In early June I went out to search around Yellowstone National Park with a CBS News crew from New York. They were creating a story on the treasure hunt for CBS Sunday Morning. When I met up with them they had already followed a family from Colorado who were searching and had also been down in Santa Fe and talked with Forrest…and I believe a few other folks in the area who know Forrest.
The Producer of the story, Dustin Stephens, contacted me about a month earlier and we decided on a date and location I would be searching where they would be able to meet up with me. What follows is a Behind The Scenes look at the shoot I experienced with the CBS News crew.
The location was to be near Fountain Flats in Yellowstone National Park. The date was to be June 5th.
A lovely warm creek on the edge of Fountain Flats in Yellowstone National Park
Getting permission to film professionally in YNP is typically a simple process…unless the Chief Ranger is Tim Reid and unless you are going there to film a “searcher”. So when Dustin filled out the necessary forms and sent them in, the whole “permission” process became convoluted. The administration didn’t really want to allow a story about searchers in
their our park. They tried to prevent it but could’t quite pull it off.
To begin, Ranger Reid would not allow himself to be interviewed by CBS because apparently “treasure hunting” is beneath him. The administration would only allow the crew into the park to film me if the crew, and I, agreed to a number of restrictions. For instance, I was not allowed to carry any kind of “searching tool”. So I agreed to leave my ice axe in Esmerelda. The crew had to stay within a quarter mile of any road, which meant that I could not search beyond a quarter mile of any road. There were other rules too and many were unusual restrictions for a news crew. The most interesting was that we had to have a “guide” with us. The guide would be a ranger and the ranger would only be available for half a day so we had to get all filming inside the park accomplished during that time. Of course this meant that there would be someone official from the park with us if we were to actually find the chest. No sneaking it out of the park since the guide was watching us. It also meant we would not be able to postpone due to weather or equipment problems. We had a one half-day window and that was firm, not negotiable. I am pretty certain the administration used this requirement to absolutely limit the filming to something unreasonable in the hope that CBS would cave and film somewhere else. But CBS agreed to everything and we all met on June 5th at the appointed hour in the parking lot at Madison Junction to run off and start filming.
Near Fountain Flats
But the gods were not with us. The crew had been pulled off the Searcher story and were ready to pile into their vehicles and head for Billings to do a breaking news story on Dennis Hastert. So there we were, ranger guide, searcher guy, correspondent and news crew all ready to go but CBS News wanted the team to go do another story. Of course that meant they lost all opportunity to film in the park after their hard fought battle with the administration to do so. Hung by their own brand new rope.
So that gave me a day to think about where else we could film. Film crews are used to working hard to get all the footage and sounds they need to tell a story, but no one wants to scrabble up hill, over uneven terrain carrying cameras, tripods and microphones a great distance and I didn’t want to spend hours driving up some dusty service road before we could get out and hike to a good spot.
I checked my list of 17 possible locations to check out on this trip. These are all places the clues in the poem take me right up to the blaze. My sense is that I will have to find the blaze when I get to any spot and then, if found, move on from that point in the poem. Whit’s Lake seemed like a great possibility. Short drive, unlikely to be any other humans nearby, 20 minute hike from the vehicles and possibly picturesque. The clues to that area seemed strong. But since I had not been there I wondered if there was a blaze. Certainly we could film up there as long as we wanted.
Since Whit’s Lake is on Forest Service land I wanted to check in with the USFS about filming there. The Forest Service has regulations about professional filming on
their our land as well as the Park Service. The folks at the Gallatin Nat’l Forest Ranger Station on the north side of West Yellowstone were very helpful and very gracious. They were curious about the treasure hunt because they had heard about it and were interested in more detail. I shared what I could before they got busy with phone calls and daily business. They were courteous and welcoming and even offered up a suggestion for a place I might want to look. A lot different than the Park Service. They never even mentioned the legal hassles if the chest were found on Forest Service land. “Go forth and search.” the district ranger told me.
Approaching Whit’s Lake
We did. Dustin, Mike, Barry, Andre and I proceeded up to the lake the next day. We filmed an interview followed by my search of the area around the lake looking for a lovely blaze.
Mike and Dustin talk about the filming on the tree shrouded trail to the lake
Barry, Andre and Mike setting up for my interview as a string of dudes on pony’s ambles by.
I found a potential blaze in a solitary rock on the side of the lake and another potential blaze in a waterfall from the feeder stream heading into the lake…Neither very strong blazes but I would be foolish to walk away without checking them out…
Once again I found no chest. But I had a great walk, the day was beautiful. The company was great. The wildflowers were lovely…
My search along with all the other elements of this CBS News story aired on July 12th…
You can watch the story HERE. Look around on that page and you should find some additional footage including a clip of Forrest reading his poem..
Check out their Facebook page and Twitter feed too..