SUBMITTED MAY 2018
by DAVE FROM KC
I thought I would share the details of my 2nd search for Forrest Fenn’s treasure. I did not find the treasure but maybe some of my logic can help someone else find it. Below is my failed solve #2. My search location was Deadwood Gulch just south of Silverton CO and I will get into the details about the location a bit further below. Everything below is just my opinion even if I forget to state it sometimes. Thanks for understanding.
First I looked at the ‘big picture’ because I felt that was missing from my first solve which initially led me to the wrong location for WWWH. After giving it some thought, I felt the big picture might be related to Forrest facing his mortality, looking back at his life, and making a final statement to the world about his life…or at least a final statement to his father. Forrest mentioned on multiple occasions that his father instructed him to ‘grab all of the bananas’, specifically while riding on a ‘train’. I figured the ‘train’ was a metaphor for life and that the ‘bananas’ were a metaphor for seizing every opportunity that life presents. Since Forrest mentioned this train/bananas metaphor multiple times I felt like he was saying that this was very important and sage advice from his father and that he tried to adhere to it during his life. From Fenn’s writings, I do feel as though it is important to Forrest that he impress his father. I then went on to conclude that the treasure chest and its contents represented some of the many ‘bananas’ that Forrest had grabbed during his life. I felt like this train/banana metaphor from his father might have been what Forrest was referring to when he stated “What surprises me a little is that nobody to my uncertain knowledge has analyzed one important possibility related to the winning solve”. I personally have not read on any of the blogs where searchers believe a train should be involved because of the banana metaphor (I have seen searchers that like train involvement for the halts but not for the banana metaphor). Am I the first to analyze this important metaphor from his father and is this what Forrest was referring to with his quote above? Who knows.
Forrest’s original idea about the poem and the location was that he would go to the location, die with the chest, and leave the poem for people to come find him and the chest. For my solution I looked for a location that would include a steam train, a canyon, a river with ‘put ins’ for rafts/kayaks, a potential home of Brown, and other aspects of metaphorical significance for someone dying. Forrest did say “those who solve the first clue are more than half way there, metaphorically speaking”. I took this as a hint that metaphors were important to the solution. I think you can still keep it simple and interpret metaphors in the solve…metaphors are not like some of the crazy complex stuff I see some searchers writing about (anagrams, codes, ciphers, etc.).
As I have gone alone in there
And with my treasures bold,
I can keep my secret where,
And hint of riches new and old.
For the first stanza, I took this to mean Forrest went alone to hide the treasure and that he did not tell anyone…so it was his secret. I interpreted “Hint of riches new and old” as a hint that the location had old riches and Silverton, CO fits this because of all of the mining that took place there (there are old mines strewn about everywhere). For new riches, it could be a hint of the treasure itself, or possibly all of the great fun to be had in Silverton (rafting on the Animas river, riding the steam train between Silverton and Durango, hiking, fishing, ATVing, etc.) I thought ‘Bold’ could be a hint to the treasure location, which is just a 200-foot hike up a cascading creek just north of US Highway 550 in Deadwood Gulch (we’ll discuss this further down).
Begin it where warm waters halt – Clue #1
and take it in the canyon down, – Clue #2
Not far, but too far to walk. Clue #3A
Put in below the home of Brown. – Clue #3B
For WWWH (clue #1), I went to the ‘big picture’ mentioned above and the train metaphor. I felt the big picture and the metaphor were the reasons this location was so important and special to Forrest…and NOT that the location was one that was special because Forrest visited it during his childhood…but instead special for the purpose Forrest was seeking for his final statement to the world (or his father). Silverton has a steam train that still runs today between Silverton and Durango. Train stops were sometimes referred to as ‘halts’ in the old days. These were usually water stops where the locomotive would receive more water for steam powered fuel. The warm waters are those heated waters stored in the locomotive. I chose the Silverton station as my WWWH.
When the Silverton train departs, it heads south and down the canyon and follows the Animas river downstream (clue #2 – take it in the canyon down).
For the HOB (clue #3) there are several possibilities (Brown Mountain is 10 Miles due north which is TFTW and Brown’s Gulch is 5-6 miles NW of Silverton which is also TFTW). There was a previous Silverton solution from another searcher that was using Cement Creek (which feeds the Animas river in Silverton) as the HOB because the locals call the water at the confluence ‘Brown Gravy’ (I doubted this one). Regardless of which HOB you choose, there is only a single feasible marked ‘put in’ in this area and it is ‘below’ all of these (south and lower elevation). Just south of Silverton (and north/upstream of Deadwood Gulch), there is a ‘put in’ on the Animas River that is used by the rafting companies and kayakers. This is an ‘official’ put in with its own sign (see photo). This ‘put in’ is south / downstream from the Silverton Rail Road station so this also has you moving down the river / canyon.
Below are some additional thoughts on this location and why it might be special for a reason important to Forrest. I believe Forrest does not want his life or his name to be lost to history like the graves of the French soldiers he stumbled on in the high grass field near the waterfall he found in Vietnam. I’m thinking he has a strong desire to be remembered long after his death (thus the books, memoirs, etc.). He was also a very smart promoter and marketer in his life after the military. Choosing a tourist location like Silverton would be brilliant in terms of ‘marketing’ for his immortality. If his treasure was found in that tourist town it would be discussed on every train ride and every rafting trip…there would be businesses setup in town around the Forrest Fenn name, and they would probably create a Forrest Fenn museum in the town for the tourists to visit after they get off the train (they have a couple of hours to spend in Silverton before the return trip to Durango). It would be brilliant! And Forrest IS brilliant when it comes to promotions and marketing. I understand that this thought will offend some searcher’s idealization of Forrest and also that Forrest himself might not agree and might be slightly offended by this…so this is just my opinion…but I personally would not put something like this past Forrest and would not blame him for such a brilliant plan! I just cannot ignore the fact that this man was a self-admitted non-lover of art…yet we know he made a small fortune as a great art dealer. Why? Because he knew how to market and promote. Would Forrest get the same level of immortality if he hid himself and the treasure way out in the middle of nowhere? I do not think so. With that said, I do think Forrest has already achieved some level of immortality with this amazing treasure hunt he created, for being a war hero, and with his other books so I do not intend to diminish that with the above opinions…I just think hiding his treasure in a tourist town would take his immortality to the next level…and I do think immortality is important to him and I might not even believe him even if he directly told me otherwise.
Many, many other train hints:
The train hints from Forrest are voluminous and at this point I do not think I could have a solve that does not involve a train. Forrest has talked and written about trains several times and has made several comments that associate trains to death (I suggest going to the Tarry Scant website and search by ‘train’ to get the exact FULL quotes on the below bulleted items).
· When talking about his dog Tesuque’s expression when hungry he described it as “Feed me now or there will be a train wreck with no survivors” – Death by train comment #1.
· When answering one searchers questions Forrest gave a long response that included “Besides, I will probably get hit by a train” – Death by train comment #2.
· In a separate video interview Forrest mentions “Yet, tomorrow I will probably get run over by a train, but I believe in karma and some of those things.” – Death by train comment #3.
· In yet another separate interview Forrest states “I dare you to go get it. If you find it, you can have it. And nobody knows where it is but me. If a train runs over me this afternoon, it will go to my grave with me” – Death by train comment #4.
· Forrest provides a very warm written response to a searcher named Diane that wrote to him about hobos and trains and referred to her as “kindred”
· Forrest quotes his friend Eric that the far away sound of a bell “can be both forlorn and soul-stirring”. Later in that same topic, he wrote that he acquired from Eric a cast iron bell possibly retrieved from an old steam locomotive that he keeps at his San Lazaro Pueblo. Forrest has a thing for bells. The old trains have bells.
· Forrest mentions in his TTOTC book that as a child he could hear the steam train going out of Katy “The Katy Rail Road tracks were about half-mile from our house and late at night I could hear the steam engines puff and the engineers blow their air horns. It was a soothing sound and sometimes I think I can still hear when the wind is out of the east.” – The Silverton train tracks are east of the potential hiding spot in Deadwood Gulch. If Forrest was going someplace to die, would he not want something soothing like the air horns from the train? The Silverton train uses these steam whistles and he could definitely hear them from Deadwood Gulch.
· The last sentence leading up to the poem in TTOTC says: “So I wrote a poem containing nine clues that if followed precisely, will lead to the end of my rainbow and the treasure:” The Silverton Rail Road Station was at the end of the “Rainbow Route” which was a steam train dating back to 1888 that ran from Albany to Silverton, CO. (long since defunct)
From there it’s no place for the meek, – Clue #4A
The end is ever drawing nigh; clue #4B
There’ll be no paddle up your creek, Clue #5
Just heavy loads and water high. Clue #6
For Clue #4 (From there it’s no place for the meek, The end is ever drawing nigh), I have multiple possible interpretations.
My first thought for clue #4 was that Forrest might be referencing the Animas River which is on your left (nigh) while moving south/downstream from the Silverton Station to the ‘put in’ location. This is the river that runs along the Silverton train tracks. It is also known as “The River of Lost Souls”. ‘Lost souls’ are considered to be ‘damned’ souls…since the ‘meek will inherit the Earth’ the meek are not ‘damned’ souls and therefore this would be no place for the meek. This information about being ‘damned’ or a ‘lost soul’ would be pertinent for any person who is dying (end is drawing nigh/near) and Forrest thought he was going to do this whole poem and treasure hunt to go to the place he was going to die. Hint – Forrest calls the chest his ‘indulgence’. If you look up indulgence you find a pertinent definition of “a grant by the Pope of remission of the temporal punishment in purgatory still due for sins after absolution. The unrestricted sale of indulgences by pardoners was a widespread abuse during the later Middle Age” (could Forrest be offering back some of his ‘bananas’ (i.e. treasure) as an indulgence to be pardoned for his sins?). Forrest’s scrapbook #26 shows an old ‘anima sola’ which depicts a lost soul in purgatory. Forrest pretended to not know what it was…yeah right. Could he have been hinting at the Animas river? I thought yes. Anima is defined as “soul”. Forrest has stated he is not really religious and that he is more spiritual…but I think most people have religious type thoughts when facing death and maybe the fact that Forrest was not religious during his life gave him some concerns that he might end up in some sort of purgatory if he turned out to be wrong about religion?
My second thought on this clue #4 ties back to the bananas/train metaphor. The meek would not be the ones ‘grabbing all of the bananas’ in life’s short (end ever drawing nigh) ‘train’ ride. Thus, unlike Forrest (and the searcher trying to find his bananas), this would be no place for the meek. I felt this is less likely to be correct than my first thought on this above but I would not put it past Forrest to have multiple meanings to the clues and I believe the message of the bananas/train metaphor from his father is that “life is short and do not be meek…seize all of the opportunities”. So, I do somewhat like this second interpretation…just not as much as the first one above.
My third thought on this clue #4 is that this was the land of the Ute Native American tribe. There was an “Indian Agent” named Nathan Meeker who was slaughtered (along with 10 others) by the Utes in the White River settlement on the western side of the Continental Divide. The Utes near Silverton were led by the peaceful Chief Ouray and there was no Nathan Meeker around trying to force the Utes into an agricultural lifestyle. Even still, the end was drawing nigh for the Utes as they were driven from the land near Silverton despite Chief Ouray’s peaceful and diplomatic approach. I felt this interpretation was less likely than the first or second interpretations above.
For clue #5 (there will be no paddle up your creek), I note the semi colon after clue 4. Semi colon’s can be used for a change in direction, and I thought that Forrest might be referring to a change in direction because as you continue south/downstream from the Silverton Station and then past the ‘put in’ along the Animas River, after approx. ¾ mile (from the put in) you will come to a creek called ‘Deadwood Gulch’ that feeds into the Animas river. This Deadwood Gulch creek runs perpendicular (change of direction) to the Animas and it has a pretty steep climb up the mountain from its mouth at the Animas. I believe Forrest indicates in the poem that it is ‘your’ creek because ‘his’ river is the Animas (river of lost souls) but the creek you want (your creek – the one with the treasure) is Deadwood Gulch. Hint – ‘Deadwood’ is a term used in the card game Canasta! If you do not have the first clue you might as well stay home and play Canasta! You need to head ‘up’ this Deadwood Gulch creek (in elevation – not North). There is no way you would ever put any sort of kayak or raft into this steep creek and thus there is no need for a paddle.
Clue #6 (just heavy loads and water high). The creek in Deadwood Gulch flows down from high on the mountain (water high) and features a very nice waterfall (also water high) just below highway 550 (yes, THAT highway 550 – the one also known as the ‘Million Dollar Highway’ between Silverton and Ouray). Between highway 550 and the mouth at the Animas, the creek also contains lots of old timbers, wood, and cast iron parts from an old mining operation that, I believe, ran some sort of rail cars / trolley down alongside the gulch to carry loads down from the mines further up the mountainside (heavy loads). When I inspected this part of the creek I did see some sort of iron wheel and some old pieces of metal that looked like they might have been used as tracks. You have to be careful walking around this area due to all of the mining debris that included wood pieces with old rusted nails sticking out of them. I walked around this part of the gulch below highway 550 looking for a blaze (besides the obvious waterfall). I did not find a blaze on that section of the Deadwood Gulch below highway 550 and ultimately decided that I did not like that part of the creek for Forrest’s hiding spot because it did not have a blaze (other than the waterfall), and I could not identify any location down there that would have a spot 200 feet away where some searchers would have been that also coincided with a separate 500-foot spot where lots of people would have been. In addition, I also did not like the fact that all of that mining debris cluttered the area…if Forrest hid the treasure in this area I could see it being accidentally discovered at some point in the future if they ever decide to clean up all of that mining debris. If you are down in that lower part of Deadwood’s Gulch searching, I think you need to be wise and think about the part of the Gulch above highway 550 (see explanation below for clue #7).
Other misc. hints pointing to Deadwood Gulch near Silverton:
· In OUAW, Doug Preston writes that Forrest originally intended to leave the final clue by leaving his car in the parking lot of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. This museum is located just outside of the ‘Golden Triangle’ of museums in Denver. The San Juan Triangle is created by connecting the towns of Silverton, Telluride, and Ouray. Deadwood Gulch is just outside of the San Juan Triangle since it lies just south of Silverton.
· In TTOTC, there is an illustration of “My Spanish Toy Factory” which shows three children looking down at a triangle formation (marbles) and two of the children is pointing down at the triangle (or maybe just outside the triangle). Deadwood Gulch is in the San Juan Mountains (San Juan is obviously a Spanish name and could be linked to “My Spanish Toy Factory” for that reason…and isn’t this whole treasure hunt like a big toy for Forrest?)
If you’ve been wise and found the blaze, Clue #7A
Look quickly down, your quest to cease, Clue #7B
But tarry scant with marvel gaze, Clue #7C
Just take the chest and go in peace. Clue #7D
I am counting the whole 4th stanza as clue #7. After searching the area of Deadwood Gulch below highway 550 I think you need to be ‘wise’ that it is not the hiding spot and also ‘wise’ to the fact that the Gulch extends above highway 550 and that area above highway 550 should be considered for a search. You also need to be ‘wise’ to get in your car and drive up to the top part of the Gulch above Highway 550 because hiking it is impossible unless you are some sort of mountain climber (it is a little over a 2-mile drive from Silverton to where the Gulch meets highway 550). Thankfully, as you drive up on highway 550 at Deadwood Gulch you come to a ‘turnout’ in the road that is gravel and a place to park your car (see photo).
As you look up the Deadwood Gulch from the mountainside turnout you are treated to a beautiful cascading creek that runs relatively flat and shallow between the steep stone gulch walls up to a small and beautiful waterfall. The stone gulch walls are covered with all sorts of ‘desert varnish’ in various colors but much of it is a tarry black color. There is no mining debris in the Gulch above highway 550. As you look at the small waterfall (which happens to be right at 10,200 feet of elevation and 200 feet from the gravel parking area) you see something that stands out…a blaze. I had seen this blaze before in a picture of this Deadwood Gulch cascade on Pinterest…and I went there looking for this blaze. Directly to the right of the waterfall (as you face it) you see this large square shaped red rock facing you with three fat dark black streaks of desert varnish. The black desert varnish streaks on the otherwise red stone really stands out and is quite beautiful (see blaze photos).
Fire is a blaze and red in color…why not a red blaze? Tarry scant could refer to the red aspects of the stone that were not covered by the tarry colored black lichen.
Go in peace’ (i.e. Rest in Peace) could be a reference to Forrest dying and resting in peace now that he has paid his indulgence to the searcher. When I viewed the potential blaze from near the road it appears small and a bit hard to see and almost looks like it could be some sort of native American rock art…but up close you can see that it is quite large and is just lichen created desert varnish with an unusually bright contrast between the black and the red. The only way to get up to the blaze from the parking area is to go into the cascades and walk 200 feet up the creek…there are no side trails and the sides are steep and treacherous and thick with pine trees. It could be the earlier searchers within 200 feet simply provided Forrest with some nice pictures of their time in Silverton and that the Gulch was not a part of their solutions. Or, it could be that the searchers were there at a time when the Gulch was full of snow. This year, the snow was melted by 12May, but normally this time of year that gulch would be full of deep snow making it inaccessible for a search until June. I had been to this location earlier this year with my snow shoes and snow shovel and learned just how deep that snow was in April. When I saw the heat wave from 5May to 12 May I guessed that it might be melted and I was right….it was running strong from the snow pack melt but I was able to easily walk up it with some hiking poles and rubber boots (and waterproof gortex pants) …. Fenn being a fly fisherman would not even blink at walking/wading up this cascade. To get to the potential hiding spot you have to walk through the ‘pinch point’ where the walls of the Gulch are closest together.
Beyond the ‘pinch point’ it slightly opens up on the other side of the pinch point and has an area that has ground with bushes and accessible cavities at the base of the stone gulch for potential hiding spots (see photo). One of these cavities was about 10-15 feet downstream from the blaze – quickly down. This was at the base of the gulch and was an absolutely perfect hiding spot for the chest. The cavity was outside of the creek, so not underwater but still wet…it was about 2-3 feet deep into the side of the Gulch, about 10 inches high top to bottom, and about 3 feet across / wide….and the cavity is in a spot that is hidden behind the pinch point of the gulch so anyone on the road would not be able to see what that crazy old man was doing up there in the Gulch when he was hiding it (see photo – it is the triangular shaped hole towards the right center of the photo with a small log in the water pointing towards it).
I got out my flashlight and shone it into the cavity…I was sure I was going to see some rocks covering the indulgence when I looked inside the cavity. My heart was broken when all I saw was a bottle, a plastic cup, and underwear! Yes, there was men’s underwear in the cavity…they looked relatively new and when I looked up the brand name I saw they were sold at Walmart. I knew I really was up shit’s creek at this point when I found the underwear and I was able to have a small laugh despite my disappointment. I assume this bottle, underwear, and cup had washed down from the top of the mountain. There is no reason for people to go into that part of the Gulch beyond the pinch point because there is no fishing to be done in that creek and there are no hiking trails anywhere in the area. It would be really hard to get beyond that small waterfall and it gets really steep beyond that waterfall so I do not see people hiking up that Gulch just for the fun of it. It would not really appeal to mountain climbers either because they would get soaked and it would be an insanely cold hike. There were some other cavities in the base of the gulch that were also empty…but none were as perfect as the one cavity described above…I REALLY thought I was going to find the treasure in that one and my heart was pounding when I saw it.
Other hints related to clue #7
· Why did Forrest make the upper elevation limit an odd number like 10,200 feet instead of 10,000 feet? It is not the tree line…the tree line is between 11,500 and 12,000 feet. The lower limit is a nice even 5,000 feet so I have always wondered if it might be right at 10,200 feet and this solution gave me that 10,200-foot number, which I liked.
· Within 500 feet of the blaze is a second parking ‘turnout’ on the opposite cliff side of highway 550 that would be more popular because that one would provide the view of the larger Deadwood Gulch creek waterfall that exists below highway 550. These two turnouts would explain why lots of people have been within 500 feet and why Forrest might have known some searchers were within 200 feet if they took a photo of the cascades / small waterfall above highway 550.
· People bike on highway 550 all the time and I saw several people on bikes…Forrest hinted that he might just ride his bike there and throw his bike in the ‘water high’ which he could do…just toss his bike into the Gulch below highway 550 and then hike up the cascading creek above highway 550. At his age now, I think he would need to start somewhere high on the mountain and coast down on his bike and not try to start at a lower elevation and pedal up the mountain.
· The creek and pinch point could explain why Forrest is confident no one would ‘stumble’ upon the treasure. It is a great ‘gatekeeper’ for the treasure. As noted above, there is no reason to go into that part of the Gulch above the pinch point unless you are searching for Fenn’s treasure.
· Once you are up the cascade beyond the pinch point if you look back you see a wonderful view. You are looking North and, in the distance, you have a great view of Brown Mountain (see snow covered mountain in photo below). You also see Silverton and if you stayed there long enough you would eventually hear the train blowing its whistle and ringing its bell from the East. It is a neat spot.
· I found a picture of the blaze on the internet after I had my solution for Deadwood Gulch by searching for Deadwood Gulch Silverton Colorado. Fenn was once asked if the blaze could be pre-determined from the poem before being physically at the search location and he called the searcher a rascal for asking that question and decided after a long deliberation that he would not answer that question. To me, that leaves open the possibility for finding the blaze prior to being BOTG. You can find the exact quote if you wish…it is out there.
· Fenn wrote about lichen in scrapbook 171: “Because these strong colored rocks are a favorite of mine, once a friend told me that if I took one home, kept it in a sunny place, and sprayed it with beer once a week, it would continue to grown and keep its colors. It didn’t work.”
So why is it that I must go
And leave my trove for all to seek?
The answers I already know,
I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak.
I believe the 5th stanza is simply Forrest explaining that Forrest is ‘going’ (dying) and that he has his reasons for taking some of his ‘bananas’ to this spot for people to try to find using his brilliant poem. He has grabbed as many bananas in life that he could and maybe this whole treasure hunt thing was his ‘last banana’. When you think about it, this poem and this treasure hunt really has been a major ‘banana’ for Forrest. He has sold many books, achieved fame, and cemented his legacy and immortality. This was a banana that he could still grab late in life even though he was old, weak, and tired. Right up to the end, Forrest is grabbing every banana in life and I am sure his father is very, very, proud of him. I am sure his friends and other family members are proud as well. He has also enriched many lives with adventure and outdoor fun…and that enrichment of others’ lives has been his ‘stated’ answer…but I think that was only one of the answers (plural). The other ‘answers’ are more personal IMO and I may, or may not, have guessed them correctly above.
So hear me all and listen good,
Your effort will be worth the cold. – Clue #8
If you are brave and in the wood – Clue #9
I give you title to the gold.
For clue #8 (effort worth the cold), I think my solve was solid. You have to walk/wade into a very cold creek. Enough said.
For clue #9 (brave and in the wood), I think that the average person searching for the treasure might look at the Deadwood Gulch cascade with some trepidation…while it is shallow, it flows quite fast and it has a rock bottom. Average people might think the cascade could knock them off their feet or that the rocks would be slippery…there is some bravery involved walking up that creek towards that waterfall and through the ‘passage’ at the pinch point (hint – Forrest recently said to have ‘safe passage’ and that pinch point in the gulch definitely qualifies as a passage). The wood clue is obvious….it is DeadWOOD Gulch, and the cavities I found were literally inside the walls of the Gulch thus ‘In the wood’.
I think the rest of stanza 6 was for legal purposes…he wanted to make it clear that whoever finds the treasure gets to keep the treasure.
If you have gotten to the end of this, thanks for reading. My hope is that maybe some aspects of this solution are correct and maybe can help someone with their solve. Best of luck to all searchers and stay safe out there.
-Dave from KC