Gauging Value…

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August 2019

By MA

 

What’s the true value of the Forrest Fenn treasure hunt? Ask this to a handful of people and you’re likely to get a handful of different answers. The truth is that there are several different motivations for pursuing the chase, the chase not limited to just the promise of sudden wealth and fame. 

I, for one, fall into this other group of searchers, the chase being less about fortune and fame and more about the mystery and the adventures associated with the chase. While many others are chasing the gold I want to know what’s inside the olive jar? I want to know how he did it and I want to know why he felt the need to include a biography in the chest when there is already so much known about him? This is where my personal curiosity resides, the gold and precious stones, etc., just being a pleasing sidebar. But then again, my personal involvement with the chase was originally motivated by different factors.

February, 13th, 2015, a Friday no less, and in just a few minutes I suddenly had one foot squarely planted on the other side of life. They call them “widow-makers” because they generally happen without any advanced symptoms or warnings and they are usually fatal. I was one of those lucky survivors because my widow-maker took place at a residence where there was experienced medical help, forty-four minutes later a waiting surgical team was cutting my cloths off of me on a stainless steel table at a hospital seventy miles away. They saved my life but not before permanent heart damage had set in. 

I only have three walls of my heart functioning now, at the time of my release from the hospital my injection fraction rate was only 30%, the normal being roughly 60-70%. What this meant was that I had a significantly reduced blood flow, any type of activity wearing me down quickly and causing me to struggle for breaths. This condition wasn’t expected to change and the prognosis for my future wasn’t good. Suddenly my entire life had changed, my typical active lifestyle no longer a possibility, or so they said. 

Now there were a couple of things that came into play that helped inspire my road to recovery, the first being the gift of a DSLR camera from my best friend because he knew that I desperately needed that distraction in my life. He reasoned that if I could no longer run and climb around in the wilds then at least I could photography those wilds, this then offering me something to help me refocus my future. I cannot explain to you just how big of a roll this simple gift ended up playing in my recovery other then to say that it was absolutely HUGE. 

A glass of water, I’ll never forget that first glass of water after my surgery. It was the absolute best glass of water I ever tasted. That first flower I saw after that surgery, it was absolutely the most beautiful flower I had ever seen in my life, and so on and so on. All of these things that I had previously taken for granted I was no longer taking for granted, that camera helping me to see what I had been missing all of those prior years. Suddenly the little things meant so much and I was finding great appreciation in all manner of new things, even in the simplest of things. Trust me when I say that near death can certainly show you what’s truly important in life. I know first hand. 

So first came the gift of the camera, the required distraction that allowed me to slowly let go of all the Post Traumatic Stress Disorders and those related fears. Through the lens of that camera I was slowly strolling further and further away from the house, then further and further away from the truck, then further and further away from the phone, then further and further away from all of them. My injection fraction rate was suddenly up to 50% so the next year it was bicycles, trekking poles, backpacks, kayaks, etc., and slow but sure my injection fraction rate was nearing 60% with only three walls of my heart working. But what inspired the trekking poles, backpacks, bicycles, kayaks, etc.? 

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In mid-2016 I came across the Forrest Fenn treasure chase, still weak at that point from the widow-maker but making slow progress. How awesome it would be if I could recover enough to finish something I had previously started with younger brother who had suddenly passed away in the fall of 2014 of the same illness, just a few months prior to my widow-maker. How awesome that would be! And so this is where the trekking poles and backpacks and bicycles and kayaks, etc., started coming into play. I had promised my brother that I would spread his ashes at one of his favorite locations in the Rocky Mountains and Fenn’s treasure hunt was that one grand adventure that I never got to take with my younger brother when he was alive. It was one of those 1+1 moments, something that’s hard to explain, but the moment I arrived at 2 it was, “game on!” 

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My first Forrest Fenn BOTG adventure took place in the fall of 2018, my brother’s ashes finally reaching their promised destination on that trip. It was a real triumph and success even without a chest full of gold or an olive jar full of information. It took me three years to make the trip, four years to conclude my promise to my younger brother which I was in route to do when I had my widow-maker. This summer, 2019, I stood at the top of the Continental Divide, my “M A 19” now carved in a tree. Do you believe it, I was running around up there without a single issue or care in the world. I was finally standing at the top of the world at over 13’000 feet in the sky. 

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People ask me if I’m ever concerned about being off the beaten track, no cell phone signal or help should I experience heart problems? I smile, chuckle, and reply, “Are you kidding me!” Hell, I’m fearless again, fear being the one thing that would have prevented my having ever gotten as far as I have. Now the Grand Tetons are on my radar, as are other places of natural beauty in the Rocky Mountains. I know that I’ll never see it all but I’m going to do all I can to see and to photograph as much of it as possible.  

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Gold, the contents of an olive jar, these are now sidebars in the chase, my winter theories just serving to create new paths of discovery for my summer adventures. Treasure? Heck, it’s everywhere in the Rocky Mountains if one only takes the time to look for it. It is a national treasure, for sure. I think this is Fenn’s point, my avenue of pursuit just being one of many different avenues. Heck, if were to ever be so fortunate to find Fenn’s treasure chest I’d be tempted to give it back to him just so he could hide it again. This is a chase that should truly never end. 

I’ve been a treasure hunter most of my adult life but this chase isn’t about monetary gain, it’s about life and the simple things. If this article helps to inspire others to take up the chase then I feel that I’ve already found and shared Fenn’s treasure. Gold and the promise of sudden wealth, it can’t buy life, but it can sure inspire you to live it! I think this is Fenn’s message…

-MA