SUBMITTED December 2015
My biggest dilemma: How can he “walk out into the desert” but stay “in the mountains north of Santa Fe?” How can the spot be described as both desert and mountains? I think the following picture visually explains it…
The most important question: What makes the place where Forrest secreted his treasure chest “Special” or “Dear” or “Fond of” to him?
Fenn says you have to look at the big picture. There are no short cuts…This means you have to use the entire poem to understand his special place… Then you must use the nine clues to locate the specific area: WWWH, the canyon, the hoB, the put-in, the heavy loads and water high, the blaze, and ultimately the treasure chest. I believe the poem describes an old pueblo ruin, even comparing it to his dig at San Lazaro. He has often referred to his favorite fishing places as “special places”, and finding pottery shards when he planted flowers at his former gallery/home as “special”. This area at Santa Cruz Lake combines both…
As I have gone alone in there …And with my treasures bold: This means he went to the spot (his special place) at least twice, the first time alone is when he discovered it, the final time was when he took the treasure chest there. Bold implies he was somewhat exposed or out in the open when he hid the treasure, or just that he hid it in the afternoon in broad daylight. I walked across the mesa top in the picture above multiple times without seeing a soul, and the only way I would have been noticed is by someone specifically looking from the Overlook Campground mesa edge across the Debris Basin canyon/arroyo onto the top of this mesa. There are no trails there and absolutely no reason for anyone to be up there wandering around…unless you are searching for Fenn’s treasure or old Indian artifacts / pottery shards.
I can keep my secret where, And hint of riches new and old: “Riches new and old” describes an old pueblo ruin. Did Fenn find this pueblo before the archeologists? The first record of La Caja Pueblo site was in 1973, a year after Fenn moved to Santa Fe…hmmm. (Tony Dokoupil wrote in 2012 “From the sky, he (Fenn) learned to spot ruins by the pattern of cacti.”) Is this where he can keep his secret? Is one of his secrets that he visited this place before the archeologists? Is the word “hint” implying his treasure chest is not on top the un-excavated pueblo but near it? Is his special place and the treasure on top the mesa across the river/inlet from La Caja Pueblo? Where he could sit in solitude and look and imagine the inhabitants from 800 years ago?
One of the hints in the book TTOTC which might help unlock a clue is Fenn wrote that he and Eric Sloane as his co-pilot used to fly just above the tree tops between Santa Fe and Taos. I drew a straight line between the SF and Taos airports, not the towns themselves. This area is dead-on the line. This also supports the supposed quote from Fenn when he said not only do you need a good map, you need the “right” map.
Begin it where warm waters halt: The Santa Cruz Watershed specifically at the confluence of the Rio Medio and Rio Frijoles. Both these rivers flow west out of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and eventually flow through a wide valley where the waters slow down and warm from the abundant sunshine. At their confluence at the Cundiyo bridge, they hesitate as they combine into one river which now becomes Rio Santa Cruz, makes a turn in direction and begins the way down the narrow La Caja Canyon (also called Rio Santa Cruz Canyon on some maps) where the flow hastens and the water becomes colder due to little sunlight hitting the water through this narrow canyon.
I believe another hint in TTOTC which will help unlock the clues is the word “warm”, when Forrest describes the kids that touched the bronze and said it felt cold (because their hands were warm.) Fenn’s description of “warm” waters is about temperature but relative to the temperature later on downstream.
And take it in the canyon down: La Caja Trail through La Caja Canyon. This trail dead-ends 1/2 mile downstream from the trailhead (at the bridge over the Santa Cruz River near Cundiyo) at a point along the north side of the canyon due to steep terrain. You can wade across the stream here and pick up the trail on the other side to continue down the canyon…or drive around and “put-in” below the Debris Basin, where you follow a trail and eventually walk through the arroyo to the river’s edge.
Not far, but too far to walk: This means there is a road CR503 to the “Put-in” spot instead of dangerously wading across the river where the trail dead-ends.
Put in below the home of Brown: I believe the home of Brown is the un-excavated La Caja Pueblo ruin which sits on top the mesa at the edge of the cliff overlooking La Caja Canyon. I have two different places to “put-in” that lead to the same location, sort of. The traditional phrase “put-in” refers to the boat ramp or put-in at Santa Cruz Lake. Years ago, there was even a place to rent boats there. Forrest’s friend from Texas Laurens said (to our table of folks at the book- signing) that when he used to fish with Marvin Fenn and Forrest as kids, ‘Put-in” referred to where they got into the boat to go fishing. I do not believe Forrest used a boat to get to the hiding spot when he hid the treasure, though…The Laguna Vista Trail starts near the parking lot and boat ramp and follows the shoreline to the end of the lake where the Santa Cruz River enters, where La Caja Pueblo sits un-excavated at the top of the cliff edge there, just above the inlet. OR, the other “put-in” is at the Debris Basin area, which is my first choice, and ends up below the hoB, but on the other side of the river inlet. Or you could wade across the river (put- in) where the La Caja Trail dead ends and end up at this same spot.
From there it’s no place for the meek: From the Debris Basin area there is a trail part way to the river but then you have to follow the arroyo to the river’s edge (no human trail in close proximity), and you need a 4-wheel drive, high clearance vehicle to get to a place to park.
The end is ever drawing nigh: Hike up the “draw” to the top of the mesa if the chest is hidden on top and not along the shoreline.
There’ll be no paddle up your creek: The (dry creek) arroyo coming from the debris basin.
Just heavy loads and water high: The Santa Cruz Debris Basin whose purpose is to collect the debris (heavy loads) washing down the arroyo during heavy rains (water high), keeping it out of the river and lake.
If you’ve been wise and found the blaze: Wise = Y’s. Look at the big picture on a topo map. The confluence of the Rio Medio and River Frijoles make a Y with the Santa Cruz River. Further down stream towards Santa Cruz Lake, another Y is formed by the emergence of the debris basin arroyo where the Santa Cruz River then turns north, making another Y. Fenn wrote “If you’ve been wise and found the blaze…” which means you have already found the blaze by the time you get to the top of the mesa and the pueblo. Pictures of the blaze are later in this document.
Look quickly down, your quest to cease: Here Fenn tells you to “look”, not “dig” because it is not buried. Quickly down means close to the top of the mesa. Look near the edge…ff has stated in emails: “How will you know where the edge is if you don’t go out there and look?” “The hints are in the aberrations at the edges.”
But tarry scant with marvel gaze: You can see the road (CR503) from the top of the mesa here. You marvel as you gaze at how close (scant) this spot is to the asphalt (tarry) road. (SB70, Forrest wrote “…Esmeralda, who still glides the tartop…”
Just take the chest and go in peace: Means exactly what it says…the last of the nine clues. (Caja means box or chest in Spanish…hmmm. Is “chest” the word that is key?)
So why is it that I must go…And leave my trove for all to seek: Future archeologists who might excavate this site someday, find his bones, and the treasure chest.
The answers I already know,…I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak: Fenn spent 30 years excavating San Lazaro, until the ripe old age of 84, and knows the answers to why excavate.
So hear me all and listen good,…Your effort will be worth the cold: The cold is the loneliness when you search for the treasure, (or you waded across the cold river to get here) but he knows the end result will be worth it just like when he discovered the artifacts at San Lazaro…he is telling us “listen to me…I have already done this”, again implying the special place is an old Indian ruin.
If you are brave and in the wood…I give you title to the gold: Brave implies Indians (pueblos); in the wood refers to the old saying meaning aged, old which is the old pueblo. Title to the gold may be a reference that gives land owners title to archeology, putting artifacts in the same category as oil or gold (like San Lazaro).
Fenn said “some searchers have figured out the first two clues but didn’t understand the significance of where they were, and went right past the next seven.”
“Some folks correctly mentioned the first two clues to me in an email and then they went right past the other seven, not knowing they had been so close.” They figured wwwh is confluence of Rio Medio and Rio Frijoles, the two rivers of the Santa Cruz Watershed, that combine to make Rio Santa Cruz. They went downstream on La Caja Trail through the canyon, but it dead ends. What they didn’t understand is home of Brown is the un-excavated La Caja Pueblo which sits atop the cliff above the inlet where the Santa Cruz River enters Santa Cruz lake. They didn’t know they could skip wading across the river but instead drive to the debris basin area and walk down the arroyo to the river. Instead they drove around to the main entrance into the Santa Cruz Lake Recreation Area and parked where everyone else parks, thereby going “right past the other seven, not knowing they had been so close.”
“Some searchers have been within 200 feet of the treasure”. This statement stumped me for awhile, but I think the 200 feet distance is elevation. La Caja Trail and canyon where the Santa Cruz river flows to the lake is at 6500 feet, while the mesa above and treasure location is at 6700 feet.
Fenn said “there are a lot of places in the Rocky Mountains where warm waters halt and most of them are north of Santa Fe.” I believe warm waters has to be something obscure by Fenn’s definition but something common enough for many to occur, like the confluence of two separate rivers that combine to become a new river before flowing downward through a narrow canyon. Maybe Fenn considers the confluence of these rivers as “halting”, momentarily, when they combine and turn direction drastically to make one river. Or the wwwh refers to the Santa Cruz “water shed”.
SB116 Peek-a-Boo Art about the shower tiles. Is this a hint to warm waters (taking a shower) halting/draining, collecting water that’s delivered down stream? Is it a hint for his bathroom (water closet to Europeans. Does water closet mean water shed?)
SB115 Proper Dental Care about his tooth brushes. Again hinting warm waters draining, and includes a photo of his frog jar in his bathroom (WC).
SB99.5 I have rules: about his bathroom (WC)
SB98 Closet Stories: about his walk-in clothes closet. Is this the predecessor about the word closet (shed?)
Fenn said “many are giving serious thought to the clues in my poem, but only a few are in tight focus with a word that is key.” I believe the word that is key is chest, in Spanish caja (also means box).
Fenn wrote in TTOTC “So I wrote a poem containing nine clues that if followed precisely, will lead to the end of my rainbow and the treasure.” Does “rainbow” allude to the state record rainbow trout caught in 1999 at the end of the Santa Cruz river in the inlet where it enters the lake? Which is just below (in elevation) La Caja Pueblo.
Fenn said “People will be surprised when they find out where it is.” Because it is close to the road. And only about 25 miles north of Santa Fe.
Fenn said “When it’s found, people will say ‘why didn’t I think of that?’ “ Could be the key word caja.
“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…” He uses the word “deep” which suggests “elevation”. He often said you might as well ask him, how deep is a hole? IMO, this is the important clue to the location of the treasure…200 ft above La Caja Canyon/river.
“What surprises me a little is that nobody to my uncertain knowledge has analyzed one important possibility related to the winning solve.” I believe this to be the same…200 ft above canyon.
Fenn said: “The clues did not exist when I was a kid but most of the places the clues refer to did…” Santa Cruz Lake was finished in 1929. Some of the trails were developed later.
I warned the path would not be direct for those who had no certainty of the location beforehand, but sure for the one who did.” The path is not direct because the La Caja Trail dead-ends before you get below the La Caja Pueblo ruin. You can either choose to wade across the stream there to pick up the trail on the other side of the river, or drive to the Debris Basin area and walk down the arroyo to the river where you come out at almost the same spot.
Boots on the Ground
I started searching this area in late September of this year…I felt confident in most of the solutions to the clues beforehand, but couldn’t find a good, solid blaze prior to starting my searches. My original plan: hike all the trails in the SCLRA (Santa Cruz Lake Recreation Area, which by the way is governed by BLM), along with scouting the tops of the mesas that look across the Santa Cruz River inlet to the site where Google Earth shows La Caja Pueblo. Below is a picture using GE of one of my more interesting “blazes”…a martini glass! Forrest once said on Jenny Kile’s Six Questions More with Forrest Fenn: “It is important that I drink a martini at least once a year so I can continue to remember why I don’t like them.” La Caja supposedly sits above and just to the right of the rim of the glass.
Almost every square inch of the area in the picture above is fairly accessible, even for an “almost-eighty” year old physically fit man, except for the mesa top where La Caja sits (near the martini glass.) I’ve studied the sides of the canyon and the sides along the lake, looking for a way to hike up onto that mesa top. If Fenn hid the treasure chest on the un-excavated pueblo, I think he would have had to parachute in, or get there by helicopter and I am almost certain he did neither. This is why I think he wrote “And hint of riches new and old.” His treasure chest is a hint away…
La Caja Trail…
I found the small parking area on the north side of the bridge just beyond Cundiyo where the Rio Medio and Rio Frijoles merge, change directions, and proceed through the canyon.
The air was still and crisp that morning as Molly and I departed the truck…she anxiously climbed the log steps from the parking area to the trailhead as I gathered my pack and slid the handle of my rock pick under my waist band…The undulating trail started high above the river… it was narrow but easy to follow…we made a few stops along the river’s edge to take pictures… there were small waterfalls and deep pools along the way. Occasionally yellow leaves drifted lazily to the ground, making a soft amber mat beneath my feet.
We reached the beginning of the end of the trail, where the stream continued it’s flow through the canyon towards the lake…here the trail led us through thick clumps of willows that slapped across my face and grabbed at my hair like tentacles, as it started to rise up the canyon wall.
Molly and I went as far as we could go…we looked all around us for a blaze. There were various rock-outcroppings…if the sun hit just right, the rocks gleamed from the mica, glistening like diamond flecks…but none stood out. There were no petroglyphs to be seen, no owls (If you’ve been wise…) to contemplate…
We left after a short break and snack…but our day was not over.
The next part of the agenda was drive to the Overlook Campground and walk to the edge of the mesa where I could use binoculars to look at the top of the mesa where I thought the old ruins stood. Previously, I had seen whitish “rocks” or something from the distance but couldn’t tell what it was…
We paid our daily use fee at the station and parked in one of many empty campsites … only one site was occupied. I could see a nice big 5th wheel and pickup truck with Utah plates…hmmm, “maybe other treasure hunters” I jokingly said to Molly…but I really doubted it. It was quiet… there was no one around.
I picked the way across the sandy terrain, trying to be careful not to lead Molly into the low growing, creeping cacti that looked like patchwork on a giant quilt. All of a sudden we came upon this…a marker for aircraft, maybe? Did Fenn fly his plane over this exact spot between Santa Fe and Taos when he and Eric used to fly just above the tree tops?
As we approached the edge of the mesa overlooking the chasm between the two flat ridges, I discovered the folks from the campsite…their mountain bikes lay under a cedar tree and their yellow lab cautiously approached…the woman followed. I asked if the dog was friendly…yes. I asked its name…Ella (sounded familiar). We exchanged a few pleasantries…then her boyfriend/husband appeared holding powerful binoculars. I asked if they were treasure hunting…no, she is a rock-hound and they were looking for a way to get down into the Debris Basin arroyo. (It wasn’t JDiggins…I met her in person at the La Fonda book-signing a week before.) She said they’d just arrived in New Mexico three days ago.. I asked if they’d heard of Forrest Fenn…an immediate “no”…I said google him and treasure. I told her I thought the treasure might be in an old pueblo across the chasm, pointing to the top of the mesa. I told her they might as well be searching for Fenn’s treasure while they rock-hound around northern New Mexico. She asked again his last name…I replied Fenn. She said oh that’s easy to remember because my last name is Finn. Then Molly and I departed to go look through my binoculars at “the ruins…”
All of a sudden a sick feeling of deja vu overwhelmed me like a heavy veil…In my exuberance to pass along Fenn’s Thrill, did I just give away his special place and the location of the treasure? to another treasure hunter? They already had powerful binoculars and were looking the same direction I was about to look (See very first picture…my dilemma). If they were there for the same thing, I knew the race had begun…