Odds n Ends About Fenn’s Treasure Hunt…

pinkPlease click on the comment balloon below to contribute to the discussion of  Forrest Fenn’s Treasure Hunt. Please note that many topics have their own pages. Please scroll through the blog to see all the discussion pages. There are also stories, scrapbooks, searcher’s reports general information, tips from Forrest, a rumors blog and even email responses from Forrest. So please look around and if you want to make a comment please use the most appropriate page.




The Calypso Solve…

January 2020

By Blex


2019 was a pretty mild year in terms of searching for me. I really only had one solve that I was eager to get out into the mountains to try out this past summer, and it obviously didn’t pan out. However, I thought I could at least finally make a contribution to the growing volume of information regarding where the treasure is not, while also providing some entertainment as we all wait for yet another search season to arrive. This wasn’t my first solve & BOTG trip, however this one pretty much stands on its own and doesn’t relate to any of my previous search areas, so I feel fine about sharing most of my thoughts for this one. So grab a drink, settle in, and I hope you find this to be an entertaining read.

Over the previous Winter, I found myself pretty much stuck and back at square-one trying to marry the poem to a location in the Rocky Mountains. However this time there was a new piece of information that surfaced (new to me, at least): It was the anecdote that Cynthia wrote in her book about her conversation with Forrest Fenn about the elusive “home of Brown”. What it amounted to was that Forrest seemed to strongly indicate to Cynthia that the home of Brown was not a man-made structure. This was told secondhand through Cynthia, and Forrest never followed up with a formal announcement confirming that this was true (like he did when he realized he accidentally gave one searcher a special hint that “Where Warm Waters Halt” was not a dam), so there was some speculation among the Chasers if this was truly a reliable hint from Forrest. I decided to take Cynthia’s story at face value and started to think about what the home of Brown could be if not a man-made structure. Perhaps a geographic feature with a name that relates to either “home” or “Brown”? It was a head-scratcher for me.

For inspiration, I found myself revisiting the old scrapbook entries on Dal’s site. To my knowledge, Forrest has never outright said that he has hidden hints in these scrapbook entries, but there are plenty of people who believe that this is true, and I could not see a reason why not. One day, my attention was drawn to one of the earlier scrapbook entries #17 CLICK HERE if you’d like to give it a quick look over.

At the end of scrapbook #17, Forrest shares an excerpt from his hard-to-find book “The Secrets of the San Lazaro Pueblo” in which he shares a poem that his father sent to him a few years before he died. The poem “A Flint Arrowhead” spoke of the wonder and excitement of discovering an arrowhead and linking the past with the present. Forrest ties this poem with a very special memory of discovering his first arrowhead as a child with his father. Forrest recalls this as ranking “among my fondest memories”. The fact that this was one of the earliest scrapbooks, the fact that Forrest decided it was an excerpt from one of his earlier books worth sharing again, and the fact that it seemed to be an especially important moment with his father (his father being very prominently mentioned in the book “The Thrill of the Chase”) all seemed to point to some significance in this poem greater than what it appeared to be at face value. It was a rabbit hole I deemed worthy of jumping down to see where it led.

A simple “copy & paste” of the poem’s words into Google led me to several interesting references. It shows up in Boy Scout Handbooks, Archaeological Society newsletters, and into the lyrics of a Johnny Cash song. Eventually I came upon the name of the poem’s author: Enos B. Comstock. Looking for information about Enos B. Comstock and who the man was yielded very little information on Google, however he was noted as an author and a prominent illustrator. Forrest did seem to know and respect a good few book illustrators himself (Eric Sloane not the least of them). Then I remembered another internet resource that Forrest had specifically recommended people use (though not for treasure-searching purposes): Abebooks.com.

Entering Enos B. Comstock into the Abebooks.com search resulted in a surprising amount of titles for which Comstock was an illustrator. The first title that caught my attention was “A Mountain Boyhood” by Joe Mills. I had remembered hiking up the Flattop Mountain Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park in 2018 and noting that one mountain peak viewed to the north was called Joe Mills Mountain.

image 1 Joe Mills Mountain

Joe Mills Mountain (small, partially tree-covered peak in foreground center left) as seen from the Flattop Mountain Trail

It seemed like an odd name for a peak, but I did not think much of it until this book title came up. Looking into THAT name in more detail, I learned that Joe Mills was the younger brother of Enos Mills, who was one of the strongest advocates for the original creation of Rocky Mountain National Park. Enos Mills was a John Muir-like character (and was actually good friends with Muir himself) who moved West from Kansas and homesteaded in the Estes Park area and was quite the local celebrity. His younger brother Joe moved out West in his older brother’s footsteps and also homesteaded in the area. They both wrote nature books and they both advocated towards the formation of Rocky Mountain National Park, but eventually butted heads when it came to exactly HOW the new park should be run, and they ended up in a bit of a bitter sibling rivalry.

Image 2 Enos Mills

Image 3 Joe MillsOlder Brother Enos Mills and Younger Brother Joe Mills; Two of the founding fathers of Rocky Mountain National Park





Ok, so anyway now I had discovered a book I had never heard of written by the younger brother Joe Mills, and illustrated by Enos B. Comstock (the man who had written Forrest’s father’s poem). It was also an especially cold Winter 2018-2019 and I wanted some new reading material that I can enjoy inside the warmth of my home, so I ordered myself a copy off of Abebooks.com.

Image 4 Inside Cover

Inside cover of the First Edition of “A Mountain Boyhood” with an Enos B. Comstock illustration

After I got the book in the mail I had a very enjoyable time reading through it. It wasn’t very long, but the descriptions of the time Joe Mills had spent exploring the Rocky Mountains were wonderful. I can certainly recommend  this book (as well as many of the titles written by Joe’s older brother Enos Mills) to all as a good read.

Image 5 Intro Text

First page of “A Mountain Boyhood”

The Comstock illustrations throughout were a joy to look at and I could not help but remember Forrest’s commentary on fine literature at the beginning of “The Thrill of the Chase”. Perhaps the adventurous spirit of young Joe Mills was in the same spirit of the character Holden Caulfield in “Catcher in the Rye”?

Image 6 Comstock Ilustration

Image 7 Comstock IlustrationImage 8 Comstock IlustrationSome examples of Comstock’s illustrations throughout the book

Anyways, as related to thinking about the Chase, there were two specific general items that piqued my interest:

1.) Joe Mills wrote almost exclusively about the wonders of a particular area of Rocky Mountain National Park called “Wild Basin”, which was a less-visited part of the park’s southern end that I had never visited myself; and

2.) The book included an early map of Rocky Mountain National Park that I found a bit fascinating to study.

Image 9 Overall Map

The inside cover map included in the book

(Note: This map was not included in the first edition of the book; only later printings)

The map was not illustrated by Enos B. Comstock and was not made for the purpose of being included in Joe Mills’ book. The map is known as the Cooper-Babcock map and was the first comprehensive map drawn up of the southern portion of what is now Rocky Mountain National Park. In researching the history of the map, I was surprised to have found that its creation was not part of a formal survey operation; William Cooper and Dean Babcock happened to be in the area and took it upon themselves to map the Wild Basin area for fun! How wonderful that must have been to decide to map an unknown area of land in detail for the first time!

Looking at the map, one can see many familiar names of geographic features presently in Rocky Mountain National Park such as Longs Peak or Thunder Lake, however there are other features that are labeled differently than their present names. One name is certainly prominent and ties into the Joe Mills book: Wild Basin! There the name is stretched across the entire lower half of the map.

Image 10 Wild Basin Map Portion

A closer look at the lower half of the map which is dominated by Wild Basin.

I realize I haven’t even mentioned bringing Forrest’s poem into consideration so far, so at this point I wouldn’t be surprised if some of you are questioning where I’m going with this as a solve. To make a long story short, I had  seemed to have followed a twisting rabbit hole that started with scrapbook #17 and it spat me out the other side with the Wild Basin area apparently being waved in front of my face. Could this area be part of a new solve? It depended on if there was anything in this region that could be married up to Forrest’s poem.

Where to begin? Well, I started with the basic things first. There were certainly canyons and creeks aplenty, and if WWWH was the source of a stream (as I have often considered to be a possibility), there were plenty of those in the area too.

In the back of my mind I was still trying to puzzle out a natural feature that could be considered a home of Brown. Studying the Cooper-Babcock Map, I noticed in very small text right between “Wild” and “Basin” the words “Tent Rocks”.

Image 11 Tent Rocks Map

See the Tent Rocks just under the “B” in “Basin”?

Rocks that looks like tents? Could tents be considered a home? Sure, why not? But what about the “Brown”? Well, if the rocks were brown in color, that could be something. I looked at the satellite images in Google Earth and was pleasantly surprised to see that the Tent Rocks were actually labeled there as well.

Image 12 Tent Rocks GE

Tent Rocks as shown on Google Earth topographic view
(image courtesy Google Earth)

Image 13 Tent Rocks GE Satellite

Tent Rocks as shown on Google Earth satellite view (zoomed in a little closer)
(image courtesy Google Earth)

The area looked like a smudge of rocky terrain, but did appear to be brown in color. So…. maybe? Searching for any further information or even photos of the Tent Rocks on the internet came up empty, with all queries pointing me to the much more prominent Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rock National Monument in New Mexico (which is south of Santa Fe and thus not in consideration with respect to the Chase). Were there any possible tie-in’s of tents to some sort of a historical home of Brown? The best thing I could find was a very obscure reference to how the abolitionist John Brown lived in a tent during his anti-slavery campaigns which was referred to as “Brown’s Tent”. It seemed like a pretty shaky connection to me, but it was something. Perhaps it was just as simple as being a brown-colored feature that resembled a type of home? At any rate, it was a non-man-made geographic feature that could at least maybe…. possibly qualify as a home of Brown.

I decided to assume for the moment that the Tent Rocks were the home of Brown and see if I could identify a convincing WWWH. I remember Forrest had once responded to a Chaser’s question if they knew where the home of Brown was, then why are they bothering with WWWH? (I’m paraphrasing a bit here; the actual quote can be found HERE.

Well the answer to Forrest’s counter-question is that by finding a convincing WWWH to go along with a hoB, it adds supporting confidence to the entire solve and would not seem to me to be a wasted effort.

The Tent Rocks are located along the north shore of the North St. Vrain Creek, so I followed it upstream. The creek forks a few times as it rises in elevation towards the glaciers and snowfields. There’s a “Moomaw Glacier”; could a glacier be WWWH? Maybe? Ice could certainly be thought of as halted water in a sense.

There were also plenty of named mountain peaks along the divide. My eyes gravitated towards Isolation Peak (labeled as Mt. Hewes on the Cooper-Babcock Map). Could that be a reference to the first line in the poem “As I have gone alone in there”? Perhaps. Looking to the east of Isolation Peak was a smaller peak that Cooper and Babcock did not feel worthy of a label: Mahana Peak. It was only after I looked up the meaning behind the name “Mahana” that my attention suddenly sharpened a good deal: Mahana is a Hawaiian or Maori word meaning “heat” or “warmth”! The snowmelt that drains off of this mountain either to its northern or southern canyons will eventually converge into the same North St. Vrain Creek that flows to the immediate south of the Tent Rocks. Well that suddenly looked to me like a great match between the first half of the poem to the Wild Basin area!

Image 14 Mahana WWWH

Isolation Peak on the Continental Divide with Mahana Peak just to the southeast. Note how the waters draining off of Mahana Peak would drain either north into the North Saint Vrain Creek or south into Ouzel Creek, but both of these drainages converge further east into North Saint Vrain Creek.
(image courtesy Google Earth)

This gave me some confidence at least about being able to marry the first part of the poem to a place on the map. Now to see if the remainder of the poem could be followed using the Tent Rocks as the home of Brown:

“From there it’s no place for the meek”: Longs Peak’s little brother Mt. Meeker, and its long southeastern Meeker Ridge was almost immediately to the north. I guess I should go in the opposite direction south then?

Image 15 Mt Meeker Meeker Ridge 1

Mt. Meeker and Meeker Ridge to the north of the Tent Rocks. Mt. Meeker is not labeled, but is the prominent peak directly southeast of Longs Peak, and Meeker Ridge is the long ridge that extends southeast.
(image courtesy Google Earth)

“The end is drawing ever nigh”: If I (and Forrest before me) parked at the Wild Basin Trailhead and hiked the short distance west towards the Tent Rocks, I would have to hang a left in order to travel south (using the old-fashioned interpretation of “nigh” meaning “left”).

Image 16 TH to Tent Rocks 1

The Wild Basin Trailhead to Tent Rocks
(image courtesy Google Earth)

“There’ll be no paddle up your creek”: Heading south from Tent Rocks points me towards Cony Creek and its “Calypso Cascades”, which can certainly not be paddled up.

“Just heavy loads and waters high”: Waters high referencing the Calypso Cascades (or Calypso Falls as Cooper & Babcock called them), and heavy loads referencing the numerous massive glacial boulders lining both sides of the Cascades (that could be clearly seen on the internet from other hiker photos, as well as my own photos from when I hiked there several years ago).

Image 17 Calypso Cascades

A photo I took at the bottom of the Calypso Cascades from a hike in 2016.

Well now the poem seemed to be pointing me towards somewhere along Cony Creek (labeled Caroline Creek on the Cooper & Babcock map), but I still needed to nail down a more specific location. Calypso Cascades is a fairly popular hiking destination for the area, so I felt like I could dismiss the portion of Cony Creek between North St. Vrain Creek and the Cascades, as this stretch was pretty consistently visible along the trail leading from the Wild Basin Trailhead. When the hiking trail arrives at Calypso Cascades, one can follow trails further westwards or eastwards, but no trails went southwards uphill following Cony Creek (and the Cascades) further upstream. If there had been people and searchers within 200-500 feet of the treasure (presumably at the bridge at the bottom of the Cascades), then it seemed to indicate that it might be worth a try bushwhacking a short distance above the Cascades from the trail. From the photos I had, it seemed that the terrain on either side above Calypso Cascades did not appear to be too forbidding for an 80-year-old man, and was well forested to help conceal from views along the trail below.

Image 18 Calypso Cascades

Another person’s photo of Calypso Cascades that I found online. Note that the off-trail terrain to the left doesn’t appear to be a difficult grade at all.

Thinking about waterfalls also naturally reminded me of the grave of the French soldier in the TOTC chapter “My War for Me”. While describing his investigation of the tombstone, Forrest mentioned that the pilot was sitting on the edge of the top of the waterfall (I assumed the pilot to be the helicopter pilot at first read, but Forrest was a pilot too….). The terrain I was looking at now at Calypso seemed to evoke a similar image in my mind. There is a fork in Cony Creek immediately above the Calypso Cascades that appeared to be the very top of the falls before the main branch of Coney Creek traveled across flatter terrain towards Finch Lake. Reading the topographic lines, I painted a picture in my imagination where a “marvel gaze” may be possible. If one stood right at that fork in the creek at the top of the Cascades and there was a good break in the trees, one could have an absolutely marvelous gaze across the valley towards Longs and Meeker Peaks. Maybe!

Image 19 GC Marvel Gaze

Marvel gaze?
(image courtesy Google Earth)

A few other bits of information I stumbled upon added further to my confidence:

First, the name Calypso comes from the Greek word meaning “to hide”, “to conceal”, or “to deceive”, which seemed to fit in with the whole theme of the Chase (The internet revealed that the Calypso Cascades actually got their name due to a variety of Calypso orchid that apparently grew along its banks).

Secondly, the search location was within the boundaries of a National Park. That seemed to reinforce a notion I had regarding this CBS interview video with Forrest: Found HERE

 In the video, Forrest is asked about legal ownership of the treasure depending on where it is found. He only gives specific direction regarding if the treasure is found in a National Park (turn over to the park’s superintendent), and is rather vague and nonspecific about other possible locations such as private property or Indian reservation land. There could be different reasons for why he answered the question in this manner, but what if Forrest only bothered to be specific about National Park lands because that’s really the only instance that matters? It’s nothing solid that I could hang my hat on, but it did make me feel better that I was looking in an area within National Park boundaries.

And thirdly, the route to the location seemed to be reasonably 80-year-old-man friendly. The walk to Calypso Cascades is only about 1.8 miles from the Wild Basin Trailhead Parking Lot. Tack on only a few hundred feet of uphill bushwhacking, and it seemed reasonable that Forrest could have handled two out-an-back trips in an afternoon. Altogether, that adds up to about 7.2 miles of hiking which would certainly be enough to make him tired after all that. The entire route and final location also appeared to be completely within the elevation limits between 5,000 and 10,200 feet above sea level, with the hidey spot being pretty close to that range’s upper limit.

Anyways, I had spent a good deal of time looking over this area and thinking about it while waiting for the snows to melt. An especially late Spring did not help, but finally by early July I had drummed up enough confidence to make a go on a BOTG trip to see if my ideas might lead me to the location of Indulgence.

Some major late-season snowstorms ensured that the snows in the high country would remain stubbornly unmelted until well into the summer, but in July of 2019 I was finally able to put my little Calypso Cascades solve to the test. For the first time, I visited the Wild Basin Entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, which was tucked away well south of Estes Park, Colorado by the small town of Allenspark.

Image 20 WB Entrance

The less-developed Wild Basin Entrance into RMNP

Image 21 Start of Trail

As I had anticipated, the trail leading from the Wild Basin Trailhead was gently graded and pleasant.

Image 22 N St Vrain Creek

The trail followed along North St. Vrain Creek, which was obviously still surging with an abundance of late-season snowmelt, and no one with good sense would attempt to cross such a stream at this time. Fortunately there were footbridges further on along the trail.

Image 23 Trail Junction

At this trail junction, I had hoped to catch a glimpse of the mysterious Tent Rocks, but could see nothing but forested canyon sides rising above me. Try as I might, I would not be able to see any sign of the Tent Rocks at all during this outing. Perhaps they were nestled in the forest close to the various campsites along the other trail branch that I did not take? My confidence in this particular home of Brown was waning a bit.

Image 24 Base of Cascades

Heading over the bridge to the south side of North St. Vrain Creek, the trail gradually ascended following the southern stretch of Cony Creek until the footbridge at the base of Calypso Cascades came into view. This was a popular destination, so there were a good number of other hikers passing along through the area with me.

Image 25 Sign

This sign at the base of the Cascades gave special notice to fishermen along the upper Cony Creek. So fishermen liked this area? That made me wonder if Forrest perhaps had fished along this creek himself.

Image 26 Striaght up Cascades

Here is a view from the footbridge looking straight up the Cascades. Somewhere further up there was my little point of land where the creek forked. Not really the same as Forrest’s waterfall in Vietnam that dropped off of a high precipice and turned into mist, but certainly a water high with heavy loads along its banks.

Image 27 Base of Cascades

From the base of the Cascades, I could see that the terrain along the left (east) side was solid and actually looked pretty easy to hike up. The land of opposite side was broken and steeper, with some additional streams running down it, so the east (nigh?) side seemed to obvious way for me to ascend the Cascades.

Image 28 Starting up

I took a nice break at the base of the Cascades while I waited for a quiet point when there were no other hikers in the immediate vicinity who would see me dash off the trail up along the Cascades. Once I had a good window of opportunity, I was able to quickly head up the bank into the cover of the trees. I don’t know why I decided to be so covert about the whole thing; I suppose I was concerned that a ranger might see me and shout me back to stay on the designated trails.

Image 29 up more

Once I had a good screen of trees between me and the main trail, I could take my time in continuing to follow the Cascades uphill. The roar of the water blocked out all outside noise and was very pleasant.

Image 30 sawn log

The land got steeper the higher up I went, but I still did not feel that the terrain was anything that an 80-year-old man couldn’t handle. There was remarkably little undergrowth to bushwhack through. Then I noticed the sawn log in this picture. I began to wonder if I was actually following a very rough human trail? That might sink my whole solve, but I kept going upwards.

Image 31 Longs Meeker

I was pleased as I looked behind me and could catch some wonderful glimpses of the summit of Longs & Meeker Peaks through the break in the forest canopy caused by the Cascades. At least my idea of a “marvel gaze” seemed to be playing out well.

Image 32 Boulders

There was no shortage of massive boulders along the edge of the Cascades and I keep my eyes open for blazes and checked a few crevices here and there as I continued upwards.

Image 33 Orchids

A lovely surprise was that the Calypso Orchids, which gave the Cascades their name, were already in bloom along the bank and provided a beautiful splash of color. I made sure to give these a wide berth so as not to accidentally trample them.

Image 34 Topping off

All in all, the hike up along the Cascades did not take very much time at all. Soon I found myself at top of the steepest portion of the terrain and could look back at the view across the valley behind me.

Image 35 Point of land

And sure enough, right where the grade mellowed out again at the top of the Cascades, was that special point of land I was interested in. Here, Cony Creek continues off to the right, while its unnamed tributary heads off to the left. I would need to find a place to safely cross the unnamed stream, and this definitely wasn’t the place!

Image 36 log bridge

I knew from my map that the unnamed stream was not especially long from the point where it emptied into Cony Creek, so I simply followed it upstream to find a safe spot to cross. Sure enough, the stream quickly became narrower and its flow less intense, but then I got another surprise: I found myself facing an obviously human-built log bridge. There was no uncertainty in my mind now: Even though it was not marked on any maps, even though it was not signed, and even though it was quite rough the whole way, I had clearly been following a human trail. And as we all know, the treasure is not in close proximity to a human trail. I felt this was pretty close proximity to where I was hoping the treasure would be. Dang.

Image 37 Point

Well, I had come this far anyway, so I crossed the log bridge anyway and headed back out to my point of land at the fork to see if there was anything worth seeing. Really there wasn’t. I checked all the rocks and bases of trees just to be sure, but nothing that stuck out like a blaze. Also, those great views of Longs & Meeker I was hoping to see had been once again blocked from view. All I could do was stare back down Cony Creek as it rushed towards the top of Calypso Cascades. It was at least a beautiful spot to stop and have a snack.

Image 38 Further back

Just to be sure, I headed just a bit further upstream to see if there might be any aberrations worth taking a look at. Nothing really other than more trees, stumps, and rocks. Just as I was about to admit defeat and head back down, I had another surprise: A group of about a dozen teenaged backpackers walked by me! They had apparently been camping up at Finch Lake and were following the unmarked “connector trail” that I had come up. Well that was just the icing on the cake! I could only laugh and shake my head as I let the group pass by and then headed back down myself.

Image 39 Ouzel Falls

Once I got back down to the trail at the base of Calypso Cascades, I decided to enjoy myself and hike further up to Ouzel Lake. I had also been considering a few areas further up the trail earlier on, but my hike at least confirmed that some of these locations were too far for an 80-year-old man to make two trips to in a single afternoon. Ouzel Falls was another pretty area a short distance further up the trail, but both its banks and its top were swarming with other hikers milling about.

Image 40 to Ouzel Lake

Past Ouzel Falls, the crowds thinned along with the forest and my hike became a lot more pleasant. It was really refreshing not to have to worry about looking for a treasure for the remainder of this day and I could just enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Image 41 To Ouzel Lake Further

Ouzel Lake was about as far as a hiker without snow gear could get. I talked to a couple of hikers who had tried to go further up but turned back due to the still heavy snowpack.

Image 42 Ouzel Mahana

At the wonderful shores of Ouzel Lake with the rocky slopes of Mahana Peak rising above.

Image 43 Ouzel Lake Break

A pleasant spot on Ouzel Lake to take another relaxing break before turning around and hiking back.

Image 44 heading back

The long walk back to the Wild Basin Trailhead lies before me. At least it’s all downhill from here!

Well, that about wraps up my rundown of this failed solve for me. Many others have shared theirs on this site, so I was long overdue to share one of mine. In retrospect, there were a lot of problems with this one. My home of Brown was pretty weak and amounted little more to a weird label on some maps. I kind of liked my WWWH, but there’s nothing else I can figure out to do with it. The biggest lesson I took away from this trip was that human trails aren’t always signed or marked on maps – even in a National Park.

If anyone feels like exploring any of these areas in more detail, by all means feel free to use any of this if it helps. It really is a beautiful area of the park to visit for its own sake, and I have no regrets about my own visit here. I’m also still happy about being introduced to the literary works of both Joe and Enos Mills by way of this solve, and encourage anyone to give them a read for the fun of it. It was time well spent!

Thanks for reading!








Odds n Ends About Fenn’s Treasure Hunt…Part Ninety

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Please click on the comment balloon below to contribute to the discussion of  Forrest Fenn’s Treasure Hunt. Please note that many topics have their own pages. Please scroll through the blog to see all the discussion pages. There are also stories, scrapbooks, searcher’s reports general information, tips from Forrest, a rumors blog and even email responses from Forrest. So please look around and if you want to make a comment please use the most appropriate page.




Frosty’s Reflections Part 4-5…

December 2019

By Frosty


Part 4 – A Dash of Logic

Okay, we have an image of an airplane. But what do we do with that to get us closer to the treasure location?

Fenn has said that it “seems logical to me that a deep thinking treasure searcher could use logic to determine an important clue to the location of the treasure.” Lets apply a bit of logic. 

Fenn went alone both inside his cockpit and to the treasure location. Given the importance of each, logically it makes sense that the treasure would be located somewhere within the cockpit area. 

It also makes logical sense that the treasure would be on either public lands or private lands owned by Fenn. Fenn does not appear to own land within the cockpit area. 

If you overlay a map of public lands, the result is about 35 acres of BLM land that is within the cockpit. 


Click to enlarge map

And zoomed in:


Click to enlarge map


Part 5 – In Tight Focus

While 35 acres isn’t huge, the size of the chest and the landscape in which it is secreted still make it a  challenging search area. There must be a way to narrow it down. 

Fenn has informed that few “are in tight focus with a word that is key”. The word that is key can be found in the introduction to his poem. That reads: “So I wrote a poem containing nine clues that if followed precisely, will lead to the end of my rainbow and the treasure.” 

The word that is key is “precisely”. A synonym for precisely is the phrase “to a t”. Substituting that into the poem’s introduction, it now reads: “So I wrote a poem containing nine clues that if followed to a T, will lead to the end of my rainbow and the treasure”.  

We want to follow the clues to a T. Using satellite imagery, if you zoom in to bring the southwest corner of the search area into tight focus you will notice the letter ‘T’. That puts us in tight focus with the word that is key.

In each of the images below the ‘T’ is in roughly the center of the image, below a single small tree, in a clearing. 

Google Maps:


Click to enlarge image

Apple Maps:

IMG 0012

If you scan to the right of the T a couple of inches you will see an X with a circle around it at the base of a solitary tree. That is easier to see in the Apple map image.

Between the X and T is the image of a snowman with its left hand pointing at the X and its right hand over its head waving. That is more evident in the Google map image. Due to the angle in the Apple map image you can only see its head and the beginning of its torso. 

A snowman is an apt metaphor for the transience of life. Further, “Frosty the Snowman” represents the lesson Fenn learned and wants to teach in “My War for Me”.

(Stay tuned for the Finale, Part 6 – The End of the Rainbow)







Frosty’s Reflections Parts 1-3…

November 2019

By Frosty


Part 1 – Marry the Clues to a Map

Fenn advised searchers “to look for the clues in my poem and try to marry them to a place on a map.”

Solving the nine clues yields nine named geographic locations around Sweetwater Creek in Colorado, all within 10 miles of one another. They are as follows:

where warm waters halt
“Sweetwater Creek”  – Sweet is a related word to warm, though not a direct synonym. It halts at the Colorado River.

the canyon down
“Hell’s Gate” – Down as in down into hell and where it forms a canyon.

the home of Brown
“Riland Creek” – Play on Rhode Island, where Brown University is located. 

it’s no place for the meek
“Lyon’s Gulch” – Play on Lion.

The end is ever drawing nigh
“Tucker Draw” – Tucker as in tuckered out (synonymous with exhausted or done) and draw as in ending in a tie.

heavy loads 
“Deep Creek” – Deep as in heavy, in 60s lingo. 

water high
“Turret Creek” – Turret is synonymous with tower, in other words, high.

the blaze
“Hack Creek” – Hack is a synonym of blaze.

your quest to cease
“Cease Creek”.


Part 2 – The Big Picture

Fenn suggested that searchers “look at the big picture”. A phrase synonymous with seeing the big picture is “connecting the dots”. 

The town nearest the nine locations identified in Part 1 is Dotsero, CO. 

So let’s try our hand at the much-loved children’s puzzle game, connect the dots. Start by taking the nine locations from Part 1 and put a dot on the map for each. For creeks, put the dot at the mouth of the creek. 

Now let’s create our drawing. We will ‘begin it’ at the Sweetwater Creek dot (where warm waters halt is dot 1) and ‘take it in’ to the Hell’s Gate dot (the canyon down is dot 2). With no further instructions, we will continue with this pattern. (“Put in” and “From there” apply to the on the ground phase of the quest.) Continue drawing lines to connect to each subsequent dot. When you reach Turret Creek connect that dot to Deep Creek as those two clues are the only which are connected in one line in the poem. Finish up by connecting to the last dot, dot 9 (Lyon’s Gulch). 

Here is the architected result (note that “Mason Creek” – mason and architect are synonymous – feeds Sweetwater Creek): 


Click to enlarge


Part 3 – Adjust the Blueprint

If you have a good imagination you may have seen an airplane in the connect the dots in Part 2. But clearly it is incomplete. Fenn did warn us that his “blueprint is challenging so the treasure may be located by the one who can best adjust.”

We are going to have to adjust to complete his blueprint which means we will be bending the rules for connect the dots. To justify doing so, lets look at some of the hints in the poem and see what they may relate to outside of the treasure hunt. 

And hint of riches new and old 
“Irrawaddy Creek” feeds Sweetwater Creek – The Irrawaddy River is located in the southeast Asian country of Myranmar. Irrawaddy translates to “abundance of riches”. The new name for the country is Myranmar. Of old, and when Fenn served in Vietnam, it was known as Burma. [Some of this hint had to be researched so you may choose to discount it.]

And with my treasures bold, I can keep my secret where
“Treasures” hints at his bombs and “secret where” were his, at the time, secret bombing runs in Laos.

As I have gone alone in there
Hints at being in the cockpit.

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

“Trove” hints at bombs left on bombing runs. “All to seek” is the VietCong. “Tired” is short for attired which is synonymous with uniformed.

Outside of the poem, Fenn councils that if one is to read only a single chapter from “The Thrill of the Chase” it should be “My War for Me”. That chapter is about a slice of his time as a fighter pilot in Vietnam.

Taken as a whole, these hints point to Fenn’s time in southeast Asia as a pilot and how impactful and formative that time was for him. The hints give us confidence about how to appropriately adjust the blueprint.

First, lets connect dot 9 to dot 1 to form a complete outline of an airplane.


Click to enlarge

The hints also suggest adding a cockpit. We will create the largest one possible by connecting dot 3 to dot 7. 


Click to enlarge

Now that’s a plane!

(Stay tuned for Part 4 – A Dash of Logic)








Be Water…

of34October 2019

By CrazyFox


Boots on the ground (BOTG) was always the fun part for me.  I don’t know how many searches I’ve been on and it never really mattered if I was even close to the treasure or even in the right state.  It was all just an excuse to get out in the wilderness and hike around and explore new areas and have some fun pretending I was going to find the treasure.  But eventually I had to stop doing that because it got to be an expensive hobby and I couldn’t afford to just keep driving around the Rocky Mountains on a wild goose chase looking for gold, no matter how much fun I was having.  But the poem had become stuck in my mind, playing over and over in an endless loop, even when I was hiking outside the Rockies.  Somehow I had become obsessed.  The more I thought about it, the more I thought that it was a crazy idea that Forrest even hid a treasure valued that high somewhere out there.  I mean what if someone accidentally stumbled across it and found it without even having any knowledge of the poem.  Or what if a park ranger in Yellowstone found it and then what…the government takes it?  I would think that would be the last thing that Forrest would want to happen.  So, at some point I had a shift in my thinking.  I began to think that maybe the treasure chest wasn’t actually hidden out there in the mountains and that maybe the poem was just a riddle to be solved mentally.  Does that sound crazy?  Anyhow, this solve is a mental solve only, using imagination.  All I ask is that you read my solution with an open mind because my solve is pretty far out there.  After almost a decade, still no one has found the chest with traditional thinking…with BOTG mentality.  So, I’m thinking outside the box.  Way outside the box.

Forrest used the word “good” in the poem, instead of using the more grammatically correct “well”.  Is there some reason we have to be good?  Forrest spent a long time writing the poem and I’m sure he chose every word carefully, and if he used the word good instead of well, then I’m sure it must have meaning in the poem.  The treasure chest is said to have possibly once contained a bible, so maybe there is a connection to the word good and maybe morality plays a role in the poem.  In The Thrill of the Chase (TTOTC), Forrest mentions Catcher in the Rye in the chapter titled “Important Literature”.   Forrest thinks the book is about him and says that it was “my very own story line”.  The title Catcher in the Rye comes from a song that the main character hears and misinterprets.  Holden (the main character) wants to “catch” children in their uncorrupted innocence before they “fall” into adulthood, or in other words to protect innocence from the corrupting influence of experience.  So is there a “fall” in Forrest’s poem?  A fall from grace and Forrest wants to be the “catcher”?  “And take it in the canyon down”…that canyon leads to hell!  In Forrest’s poem we have the line, “There’ll be no paddle up your creek”, which to me, sounds like we may be in trouble…we’re going to be up sh-t creek without a paddle (because of our sinful ways…we have fallen).  

In Important Literature, Forrest doesn’t really care for The Great Gatsby, a cautionary tale with themes of decadence and excess.  And when Forrest talks about For Whom the Bell Tolls, he’s describing a completely different book.  Death is the primary theme in For Whom the Bell Tolls and is the primary theme of Forrest’s poem in my opinion.  In Forrest’s poem he writes “the end is ever drawing nigh”.  That line always sounded a little ominous to me.  I think he’s talking about the end of life.  We have the double omega at the end of the book.  Omega means the end so the double omega would mean the end of the end…or a new beginning.  In my solution, the first omega (or the first end) represents a spiritual death and the second omega represents a physical death.  On page 15 in TTOTC, forrest says “that before too long I’ll make my last flight to where even memory itself will never have been”…the last flight, meaning death and his spirit flying up to heaven.  On page 142 he writes, “Today I looked up in the sky and saw that I shall never die”, meaning that the physical body may die but the spirit lives on in the afterlife.  

The quote that Forrest mentions from the T.S. Eliot poem says, “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time”.  Basically the quote is saying that we are going to end where we start.  But how can that be?  Are we going in a circle?  Yes, two circles.  Two cycles.  Two omegas.

I started out by looking for the blaze first because that’s the trail marker.  That puts you on the correct path.  “Begin it where warm waters halt” is not the beginning of the poem.  We need to start at the beginning of the poem where the keyword is located in the first stanza.  He tells you that he’s giving you a hint, in the line…And hint of treasures new and old.  The keyword is old.  Start out by looking for the blaze…just heavy loads and water high…that’s the blaze.  It’s not a waterfall, that’s the wrong direction…your arrowhead should be pointing up!  When Forrest fell from the sky after being shot down, he was saved by being pulled up.  That’s the direction you want to go after you die…up, not down to hell! 

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

The keyword is old.  He’s talking about Old Faithful in this first stanza.  Don’t think of “I” as meaning Forrest speaking to you, think of “I” as Old Faithful speaking to you.

As I (Old Faithful) have gone (erupted-the water is gone, it has left the chamber) alone in there

And with my treasures bold (This is the blaze, the water in full display-the eruption).

I can keep my secret where warm waters halt (which is in the clouds, or in heaven).

New and old…new eruptions, old eruptions. 

Okay, I guess I need to explain WWWH (where warm waters halt).  Hot water comes out of Old Faithful and most of the water falls back down, except for the finite particles (the steam or the mist) which rises due to temperature.  The mist is the warm waters, which rise until they reach the colder air high up in the sky.  That’s where warm waters halt and clouds are formed.  The clouds represent heaven and the mist represents a spirit that reconnected spiritually with God.  More on that later.  We need to start at the beginning of the path.  So we begin it WWWH, or in other words, in heaven.  We start in heaven and God gives us life to begin. 

And take it in the canyon down (ATIITCD).  Those of you who are familiar with the searcher who goes by the name Seeker, may remember Him talking about “take it in” to mean view.  So we take in the view.  We have to view the path, that is, we have to visualize the path in our mind’s eye only (imagination) since the path takes us underground.  And we’re going to take it (the water cycle of Old Faithful) into the canyon down.  Water is a symbol of life across many different cultures.  So in the poem, life is symbolized by the water which I’ve already pointed out by saying that the mist is symbolic of a spirit going to heaven.  So as the rain (or snow) comes down, this is the “fall”.  As we go through life, we fall into sin, because let’s face it, we’re all sinners.  

Not far, but too far to walk.  Hell is too far to walk, and we won’t be walking at all since this is a mental solve, no BOTG needed.

Put in below the home of Brown.  The home of Brown is Earth.  Earth is not capitalized when preceded by “the” – for example, everything on the earth, as opposed to everything on Earth (with no “the”).  The poem doesn’t say put in below the home of the brown.  That’s why he capitalized Brown.  So the canyon down, is below Earth.  In TTOTC on page 48, Forrest says after washing dishes all day… “My hands turned white and had deep canyons in them”.  So the canyon is small, or starts off small, just a little crevice where the water seeps down underground.

I’ve made a rudimentary drawing to help you visualize my solve.


So what I’m saying is that the poem takes us through two water cycles of Old Faithful.  These two cycles are the double omegas.  From there it’s no place for the meek.  So the water seeps down the crevice (the canyon down) and into the chest.  So, we’re at the gates of Hell (the magma chamber) now, and that’s just too far to walk!!!

The end is ever drawing nigh.  So it’s a cycle that repeats itself over and over and we continue to sin and put ourselves in Hell.  We need to break the cycle!!!  That’s why Forrest used the word “good” in the poem instead of using “well”.  We have to be good unless we want to end up in Hell!!!

There’ll be no paddle up your creek.  That’s the constrictor that the water is forced through.  So basically we’re going to be up sh-t creek without a paddle if we don’t change our evil ways!!!

Just heavy loads and water high.  This is the eruption of Old Faithful.  Water is spewing everywhere like the tears we’ll be crying from a life of sin.  We hit rock bottom because of our immoral ways and there’s only one way to go from here…UP!  Water high…meaning WWWH…we’ve had a spiritual death and now we reconnect with God.  

If you’ve been wise and found the blaze.  Wise, because we need to see the error of our ways before we die and end up in Hell.  Look quickly down your quest to cease.  This is the start of the water cycle again for the second omega, or the rest of our lives, hopefully by now, living a more spiritual life.  I think the second omega represents our physical death.

But tarry scant.  So now we are in between eruptions.  We’re down in the water chamber (the chest) and we have to wait a while but not too long, for the water to fill up the chest again and for the eruption to happen.  We don’t want to tarry down in Hell.

With marvel gaze.  So is the marvel gaze hell?  From TFTW (Too Far To Walk)  I believe the last chapter is about the marvel gaze.  He’s looking into the mirror at a younger version of himself and in the mirror poem on page 259 he’s not happy with the looks of his old age (hell) and he asks the mirror to change his looks to twenty-three, his ideal age (heaven).  Then in the mirror poem he says “Maybe we can compromise, If you’ll just make me forty-four” (the middle…between heaven and hell).  So the marvel gaze would be the eruption itself (the blaze).  So we’re down in hell again because we’re all prone to making mistakes.  But this time we just tell the devil to go squat in a cactus patch and get the hell out of there!  

Just take the chest and go in peace.  This is the second eruption or the second omega (our physical death).  The double omega means the end of the end…or a new beginning.  We die a physical death but our spirit travels up to heaven!  Hallelujah!

So why is it that I must go and leave my trove for all to seek?  The answer/s I already know I’ve done it tired and now I’m weak.  So we know why Old Faithful erupts and after every eruption it is “weak” until it fills with water again and the cycle continues.  Plus, Old Faithful is slowing down…it’s not quite as faithful as it used to be.  Is that what’s happening in today’s world…we’re not quite as faithful as we used to be?  I’m not a religious person ( I don’t use the Bible to connect with God) but I am a spiritual person and I connect with a higher power through meditation.

We all know that war is hell.  And it’s possible that Forrest views war as a sin.  In “My War For Me” (in TTOTC), on pages 81 and 82, Forrest writes about a mission where he comes across a large group of people and he has to decide if it’s a legitimate target or not.  He describes the utter chaos, the panic, the terrible fear of the people below him.  Forrest said he felt ashamed and started crying in his oxygen mask.  He says, “Suddenly, I hated Lyndon Johnson and Robert McNamara and all of the other politicians who were sitting in their fat offices at home, totally oblivious to what war was really like.  I think war was a spiritual death to Forrest.  

So hear me all and listen good, your effort will be worth the cold.  Of course we can all hear when Old Faithful erupts and you already understand now why he used the word good instead of well in the poem.  And worth the cold, of course, is where warm waters halt…up in Heaven. 

If you are brave and in the wood…well, I have to be brave to write something as outrages as this!  And this seems to be the place to post it.  Home of Dal is in the wood because that’s where Forrest’s posts all his Scrapbooks.  

I give you title to the gold…this of course…To the Gold… is the title of Forrest’s poem.  What do you all think?








Visiting CWB…

October 2019

By Chris Wilson


October 22nd, 2019 2pm, Collected Works Bookstore

Today was an amazing day. Without going too much into background, one of my two young daughters has autism and cannot yet communicate properly. It is also very difficult to go out in public with her because of the frequent outbursts and other quirks. Yesterday I brought my family to Santa Fe from Kansas with my Dad for the first time.

When we arrived I emailed Forrest to see if we could meet and see if he would sign my book. He replied and suggested we meet at 2pm at Collectied Works Bookstore.


We arrived a few minutes early to scope the place out, but by this time we were having a really hard time with our daughter. We took her outside on the back patio area of the bookstore to calm her down but weren’t having any luck at all. I could see my wife really stressed out, and the situation just felt helpless in that moment because we knew Forrest was coming soon. Then only a moment later Forrest pulled up in his Jeep, walked straight over to us after confirming who I was, and took my daughter by the hand.

He could see that we were having a hard time, I briefly explained her condition and he said “she’s a beautiful girl I’ll hold her hand!” and continued to walk into the bookstore with her.

From there I was able to introduce Forrest to my wife, two children and Father. He grabbed a table just for us and asked everyone to sit down. We talked for nearly 30 minutes! He discussed all sorts of things with us! It was absolutely surreal I couldn’t stop smiling!


Before leaving he very kindly signed a few copies of our TTOTC books, and my copy of “Journal of a Trapper” which was signed “I love Osborne Russel”.
As we said our goodbyes he came back up to my daughter and gave her a high-five. I was so thankful his presence brought her the comfort we had been trying to achieve since earlier that morning.

20191022 161702

20191022 161646

It made my whole trip to see Forrest Fenn in person telling stories, and playing with my daughters. Meeting him only confirmed what I already felt in my heart, which is that Forrest is as genuine as a man could possibly be. I’m richer just from the experience of meeting him face to face.

Forrest, thank you for making time for us and for being so kind to my family, we won’t forget it. 🙂


Chris’s videos can be found on YouTube under “Octopus Skcid”.







Litter 81 Found……

image1aOctober 2019

By Chris LaFrieda, PhD

Photographs by Digby Greenhalgh and Kai Chang


Introduction by Forrest Fenn
Christopher LaFrieda is a treasure hunter by hobby and a designer and maker of microchips when he is not thinking about WWWH. His PhD is in electrical engineering. He was studying my life looking for clues when he became interested in my Vietnam experience, especially the story about me being shot down. Before my mind could catch up with what he was doing, he was looking for my crashed F-100, deep in the Laotian Jungle. Yeah Chris, good luck with that one. This is his story. f

It’s still morning here in New Jersey, but it’s just past 11 p.m. in Laos. I should have heard from Digby and Kai by now. Communicating with my team in Sepon has been a constant struggle. There’s only a small window of time to arrange a call before they turn in for the night, exhausted from the long day spent in the extreme heat and humidity of the Laotian jungle. If that fails, then there’s an eight-hour wait to try again in their a.m. Today is different though.

This was our last shot to find the wreckage of a missing Vietnam-era warplane, an F-100D with serial number 55-3647. The pilot, who safely ejected and was rescued by helicopter over 50 years ago, is home in Santa Fe, New Mexico eagerly awaiting news of its fate. We’ve been growing increasingly confident about finding it over the past few days. I wouldn’t know how to break it to him if we are unsuccessful. I’m also starting to worry about my guys.

The United States dropped approximately 300 million bombs on Laos during the Vietnam War. About a third of those never went off and they continue to maim and kill to this day. The area around Sepon, where we are operating, is one of the most contaminated in all of Laos. Local guides will try to steer my team around unexploded ordnance, but much of it is hidden beneath the surface and you wouldn’t know it’s there until it’s too late. Oh, then there are the tigers.

Kai translates, “The boy says he saw a footprint the size of an open hand. That means the tiger is as big as a water buffalo.” They seemed to feel better when one of the guides offered to bring his AK-47 with them into the jungle. That only made me more nervous. The locals say not to bother worrying about tigers because the giant poisonous centipedes are the real danger. How did I get myself into this mess?

You may have heard that there is a treasure chest filled with gold hidden somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. In 2010, Forrest Fenn hid the chest with the hope that it would motivate people to “get off the couch” and experience nature. Forrest wrote a poem that contains clues to the location of the treasure and published it in his memoir, The Thrill of the Chase. In addition to the poem, Forrest teases that his memoir contains “subtle clues” hidden among its stories.

After nearly a decade, nobody has found the treasure. That’s just the sort of challenge that I can’t resist, so last year I picked up a copy of Forrest’s memoir. Its stories cover 80 years of Forrest’s life from his first steps at the beginning of the Great Depression right up to the time he hid the treasure. All the stories are fascinating, but one perfectly sums up Forrest’s special brand of luck and adventure—his rescue after being shot down as a fighter pilot during the Vietnam War.

image2 On December 20, 1968, Major Fenn was leading a flight of four F-100Ds under the call sign Litter 81. As part of Operation Commando Hunt, their mission was to drop ordnance on the main road leading into Tchepone, Laos (now known as Sepon) to disrupt the movement of North Vietnamese troops and equipment along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. As Forrest made his passes over the target, his F-100 was hit and severely damaged by anti-aircraft fire. Rather than immediately heading for safe ground, Forrest charged the guns and marked them as targets for the rest of his flight (an act that earned him the Silver Star).

Forrest pulled away from the guns and, as instructed, took a heading of 030 for bailout. His plane held together long enough to get him to a remote stretch of jungle, about 20 miles away from the action, before he ejected. As Forrest descended in his parachute, he watched his F-100 crash into a distant cliff and explode in a giant fireball. After spending a harrowing night in the jungle and narrowly avoiding capture, his Forward Air Controller (FAC), James Swisher, found him the next morning and alerted rescue forces.

One Crown C-130, two Jolly Green HH-3Es, two Misty F-100Fs, four Sandy A-1s, and one Nail O-2 with a total crew of 26 all worked quickly to rescue the downed pilot. The Jolly Green helicopters, one low and one high (a backup), took their positions over Forrest, hoisted him out of the jungle, and ferried him safely to their base at Nakhon Phanom, Thailand. As was typical for the time, Forrest was given just a few moments for a photo op and to thank some of his rescuers before they all continued with the business of war. Forrest had the distinction of being the 1,500th combat save in Southeast Asia.
image3 1There was something about the rescue that puzzled me. Forrest was out of radio contact with his flight and rescue forces for about 14 hours. A cursory study of rescue operations from that era suggested that was an anomaly. Usually, a doomed aircraft would be escorted by a wingman through bailout. The wingman would then orbit near the downed pilot until rescue forces arrived, while maintaining constant radio contact with the survivor. In Forrest’s case, he had somehow been separated from the rest of his group and lost, then found the next day.  There had to be more to this story.

With the help of a retired Air Force historian, George Cully, I obtained mission reports from each of the units involved in the rescue. The full picture started coming into focus, but there were details that I would only learn after tracking down James Swisher, the FAC who found Forrest.

Wisher explained, “We [the FACs] were given a heading of 300 for bailouts in the morning briefing. Forrest ended up on a heading of 030, 90 degrees off. He punched up through a break in the clouds and we lost sight of him.” (It’s not clear where the incorrect heading came from, but Swisher’s account makes sense because 030 is toward North Vietnam.) Swisher assumed Forrest turned to 300 and they spent the first day looking for him in the wrong place. Early the next morning, Swisher returned with a pair of Misty F-100s (same plane as Forrest) and sent them along Forrest’s last known trajectory. When they cleared the mountains that were blocking Forrest’s transmissions, he came up on the radio.

“If I was 500 feet above where my chute is hanging in the trees,
I could point to where the plane crashed.”

In April of this year, I visited Forrest at his home in Santa Fe to discuss these newly found details about his rescue. Forrest sang my praises, “Chris is a ferret. I was looking for Swisher for 50 years and he found him in two weeks.” (It was closer to two months.) We spent the next couple of days poring over his collection of Vietnam memorabilia, which included a handwritten log of every mission he flew, his parachute beeper, combat maps, photo albums and letters. The pièce de résistance was a photograph taken by Roger Gibson, the copilot of the backup chopper, just as Forrest was being hoisted up out of the jungle.

At first glance, the photo appears to show only a lush green jungle surround by magnificent stone cliffs. Upon careful inspection, a tiny camouflaged helicopter can be seen nestled in the treetops. As Forrest held the photograph, he told me that in the 1970s, a filmmaker wanted to bring him back to Laos to find the wreckage of his airplane. “I was going to find the flight stick from my F-100 and bring it home. That would have been some trophy.” Forrest raised his hand slightly and closed his eyes as if he could see himself holding that piece of his airplane. For a moment, I thought I could see it too.

The project eventually fell through and it was clear that the passing decades did little to assuage Forrest’s disappointment. Forrest continued to regale me with stories about his tour in Vietnam, but my mind kept drifting back to the thought of finding his airplane. Fifty years had passed. Could it still be out there? I was confident that with the rescue photo and mission reports, I could find the exact spot where Forrest was pulled from the jungle. However, Forrest was the only person to see where his plane crashed. If there was any chance to find it, we’d have to rely on half-century-old memories to get us the rest of the way.

Over the next few weeks, I peppered Forrest with questions about his bailout. I did my best to disguise my intentions because I didn’t want to be the second person to get his hopes up and then shatter them. Forrest was able to recall that he was flying parallel to a cliff wall and that his plane crashed halfway up a distant cliff wall, approximately one minute after ejection. That reduced the search area to a series of cliffs about 3-4 miles from the extraction point. There was still too much ground to cover, so I tried to press him further. That’s when Forrest said, “If I was 500 feet above where my chute is hanging in the trees, I could point to where the plane crashed.” I suspect that was Forrest’s polite way of changing the subject, but it gave me an idea.

At age 88, Forrest wasn’t going to travel to Laos and fly around in a helicopter looking for wreckage. Fortunately, technology could provide an alternative. Forrest’s extraction point is roughly 13 miles north of Sepon, Laos on lands that belong to the Village of Ban Talouay. Satellite images show a clearing in the jungle about 1 mile east from the extraction point. If we can get permission from the village and if we could make it to the clearing, then we could send up a drone, get footage from Forrest’s parachute perspective, show it to Forrest and, hopefully, get a fix on the crash site. That’s a lot of ifs, and there really was no we yet, but the idea was technically sound.

I needed to assemble a team that included a translator, drone pilot and local guides. Due to the remoteness and rugged terrain of the area, it seemed logical to enlist the help of a travel agency that specializes in motorcycle tours of Laos. I reached out to James Barbush, an American expat living in Laos, and explained the situation. James runs Remote Asia Travel with his wife Quynh, and he personally has years of off-roading experience at remote locations in Laos, including near Sepon. James would serve as a one-stop shop of sorts. He recruited the required personnel, handled the equipment rentals, made the travel arrangements, and applied for all the necessary permits. The only caveat was that rainy season had just begun, and they’d have to wait for a break in the weather to proceed. The short delay gave me an opportunity to become acquainted with my team.

Kai Chang would act as translator and guide for this expedition. Kai is Laotian and speaks both Lao and English fluently. He’s worked for James as a motorcycle tour guide for over five years and led many weeks-long tours across the rough backroads of Laos. Over the years, Kai has developed contacts at many of the remote Laotian villages, including Ban Talouay.

Digby Greenhalgh is our drone pilot. Originally from Australia, Digby has lived in Hanoi for almost two decades. His company, Explore Indochina, provides motorcycle adventure tours across Laos and Vietnam. He has been exploring the Ho Chi Minh Trail by motorcycle for the past 17 years and has ridden the trail over 25 times. Digby has been featured on several television shows, including The World’s Most Dangerous Roads and Top Gear. More recently, Digby has been using drones to explore parts of the trail that are too dangerous to get to on foot.

After weeks of daily thunderstorms, the weather improved marginally to intermittent rain. It was decision time. James advised, “Go for it. Wait it out in Sepon and hit your weather windows as you can.” Digby seemed to concur, “The only way to know will be to stick our hands out the window in Sepon.” I brought Forrest up to speed and asked him to be ready to review the drone footage. Slightly stunned, he responded, “This is exciting, Chris. I’ll do what I can.” There was no backing out now. We were a go.

On the morning of June 11, Digby and Kai departed from Vientiane on motorcycle. The 400-mile trek to Ban Talouay was impeded by poor road conditions and the occasional downpour. They arrived at the village the following day and arranged a meeting with the naiban (village chief). Armed with a photograph of Forrest, Kai, speaking in Lao, relayed the story of Forrest’s rescue and his desire to find the remains of his missing F-100. The naiban was sympathetic. Not only did he grant access to their lands, but he also arranged for three hunters from a neighboring village to serve as guides. Their chat was followed by friendly carousing and storytelling into the night.

The naiban has lived in the village his entire life. During the Vietnam War, when he was just a boy, the village was moved farther up into the valley, not far from where Forrest spent the night in the jungle. The naiban revealed that there were Vietnamese bases throughout the area—a fact that underscored how fortunate Forrest was to escape capture. The North Vietnamese fed and looked after the villagers, and in return the villagers helped them. After being on opposite sides of such a brutal and devastating war, the naiban had readily offered us his assistance. In a way, I felt this expedition was already a success.

Early the next day, Kai and Digby regrouped at the naiban’s house for a quick introduction to their guides, Su, Noob and Don. The five men crowded onto three motorcycles and started up the dirt road at the west side of the village. The rocky narrow road cuts a swath through an overgrown jungle that occasionally blocks out the sky above them. They followed the road over streams and rain-filled depressions, passing through a bamboo gate, and eventually reaching its end at a dry creek bed, about 3 miles into the valley. They parked their bikes and continued on foot.

Over the next half mile, the creek bed turns into a stream, then into a full-fledged gorge with sheer stone walls as it squeezes between two mountains. The crew navigated the meandering path as the rocks beneath their feet grew from stones to boulders. Just past the narrowest section of gorge, the grade quickly lessens and the stone walls crumble, yielding to the jungle environment. The guides escorted the group up a steep trail to a hilltop clearing.

“They sometimes go up there to hunt.
There are plane parts along the base of the cliff.”

The clearing offers a unique 360-degree view of the entire jungle valley, which is surrounded by a C-shaped mountain range with 1,000-foot-high stone bluffs. Waist-high and shoulder-high crops with long narrow stalks cover sections of the clearing. Digby inquired, “Kai, can you ask the guys what they planted here?” Kai translated, “They say the tall plants are exported to China or Vietnam to make fiber for clothes. The smaller one, the people use it to make a roof for their house.” The guides further explained that the villagers cleared out the trees just two years ago. Prior to that, our expedition wouldn’t have been possible.

Digby laid out his equipment and prepped the drone for launch. The cliffs in the rescue photo perfectly matched the cliffs to the west of their position; Digby knew exactly where he needed to go. He piloted the drone a mile out to precisely where Forrest broke through the jungle canopy, climbed to 500 feet and scanned the mountains on the far side. With the remaining battery, Digby made a pass along the western side of the bluffs and then hightailed it back to the clearing. He checked the drone footage and made an exciting discovery.

From what seems to have been Forrest’s vantage point during bailout, the surrounding terrain masks all but one 700-foot-long section of distant cliffs—it was the only place that fit his description of the crash site. Digby signaled for the guides to come over and pointed out the location on a map. They became animated and started talking over each other. Kai summarized, “They sometimes go up there to hunt. There are plane parts along the base of that cliff. They say that is where the plane crashed.”

This crash site is one of several nearby sites that are known to the villagers. They normally don’t advertise the locations of these sites, but they felt compelled to after we made the connection. Over the years, these sites were stripped of most of their metal to support construction booms in Vietnam and China. Only small fragments or non-metallic items remain. The guides cautioned that the three-hour hike to the crash site would be difficult, but they were willing to take Kai out there the next day. Kai agreed and the group retraced their steps back to Ban Talouay.

That night, back at the hotel, Digby updated Forrest and me on the recent developments and sent us some drone footage to review. Forrest confirmed, “That is exactly as I remember it.” We planned to have Kai take two cell phones to the crash site and photograph every piece of wreckage with emphasis on anything with a serial number. We scheduled a call for 9 p.m. the following night. Kai should be back before then. That gave me a day to figure out how to identify an airplane from small parts.

Fortunately, the National Archives hosts a database of all aircraft losses during the Vietnam War with their last known coordinates. Those records show that 183 planes were lost within 30 miles of the crash site. Only four of those planes, including Forrest’s, were F-100s. Forrest ejected 3 miles from the crash site. The other F-100s were reported to have crashed or exploded at least 15 miles away. If the wreckage is from an F-100, then there would be no doubt that we found Forrest’s plane.

In my collection of F-100 materials, I had a copy of a technical manual named Illustrated Parts Breakdown. That manual contains a complete list of the F-100’s more than 30,000 parts. If we find any serial numbers belonging to an F-100, they’ll be in there. I placed the manual next to the phone on my desk. I was ready. All I could do now was wait.

A little after 11 p.m. Laos time, the phone rings.

“Mr. Chris” a voice beams with an Australian accent that I’ve become accustomed to. “Yes, Mr. Digby,” I returned, sensing the incoming good news. “Tell Forrest to break out the bubbly, we found Litter 81.” An elated Digby and Kai recount the events of that day…

That morning, Kai rendezvoused with the guides at Ban Talouay and, this time, they rode off on the trail at the northern side of the village. Near the end of the trail, they ditched the bikes and headed northeast into the jungle on a barely visible footpath. After a short walk, the jungle opens at a hidden rice paddy packed with green shoots and dotted with burnt tree stumps, a byproduct of slash-and-burn. They continued along a stream at the northern end of the paddy.

The stream grows in size and intensity as they near its source—a small waterfall flowing over a stone ledge and into a pool of clear water. The last mile of the journey is a steep 1,300-foot climb up the mountain. Stone slabs form a natural staircase and exposed roots act as handholds to aid the group as they ascend. After an exhausting two-hour climb, they reached a relatively flat tree-covered ridge at the base of 1,000-foot-high stone cliffs.

On site, there were no obvious signs of wreckage. The guides grabbed some flat rocks to use as makeshift shovels and began excavating through leaves and topsoil from a squat position. They uncovered tire fragments, bits of aluminum, fuel cell bladders, wires, hoses and screws. Kai carefully scraped the dirt off the parts with his fingers and photographed each item, making sure to capture any serial numbers.

On the return trip, the guides stopped to bathe in the pool at the small waterfall before returning to the village. Ban Talouay was alive with singing and dancing. Neighboring villages had joined in the festivities and they were feasting on a large pig that was spit roasted over an open fire. It was a wedding! Kai said his goodbyes to our new friends and made his way back to the hotel.

As I listened to the story, I felt an adrenaline rush come over me. It quickly turned to panic as I began to worry: What if we found the wrong plane? I needed to research those plane parts ASAP.

The tire fragments are from a Goodyear size 3.0 x 8.8 tire with a ply rating of 22. They match only one type of aircraft with losses in Laos, the F-100. Hose assembly #601335-8-0104 is from the hydraulic oil pump attached to the F-100 engine. Similarly, all the other identifiable parts are a match to the F-100. We did it. We found Litter 81.

Weeks later, a package arrived. I can’t say how, but a small piece of aluminum, vibrating with the spirit of Litter 81, made its way down the mountain and traveled halfway around the world to get to me. I padded a small wooden box, placed the metal bit inside, closed the lid and shipped it to Santa Fe. Shortly after, I received an email from Forrest:
“You are an absolute genius. That fragment is so beautiful. Words cannot describe how I feel about this little thing, Chris. It is a real part of me now. Thank you so much. 


Additional Photos:


Leaving Ban Talquay


Ride up the Valley


The gorge narrows


Digby hauls drone equipment out of the gorge


Kai (right)and hunters at the clearing


Digby retrieves his drone


Rescue site in 1968


Rescue site today


Crash site at distant cliff topcezter) as seen from drone


A hidden rice paddy


Su crosses a stream the easy way


The waterfall pool


Noob scales the stone staircase


Cliffs at crash site


Fragments from Goodyear tire, size 30 x 8.8, 22ply

image15 2

Hose assembly #601335-8-0104

image20 2

Fuel cell bladder





Digby and Kai at the clearing:


Drone footage from extraction site (no audio):


Hike to crash site / wreckage:






Trying To Read Between The Lines…

October 2019

By James Collier


Trying To Read Between The Lines

For this solve, I tried to keep things relatively simple. One day, about a month or so ago I was reading some replies on Dal’s blog. The discussion was in reference to some of the things Forrest Fenn has said in the past, as well as the 200ft and 500ft quote. I began to wonder why people were able to get within 200ft and 500ft of the TC, but not realize they were so close. How!? In almost 10 years, and the countless amount of searching, on top of the amount of people who have had very intellectual ideas, why has it not been found? So, I began to think. I sat around for an entire afternoon and asked myself the following questions:


1.How did people get so close and not realize it?
2.Why did FF tell people if you didn’t read anything else in the book, read “My War For Me.”
3.Why did ff tell a kid when asked if he thought a kid could solve it, “Yes, quite possibly one of the “smart” ones.”
4.Why did he say that “telling people when he found the location” would be too revealing of a clue?
5.Why did ff say there were clues “sprinkled” throughout the book but they weren’t deliberately placed to aid the seeker?
To answer these questions, I wanted to approach my next solve by simply sticking to the notion that all you needed was the book, the poem, a map, and an extensive knowledge of Geography. That’s it. Nothing else. I began this solve by taking Fenn’s advice and re-reading “My War For Me.” I went back to this chapter and tried to focus on what he was saying. I tried to find something that would punch me in the face. I tried to put myself in his shoes, and when I did, something stood out to me. After all of the narrow misses, the war, getting shot down, finding the soldiers grave site, what would I look forward to most? If it was me? I would look forward to nothing more than coming home to my family. Being done with it all and in the arms of the people I love the most. That day was December 22nd for him, and when he walked into his home it was Christmas Eve. This is what hit me in the face…the punch so to speak. “So what?” you might be asking. Well, let me explain as to why this was important to me.


This goes deep into question #3 & #4 above. Why would it have to be one of the “smart” ones? Why would the time he found the location be too revealing? I was wondering if there was place in the book he specifically mentions an age. I knew of one for sure, but I wanted to go back to the chapter it was in and read what was being said. This chapter in TTOTC is “Looking for Lewis & Clark.” Fenn states “I was thrilled and wished I could have been part of those great adventures. Sixteen-year-old kids are like that I guess.” Could this be the age he was when he found the spot? A specific age that would be too revealing? It was also in this chapter where question #3 came right back around to slap me in the face. On page 63, ff states “ A few days later with the luxury of hot chocolate, I made some notes that might be helpful to any future “SIXTEEN-YEAR-OLD GENIUSES” who think looking for Lewis and Clark might be fun. “One of the smart ones,” “Sixteen-year-old geniuses.” There is no way this was a coincidence in my mind. It is because of this chapter I believe the “map” you need to have is very specific. The map you need is a map of the Gallatin National Forest. A map that will “come in handy later on.”


From here I went on a google search for a Gallatin National Forest map from the late 1800s-1940s. A map he might have used. It was then I found this map:
When I found this map, my jaw dropped. Could he really have laid everything out for us? Is this the idea he said to his recollection no one has come up with for the possible solution? With this solve, the clues in the book tell you about the location, tell you about a specific time period, but they are separate from the poem. The poem is to guide you from a directional standpoint. The sprinkled clues are literally there to tell you about where you need to be once you follow the poem…IMO. He stated you could find the location by the clues in the book if you could “recognize them.” I also believe this is why he wanted the cover of TFTW to be very specific. I think the cover of OUAW tells something very specific as well.


Let me start with the Poem and bring everything full circle so it makes sense to everyone. Now for the explanation:
Begin It Where Warm Waters Halt: Madison Junction


Take it in the canyon down: Madison Canyon


NFBTFTW: The 10 river miles where he put the rubber dinghy into the Madison River and fished “downstream” towards Baker’s Hole.


PIBTHOB: I believe the home of Brown is Bakers Hole. But, we don’t put in there. We put in BELOW the home of Brown. This would be Barns Hole.


From there it’s no place for the meek: The meek will inherit the earth, so we are talking about water.


The end is ever drawing nigh: FF has stated if you follow the clues and can’t find it, go back to the beginning. I believe this is the meaning of Nigh (One definition states: Draw the covers nigh towards you). Pulling them up towards you before you go to sleep, so we are going back towards the beginning. Back towards Madison Junction.


No paddle up your creek: There will be no paddle because we are walking, and you are not allowed to have a boat/rubber dinghy in this section of river.


Just Heavy Loads and Water High: FF stated he liked to fish in the bends of the Madison where the water turned green and deep. He also stated he could throw a bike into water high. This is where we start to bring the clues from the book into the solve. Heading up stream from Barns Hole you meet an area considered “Riverside.” This is one area where stagecoaches use to bring people down to the water. Due to this, and the deep water in the bends of the Madison, this was my “heavy loads and waters high.”


If you’ve been wise and found the blaze: I believe what we are supposed to be looking for is some kind of “Star.” On a rock, on a tree, something. My reason for thinking this is because of the 3 Wise Men (More on that in a little). Also, because of the cover of OUAW. I thought he was telling us what we are fishing for is a STAR.


Now that we are here at this location, let me explain as to why I believe the clues in the book tell us about a specific time, a STAR, and the location.


Clue 1: Green Olives
Clue 2: All the references to the color Green
Clue 3: All the references to the color Red
Clue 4: In the chapter Gypsy Magic he stated the Gypsies came through town several times a year
Clue 5: All the references to food and baking
Clue 6: All the references to fire
Clue 7: The references to dancing (gypsies and fairies)
Clue 8: The darkness behind the gypsies dancing
Clue 9: The darkness of him in the cemetery looking up
Clue 10: Page 146 in TTOTC shows a man with an ax, standing with his foot on a stump around cut down trees. Darkness around him. Looking up towards a bird that looks like a dove, and behind it the head of a turtle (More on this in a minute).


I think these clues are telling us about a specific time. I then believe he created the cover of TFTW for the same reason, as well as the cover of OUAW. This brings in some of his scrapbooks as well. The Cloves (Scrapbook 49) His Peppermint and Spearmint plants in his yard (Scrapbook 146).  Imagination is more important than knowledge quote.


“Come on already!” you’re probably saying. There are some people speculating throughout the blogs that we need to be at a specific place, at a specific time, to see a shadow cast across something. I believe a specific time is correct, but not for that reason.
I believe, he is referring to the Winter Solstice and Christmas Time. The time he left the war was on December 22nd. He walked into his house on Christmas Eve and for the next month “the flourish of activities related to homecoming and reuniting with family and friends put my jungle thoughts on hold.


1.Green Olives and Green Olive Wreaths are associated with Christmas
2.Imagination is more important than knowledge (Kids have the most imagination around Christmas time).
3.Green and Red are the colors of Christmas
4.Gypsies celebrate the summer solstice and the winter solstice. They celebrate with fire and dancing just like in the book when they came to down several times a year.
5.The winter solstice is known for: celebrations of festivals, spending time with loved ones, feasting, singing, dancing and fires. It more often than not falls on the 21st or the 22nd of December
6.The bird with the turtle head behind it I considered to be a reference to “Turtle Dove.”
7.The dark night sky in the pictures: The winter solstice is the time when the day is the shortest and when your shadow is the longest (Back to the cover of TFTW (Cast a lonesome shadow across the Madison)
8.In TTOTC he talked about being in the middle: The winter solstice is also referred to as “Midwinter.”
9.The moon during the winter solstice is called the “Cold Moon.” Effort will be worth the cold.
10. Cloves are considered the Christmas Spice
11. Peppermint and Spearmint are candy cane flavors
12. I believe the Blaze is a star due to the three wise men following the north star to baby Jesus when he was born on Christmas. Also, why the stick figure is hooked on a star on the cover of OUAW.


This brings back the map above and “Christmas Tree Park.” Christmas Tree Park is entered right across the street from the Dude Motel. Referred to now as “Riverside Trail.” It takes you down to a gated off area that, if you go beyond the gate, leads you down to the area considered “Riverside.” You can also get there from Barns Hole, but the walk is a lot longer walking upstream.



This is what it looks like today


The Entrance to the trail

I hiked around here for a good 4 hours. I did a total of around 9.4 miles and took some amazing pictures. I kept and eye out for grizzly bears while trying to find anything that resembled a STAR and came up empty. The only thing I fo und I considered “Interesting” was this:
I didn’t want to mess with it because I didn’t feel comfortable doing so. There were rocks all around it, and my gut instinct was to leave it intact. It wasn’t a STAR so I left it alone. I came up empty handed, but the scenery and the sounds of the Madison River are something I will never forget. I still believe my theory make sense, but if it wasn’t for this theory, I would not have been able to see this amazing place. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did:

Heading towards Earthquake Lake once my searching was complete


Horses near Red Canyon Rd. I wanted to check that road out due to FF stating they made their way up Red Canyon. Maybe on my next trip I’ll make the hike at the end of the road.


This was around one of the deep bends of the Madison River, the guy was fishing into water that looked to be at least 15 feet deep.


Another area between Barns Hole and Bakers Hole


The Madison River before sunrise

-James Collier