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-