After the Search on Friday…

January 22nd, 2016



As I pulled into the Santa Fe Animal Shelter parking area this morning, I was astonished to see the number of vehicles awaiting my arrival. Despite the brisk 34 degree temperature, most of the folks were already milling around, introducing themselves. I immediately joined the gang and handed out a few packets of photos of Randy’s maps that I had printed for 3 teams. We discussed the plan for the day. We all would caravan in seven vehicles as close to Montoso Peak and the canyon edge as possible within the red circle on the maps. If any of the vehicles could no longer tolerate the muddy, slippery conditions, we would stop as a group and place those folks in the vehicles that could climb and grip the sloppy tracks to a spot close to the canyon edge.

We put John Brown in the lead because he knew the way to the mesa area we intended to go… he had been there previously with Gene, I believe. I followed in the FJ, Radcrad and Mike Hendrickson were next in line, followed by Katya and Billy who had organized three guys to help search using their drones (Tizz, Sam, and another). Eventually Tom G and Amber and her little dog June fell into line.


One nice thing that Katya mentioned before we were under way was that Cid’s Market in Taos paid for a bag of groceries for us to make a nice lunch in the field. Kudos to Cid’s…really cool.

About the time we hit the asphalt, Katya received a call from her 3rd drone operator that he was running late but he’d catch up on the dirt road to Montoso Peak. If you don’t know the area, you’d likely get lost in a second. So anytime we came to a fork, Roger (Radcrad) tied an orange ribbon to a branch to mark the way.


During one of the stops, some of the guys revisited the map of the area.


I wish I had pictures of the “road” once we started the journey around Montoso Peak because I’m not sure I have the proper words to describe the drive…for me, it was basically terrifying… and I was the one driving the probably most capable vehicle for the conditions out there. The path twisted and turned and tilted between the juniper trees, all the while our tires slinging mud and snow. To make it even worse, there were sections of jagged rocks poking up here and there, as well as an area the guys referred to as “the steps”…large rocks that we crawled over and around going down a short section of steep grade…which I knew we had to climb up over on the return trip. The only saving factor for me was that there were no cliff edges on either side, so even if we’d slide off into a ditch and flip, we likely wouldn’t be killed. Sometimes the path through the trees was so tight the branches would sweep both sides of my car….one branch was large enough to knock my side mirror against the side…

John finally stopped ahead of me, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I realized he was parking…we had made it.

After each person gathered their gear, we teamed up, traded cell phone numbers (yes we had a good signal), and Tizz handed out radios to each team. We agreed on the return time to the vehicles as 4:00 pm since we knew returning home would be difficult as well and we needed daylight.


Amber from Texas and her dog June, Roger, and Mike Hendrickson.


Billy blessing us and our surroundings before heading out. Drone operators Tizz, Sam, and ?…

Even though we were sort of close to the mesa edge, we still had quite a distance to the river. I teamed with John Brown and Roger…our destination was to sweep the gully along the hill in front of us as we made our way to the edge. Tom G and Amber headed to the edge farther south, and the drone team meandered where needed to find the best place to launch the drones. According to my GPS coordinates, we were exactly where I’d hoped we could go… within the red circle on Randy’s map.

You will see my day through pictures of John. Roger searched a bit away from us so I have few pictures of him or the other teams.


John heading down the mesa hill into the gully.



As I walked, I searched every nook and cranny along my route…


Heading towards the rim…three searchers near center of photo.


John ahead of me as we made our way down into the gully.


I was above John about 6 feet when he said he saw “something”…”what” I anxiously asked. 
He described it as a place where branches and pine needles may have been placed on the ground. There was a small yellow spot in the snow where someone may have urinated and what looked like dog kibble scattered about. He picked up the kibble and told me to look at it…it was a stretch but we made the exchange. Excitedly, I examined it and said I thought it was rabbit scat, but I couldn’t be certain….I handed it back. He broke it in half and smelled it… confirming what I suspected. We discussed the yellow snow…even if it was human urine, it could have been from SAR…we left it alone.

John and I continued our hike and search for Randy down through the gully…we eventually got to an area that was too steep to continue, so we started a diagonal descent out of the gully and across the hill side. We wanted to get to the river… to the raft.





I included a lot of pictures of the terrain, trying to capture the unfriendly ruggedness…there are no trails per se in the area we were at. There was a lot of scree…the loose stuff that causes people like me to fall on their butt and slide part way down…it worked, and I was happy to be wearing my heavy canvas pants.
I think John and I got about half way down the side of the hill to the raft area when we decided we just didn’t have enough time. Disappointed, we both agreed to be safe…we didn’t want the burden of time along with the uphill struggle when we had to climb back up the hillside to the vehicles.


We ran into Katya and Billy taking a breather. Notice the steepness of the side of this hill. Tough hiking conditions, IMO.


John and I continued a diagonal path up and saw the slab of rock in below photo. It would be our break stop. We each used binoculars…looking for Randy.


The teams began streaming to the vehicles a bit early…the drone folks radioed to us that they’d be a bit behind schedule. We agreed we all leave together…we’d wait. No man left behind.

As we began the dreaded drive out of there, I noticed it was already 4:30. The progress was so slow due to the horrible road conditions that sometimes my speedometer barely moved off zero. It wasn’t long before twilight fell upon us…seeing all the ruts and jagged rocks became even more difficult. At the last stop while I waited for the others to catch up, I took the photo below… Despite all that mud, and snow, and ice, and rocky terrain, this was the view as we went home…an almost full moon over the mountains above Santa Fe…


I’m sorry to say that none of us found clues to find Randy. The drone crews each took over an hour of videos which they will download and analyze over the next day or two. They filmed the entire side canyon just south of where the raft was found. They also filmed, I believe, the edges of the Rio Grande canyon as well.

We all said our good-byes at the SF Animal Shelter where a few of the cars awaited their owners. Forrest requested a small group go to his place and provide him with an update of the day’s activities. I was delighted he was so kind as to have a platter of snacks available for us… with 6 little cans of Dr. Pepper. I was famished and ate accordingly…

There is no organized group search planned for tomorrow. A few individuals are going to go out on their own. Katya and her crew will analyze their drone videos, and we will go from there.

I want to thank all you awesome people who helped search today…everyone used good judgment and stayed safe. We really worked as a team and made sure we didn’t leave anyone on the mountain or stuck in the mud. I’d also like to thank all those who post their ideas on Dal’s blog. Because of the maps that Stephanie made available, we had a good idea of where to go today. We realize this area had been searched by the professionals previously… I guess I just had to see it for myself.
God bless Randy and his family and all you wonderful folks in the search community…



Drone Day…

January 22nd, 2016

by Katya and Bill

I just got home. Long drive home to Taos after long intense day searching. Sasha was not there today.
I brought a crew of 5 of us today. Two drones and two drone operators. They got a lot of footage and we are eagerly waiting the results.
Taos Internet is very s l o  w. Billy is working on uploading still photos from the day. Says it will take an hour and will send them off to you right away.
I’m crawling in to bed now.


Bill’s Photos Below. Click on the pic to make it a bit bigger.

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Katya and Bill-


The Next Steps…


January 20th, 2016

by Cynthia and Sacha


This briefing from Cynthia for end of day Wednesday, January 19th
Today’s update: There were only 4 of us searchers who met in SF this morning to discuss today’s plan. Most guys had to return to work. The weather at that time was cloudy with expected precipitation, so we decided not to go out and search the muddy mesa top again. During the afternoon, the clouds cleared and 3 of them  drove out there. I had to return home and did not go with them. I spoke to one of them a few mins ago and Randy was not found.


This from Sacha about plans for Thursday, January 20th
Forrest, Cynthia, and Radcrad will take off in a helicopter tomorrow at noon, to search the deep canyon of the Rio Grande, and any other close areas we have time and access to.  We will rally about 4 tomorrow afternoon to discuss the findings.

Here is a report from the Santa Fe New Mexican about the helicopter search:


Beyond Thursday
Katya and Sacha are working with a team of professional drone operators who want to spend some time in search area. These are incredible tools and experienced highly skilled operators. Depending on the amount of time they can remain on site (batteries and fair weather) they can provide a very useful and quick way to examine nooks and crannies and very narrow places that a full sized helicopter can’t go.

The team is also working with a high resolution aerial imagery company, that can pick up something as small as a helmet.  They hope to deploy this tool for additional detailed examination.


Randy has not been found. New information continues to be gathered, scenarios tested and tools deployed to look better and closer.


Thanks to everyone on the team and the generous searchers and supporters who seem to be determined to leave no shadow unexamined.


Just want to share this comment that Slurbs made earlier this evening on the blog:

The feelings felt within myself today were unexpected. They were unexpected because I didn’t know Randy on a personal level. We met in Santa Fe during the Leon Gaspard book signing. It was a brief meeting, not much more than quick introduction. Being a fellow searcher brings the feeling of family amongst us “Fenners.”
Randy’s disappearance has carried weight which I felt overloaded with today. I was feeling like we (more I) had not given enough effort in trying to reach the area where Leo was found next to Randy’s little raft. Then the thoughts of the mud we were driving through came back to mind. The roads in the area are so bad that I felt we shouldn’t go any further fearing we would have to send out a call for help to get out the muck. At one point, Mike D made note that he had his display saying he had 90 miles left until he was out of gas. About a mile of mud later his display said he had 80 miles left until empty. Yup, we spun our wheels 10 miles worth to travel a single mile. Small hill’s became enormous obstacles. We both had our vehicles facing about 60 degrees off of the direction of travel because of terrible muddy ruts down some of the path before us. Who knows when these roads will become more passable.
I didn’t join the search today. The whole day I felt bad for anyone searching for Randy. The winds were relentless and frigid in the area. I’m sure the searchers are red in the nose from all the tissue used to control the running nasal drips.
My heart goes out to everyone involved in the search for Randy. I’m sure the high winds kept the drones grounded… I have not heard the updates of such grounding yet though.
After sharing my thoughts with my wife and you, my fellow searchers, I feel that anyone involved in searching for Randy are, in fact, giving it their all. Some of us Treasure hunters involved in the search are painters, plumbers, sailors, project managers, semi coductor workers, collectors, pilots, custodians, a Commodore of Water Preservation,  prayer givers, disabled men, women who take care of their man, many many more and yes, even pond scum whom are tough as nails and don’t come anything close being a scummy scallywag (I got your back DaisyMae, you’re alright in my book). All giving all.
Just heard on the local news that Forrest is chartering a helicopter to help in the search for Randy over the next two days. Yay! Thanks f. I can not picture f not doing the things he was attributed to do in this life. You are the most upstanding citizen I have ever met, f. Stay safe everyone. Pactice Safety first so that you can accomplish your desires.




On Not Giving Up….



“Forrest inspires me”, Katya readily admits. “I wish I had been given teachers like him in school. He has a way of sparking my mind, making me thirsty for knowledge and making the chore of education so much fun.”


As a fellow searcher, I have to admire the resolve of a person who gives up the swaying coconut palms, soft ocean breezes and warm hammock life in Hawaii for the relative discomfort of snakes, pointy rocks and permanent ice in the mountains north of Santa Fe. Katya is a self-labeled eccentric. “I am addicted to adventure.” she tells me. She is a hot-air balloon pilot and ran her own expedition company a few years back. She also lived on a sailboat in San Francisco, tended a gallery on Canyon Road in Santa Fe has been a singer/songwriter, jewelry artist and still works in film production in Hawaii.

The search started for Katya back in the early months of 2013 when she left Hawaii to attend the wedding of a friend in Santa Fe. Her friend just happened to have a copy of The Thrill of the Chase on her bookshelves and suggested that Katya might like to read it…short stories, easy to digest, authored by Forrest Fenn. Katya was immediately attracted to the book because she had met Forrest twenty or so years earlier when she lived in Santa Fe and worked at the Morning Star Gallery on Canyon Rd. Forrest frequently dropped in to chat with the owners and see what was new on their walls. “I remembered how everybody respected and admired him.” Katya pointed out. Her friend didn’t say much about the treasure and Katya’s initial interest in the book was simply because it was by someone she knew and admired and the stories were short and would be easy to read in bed just before falling asleep.

“I didn’t sleep for days after getting my hands on that book.”, Katya said. “Every morning I couldn’t wait for my friend to wake up so I could dart into the kitchen and say ‘I know where the treasure is.’”. She was hooked. Having background on Forrest meant that she never doubted the treasure was for real. Forrest’s reputation was beyond reservation. Katya dropped everything in her life cancelled her flight back to Hawaii and the hunt became her full-time focus.

Katya stayed in Santa Fe for a time, but by July she had moved to Angel Fire in the Sangre de Cristo mountains east of Taos and landed a job there so she could be close to the area she was convinced the treasure was hidden. She begged friends with cars to take her to Forrest’s book signings and talks at Moby Dickens in Taos and Collected Works in Santa Fe. “He has the best poker face.”, she points out. Katya watched Forrest’s reactions closely when hard questions came up from audience members, looking for any signs of agreement or rejection. Nothing was there. No concern. No disdain. No confirmation.”Forrest doesn’t give up anything.”

From Angel Fire she convinced girlfriends to drive her to her search area but finally rented a car and started sleeping in it so she wouldn’t have to waste time driving to and from where she wanted to look. In the summer, searching was easy. If there was daylight, Katya was on the hunt and when it was dark she did research. 4 to 5 trips a week. “I don’t just hop around. When I pick a spot, I comb it.” She soon had a partner to search with. A friend who matched Katya’s own zealous and adventurous spirit.

Katya made over 52 treks back into the hinterlands by December 1st. On one trip with her partner they pushed the envelope a tad too far and ran afoul of both the New Mexico Parks and State Wildlife officials-
“We were just out searching very intently on this “not public” land. I’m in the zone, you know? My partner is in the water with a video camera I am on the side watching what she is shooting on a monitor. I was oblivious to everything around me…and all of a sudden there were these two guys directly in front of me. They scared the heck out of me. ‘Who are you? What are you doing here?’ I yelled…and then I noticed they were carrying guns and wearing badges and I know we’re in trouble. Geeze!” The officials interrogated Katya and her partner for “a couple of hours” about what she was doing beyond the “no trespassing” signs and on the wrong side of the fence. In the end they let her go and also provided advice on how to further her search… legally…so things eventually worked out in her favor.

Katya admits that she loves mysteries and history. She grew up in Miami and adored western movies as a little girl…cowboy and Indian fare. This combination along with professional admiration for Forrest and a love of adventure brought her into the search. The perfect storm of inducement. Although she has a part-time film industry career, friends, and a home in Hawaii, she has sacrificed her savings and given everything up to pursue the mystery of the poem. The lure of Fenn’s hidden treasure is overpowering. The thrill of the chase is hypnotic.

It was during a trip in August, a cooling late afternoon. Blue shadows had moved into her canyon stealing the sunny New Mexico warmth. Katya was solo and quietly headed back out of the woods along a small New Mexico trout stream when she experienced a life changing event that both focused and frightened her. An event that would raise the neck hairs of even the most seasoned hiker out in the wild lands, alone and fully involved in the chase. A searcher’s worst nightmare.

“I will not give up. I feel close.” These are Katya’s thoughts as she heads back, empty handed, after a day of searching in her area. She is moving quickly along a dimly lit trail toward her car. “The first sign of trouble was a very loud scream, followed by more screams. It was terrifying. Someone was in desperate trouble.” Katya describes the terrible sounds she heard that afternoon as clearly a woman, a very terrified woman screaming for help. “I picked up my pace and headed toward the noise because someone was hurting and maybe I could help. All of a sudden this mama deer comes bolting down the path right at me…boing, boing, boing toward the river and the screaming is still going on. As the deer runs past me I can hear her panting and snorting and I can see fear in her eyes. Then I see a baby deer behind mama, running right at me down the same path toward the river. The mama deer stops and starts running back and forth and I thought: Do deer make that screaming sound? That is so weird and it’s really loud. Then I turn back toward the screaming and see with stunned surprise on the same trail..maybe twenty feet right in front..a massive mountain lion. The lion stops. Our eyes lock for what seems like a minute.  It’s huge muscular body is blocking the trail…my only way out of the canyon. I knew not to run. The only defense I have is a can of bear spray. I grabbed for it and then I just froze. My heart was beating out of control. The lion looked at me for a split second longer and then dodged into a bush right next to the trail and stayed there. I couldn’t see it but I knew it was there. I also knew the only way out was on the trail past that bush…just a few feet from the lion. I had no choice. I didn’t want to head back into the wild. I wanted to get to my car. Past that lion was my only escape. I pulled up my hoody. Tried to look big as a bear. I started chanting in a very low voice. I held onto my bear spray and I just marched really, really importantly past that bush. It let me pass and I’m here to tell you that story today.”


By mid-December Katya’s resolve is still, somehow, strong. In her canyon “It’s dark. It’s icy. I’m slipping. I’m falling. I’m exhausted. I can’t even walk across the river anymore. The rocks are iced over. I’m alone because no one will go out there with me in this weather. I don’t care. I can’t stop.”

It’s not easy, Katya is not independently wealthy and making the trek from the middle of the Pacific to New Mexico is not a “loose-change” adventure. This winter she returned to Hawaii for a few weeks of film work, replenished her need for salty air, sandy beaches and greenbacks. But she has to return to New Mexico soon. “When you’re hooked on the puzzle of the poem, nothing can stand in your way long, not oceans and not lions”…her’s is the face of honest commitment.

In spite of her efforts Katya understands it may not be her that finds Forrest’s treasure. She has these words for her fellow searchers-

“I think it’s most important to be open to all the amazing little treasures along the way in your search. I have found a greater treasure within myself, the events, and the gems of lovely beings along the journey in pursuit of TTOTC.”