “home of Brown” with the canyon (on the left coming from Red River) as “drawing nigh”, the power lines as “heavy loads”, and the creek/waterfalls he found as “waters high”.  It wouldn’t matter, however, as I couldn’t find an acceptable way across the Red River.  This was the best option and even in the Dodge Ram, I wasn’t the least bit interested:

28 Hard Pass

Put in below the home of Brown

While I distinctly remember having this thought about FF’s potential playfulness while looking at Columbine Creek ahead of BOTG #2, I didn’t consider it a real possibility until after re-looking at the map ahead of BOTG #3…

Could the Chevron Moly Mine be “home of Brown”?

FF did say in an interview once that “you’re gonna have to solve the riddle that’s in my poem.” (Source: www.tarryscant.com; https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/isaac-cole/on-the-road-with-charlie/e/50089487)

Could this be a play on another popular “home of Brown” choice – the Molly Brown house in Denver (or associated Molly Brown-related places)?  I wouldn’t put it past FF to have it be just that.

It’s been pointed out before, but there are also possible hints to the Moly mine in the image of the Man with the Axe and Cutdown Trees on page 146 of TTOTC as there are no trees on the mine.

28a Moly Mine

With the connection (the Moly Mine as HOB) better established in my mind, I looked again at the area, and the road crossing the Red River from the image above (the closest “official” crossing) is just past (and below/lower in elevation) the entrance to the Moly Mine and is 8.8 miles from Red River (closer to the generally accepted TFTW distance of ~10 miles).

29 River Crossing Overview

30 8 8 Miles

Crossing the river, there are a number of possible clue interpretations, primarily with Bear Canyon as “no place for the meek” both in the not being afraid sense (bears) and also not being quiet (making noise to alert bears to your presence).  There is a small creek that goes up Bear Canyon (“no paddle up your creek”) as well as fallen boulders and waterfalls (“heavy loads and water high”) as identified by The Wolf.

However, there are also draws to the left (south/southeast of the “put in”) and on the left side of the river as you go towards Bear Canyon and Red River itself could potentially be “your creek” and there exist then the same “no paddle up” possibilities for the river being too swift to paddle against or meaning to go downstream.  There are power lines and rock piles/rocky outcroppings (“heavy loads”) all along this side of the river and a creek back towards Red River as potential “waters high”.

31 Options

And the 500 Foot/200 Foot quotes are only marginal help as the road and/or Red River (people fishing) provides cover for people being within 500 feet, while The Wolf’s search up Bear Canyon and searchers potentially staying at Goat Hill Campground/fishing the Red River south of the campground provide explanations for potential 200 footers. (Personally, I thought something up Bear Canyon was more likely.)

32 BC 500 and 200

BOTG #3 to Bear Canyon

In late August, the Red River flowrate was approximately half of what it was for BOTG #2 and I was able to cross without any difficulty.

33 Lower Water

I found the creek and proceeded up Bear Canyon along a trail (I couldn’t tell for sure if it was a human trail or a game trail):

34 Trail

And soon found The Wolf’s spot (and the Iron Bar from his adventure):

35 Iron Bar

(If that’s actually a piece of an old Spanish sword or something, well, you know where to find it…)

I continued up past the waterfalls and soon noticed that, despite going up the only possible canyon, the sound of running water had diminished and eventually disappeared.  As I’d previously considered a natural spring/something with water tables to be the reason behind the FF quote “physics tells me the treasure is wet,” I made a mental note to investigate further on my way back down.

A little further on, I came to a large rock with an overhang/gap on one side. Inside, the gap was filled with sticks (“in the wood”) and dead grass, which, as the gap was well above the creek and on the downside of the rock, seemed unlikely. 

36 Sticks in Gap

I cleared out the sticks and debris, but found no chest.

Continuing up the canyon, I happened to look up and see this:

37 Rock W

I’ve too young to have seen It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, but I’m aware of the “Palm Tree W” from the movie.  Could this be a “Rock W” and be the Blaze?  Given the angle, it’s certainly something that you couldn’t see from Google Earth (FF: “Google Earth cannot help with the last clue”).  I also estimated that it was approximately 200 feet from the trail I was on to the base of the cliff below the “W” – could that be why someone was able to get within 200 feet?

I hiked over/up to the base of the cliff, though I did notice there was still a faint trail to follow.  At the base of the cliff was an overhang with a decent enough view, some blackened (“tarry”) rocks, and some fragrant pine trees.

38 Decent View

But I soon noticed something else… the presence of climbers…

39 Climbers

Okay, I thought to myself, maybe the Climbers were the ones who were within 200 feet.  So I continued along base of the cliff, looking around larger rocks and at the base of pine trees.  I noticed a weirdly colored rock uphill a bit and went to check it out.  It was just a rock, but a little bit beyond that rock was a mine entrance, and in that mine entrance was a plastic bin with rocks on top of it.

40 Bin

 I doubted the treasure chest was inside, but maybe some gold from the mine? Something else interesting (and valuable)?  Not really… it was just climbing equipment that the climbers didn’t want to carry back and forth every time they came to climb.

I looked further around and saw more climbing equipment (carabiners and rock bolts) in the cliff face of the only other way to go and decided to head back.

I went further up the main trail a little bit, before deciding that I’d gone further than FF could have done to hide the treasure twice in an afternoon.  I regret not going a bit further as I think my side trips could have impacted my tiredness estimate relative to FF who would have known right where he was going.  One way, I estimate I hiked a little less than a mile with approximately 500 feet of elevation gain so there’s some potential still for anyone that wants to check further up into Bear Canyon.

On my way back down, I did locate the expected spring, which was just above the 2nd, approximately 3-4 foot, waterfall.  

41 Spring

I considered finding the spring possibly being related to “if you’ve been wise” with that waterfall as the Blaze, but couldn’t find a way to get to the area just below the waterfall.  I did look all around and below the spring itself, but didn’t find anything.

I did also search the dry creek/area southeast of the “Put in” and found a few potential “blazes” but not much else. This area seems like it gets more campers/visitors/high school kids drinking.  Exhausting that area, I called it quits and headed back to town for a beer.

Travel Tips for Red River

Should you find yourself in the area (hunting for the chest or otherwise), a few tips.

  1. 1)The bar at the Red River Lodge has some excellent musicians playing live music most nights from 6-9 (at least during the summer). I also splurged on a steak here one night and it was excellent.
  1. 2)Explore around for dinner as you like, but until you get tired of eating there, I’ll recommend the Major Bean Sandwich and Coffee Co. for breakfast and lunch. 
  1. 3)Unless you’re a very experienced off-roader, don’t go anywhere near the Goose Lake Off-Road trail.  Trail repair in the last several years has faced some serious budget constraints and it is currently unsafe (based on my research).  If you look for them, there are articles outlining approximately 1 death/year on this trail (from vehicles sliding off the road down steep embankments). A lot of the Jeep/off-road rental places in town don’t let you take their equipment on this trail at all.

Conclusion

After eight BOTG trips, zero injuries, and zero bears seen, I’m going to call my TTOTC a success, despite not finding the treasure.  Never say never, but I expect this to be my last solve attempt.  Frankly, I’m out of new ideas.  But in sharing my solves, maybe someone will use some of my ideas in their own solve (I have not applied my “latitude of Red River Fish Hatchery” and interpretation of “below” to the Lamar Ranger Station) or build upon my ideas with their own additions.

Good luck to everyone and please find it (closure would be nice) and thanks to Forrest for creating the Chase. I’ve had some good trips with family, some solid adventures, and a healthy dose of nature and I’m glad for the time I’ve spent in the Chase.

Cheers.

-FMC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crouching Flyer, Hidden Canyon…

by FMC

 

 

Disclaimer: This solve will probably be at least as long as my “Going to See the Elephant” solve so make sure you’ve got some time to read it all, grab a beverage, and get comfy…

2nd Disclaimer: I will be interspersing my thoughts on ATF comments throughout my solve, but I should point out that my solve came first from the poem/maps and I primarily used ATF items as confirmation (bias) for my solve. I will try to point out/identify possible Confirmation Bias (CB) where applicable.

How I Came to this Solve

I covered how I came to the Chase in my previous write-up so I’m not going to re-hash it here. For this solve, there were a few things that happened around the same time that led me to my WWWH. 

1) I was exploring the edge of Wyoming/Idaho on the basis of the Western Interior Seaway – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Interior_Seaway (as potential WWWH) in the following picture.

I was following the Snake River and ended up in Grand Teton National Park and then realized how close it was to Yellowstone.

  1. 2)I’d always skipped trying to find a solve in Yellowstone because of the number of people that have already searched there and because of the legal questions surrounding finding the TC in the park. But around this time, the following was posted on Dal’s site:

Which, combined with #1, made me reconsider the area (though I still didn’t think it was inside the park).

  1. 3)I took FF’s advice and focused on WWWH. I’ve long thought that the simplest explanation (especially given the warm “means being comfortable” ATF) is that WWWH is related to a hot spring. I also think the first two lines of the poem (“As I have gone alone in there And with my treasures bold”) point to a hot spring (“treasures bold” being a euphemism for skinny dipping and both lines hinted at in “river bathing is best” in TFTW). I’d searched the hot springs map – https://maps.ngdc.noaa.gov/viewers/hot_springs/ multiple times in each state, but this time, I took a different route – I Googled.

And I found hot springs outside of the parks that weren’t on the hot springs map.

Begin it where warm waters halt

There are multiple parts to this line so we’ll take them one by one. The above picture is from Huckleberry Hot Springs and I think the first article about it I found was this one:

https://www.jacksonhole.com/blog/getting-hot-in-huckleberry/

Looking at Google Maps of the area led me to a second, nearby hot spring (Polecat Hot Springs), which you can see in the top left of the image below. 

Full disclosure: both springs are now closed to people (effective 2014): 

https://www.tetonvalleynews.net/page2/two-popular-hot-springs-now-off-limits/article_6b954510-ed13-11e3-adc6-001a4bcf887a.html

So where do these warm waters halt?  Where they enter Polecat Creek or the Snake River? Nope. I think they halt (people) at Flagg Ranch – where you would park to go to them. So in this solve, my WWWH is Flagg Ranch. Now for “Begin it”. My “it” is the Ashton-Flagg Ranch Road (AKA Reclamation Road; AKA Grassy Lake Road) which starts at the intersection with US Hwy 89/US Hwy 191. For purposes of this write-up, I’m just going to call it the Flagg Ranch Road. All told, BIWWWH looks like this:

And just to give you a wider overview of where we are, we’re south of Yellowstone and north of Grand Teton:

The Word that is Key (Possible CB)

For this solve, the word that is Key is Key, as in Francis Scott Key, who wrote the lyrics that became the Star-Spangled Banner. 

From Wikipedia: “Key was inspired by the large U.S. Flag, (Flagg Ranch?) with 15 stars and 15 stripes, known as the Star-Spangled Banner, flying triumphantly above the fort during the U.S. victory.

FF also hinted at this Francis Scott Key/potential flag connection in TTOTC, in“Important Literature”- “If Robert Redford had ever written anything he probably could have done it better than the guy who wrote that Gatsby book.“ The “guy who wrote that Gatsby book“ would be F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was named after his famous second cousin, three times removed on his father’s side, and whose full name is Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald.

Deep Thinking Logic Clue (Possible CB)

Many have wondered about this ATF comment from FF. I think it relates to his motive to “get kids off the couch and away from their texting machines and out into the mountains. “ There are many places in the mountains where there is no cell service, so it would be hard to narrow the search area much based on this comment alone, but I suspect it’s more rare to be without both service and WIFI wherever these hypothetical kids are staying each night. From the Headwaters Lodge and Cabins at Flagg Ranch website:

And take it in the canyon down

So we’re on Flagg Ranch Road, but where’s our “canyon down”? Here’s where we need to “look at the big picture” and “have the right map”. In this case, the interactive map at www.wilderness.net:

https://umontana.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=a415bca07f0a4bee9f0e894b0db5c3b6

When we follow Flagg Ranch Road towards Ashton, ID (the only way we can go on it), and fill in the borders of the National Parks, you get this…

So we “take it” (Flagg Ranch Road) “in the canyon down” (I.e. down the road through the map canyon). 

Bike Hints

Flagg Ranch Road is part of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (section 2):

https://www.adventurecycling.org/routes-and-maps/adventure-cycling-route-network/great-divide-mountain-bike-route/

From TFTW, again in “river bathing is best” FF talks about riding his bike 20 miles to his secret bathing spot.  In ATF comments, on getting to the hiding spot, FF asks, “What is wrong with me just riding my bike out there and throwing it in the ‘water high’ when I am through with it?”

Not far, but too far to walk.

Put in below the home of Brown.

I’ll come back to “Not far, but too far to walk”, but essentially, we’re driving along Flagg Ranch Road towards Winegar Hole Wilderness, my home of Brown. For this clue, I think too many people focus on “Brown” and not enough on “home”. From the wilderness.net map:

So Winegar Hole was designated a wilderness area because it was prime grizzly habitat (North American Brown Bear).  Debate all you want about the capitalization of “Brown” – I’m not going to get into it here.

FF ATF: “The clues did not exist when I was a kid, but most of the places the clues refer to did.” Winegar Hole Wilderness was not a designated wilderness by Congress until 1984.

Logically, I initially found 2 “Put in” locations – the Loon Lake Boat Launch, and the Fish Lake Trailhead, both of which are just south of (below) Winegar Hole Wilderness.

From Flagg Ranch, Loon Lake is 19.5 miles away and Fish Lake Trailhead is 20 miles away – “Not far, but too far to walk.”

These two options to “Put In”are good and it’s possible to make the rest of the poem work with them (I’ll come back to these options later as back up solve possibilities), but there was something about an area just east of Winegar Hole Wilderness that I couldn’t let go of. The rest of the clues (and ATF) worked better – if I could only find a “Put in below” that worked.

Calf Creek/Calf Creek Hill

Before I get into the specifics of the rest of my solve, I want to explain that they evolved somewhat between my initial solve and each of my two successive BOTG trips (3 BOTG total). I’ll try to reference this evolution as I go through the rest of my solve by identifying my thought processes prior to each BOTG.  To do so, I’ll reference each trip as follows:

BOTG #1 – Northern Route to Big Cliff

BOTG #2 – Along the Creek

BOTG #3 – Headstone Check

Put in below the home of Brown

For each trip, my “Put in” remained the same – the trail just east of Winegar Hole Wilderness that led into the Wilderness, but the thought process for my HOB changed.

Prior to BOTG#1, I had actually modified the HOB I listed above (Winegar Hole Wilderness) to Calf Creek Hill itself, though I recognized at the time that Calf Creek Hill as HOB was tenuous at best.  

For Fenn so Loved a Cow (Possible CB)

From “Bessie and Me” in TTOTC:

I think for Calf Creek Hill as HOB, my interpretation was either Brown as the color of the Calf itself (How Now Brown Cow?) or some sort of poop (mudpie) related teenager-esque interpration based on “My mind stays at about thirteen.” from the preface to TTOTC. 

I also got some confirmation from the shadows in the picture on page 28 of TTOTC which were pointed out by charlie on Dal’s site (though he missed the Flag):

https://dalneitzel.com/2017/09/14/the-blaze-4/#comment-384844)

I initially interpreted the “hill” as Calf Creek Hill, but later revised my interpretation to be an elevation map between Flagg Ranch and the turnoff to the Fish Lake Trailhead (identified by the “Flag” and the “Man Fishing”, respectively).  Mapping Flag Ranch Road to the turnoff results in an elevation graph as follows with the car/truck at approximately the parking location by Calf Creek Hill:

Kids have an Advantage ATF (possible CB)

For Calf Creek Hill as HOB, I tied this ATF to the following kids book:

It also works for Winegar Hole Wilderness as HOB:

For each of my two successive trips, my HOB was Winegar Hole Wilderness, but again, still using this trail as my Put in. I’ll detail my change in thought process after I go through BOTG#1, but first, the rest of my initial solve…

From there it’s no place for the meek

In this solve, this is simply the place where you park and get out of your car and go into the wilderness (into prime grizzly habitat).

The end is ever drawing nigh;

From wikipedia: “An example of a draw on a topographical map, and how it would look in the real world. If you are standing in a draw, the ground slopes upward in three directions and downward in the other direction.“

I probably don’t need to point out this relatively obscure geographical feature and FF’s ATF comment about “a comprehensive knowledge of geography”, but here it is for the sake of thoroughness.

This draw also goes to the left (nigh), completing the interpretation of this line in the poem.

There’ll be no paddle up your creek,

Below is a picture of part of Calf Creek (west of the Put in) from Google Earth in June of 2013 (the June/2013 image shows the creek more clearly than the August/2015 image – I’ve been waiting for a Google update for 2018 all year).

In short, Calf Creek is a shallow creek (mostly under 12 inches deep, but occasionally with small pools that might reach 2-3 feet).  In addition, there are many small (4-6 feet) waterfalls as it descends into Yellowstone. It’s certainly not a creek that can be paddled and we are also going downstream.

Just heavy loads and water high. 

There are a few possible interpretations for this line with this solve. On the topographic map, the nearby trail is the South Boundary Trail (Borders bookstore as a hint in TTOTC?) and is designated on the Topo map as a Pack Trail.

Calf Creek eventually continues into Yellowstone and empties into the Fall River, which has a large number of waterfalls (water high). The waterfalls themselves may also be heavy loads (of water) or heavy loads could be the large boulders in Calf Creek itself.

If you’ve been wise and found the blaze,

This is the part of my solve where things become a bit more trial and error. I wrote about my thoughts on breaking this line up into two parts in my “Full Thoughts on Halving the Blaze” post from October/2017 – https://dalneitzel.com/2017/10/11/halving-the-blaze/ which was directly influenced by this solve.

Also around this time, I was trying to explore whether FF would answer (at the Nov 2nd Book signing) if it was now possible to see the TC on Google Earth as I viewed applying the thought process from the post pretty compelling in light of the GE imagery (notice the flat rock with the dark spot in the middle)…

Under this scenario, there would (in theory) be a blaze near the flat rock that couldn’t be seen from GE.

I also considered, further down the creek, the possibility that this cliff/barren area was the blaze. 

Look quickly down, your quest to cease,

With this blaze, the idea would be that TC would be below it, down closer to the creek.

But tarry scant with marvel gaze,

From the June/2013 GE image, there was also an interesting rock formation (tarry scant?) that resembled (from GE at least) headstones.

The zoom.earth view of these rocks also showed an interesting glint, but it’s hard to say for sure what was causing it.

It also seemed that from these rocks, there was the potential for a “marvel gaze” into Yellowstone NP, though BOTG would be needed to confirm.

Paul Harvey Voice: And now… the rest of the Poem

I subscribe to the Lugnutz theory of the rest of the Poem…

Consequently, I don’t think there’s much here with the exception of maybe some legal stuff and one confirmation hint that we’re in the right place.

If you are brave and in the wood

In this solve, this is a line that confirms being in Winegar Hole Wilderness is the correct place (as opposed to further down the creek and into Yellowstone NP or east of Winegar Hole Wilderness closer to Flagg Ranch Road).

“In the wood” relates to the “Wine” part of Winegar with wine being stored/aged in wooden barrels. “Brave” relates to the “gar” part of Winegar and relates to the veterans that made up the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), described by Wikipedia as follows:

The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was a fraternal organization composed of veterans of the Union Army (United States Army), Union Navy (U.S. Navy), Marines and the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service who served in the American Civil War for the United States forces. Founded in 1866 in Decatur, Illinois, and growing to include hundreds of posts (local community units) across the nation (predominately in the North, but also a few in the South and West), it was dissolved in 1956 at the death of its last member, Albert Woolson (18501956) of Duluth, Minnesota. Linking men through their experience of the war, the G.A.R. became among the first organized advocacy groups in American politics, supporting voting rights for black veterans, promoting patriotic education, helping to make Memorial Day a national holiday, lobbying the United States Congress to establish regular veterans pensions, and supporting Republican political candidates. Its peak membership, at more than 490,000, was in 1890, a high point of various Civil War commemorative and monument dedication ceremonies.

Additional TTOTC Hints to this Area (Possible CB)

In “Looking for Lewis and Clark” FF writes the following:

Which, combined, can be mapped as follows:

In “Gypsy Magic” FF writes “The gypsies came through town several times a year in their horse-pulled wagons that had rubber tires.” The story also has the following picture:

Teton Wagon Train & Horse Adventure (http://www.tetonwagontrain.com/) runs multi-day wagon tours along Flagg Ranch Road, with an overnight camping area near Calf Creek.

A Hint from TFTW to this Area (Possible CB)

In “my prehistoric friends” FF includes the following picture of one of his arrowheads.

Looking up the Castroville Point on www.projectilepoints.net reveals that these type of points are found in central Texas. What’s interesting is the listing of similar points:

You can go here: http://www.projectilepoints.net/Points/Calf_Creek.html if you want to read about the Calf Creek Point.

Distances (200 feet/500 feet) and an 80 year old FF

Before BOTG, the final questions are whether our prospective path can feasibly be done by an 80 year old man with a 20 pound pack twice in an afternoon… So how far do we travel on this solve?

With a one way distance of 3,500 feet, the total distance for 2 round-trips from the car is approximately 2.65 miles.

The 200 feet and 500 feet ATF comments are hard to define, but above, for the possible TC on Google Earth, one of the trails is approximately 450 feet to the east, while the pack trail is approximately 150 feet to the south. 

For the interesting rock formation below the blaze, the assumption is that the searchers were on the South Boundary Trail going into Yellowstone towards the Falls River.

@FF: You talkin’ to me? 

AKA The most Confirmation Bias-y thing that that ever Confirmation Biased (and deservedly so, IMO)

I’m sure it will come as no surprise that this relates to FF’s “gut feeling”.

In September of 2017, as I was in the process of developing this solve, I sent the following email to FF:

Obviously, what stands out is my use of “gut instinct” and that I stated I was telling him specifically for his annual update (which I mis-remembered as happening just after New Year’s rather than the actual time of early February.

But what really drives this confirmation bias home is FF’s answer to the first question in the same “Six Questions with Forrest Fenn”.

In a response that only tangentially (IMO) answers the question, he references again (and misspells once), his calf/cow Bessie.

https://mysteriouswritings.com/six-questions-with-forrest-fenn-and-the-thrill-of-the-chase-treasure-hunt-double-charmed/

Since I (spoiler alert!) didn’t find the TC, this is obviously just a coincidence and only served to give me a wicked case of Confirmation Bias, but you’ll never convince me it wasn’t at least justified given the above.

Backup Solves

I mentioned way back towards the beginning that I initially liked Fish Lake Trailhead and Loon Lake Boat Launch as “Put ins” below (south) of Winegar Hole Wilderness and they became backup solves to check out if my primary search area didn’t pan out.  I won’t go into as much detail, but in general, my solves for each were as follows:

Fish Lake Trailhead:

Loon Lake Solve:

The Best Laid Plans

So I’ve got my solve, I’ve got my hints, and I’ve got my ATF interpretations. I’ve got my backup solves. I’ve got my search partners lined up (my Dad and my brother) and we book our BOTG trip for the end of July/early August with 2-3 days of dedicated searching on either side of a drive from Denver, CO (family vacation in the Denver area is the following week).

It is at this point that I see posts from someone else on Dal’s site that led me to believe that they were in my same general area… namely a reference to a bike trail (could it be the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route that I discussed earlier?) and a question about 20 miles (could they be referencing the 20 miles from Flagg Ranch to Fish Lake Trailhead?), along with a direct reference to looking in Yellowstone. My interpretation was that this person was as far as “Put in below the home of Brown” being Fish Lake Trailhead below Winegar Hole Wilderness and that it might only be a matter of time before they started considering Calf Creek/Calf Creek Hill.

Because my wife is awesome and understands that I can be a bit obsessive about things (aren’t we all to a certain extent regarding the Chase?), and maybe because she didn’t want to listen to me worry about someone getting to my area ahead of me for however many months, and maybe because she wanted to do a family vacation to scenic Grand Teton, we booked a short 4-day trip for early June, with a dedicated day for the two of us to search. My in-laws joined us on the trip and wanted to take our two kids to Yellowstone/Old Faithful on our search day. Wins all around!

Full disclosure: that poster has since posted their solve (not on Dal’s) and they were not in the same area. They ended up being further west on a Warm River up to Cave Falls area solve with some dubious (IMO) logical stretches.

BOTG #1 – Northern Route to Big Cliff

We flew into Jackson, WY, landing around 9:00 am, and toured Grand Teton for the rest of the day. The plan was to search on day 2 and we started the day with a huge breakfast at the Virginian before picking up our bear spray and driving up to Flagg Ranch.

At Flagg Ranch, we encountered our first hurdle: a billboard informing us that Flagg Ranch Road was closed after campsite 8. This, despite me analyzing snowpack throughout the winter, and the gauge at Grassy Lake (approximately the midpoint between Flagg Ranch and Calf Creek Hill) being at 0 for 2+ weeks. We elected to drive as far as we could and if the road got bad, we would simply turn around and give up on it as neither of us were interested in getting stuck and hiking out 10 miles back to Flagg Ranch (remember there’s no cell service anywhere nearby). We were, however, in a GMC Yukon, which certainly helped our confidence levels.

At campsite 8, we (don’t tell anyone) moved a few barrels and, with there being no snow to speak of, continued on our way. Approximately a mile past this, we passed someone walking from the other direction, who informed us that he had parked on the far side of the closed section, walked in, and that the road was completely fine all the way to Ashton. We thanked him for the information and continued on to Calf Creek Hill.

What are the Chances? (Or: In which I almost have a heart attack)

As we rounded the corner to our predetermined parking spot by Calf Creek Hill, after seeing/passing only 2-3 other cars on this entire 15 mile stretch of road, we see a jeep and a truck parked in the exact spot we wanted to park and there are four people bustling about by the side of the road. I immediately jump to the conclusion that they’re searchers in my spot, and my wife remains calm and thinks they’re probably there for some other reason.

We drive past them about a mile and park to figure out our next move when another car comes up behind us. It’s a young couple in a Honda Civic that was trying to get through from Ashton, ID to Flagg Ranch/Yellowstone. When they passed the people in my parking area, they saw them loading animal parts and suspected they might be poachers and were trying to get service to call someone to report it.  We advised them that we thought they could get through on Flagg Ranch Road (which is a plus given FF’s “it was a sedan” ATF comment about the vehicle he used while hiding the TC). We turned around and went past the people again and it looked like they were packing up so we parked a little beyond that and waited. The young couple in the Civic eventually drove up and let us know that they had stopped and talked to the people. Apparently, they had just shot a bear and were loading up the carcass (the couple also let us know that they had confirmed it was bear-hunting season – I assume from that it was a Black Bear).

Eventually, the Jeep and the truck leave and we park at our spot to begin our search at about 12:30 in the afternoon. As we started up the hill, we did see what remained of the bear – there wasn’t much – and I didn’t take a picture.

BOTG #1 – The Search Itself

Our route was essentially the one I laid out in above:

We searched where the possible TC from Google Earth was. It was a bush. We searched in and around all the rocks we saw between the parking area, the top of the hill, and as we went towards the area marked “Cliff”.

We did find a “marvel gaze” (this isn’t the best picture):

But unforunately, it was a Cliff and there was no way to reach the headstone shaped rocks:

Some promising spots, but no TC. At this point, at the cliff, it was only around 2:30, but this being her first BOTG and the first for both of us in bear country, and after the internal drama of the bear hunters situation, our nerves were both kind of frayed so we searched as we headed back to the car. I knew that I still had my original trip with my Dad and brother coming up to spend more time searching so I viewed this as a bit of a reconnoitering trip to get the lay of the land.

We did start to head towards the Fish Lake backup solve, but the road was significantly worse than Flagg Ranch Road itself (probably not passable in a sedan unless you subscribe to the textbook dictionary definition that allows for an SUV to qualify as a sedan). After a short distance on the rougher road to the Fish Lake Trailhead and with our aforementioned nerves, I called it off and we called it a day.

Rest of Our Trip

This next bit isn’t search related other than we definitely fulfilled FF’s goal of getting our kids out into the mountains (they’re not old enough for their own phones, so there wasn’t any getting them off their texting machines).  We spent the next day hiking around Grand Teton NP and took a float trip down the Snake River.  The following day, we took the Tram to the top of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, the kids finished up their Junior Ranger booklets and got their badges, and we bought all of our standard magnets/Christmas ornaments/snow globe souvenirs. We didn’t find the TC, but it was a great trip!

Revisions to my Solve Prior to BOTG #2

I mentioned before how I thought Calf Creek Hill as HOB was tenuous. After I got back from my first trip, I looked at some elevation information about Calf Creek itself and made a discovery – on Google Earth, Calf Creek close to Flagg Ranch Road was at a lower elevation than it was as you followed it up into Winegar Hole Wilderness.

And, per GE, it definitely drops back down as CC flows into Yellowstone and merges with the Falls River:

So this change in elevation allows me to use Calf Creek and the nearby trail as my Put In below (at a lower elevation than) Winegar Hole Wilderness, as measured by the elevation of Calf Creek. It also gives me a different possible interpretation of “waters high” – the high point of Calf Creek. Could there be a natural spring there with a stable water level that might account for the TC being wet, but not submerged?  Maybe a grotto type structure with a cooler temperature, making it “worth the cold”?  Or maybe the GE elevation data was just wrong (probably).  But even if it was wrong, we’re still using the poem and a map (even if the map is incorrect).  Also, the cliff above the creek is higher than our starting point so “put in below” could be referring to the start of the trail (which is modestly below the elevation of the trail as it goes into Winegar Hole Wilderness).

Regardless, traveling along the creek and reaching this high point would be the focus of BOTG #2.

Along the creek, we would look for our “blaze” while also considering the possibility of it being a waterfall down in the creek.

Other ATF/Hints for Going Along the Creek

There are multiple self-explanatory items here: “worth the cold” as a hint in the poem to having to walk through cold water and the ATF “I know the treasure is wet” from the NM tourism video. I also think the following quote (image from tarryscant.com) is well-explained with FF creek-walking at some point as he took the TC to its hiding place:

BOTG #2 – Along the Creek

I flew into Denver and took the scenic way up to Jackson Hole, driving over the Snowy Range Scenic Byway through the Medicine Bow National Forest and making stops at Saratoga (Hobo) Hot Springs and the Oregon Trail related sights, Devils Gate (https://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/devils-gate) and Independence Rock (https://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/independence-rock).

I met up with my Dad and brother in Jackson, WY and the next morning, we headed up to Calf Creek after picking up our bear spray. The general plan was to go along the creek, getting in and searching the creek where possibly, and searching the rocky area above the creek as well. The planned path was as follows:

There were a number of waterfalls and we were able to get into and out of the creek between them at times:

Though at other times, the drop off was too steep…

In one spot, there was a pre-attached rope that led to the bottom of the creek, which none of us were able to figure out a reason for it being there (I.e. why would anyone be trying to get to the creek here; other than other searchers obviously).

Along the top of the rocky area, there were a number of potential hiding areas; areas large enough for a body to fit in and surrounded by stones (remember the alleged early draft of the poem with “leave my bones” and hypothesis that the corresponding rhyming word would be “stones”) and with plenty of nooks and crannies to hide the TC.

(Full disclosure – the above pic was actually taken on BOTG #3 as I didn’t do a good job photo-documenting BOTG #2).

But the greatest potential spot was one of these areas that also had a “marvel gaze” – down through the valley and out into Yellowstone itself.

You can’t see it from this picture (and I didn’t take a better one on BOTG #2), but just outside the bottom frame of this picture is a headstone-shaped rock. And down in the creek is a waterfall. We remarked on all of this at the time, but getting down to the headstone-shaped rock was modestly dicey and as, you could see behind it and around the rocks from a different angle, we didn’t go down to actually check out the rock. We all said that this was the perfect spot and we didn’t find a better one further down the creek.

We did end up making it beyond where my wife and I went on BOTG #1, but were still not able to reach the creek bottom below the big cliff. 

On day 2, we looked at the Loon Lake Backup solve, but the woods from the parking lot were too thick and the area surrounding the lake was too marshy. We also looked at the Fish Lake Trailhead backup solve and made it to here:

I wanted to check out whatever weird thing it is I have circled and also get to where Calf Creek first enters the meadow, but what looks like relatively flat ground is actually a wall of ~8 foot high bushes that none of us wanted to fight through, especially given the possibility of unseen bears in them. The ground was also soft/marshy and this was only at the edges.

This isn’t the spot, but is an example of the type of terrain/bushes (thought these are only maybe 1/2 the size of the what we encountered.

Desperate Times

Pre-existing solves exhausted, I came up with an alternative backup solve that put us closer to Grassy Lake with Yellowstone as HOB, the “Put in” as Mountain Ash Creek Trail, “drawing nigh” as a small draw on the left side of the trail heading higher in elevation towards a gravel pit and small pond (“heavy loads and water high”). My “in the wood” interpretation from before becomes leaving Yellowstone and going back into just the National Forest.

It looked nice and there was a small creek running there, but not really ever a “marvel gaze” or any good blazes.

Out of ideas and time, my Dad and brother headed home and I started the drive back to Denver.

300 Miles Later…

I was somewhere around Rawlins, on the edge of the basin, when the doubt began to take hold.

I’m driving along, thinking about my failed solve, when the idea occurs to me that we should have checked that headstone-shaped rock more. What if it is somehow disguising the TC? It did look a bit out of place (whiter) than the surrounding rocks. Maybe it’s buried right underneath it like the dish in “charmay and me” that was hidden under the lid in the floor? What are the odds that a headstone-shaped rock would be in the perfect spot for FF to hide himself and the TC?

(It’s always on the way home that you realize something about your solve that you should have realized before…  It’s inevitable.)

I don’t have time to go back before I’m supposed to meet my family in Denver so I decide to explore it more when I get home and re-evaluate whether it’s worth a trip back to check what is most likely just a rock.

Additional Research and an Unfortunate Lack of Pictures

Unfortunately, I only have the picture of the spot… none of the rock itself. Neither my Dad or brother have a picture of the rock either. But GE provides some additional info. In this image, you can clearly see the waterfall lined up with where you would first spot it (essentially the rock I was standing on to take the picture). And I measured the headstone-shaped rock to the actual trail (topo map on top of GE). In looking at this area, there’s also an interesting squarish shape nearby…

But what probably pushes me over the edge is the distance from the trail…

My wife continues to be awesome/understanding of my need to check this and, coupled with a super-cheap direct flight, I book a quick in-and-out weekend trip to confirm the rock is a rock and there’s nothing under it and then I’ll be done with this solve.

BOTG #3 – Headstone Check

I flew into Salt Lake City early Saturday morning, rented an SUV and drove 4.5 hours to Calf Creek, stopping to pick up bear spray along the way. I got to Calf Creek around 4:15 and was at the headstone-shaped rock by 4:45. Upon seeing it, I was pretty sure it was wrong as it was definitely not as whitish as I remembered.

Nevertheless, I carefully went down and checked it out (it was definitely a rock) and not moving anywhere).  I looked around it and around the nearby rocks again as well.  Nothing. I did also get back down into the creek and attempt again to get to the spot on the creek directly below this point, fighting through these trees/bushes that we skipped last time.

But I called it at the following point as not somewhere a 79-80 year old would go (it’s narrower/steeper than it looks and the water depth in the trench-looking areas is not clear).

I hiked out, drove back to civilization and flew home the next day.

Remember, it’s Inevitable…

Not 3 days later, while double-checking the area around Grassy Lake/Mountain Ash Creek Trail (the “desperation solve” from above), I came up with another solve in the area that I wish I’d checked out – Cascade Creek.

Just west of Grassy Lake is a trailhead for Cascade Creek, also just below Yellowstone (with Yellowstone as HOB, again).

The rest of the clues:

There is even a compelling 200 feet/500 feet interpretation:

But alas, as awesome as my wife is, a 4th trip would have to be summer of 2019 and would require a deft touch to accomplish (flowers, foot rubs, etc.) Let’s call it a long shot at this point and possibly not even worth it (relative to developing a new solve somewhere else and going there).

Conclusion

I’m biased, obviously, because it’s my solve, but I’m pretty proud of the work and thought process that’s gone into this solve and to be honest, I’m still not entirely convinced the TC is not in this area. After three trips, however, I guess I’m convinced enough to be done searching there and either move on to my next solve or call it quits on the Chase (which one probably depends on if I ever come up with another solve that I think is as strong as this one).

Thanks for reading and hopefully I’ve given you some new ideas with my views on the poem.

Also, if anyone has any additional ATF/hints related to this solve (either in support of it or that would rule it out) that I haven’t discussed, I’d appreciate you putting them in the comments. Good luck if anyone wants to re-explore this area or the Loon Lake/Fish Lake Trailhead backup solves or the Cascade Creek solve.

– by FMC

 

 

 

 

 

The Seven Searchers You Meet in HoD-ven….

JUNE 2018

by FMC

 

Disclaimer: This is intended as a bit of fun and not to denigrate anyone’s thought process, methodologies, solutions, etc.  As the saying goes, “Until the TC is found, no one can say anyone else is right or wrong.”

Every solve is unique.  Even searchers with the same WWWH might come up with different HOBs, have different thoughts on the Blaze, or disagree which clues can only be solved with BOTG.  That said, if you’ve been involved in the Chase long enough, it’s possible to break the various thought processes into seven distinct categories.  Some Searchers stay within one category, while others combine pieces and parts of multiple categories like a TTOTC Frankenstein, hoping their solve comes alive.

Poem Purists

These Searchers generally stick to the poem and at times, eschew even the books as unnecessary (though some will supplement their poem-based solves with select “hints” from the books).  The Poem Purist prefers to poor over Google Earth, seeking the perfect a-ha! combination of landmarks that they can match up to the poem.

Google Earth Rorschachers

While the Poem Purist looks for place names or distinct features on GE, the Google Earth Rorschacher looks for patterns in the land itself, not unlike someone identifying shapes in the clouds that pass by.  The GE Rorschacher can be identified by the images that they put in their solves, which frequently have MS Paint outlines of what they “see” in the land.

If you see an arrowhead in the above picture and wonder how you might tie that to a potential solve, you may be a GE Rorschacher.

Maths! (Maths Factorial)

Devotees of the various math-based methods… TBH, I don’t really understand what they’re doing beyond assigning numbers to the letters in the poem and then manipulating those numbers in various ways and ending up with coordinates.  If you see math in a solve, try for a few minutes to understand it, and then give up on it for being too complex, you’re reading a Maths! Searcher.

Code-Breakers

Different from the Maths! Searcher, the Code-Breaker looks for hidden messages in the poem, books, and ATF information.  Often employing butterfly = flutterby as part of their reasoning, the Code-Breaker is a fan of anagrams, the most popular of which takes “From there it’s no place for the meek” to “Meeteetse Pitchfork Realm of Horn”, which… okay?  The Code-Breaker also will frequently employ the grid method to the poem, lining all the poem lines up, then looking for words or phrases hidden in the resulting Seek and Find.  This method is explained (well and interestingly, IMO) in the 2nd half of Cowlazars vlog #9 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TnmNXX7iIaA.

Sherlocks and Historian Sherlocks

Sherlocks can generally be identified by some bit of internet minutiae that becomes the basis for their unique interpretation of a particular clue or clues.  Whether this is an obscure definition of a word, a fact about the temperature water freezes or boils at for a given altitude, or some other bit of trivia, the Sherlock Searcher is willing to explore any and all rabbit holes in order to solve the poem.  Historian Sherlocks are the same as regular Sherlocks, only they focus on historical events like town name changes, people that FF may have known or been interested in and where they might have traveled in history, etc.

Free Associationers

Whereas the Poem Purist makes, at most, limited use of the books, ATF comments, etc., the Free Associationer allows these items to drive potential solves through connections they make between the two.  For example, if FF says something about his coffee maker, the Free Associationer will seek out potential tie-ins with that statement (Mocha Point, Latte River, or similar).

The Uninformed

Sometimes these are newer Searchers, but more often than not, it’s Searchers that are lazy or otherwise unwilling to read even the basics of the Search parameters.  The Uninformed Searcher may claim their WWWH is a Dam or that they’ve solved it, only for their search area to be 5 miles from where they park with a 3,000 feet elevation gain.

Whichever Searcher type or types you are, there are things that can be learned from all of the types so I encourage you to read HoD with an open-mind.  Think, plan, and when you put BOTG, be sure to do so safely.  Good Luck!

FMC

Going to See the Elephant…

SUBMITTED August 2017
by FMC

 

The California Gold Rush lured thousands west to “see the elephant,” a nineteenth-century metaphor for the hopeful but risky pursuit of happiness, adventure, and fortune.

Disclaimer

This is long.  Really long.  My recommendation: Make yourself a bowl of coffee (shout out Cowlazars), find yourself a comfortable seat, and settle in.

How I came to the search

I first heard about the Forrest Fenn treasure from the VOX article that came out in early 2017.  Within hours of reading it (and watching the video), I had added “Go on a real-life treasure hunt” to my lifetime bucket list.  I tend to go full throttle whenever I discover a new interest so a lot of my initial time was spent gathering as much info about the Chase as possible and scouring Google Earth. I ordered the books and impatiently waited for them to arrive as I continued to research.

Initial Solve

Looking back on my initial solve gives me a little bit of “what were you thinking?” relative to my final solve, but it was part of the process so here we go.

Upon reading the poem, like most people, “home of Brown” jumped out at me and my initial connection with that line was Encyclopedia Brown, children’s book detective.  I read them as a kid, my kids read them, and this as a possibility was reinforced by the FF comment (paraphrasing) “show the poem to your kids.” Additionally, “Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Treasure Hunt” came out in 1988, right around the time FF was going through his bout with cancer and when he came up with the idea of hiding his own treasure in the Rocky Mountains and also right around the time (by my very rough estimate) that his grandchildren would have been in the age range for the Encyclopedia Brown book series.

A quick Google search told me that Encyclopedia Brown lived in the fictional town of Idaville.  Further searches led me to some vague references to an Idaville in Montana and a more concrete town in Idaville in Colorado in the late 1800’s  that subsequently changed its name to Guffey.  (Full disclosure – this was prior to the toponymy/geography question from April of 2017).  As it happens, at the time I was what I call a “Pinyon Pine truther” so a CO solve within the range map of the Pinyon Pine was reinforcement.  Working from Guffey, CO as “home of Brown” I worked backwards to Hartsel, CO as WWWH due to a ranch/hotel/hot springs that was around in the late 1800’s with the “halting” done by the people that came to visit the hot springs.

From: http://www.southparkheritage.org/hartsel

“The cattleman established a trading post, blacksmith shop, and other businesses on the land he claimed. In the area were hot springs that were used by the Utes for bathing and for medicinal purposes. In the mid-1870s, Hartsel capitalized on the therapeutic nature of the springs by erecting a bathhouse that included three bath rooms and a waiting room. In 1875, he erected a hotel because his ranch could not accommodate all of the travelers seeking the healing properties of the spring. Hartsel’s accommodations at the hot springs were very popular with travelers and profits from the enterprise helped him enlarge his ranch holdings and buy cattle. The post office at Hartsel was established on 16 March 1875.”

To be fair, “canyon” is a bit of a stretch to describe the terrain/drive from Hartsel to Guffey, but not so much of one as to eliminate it.

From Guffey, I had two divergent solve paths –

  1. (Less likely solve) – “Put in” at the Parkdale Recreation Area which is almost straight south of Guffey on the Arkansas River, and which is used to launch white-water rafting trips through the Royal Gorge Canyon.

Side note from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Gorge_Bridge

In 1929 Cañon City authorized the building of the Royal Gorge Bridge, which at 955 feet (291 m) above the river held the record of highest bridge in the world from 1929 to 2001.

In 1931, the Incline Railway, or simply the Incline (also known as a funicular), was added beside the bridge to reach the bottom of the gorge.

In my opinion, that’s definitely something that could be a draw/side trip on the drive from Temple, TX to Yellowstone and something that might have stuck in the mind of a young FF.

In this solve, “No place for the meek” was a reference to going up the hill along a jeep path (there was a creek nearby as well, as I recall) and you ended up at a rocky outcropping (‘heavy loads) where you would first see my “blaze” – an area of red clay.

Initial Solve 1 Overview

And when you zoom into the rocky outcropping, it’s easy to see where my initial confidence came from…  The plan was to search in and around (and below, obviously) this pile of rocks.

Rock Close Up

  1. (More likely solve) – From Hartsel to Guffey on County Road 9, “Put in” (turn on) to CR 102 just south of Guffey.  In this solve, “No place for the meek” is Paradise Cove, a swimming hole with various platforms for cliff jumping, approximately 14 miles east of Guffey along CR 102.

Paradise Cove

From there, you’d go towards some water-filled quarries that are tucked back NE of Paradise Cove (heavy loads and water high) and start searching for the blaze.

Quarries NE of PC

So I had my initial search areas, but could I find any backup search areas in case these two solves didn’t pan out?  Were there even better solves out there?  My research continued.

And then I had what I call my Eureka moment.

My Eureka Moment

Up to this point, my focus had primarily been on my initial home of Brown theory, but I began anew trying to start from WWWH (it is, after all, what FF says to do.)  As I was reading and re-reading the poem, I made a connection between two lines in stanzas/quatrains 1 and 6, parts of the poem typically thought to be outside of the main “clues” section of the poem.

And hint of riches new and old.

If you are brave and in the wood

“Brave and in the wood” made me think about why you would need to be “brave”.  What if you were in a Petrified Forest?  Petrified wood is old and could be considered “riches” to FF (with the chest as “riches new.”) So I googled Petrified Forest Colorado and looked through the results… alas, nothing that I could connect to a reasonable WWWH.

But working on the same geologic timeframe as petrified wood, what about fossil sites?  So I googled a bit more, poked around in the results, and found the Kremmling Cretaceous Ammonite Locality outside of Kremmling, CO.

http://www.skyhinews.com/news/72-million-years-ago-kremmling-cretaceous-ammonite-locality-takes-trekkers-into-the-past/

http://www.thefossilforum.com/index.php?/topic/13571-memorial-day-trip-to-kremmling/

But could I make a reasonable connection between FF and Kremmling, CO?  Google Maps shows the route from Temple, TX to Yellowstone going through Denver, CO.  Could FF have passed through Kremmling (or detoured there) as a kid on his annual drives to Yellowstone?  Looking at a CO Atlas from 1940, one of the main highways of the time (in red) goes right through Kremmling, CO.

1940s CO Highways

Additionally, in looking over the town of Kremmling on Google Earth, there’s a prominent feature that is pretty easy to connect with FF and his stories.  See if you can spot it in the picture below.

McElroy Airfield

Could FF have passed through Kremmling as a kid?  Could McElroy Airfield have been one of his many random stops as he flew and explored the Rocky Mountains?  Who knows, but either of these scenarios is plausible.  The more important question, however, is whether or not I could find a WWWH in or around the town.

Clue by Clue Solve

“As I have gone alone in there”

We’ll come back to this.

“Begin it where warm water halts”

Just south and a little bit west of Kremmling, the Blue River and Muddy Creek join the Colorado River.

Confluence

Side note: I never put much stock in the double omega/colophon as being important, but for those that do, it doesn’t take too much squinting to see the double omega in the bends of the Colorado River here.

Following Muddy Creek north leads you to Wolford Reservoir.  And yes, I know FF has explicitly said that WWWH is not related to a dam, but the confluence of Muddy Creek and the Colorado River (the actual WWWH) is 5 miles from Wolford Reservoir as the crow flies and probably at least twice that following the bends and twists of the creek.

It is at this point of exploration that I had my first bit of luck.  In looking at the reservoir (and admittedly, not knowing much of anything about reservoirs), I only saw the water coming down the overflow spillway from the top of the dam (the arrow in the picture below) and not the other flow of water from deeper (by the x) and assumed that the surface of the water would be warmer continuing on through Muddy Creek and being halted by the colder Colorado River (fed by snowpack runoff or whatever).

Wolford Reservoir

In attempting to confirm this, I had it exactly backwards.  Luckily there were two handy USGS stations to confirm the water temperatures.

USGS Data

The red line is Muddy Creek and the green line is the Colorado River, there’s a clear difference in temperatures between the two.  Essentially, the “warm” waters of the Colorado halt the cooler waters of Muddy Creek.

Side note: For those more comfortable with Fahrenheit, 15 degrees Celsius is approximately 60 degrees F, and 10 degrees Celsius is approximately 50 degrees F.

“And take it in the canyon down,”

Following the Colorado River downstream from WWWH, you quickly come to Gore Canyon.

Gore Canyon Overview

Gore Canyon from Above Kremmling

Side note (1):  Many people have wondered why, in FF’s response about the Little Girl from India, FF references hiding another treasure in the Appalachian Mountains.  Why not the Himalayas?  (Full disclosure – this is admittedly a stretch and probably just a coincidence.) In the Google Earth Image above for Gore Canyon, there is a San Toy Mountain in the foreground.

From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Toy,_Ohio

San Toy is a ghost town in southeastern Bearfield Township, Perry County, Ohio, A flourishing community in the early 20th century, it was a coal town created by the Sunday Creek Coal Company.  San Toy quickly outgrew its coal mining town size. At its peak, it had a baseball team, several saloons, a theater, a hospital, a post office, and many other various stores and schools. San Toy was practically a relic from the Wild West that grew out of the Appalachian foothills.

Side note (2): This is probably also a coincidence, and it requires perhaps a bit more squinting than the double omegas from before, but if you look at the general direction of the Colorado River and the general direction of Muddy Creek and the Blue River, you get the following.

X Marks the Spot

“Not far but too far to walk,”

In my solve, this relates to the bends in the Colorado River and the difference between the straight-line distance and the path distance – the path being what you would take on a boating trip down the River.  We did after all, “begin it” at the confluence of these waters and we are “taking” the waters down into the canyon.

Straight Line Distance

River Distance

Put in below the home of Brown”

This one’s pretty straight-forward.  As you go down the Colorado River and before you get into Gore Canyon proper (and its class V whitewater), you pass Beaver Dam Gulch.

Home of Brown

Beyond the obvious – get out your dictionaries and look up “beaver”.

“From there it’s no place for the meek”

“There’ll be no paddle up your creek”

I’m taking these slightly out of order as, in my solve, they go together to tell you which side of the river to “put in” at.

I think anyone that’s been around the Chase for a while has heard the name Joseph Meek, but for those that haven’t, the shortened version is that he was a fur trapper (a major portion of which was beaver) in the Rocky Mountains that later moved to Oregon and has ties to (is featured prominently in?) the book “Journal of a Trapper” by Osborne Russell which FF references in various places.  If it’s not obvious, I’m not 100% clear on how strong the connection between FF and the book and then the book and Meek is, but it’s enough to work with.  If “place for the meek” would be where he would trap beaver (i.e. Beaver Dam Gulch), “no place for the meek” would indicate we want to be on the other shore.

In a similar vein, Beaver’s tails are called “paddles” so “no paddle up your creek” also points to being on the shore opposite Beaver Dam Gulch.

Alternatively, the below TOPO Map shows there is a creek on the opposite shore…

No Paddle TOPO

Though it’s certainly not one you can “paddle up”.

No Paddle Alternative

“The end is ever drawing nigh;”

I interpret “drawing nigh” as an indicator of direction, both with “nigh” (left) and reinforced with “drawing” (as in a golf shot).  From the shore, it’s easy to see that from the path we’ve taken thus far, we’re being forced left.  As we are closing in on our final search area, I’ve included on the map below a measurement of the distance from the nearest road.  A little over a mile and back twice in an afternoon is certainly feasible.

Drawing Nigh

“Just heavy loads and water high.”

Obviously, we have our creek of rocks as “heavy loads” and there’s the whitewater through the canyon as “water high”, but in the close-up below, you can also see train tracks as a possible interpretation of “heavy loads”.  We’ll also be coming back to “water high”.

Heavy Loads

“If you’ve been wise and found the blaze”

Again, anyone that’s been around the Chase for a while is familiar with the concept of a horse-related blaze (basically the white-streak on a horse’s face.)

Horse Blaze

And if you’ve been paying attention, we’ve actually already seen my blaze, just not with an up and down orientation.

Rock Blaze

And probably the two most important after-the-fact checks on a “blaze” both fit here.  1) This blaze is not facing north, east, south, or west; it’s facing up towards the sky.  And 2) While not impossible to remove this blaze, it would not be feasible to try.

“Look quickly down your quest to cease”

So with the blaze identified, we have our primary search area.

Primary Search Area

But is it possible to dial it in further?  Maybe. And I say maybe because, while we can potentially narrow the search area a bit further, I’m looking everywhere in my primary search area just to be safe.

Anyways, remember how we were coming back to “water high”?

What’s this in the search area?

Mystery Water

It appears to be a small pond.  And we know from the description that FF gave, that “the treasure is wet” (Full disclosure – prior to the Safety First ATF statement about the treasure not being submerged, I entertained the notion that the chest was in this pond and there’s even a bit of a shadow that you can see in the image below.  I now think it is unlikely to be in this pond.)

Small Pond

“But tarry scant with marvel gaze”

And if you use your imagination in looking at this pond, you get this:

Marvel Gaze

When I first made this connection, I think my mind was blown for at least a day.  If we use the “gaze” from this eye, you get (roughly) this:

Gaze Search Area

“If you are brave and in the wood”

In the Wood

One more thing to take into consideration… what’s the status of this land/search area?  I personally believe that the TC is on public/BLM land though, as I mentioned earlier, to the extent that it’s possible, I’m searching everywhere between the blaze and the river and also in the wooded areas above the blaze.  But, as it turns out, a good chunk of my search area is BLM land.

BLM Search Area

With this solve and search area in hand (and my initial solves as backups), I booked my trip and started packing for BOTG.

FF After the Fact Statements and this Solve

Before we put Boots on the Ground, let’s just go over a few of the ATF statements that FF has made and “fact-check” the solve.

Notice that the foundation of the solve is only the Poem and a map (GE) and there is no reliance on “interpreting” TTOTC.  Additionally, there is no specialized knowledge used in the solve.  In this solve, if I’m labeling something as “the word that is key”, I’d go with “old” from “riches new and old” as this is what essentially unlocked the rest of my solution.  From the NM tourism video, FF describes being in the TC area and being able to see trees, see mountains, and smell pine trees.  This area matches that description (in that it’s essentially “open” land and not enclosed forest with no sightlines to see mountains).   As you can see from the images, there are no manmade trails in close proximity.

Much has been made about the “several” searchers that have been within 200 or 500 feet of the TC.  The “200 foot club” searchers could have been on the train as it went past this area.  For the “500 foot club”, the other shoreline across from our search area is a popular staging point for kayakers/rafters going through Gore Canyon.

ATF Feet

With regards to the FF comment (paraphrasing) “people have solved the first two clues and went right past the treasure”, I’m not going to speculate as to what FF considers the first two clues, but I will say that I can see how people might possible have identified Beaver Dam Gulch as the HOB, and still missed the treasure.  If you continue past HOB, the next opportunity to access the river is at Pumphouse Campground, where many kayakers/rafters leave the river after doing Gore Canyon and where less experienced kayakers/rafters put-in to the river to run the intermediate rapids below the canyon.

Past HOB Overview

And if you “put-in” at Pumphouse Campground, there’s a trail (Gore Canyon Trail) that goes back up into the canyon (“no place for the meek”) with “no paddle up your creek” and “water high” referencing the rapids and “heavy loads” referring to the train tracks across the river.

Pumphouse

While I didn’t think this would lead to the TC, I did plan to search this area as well as I’d be close by and it’s not an unreasonable solve in and of itself.

BOTG #1

I recruited my Father-In-Law to join me on the trip and we flew into Denver.  We drove the next morning to Kremmling, grabbed some sandwiches and water, and proceeded to drive to our pre-planned parking spot.  The plan was simple – park, hike down towards the blaze and conduct an informal search grid through the primary search area, being sure to check out the pond.  If we didn’t find it by later in the afternoon, we’d call it a day and come back the next day to check the top of the ridge.

BOTG Plan

Unfortunately, as happens in many solves, the simple plan that we had based on Google Earth views of the area, became complicated.  Google Earth didn’t tell the whole story.  While the roads in the picture above look to be public roads with driveways off of them (you can actually see houses in the picture above near the sharp bend on the left side and also in the lower left corner and there’s also a house just below where the picture cuts off), and while there don’t appear to be any houses nearby/along the ridge that comprises the primary search area, the land (other than the BLM parcels reference previously) are actually part of individual ranch parcels that together, make up the Grand River Ranch community, a play area of the super-rich (parcels go for multiple millions of dollars) that includes private fishing holes, a private shooting range, etc.

Basically, all access from the North was cut off by fences with No Trespassing signs.

Private Land

And this was as close as I was able to get (near the fence line in the image above).

Close from the North

Okay.  I had a backup plan.  There was another road to the East coming in along the river.

Backup Plan

But as soon as we turned onto CR12, I knew it wasn’t going to work.

No River Access

We drove down the road awhile anyways, just to see how far we could get.  There was a gate (marked below) with no trespassing signs on it, but as I understand it, so long as you’re on the public road (CR12), you’re okay.  It didn’t end up mattering though as, even though we made it to the parking site, we would still have had to cross private property to get to the search area and assumed there would be fences to prevent us from doing so anyways.  We briefly considered going anyways, but a quick Google of Colorado trespassing laws quickly put an end to that idea.

Foiled Again

“As I have gone alone in there”

I realized at this point that the only way to access my search area was by water and, without the necessary time to devise a safe way to do so (remember, there are serious and deadly rapids downriver from the search area), we reluctantly ended our attempts to get there.

The rest of the trip was crossing t’s and dotting i’s, mixed with some non-treasure activities.  We drove down the scenic Trough Road to this overlook.

Gore Overlook

And we did go to Pumphouse Campground and hike the Gore Canyon Trail.  Though we did not see any blazes, it was a nice hike with some good scenery.  Full disclosure: we did not go all the way to the end of the trail or really search in a diligent manner so it’s possible the treasure is in this area somewhere.

Canyon Trail

We also drove over to Paradise Cove (from initial solve #2) and hiked into the swimming hole/cliff jumping spot.

Guffey Cove

We did not attempt to get up by the quarries I mentioned previously as, from the main road, we could see the road up towards the quarries went through a gate that was pretty much right in front of a house.  While I suppose it’s possible that we would have been able to get up there without trespassing, we figured it would be unlikely and didn’t really explore it much so again, it’s possible the treasure is here.

After Paradise Cove, we drove down to the Parkdale Recreation Area (initial solve #1), but could not get to the trail and rocky outcrop as the BLM land has been leased out or to a quarrying company.  Instead we drove down into Canyon City on the last full day of the trip, briefly visited the tourist trap that is the Royal Gorge Bridge itself and then did the highlight of the trip – a ride on the Royal Gorge Railroad that went through the Royal Gorge and under the Royal Gorge Bridge.  Coincidentally, the end of the train ride was back at the Parkdale Recreation Area.

Royal Gorge Bridge

On the Train

We flew back the next day and I started trying to figure out if access to my search area via boating down the Colorado River was a) feasible and b) worth the expense and time of another BOTG trip.

River Trip Planning

I’m very fond of not dying so that was certainly a primary consideration in this phase of research and I was also very cognizant of FF’s “don’t go where a 79 or 80 year old man couldn’t go” ATF statement.  My initial read on the task was that launching (from the public boat ramp near WWWH) and floating down the river to the landing point would not be a problem (provided the landing area wasn’t a sheer cliff, which it didn’t appear to be), but that getting back to the launch site against the current was going to be the major challenge.

So how fast was the river running?  I used USGS data for the Colorado River to get a sense of the discharge (in cubic feet/second) and the gage height and married that to measurements from Google Maps of the river width at my landing point.  I won’t go through the math, but at a discharge of ~1,400 cfs and a gage height of 6.25 feet, the river speed at my landing point was less than 1mph.  After some Googling of kayak speed and getting estimates of anywhere from 2-5 mph for a novice, depending on weather conditions, I abandoned my initial thought that I would need a motor and instead looked into paddle-based options.  (This obviously assumes river conditions are stable at these levels, which they should be late in the summer after the snowpack has fully melted.)  Full disclosure: If this is how FF hid the treasure, I do believe he would have used a raft with a small motor to help get back to the launch area against the current.  From my research, these are fairly common in the fishing world.

I had no intention of using a cheap Wal-Mart inflatable (remember, dying = bad) and was not willing to spend a significant amount of money on a raft for a one-off use.  Luckily, I was able to find someone on Craigslist that had a kayak (and life jacket) he was willing to rent. Problem solved.

I searched out pictures of the landing area and found the following.

Landing Area

While it looked reasonably possible, notice the trees to the left of the landing area – they’re either dead or (more likely) this picture was taken in winter.  What would it look like during the summer?  To be safe, the landing area would need to be verified with BOTG prior to any potential river trip.

I confirmed the law, which states that I could legally float this section of the river to the BLM land, provided I didn’t touch the shore or river bottom or anchor anywhere, which I had no intention of doing.  I could essentially paddle down the river 3 feet from shore so as to minimize any risk if something went wrong.  I also learned during my research that the train tracks and/or CR12 are emergency exit points from the Canyon for kayakers/rafters that get into trouble so I had an emergency backup if I was unable to paddle back to the launch point.  It would be at least a 4 mile walk back to town, but it was a welcome backup plan nonetheless when the alternative would be calling for rescue or being especially dumb and trying to continue on down-river (disclaimer: no chance I would ever be this dumb).

All told, I was reasonably confident that I could float the river, land at my spot and search, and then either paddle back or hike out and that I could do so safely.  I would, however, need to verify some things with BOTG to know for sure.

But would FF have hidden the treasure this way (assuming he wouldn’t have just parked at one of my options and trespassed, which I can’t 100% rule out)?  To be honest, I waffled on this one, particularly as it relates to the ATF statement about making two trips from his vehicle/car.  I initially thought I had a loophole if he only used “vehicle” as a boat could be a vehicle, but he does say “car” in at least one quote that I’ve seen.  Still, I can make a reasonable argument that he could have floated down to confirm the river was clear, motored back to the launch point, loaded the treasure, and then floated a second time back to the hiding area, before motoring back a final time, laughing to himself.  Why not use a motor myself?  Mainly because doing so would be a PITA, but also because I consider that “special equipment” which FF stated is not necessary.

Additionally, there are a few FF ATF quotes that lend some credence to this as a possibility…  “The clues should be followed in order.  There is no other way to my knowledge.” This assumes I have the clues interpreted correctly, however.  The quote “The clues are there, they’re not easy to follow, but certainly not impossible” is probably interpreted most frequently as related to solving the clues, but if you follow it literally, he’s potentially talking about the actual trip itself being “not easy to follow”.  Finally, most rafters/kayakers doing this section of Gore Canyon leave in the morning.  By the afternoon (when FF says he hid the chest), this section of the river would have been mostly empty. And finally (and this is circumstantial at best), I think that the fact that FF did not specifically say something to the effect of “you don’t need to go in a raft” in his comments about being safe is telling. That would have been the perfect opportunity to do so and would not have eliminated any significant portion of the search area.  That he didn’t say this increases the possibility that you do, in fact, need to go in a raft to get to the chest.

Whether I interpreted everything correctly or just managed to convince myself, when some family circumstances opened up a short window to go back, I jumped on it.

BOTG #2

My Father-In-Law couldn’t make it so I recruited some other family members and met up with them in Kremmling.  We went to the boat launch site and I waded (only to my knees) into the river and found that the water that looked flat did have some current to it.  We could probably have paddled up it for a little ways, but 3-4 miles against it would have been a definite challenge, if not impossible.

We could still potentially hike out, however, so what did the landing spot look like?  Hiking in on BLM land south of the river, I passed this BLM survey marker which was cool to find.

BLM Marker

And I was able to get this picture of the search area:

Landing Area from BLM

With the landing area on the far side of the river covered in pretty thick bushes, we eliminated kayaking down the river and hiking out as we couldn’t be sure that landing could be safely and easily done.  As you can see from the picture above, a new wrinkle also emerged – the steepness of the search area.  Is it too steep for FF to have climbed?  It’s hard to tell for sure from this distance, but I suspect it probably is.  Plus, even with a motor to get back upriver, would FF have been able to land a raft, climb up the embankment, and navigate the steep terrain on the other side of the train tracks?  After BOTG #2, I’m convinced the answer is no.

In short, without a motorized boat/kayak (something I’m not willing to attempt) and some luck with being able to land it or without some pretty blatant trespassing from the north (something I’m also not willing to do), I don’t think it’s possible to get to this search area and I have doubts about the overall viability of the search area given the apparent steepness of the terrain.

Abandoning my main search area again, I had a day to kill so I hiked the Gore Canyon Trail again, this time to the end.  No blaze that I could find, but still a nice hike and I got some good views of some of the rapids.

Rapids

I also drove further south on Trough Road as, if you interpret Pumphouse Campground as the “Put-in below the home of Brown”, you could interpret meek, heavy loads, etc. as the rapids downriver, the train that runs alongside the river, etc.  I did find an interpretation for “no paddle up your creek” with a bend of the river that had been closed off and a potential blaze nearby (an area of red clay that you could see from the river).  I poked around a bit and I did even find a “marvel gaze” that was both easily accessible, yet remote enough for FF purposes…

Nice View

But alas, still no treasure.

Closing

Given the quality (IMO) of my solve and the fact that I didn’t get to search my search area, I have no doubt that there are people that will read this and look further into this area.  If you want to trespass, while I don’t recommend it, that risk is on you.   I will say that if my solve is correct and getting the chest does require trespassing, I’m going to be pretty disappointed with FF, especially given his run-ins with people at his own home. With regards to rafting down, I would strongly advise against it as I have tried every way possible to see if it could be done safely (short of using a motor, I guess) and couldn’t do so.  In an ideal world (for everyone’s safety and my peace of mind), FF would comment and say it’s not here, but I don’t expect that to happen.  So be smart and don’t die.

I, personally, am calling it quits on treasure hunting, unless I happen to be in the area for work or on a family trip and then I might see if I can find any decent solves close by.  I went to see the elephant and, while I didn’t find her, that I went is good enough for me.

In 1854, when forty-niner Richard Lunt Hale returned empty handed to his hometown of Newburyport, Massachusetts, he “realized that my experiences had been as valuable to me as the bag of gold I had come home without. The gold might easily vanish, but that which I had gained in pursuing the ‘pot of gold at the end of the rainbow’ could never be taken away.”

 

FMC-