Row, Row, Row Your Boat…

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At the beginning of autumn, 2014 I decided to make one final trip for the year into my favorite place to search for the chest. I wanted to be there before the snow.

The Firehole River under a darkening sky

The Firehole River under a darkening sky

I think most folks on the blog are familiar with my “best” starting spot. The place I believe Forrest meant when he wrote “Begin it where warm waters halt”. This place is inside Yellowstone National Park at Madison Junction. Many searchers disagree. So be it. They haven’t found the chest either.

For me, it does not necessarily follow that the chest is actually hidden inside the park simply because my WWWH is inside the park. That possibility depends on where, following the rest of the clues in the poem takes me. So far I’ve followed clues far and wide. I have at times, followed the clues and remained completely inside the park. At other times I have followed the clues right past the park boundary and out onto Forrest Service land, and even out to private ranch land.

Looking for hiding places beneath a blaze

Looking for hiding places beneath a blaze

Now I know what you’re thinking, one would believe that after 44 trips to find the chest with at least 20 trips beginning at Madison Junction, without success, I should have pretty much figured out that I might have the wrong starting place. Of course I believe no such thing. Why?, you ask. Because in a mere 22 trips starting at that spot I have not even begun to explore all the choices offered to me from that spot as I follow the other clues in the poem. And besides, I’m having a big bag full of fun.

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Crossing the Madison

Most of us know that Forrest has indicated that some people have gotten the first two clues correct…but then missed the other 7. This is how that can happen so easily. It’s like a maze. Assuming for a minute that I begin at the correct WWWH location, there at Madison Junction. I would have the “Begin it” correct. Next I have to “take it in the canyon down”. From Madison Junction I believe there are three possible choices to follow it in the canyon down. If I choose the right one I would have gotten two clues correct. The first two directions correct. However. It is only a 33% chance that I would have gotten the second clue correct because there are (by my accounting) three choices.

Everyone who has searched Yellowstone is probably familiar with this cave

Everyone who has searched Yellowstone is probably familiar with this cave

Now things begin to get more complicated because depending on which “canyon down” I take there are a multiplicity of choices for the home of Brown. In one direction I have one choice. In the second direction I have three choices and if I follow the third canyon I have at least five more choices for the home of Brown.

The bummer is that it keeps getting more and more convoluted with each direction. By the time I get to the creek I cannot paddle up I have about thirteen more choices to make depending on the route taken. Then from each of those thirteen choices there is another large selection to explore before I get to the next direction.

So, to solve this maze of directions (assuming I started at the correct WWWH, will take many more days of trying, and failing as I go about searching for the treasure.

A hiding place? Looks like a wood rat already moved in. A hiding place? Looks like a wood rat already moved in.

A hiding place? Looks like a wood rat already moved in.

Finally, I have to be able to recognize the actual hiding spot when I trip over it. There is always the possibility that I will miss it (or already have) just like the others who have walked past it within a breath…but missed it.

So, by my calculations, I have another 28 trips and about 168 possible choices to make before I can say I have thoroughly explored all the possibilities, before I need a new WWWH. But the thing is, I don’t get tired of looking. I get exhausted from walking up and down and up again all day. I get tired of singing the same old song out loud all the time to let the bears and cats know I’m coming. I get thirsty and hungry and stuck in dead end gullies and annoyed by all the federal rules and trying to figure out where in the heck I am at any one moment in time but I never do get tired of looking and soaking-in the history and enjoying the scenery.

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Another guardian of the hiding places

So if you hear somebody singing Row, row, row your boat, over and over again up there in Montana and Wyoming where the country is sweet, the water runs free and the nights are bold. It’s probably just me.