The Man Who Wasn’t There…

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Toledo skyline

NOVEMBER 2018
by dal…

 

I hadn’t intended on searching in Utah. Please let me state, for the record, that I knew the chest wouldn’t be there but I didn’t want to let Ike down.

I first met Ike about 46 years ago in the control room at a Toledo TV station. I last saw Ike about 40 years ago. He had recently turned 55. We were at a table in Brenda’s Body Shop, a strip joint not far from the station. It was a mirror clad bar with a rotating reflective ball attached to the sparkly, star studded black ceiling, There were three small stages scattered around the floor. Brenda served pretty good sandwiches, played loud country music and employed a squadron of sweet gals trying to make a living using what god gave them. A good place for a lunch break if you worked the 4p to sign-off shift like me, Ike and an eclectic collection of downtown Toledo night shift workers.

In 1972 running a TV station took one enormous amount of electricity and a bizarrely skilled swarm of human beings…lots of them. There was no such thing as automation…color TV was in it’s young years and even broadcast quality video tape recorders were a relative novelty. TV technology was fascinating and growing like a Labradoddle on steroids. 

At that point in my life I aspired to direct live soap operas in NYC. General Hospital, As the World Turns, that kind of thing. Everyone’s got to have a dream. Live melodrama and all the bizarre accoutrements and technical challenges that accompanied such a lunatic concept appealed to me. In the mean time I was directing news, talk shows, commercials, kids shows, religious shows, political programs and what ever other humdrum fodder made up the daily program schedule on every mid-sized TV station in every urban, blue collar town across the USA. I dreamed of bigger venues, not knowing how ill-suited I was to prosper in them.

On my first day in the Toledo studio, Buddy, the program manager escorted me to the control room door and then got way-layed by a question from someone in the hallway. I waited politely for a few moments but when the discussion lingered I cheekily walked into the control room on my own to introduce myself. 

Studio control rooms in 1972 were not the comfy, lounge-like, creatiive environments they are today. They were utilitarian, technical, stark. Often narrow, cramped, and as dark as the inside of a submarine recently hit by a depth charge and headed to the bottom.

Studio control rooms were built for rapid accessibility to the guts of the complicated and often esoteric racks of electronics and miles of wires it took to keep a TV station on the air in the 60s and 70s. Accessibility was vitally important since every electronic module was either broken, breaking or being repaired. These control rooms were manned by often eccentric technicians of the pocket protector variety and had an atmosphere more industrial-like than den-like. There were steel gray racks of humming electronic devices that did “who knew what” emitting glowing red shafts of light, lots of heat and a very subtle vibration and hum. The room smelled of warm lead solder and warmer bakelite. The racks of electronics displayed white signs with frightening black skulls, even more frightening exploding lightning bolts and text that read, “Danger, High Voltage”. But to the pocket protector clan, it was home. 

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’69 Saab Sonnet

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Vintage HAM Radio station.

These guys were geeks before geeks were a thing. Many drove shark-like Saabs that were more airplane than car, had HAM radios they built at home and bought Hammond tonewheel electnic organs so they could tear them apart and remake them to meet some arcane sound standard that could make your ears bleed. I had, and still have, the highest respect for them.

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Hammond B3 Organ

I entered the control room, climbed the two steps to the operating level and headed over to the empty chair at the center of the studio control console. This would be the director’s position. To my right was the sound engineer at his knobbed audio board. Turntables, cart machines, a patch panel and an audio tape library of music and sound effects cluttered his space. Nick was wearing brown wing-tips, argyle socks, brown dress pants with inch-and-a-half cuffs, and a white, short-sleeved shirt with plastic pocket protector. Nick was fast asleep, head in hands, elbows on the console. My entering did nothing to disturb him. 

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Vintage broadcast audio console

By 1973 I had been working in TV for several years and I was pretty acquainted with control room life. It was like sailing a yacht across the ocean blue. Moments of absolute adrenaline pushing pandemonium followed by hours of mind numbing placidity. Although management rarely knew what the control room crowd was up to in their moments of calmness, the comfy warmth, the quiet hum of charged tubes, the absence of glaring lights suggested a quick nap.The real surprise was the large hearing aid Nick was wearing.

The sound guy was wearing a hearing aid. 

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A 70s era TV station control room. Video switcher is on the left.

To my left was the video engineer’s position. This is the area that you generally see in any photo of a control room. The massive video switcher with countless rows of warm glowing buttons and a wall of cathode ray tubes emitting images from every device that could make pictures including cameras, film chains, video tape machines, network feeds, field microwave units, character generators, waveform monitors, o-scopes and one monitor with text that said “Technical Difficulty, Please Stand-by”…always at the ready. Ike was the video engineer. He was slouched back in his chair. Feet splayed out in front of him. He was snoring. He had on a pair of dark sunglasses and a white cane with a red tip was hanging on the armrest next to him. 

The video guy was blind.

My position at the console had a few clocks and timers a couple of monitors, lots of desk space for scripts and notes and a big double paned window overlooking Studio “A”. We all had headsets to communicate with one another and the additional collection of geeks in other parts of the building, video tape, film, the announcer, the stage manager, the camera operators….and so on. Right now we were on the NBC network feed so the crew was free until the network show was finished.

I looked at Ike, sleeping…and then at Nick, sleeping. I smiled…I had a plan…this would be a career defining moment that would allow me into their confidence They would be indebted to me. I would prove myself a worker-bee equal rather then a company guy rat. I had to wake Nick and Ike.

I set the big analog timer in front of me for 10 seconds and let it go off. Very loud buzz. Ike and Nick both jerked in their chairs and looked, first at what was on-air, then at me…pretty much a glower. 

“HI.” I said.

Silence. Glower.

“Buddy is right outside the door and he should be in here anytime.” I said, showing my ace in the hole.

Nick grabbed his hearing aid off his head and shoved it in a drawer while Ike took off his sunglasses and hung his cane where it wouldn’t be seen.

Silence but no glower.

Nick said, “I’m Nick”, and held out his hand.

“Dal” I said, wondering if Nick could hear me.

“Ike”, said Ike.

Then he picked up a white paper cup next to the switcher and spit some of his chew into it.

He held it up and said, “Can’t smoke in here, You smoke?”

“No”, I said.

“Good”, he said and put his cup back down on the console, folded his arms across his chest and turned to watch what was on-air.

End of introductions.

For days I was thoroughly distracted by the hearing aid and cane…

I never saw those appliances again. Even though I saw Ike and Nick daily. It wasn’t til after I actually got to know those two that I decided to ask Ike about it.

“We heard a new director was coming by so Nick and I thought it would be funny if the sound guy wore a hearing aid and I looked like I was blind. So we got those things and put them on and waited. You was late. We fell asleep. We thought it was pretty good  that you didn’t let Buddy catch us.”

So it was. Over the remainder of my time in Toledo Ike and I carved out a pretty good relationship. We worked well together but we also played together sometimes. According to Ike, we hunted rabbits and ducks, although I cannot recall ever doing that. We had sandwiches at Brenda’s, chilli dogs at Tony Packo’s and burgers at Ted’s or Kewpee’s a hundred times.  

Ike stayed at the TV station until he retired. I moved on after a couple of years. I probably worked at a dozen TV stations and production companies across the country between then and now. I lost contact with everything and everyone each time I moved. Then one day a year or so ago, I got curious about Ike. I looked him up. There was a Toledo news story about his WWII exploits that mentioned his work as a spotter-radioman-gunner on a bi-winged aircraft off the USS Witchita. I remember Ike telling stories about those days. He had managed to join the Navy at 15 in 1939…before the war even started. 

ike

Ike

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The USS Wichita during WWII. Note the biplanes on the catapults at the stern.

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A Curtis SOC “Seagull”, scout plane like the one Ike worked from.

“We’d catapult off the ship, zero to 80mph in 40ft! That could clear your sinuses.”

After some light digging around on the internet I found his home phone number and called.

Ike was 95. Still telling stories and still living in the hand crafted home that he built with his own tools when he came home from the war. But what surprised me most was that he remembered me. His eyesight was shot. The world was a dark blur. He kept falling down and at least once he couldn’t get up and had to lay on the floor a couple days til a neighbor came by. His beautiful wife had died a few months earlier. He missed her deeply.

At some point, on one of our phone calls, Ike asked me what I was up to. I told him I was still working in TV and then told him about Forrest and TTOTC. He was curious and asked me to read the poem to him. I did. When I finished reading it he said, “Again”. So I read it again.

“Again!” he requested excitedly. I read it again.

“Again!” he demanded and again I read it to him.

“What are you hearing?” I asked him.

“So was this Forrest character a radio engineer?” Ike inquired?

“He was trained as a radioman in the Air Force but he lost interest in that line and became a jet pilot. Flew F-100s in Vietnam. Got shot down a couple times.

Silence.

“There’s code in that poem.” Ike stated.

“That’s what a lot of people think.” I said.

“Radioman and then pilot, eh!!”. He said. “You ever hear of North Wash?”

“Nope”. I replied. “I have no idea what that means.”

“It’s in the poem.” He explained. “It says ‘North Wash at 95’”.

“That means nothing to me”. I said.

“Well you look it up because that’s where something important is.” he replied.

“What else do you see in that poem?” I asked.

“There’s more in that thing, that’s for sure. But you figure out North Wash at 95 first.”

“How come I’ve never seen this “code” your seeing? I asked.

“I dunno. Your not the brightest star in the sky. You’re a director for chrissakes. I’m surprised you can read it, let alone decode it.”

“OK, Thanks for the splendid analysis Ike.”

“Well I don’t know why you can’t see it. It’s right there big as day.”

After a few more minutes of talking , we said goodbye. I promised to call him back in awhile, and hung up.

Eventually, I came around to the idea of fooling around with “North Wash at 95”. But I had other things to do before I could think about Ike’s advice. There was my job, the blog and the grass needed a mow and Ezy’s oil needed changing and there were dishes in the sink and a “honey do” list that was growing…so I stalled around for a few weeks before I started in.

I looked at a lot of things when I finally got going on the words. It didn’t really matter what I looked at though because little, if anything, opened up any doors.

I started with the obvious. I looked for 95 mile lake, zip.

I looked for hwy 95 and found one in CO that was about 14miles long heading north out of Denver, also known as Sheridan Boulevard.

I found another through Glenrock, WY that is about 20 miles long.

US 95 traverses the continent North to South but doesn’t touch any state where Forrest’s box is located.

NM 95 is a 14 mile road that runs from Heron Lake State Park to Tierra Amarilla….That’s a possibility!! But Cynthia and Michael and Desertphile have turned over every rock in that country. I’ve looked in that county too but my searches there had nothing to do with a North Wash and after examining the Rio Arriba county map with a magnifying glass I could find nothing named North Wash…Stymied!!

Over the next several weeks I would reluctantly and randomly do a little more searching around in the dozens of map indexes and atlases that I own to see if I could find anything that could be associated with “North Wash at 95”. After that, I forgot about it.

Then in August of this year Kathy and I headed out on a vacation to visit her relatives in Missouri. We went the scenic route through ID, WY, NE, KS, OK, AR and up into Missouri. On the way back we bee-lined to Santa Fe to say “hi” to Forrest and Peggy and then headed northwest to home. Ezy had a breakdown in Cortez, CO and I had to leave her there for a new engine transplant. In October I returned to Cortez to pick up the born-again Ezy. While I was in Cortez I was talking with the nice folks at the Tomahawk Motel where I stayed and they asked how I was going to head home.

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“I don’t know.” I said. “Hadn’t given it much thought really. I’ll take the blue highways I guess. I don’t want to drive Ezy over 60 for the first thousand miles on that new engine.” 

“Well,” the motel owner said. “You should think about taking the Bicentennial Highway through Utah from Blanding up to Hanksville. It’s probably one of the most scenic roads in the country and there won’t be any traffic this time of year.”

“Sounds perfect.” I said. 

“Take it to Lake Powell and then it follows the North Wash pretty much to Hog Canyon….”

Silence

“North Wash?” I queried.

“Yeah.” she said. 

Back to my room for some quick map checking and guess what! The bicentennial Highway is Utah Route 95. North Wash at 95. Look HERE.

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UT-95 from Blanding to Hanksville in Southern Utah.

“But it’s Utah.” I decried…No one heard me.

I had to go home somehow. That was as good a way as any…better than most…

I stopped along the way to grab a few photos and even though I’d never admit this in writing, I stopped a few places where the road and the wash were particularly close and I searched.

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I looked for warm waters halting…I squinted…I touched…I asked Ezy about it…nothing…

I hiked slowly up a few blind canyons. Rocks and creeks and color enough to dazzle my brain. I saw ruins of prehistoric settlers. I saw petroglyphs. I saw magnificent scabbed and canyoned country as jaw dropping as any on this planet.

It’s the most dramatic landscape I’ve ever stared at…red, brown and purple rocks torn from the earth’s guts…raw and belligerent… while others formed by wind and rain were domes and hoodoos and arches. Not a flat piece of landscape in any direction except the winding asphalt of Rt. 95. Who was brave enough to live here?

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I called Ike to tell him I found his place…but he didn’t answer the phone.

I settled for a few calendar images of the magnificent rock and color and continued on my two day journey home.

A couple weeks went by before I would call Ike again. Same old reasons.

I got a note from his neighbor that old Ike had been moved to a nursing home. 

That’s the worst. When they don’t let you live in your own home anymore.

I tried to get hold of Ike but it was fruitless. No one answered in his room. Sleeping I figured. Probably turns the ringer off.

Finally I did get him, “Your dime!” he answered. I laughed. But then the bad news.

He wasn’t Ike anymore. He didn’t know who I was. He didn’t know who he was…

Good god, spare me that phase of life!

I told him I found his place and it was beautiful.

“Thats good.” he said and then hung up.

Note to self: “Don’t procrastinate!”

So I don’t know anything more of Ike’s Code, which is okay because Forrest as much as said there are no codes needed…and it’s not in Utah and…and…and…

But I’m really glad I travelled that way..on Route 95 along North Wash. Really glad…

Thanks Ike…not bad for a blind video engineer.

-dal

A Small Scale Solve…

August 31st
I am on my way to YNP. Actually, I am on my way to Missouri via Yellowstone. I wanted to try my hand at a small scale solve…where the theory is that all the clues are actually quite near each other. Working off the idea that others identified the first two clues and then went right past the other seven. I am thinking, of course, that perhaps they went right by the other seven because they assumed the third clue was farther away and while they were headed NFBTFTW they went right by the other seven.

I only have a few hours in the YNP area this leg of the trip so I can’t spend much time there. But I am excited about trying this out. Not that I have a complete solution…I am stuck right now at the same place I am always stuck in my solutions…the blaze…

I left Lummi Island late today…about 2pm and am in Pateros, WA at 7pm on the wide Columbia…River of the West. As I crossed the Cascades I could see smoke in the Methow Valley and when I settled down into the small town of Winthrop on the east side of the range the local fairgrounds were home to what appeared to be hundreds of tents at what has become the Interagency Fire Command Post. A lot of firefighters in the area. I also passed the Heavy Equipment Staging Area for the fire fighters. I did not see any flames but plenty of smoke and I understand the apple and pear orchards that usually prosper from here to Yakima are in frightful condition because all the smoke for such an extended period has shaded the crop. Reports predict that this will be a very bad year for orchardists in the area and could spell the bitter end for some who cannot recover financially from such a loss.

I passed through dozens of little towns with flags waving smartly at half mast saluting Senator John McCain.

Here in Pateros the air is relatively clear and the river looks stately.

Looking across the Columbia from Pateros, WA about 7pm, August 31st, 2018. Not much smoke here.

I stopped by at a local bar for a burger this evening…
I generally like bar food and now that folks can’t smoke in bars they aren’t too bad…and this establishment had a patio surrounded by a tin fence and overgrown Wisteria…a cozy corner to indulge in bar food.

Typically, this weekend hosts a lot of rodeos but the smoke…or threat of smoke, has all but wiped out tourism in this area of the state. Few people from Seattle or Vancouver want to drive 300 miles through a smoky, baking landscape to attend… Maybe next year!

My intent is to post some pics and thoughts every night on my trip as I get closer and let you know how this small scale solution turns out…

Tomorrow I will post my half solution so you can chew on it for awhile and let me know where I went wrong..

-dal


September 1st

Stopped in Post Falls for lunch today. If you find yourself there and you like garlic…and you like Greek food…try out the White House Restaurant. When I say garlic…I mean GARLIC…these folks use it unsparingly…So much so that in the rest rooms they have a jug of mouthwash and small paper cups to use after dinner so your breath doesn’t kill your date. I had the lamb burger…and I have to admit that no vampires attacked me the rest of the day…

White House Restaurant in Post Falls, ID

Here’s my “so far” Small Scale Solution

WWWH – This is the spring at Ojo Caliente, which was Forrest’s favorite river bathing area when he was a kid old enough to ride his bike there. 

Why – Because the first stanza describes this place to me.

AS I HAVE GONE ALONE IN THERE – somewhere Forrest went alone

AND WITH MY TREASURES BOLD – he was naked when he bathed so his family jewels were not covered. And he was alone.

I CAN KEEP MY SECRET WHERE – He wrote the story “River Bathing is Best” about his visits to Ojo Caliente but it  was not published in TTOTC where other hints were published. Instead he kept the story on his web site (where it is still located) and published it in TFTW. I also believe this was a story he wrote for the West Yellowstone paper where it was first published. Because it wasn’t directly mentioned in TTOTC it could be described as a “secret” hint or clue.

AND HINT OF TREASURES NEW AND OLD – Inside the chest is new gold and old gold…new treasures and old treasures. This simply describes the chest and it’s contents very broadly.

BEGIN IT WWW HALT – The Ojo Caliente spring which halts in a small lake.

TAKE IT IN THE CANYON DOWN – The water has formed a miniature canyon as it runs out of the spring toward the Firehole River. 

NOT FAR, BUT TOO FAR TO WALK – How far to walk and for whom?…To an ant a mud puddle is an ocean.

Look HERE

And HERE

So follow the canyon like you are an ant…

PUT IN BELOW THE HOME OF BROWN – My home of brown is Ojo Caliente…it exudes a brown mineral that coats the rocks where it’s water flows. You can read more about the mechanics of these thermal events HERE

Below this HOB could mean a number of things but to me, for the purposes of this solution, I am going to be looking directly across the Firehole in Fountain Flats. A place known for wandering bison and elk and the occasional griz. There are many trails in the area but there are also large areas that are trailless. It is permissible to walk around in Fountain Flats. I have done it many times. It is an enchanted place for me. The combination of thermal geography and scalded and alkali terrain contribute to the strange landscape…and when you consider that you are treading in the cone of one of the worlds most volatile super volcanos…well…it’s no place for the meek. Sprinkled amid the flats are copses of pine trees, wildflowers, a variety of animals and a unique geography that makes this a fairly unusual area…even by YNP standards.

I know what you’re thinking…Is Dal using Ojo Caliente for both WWWH and for HOB? 

Not really…I am actually using the thermal event itself…the geyser where mineralized water comes up from forty miles below the surface as my HOB and for my WWWH I am using the small spring/pond/lake that forms around the geyser.

My HOB

My WWWH

THE END IS EVER DRAWING NIGH – This is always a tough line to grasp and I have to do some experimentation out there but it could mean that the end of Fountain Flats is to the left from my position on the far bank of the Firehole and facing into the flats.

THERE WILL BE NO PADDLE UP YOUR CREEK – There are many small rivulets from far away thermal events that drain the flats and run into the Firehole. I will explore the area for one that suits me…They are generally small…creek like…

They are too small for any kind of boat to paddle..

JUST HEAVY LOADS AND WATER HIGH – These creeks are filled with minerals from the thermal events they drain and at 6,500ft in elevation, they are certainly water high…

So that’s my plan and I am sticking to it!!

I plan to spend some time on Labor Day exploring the area…around OC to see what I can see…

No matter what I will have a good time walking around out there…I love that place…


September 2nd

Just north of the park tonight. On the lovely Madison. Might toss a Woolley Worm or Bearded Damsel around before it gets dark. Will head into Ojo Caliente area tomorrow.

No smoke up here but I understand they have had a lot of smoke and fires in the past days. The fire crews recently moved on to drier pastures.

I will drop Kathy off in West Yellowstone where she will search for “end of season” sales while I gaze at Ojo Caliente…”Men Who Stare at Geysers”…lol

Not my cabin


September 3rd

I spent the afternoon running through my solution…and adding to it as a few clues revealed themselves, while others remained hidden…In short…no, I did not find the box but as predicted, I had a great afternoon…weather could not have been better. Tomorrow I will post a more completed solution and some good photos showing why this is potentially a good location if someone can develop it more fully…based on what I found out there.

I also met up with Spallies and Diggin Gypsy and her husband John in West Yellowstone. We had dinner together and talked about Forrest and moose and laughed a lot…a good time was had by all…

A peaceful location complete with blaze, water high and heavy loads. No place for the meek yet not a dangerous location. A child could walk here with a little help from an adult.

Photo above is from Fountain Flats…This was along the creek I couldn’t paddle, with water high and even heavy loads….Additionally..it seemed like an excellent place for Forrest to lay in the grass under the shade of those trees, listen to the creek, watch the animals, smell the pines and relax after a hard day of bathing and fishing…By the way…no human trail in close proximity…remote but less than a 30minute walk from where he could have parked. So easy a child could get here…and surely not a dangerous location.


Tuesday, September 4th

Dal’s Revised Small Scale Solution 

Based on being in the area and following the clues as they unfolded.

The first stanza did not change from my original interpretation. I believe the first stanza gives me info about WWWH so that I can identify it.

In this case it is describing Ojo Caliente in Yellowstone National Park as written about by Forrest in both TFTW and on his blog in a story titled “River Bathing is Best”.

https://www.oldsantafetradingco.com/blog/river-bathing-is-best

The sign to Ojo Caliente from the Freight Road Trail on Fountain Flats

Ojo Caliente Spring and Geyser. The Geyser is the bubbly patch on the near side of the pond. It gets higher but I got tired of waiting.

To me there are all kinds of problems with OC as a place where warm waters halt…but I selected it because it seems to be an oft accepted WWWH location touted by many…and because it was one of the very first WWWH places identified…and because it has a history that goes back at least as far as when Forrest said that folks had identified the first two clues…and finally because I wanted to try out a small scale solution.

We know that WWWH is the first clue because Forrest said that. This means the first stanza is unlikely to be a clue…so what is it? For the purposes of this solution I have used it as a four line hint. It helps us find where the place to begin is located. The second stanza simply begins by telling us to start at the WWWH place. But it fails to give us any information that will help us identify where that place is located. In this solution the first stanza provides us with all the information we need to identify the location of WWWH…the place where we should start our journey. The first stanza is Forrest’s voice telling us about his experience while bathing at Ojo Caliente.

Ojo Caliente is made up of three elements:

1. A Geyser of hot water that is pumped out of the magma heated earth 

2. A spring or small pond formed where the hot water from the Geyser is held and cools a bit before heading downhill 

3. A channel where water travels from the holding pond to the Firehole River. 

From the spring we are told to take our journey in the canyon down…

Here is a pic of the channel…directly downstream from the spring at Ojo Caliente.

It’s a canyon. Pretend you’re an ant

The water leaves the spring and has more or less carved a channel in the mineral material nearby as it rushes to the Firehole River. This channel is about 30ft long. It starts at the spring and ends at the river. Many might argue about whether I can legitimately call this channel a canyon or simply a channel or something else. I won’t quibble. I have my doubts too…But the important thing here is to think like Forrest…not like Dal…and to Forrest…The person who said “To an ant a mud puddle is an ocean”…this might very well be a canyon. Additionally, I believe we are supposed to use our imagination…I mean look at that photo…That certainly has the characteristics of a canyon to me.

Not far but too far to walk… Here lies the first conundrum. How far is to far too walk…and to whom is it to far? Well..since our canyon is on a diminutive scale, perhaps our “to far” distance is also on a diminutive scale…maybe…but here’s another idea…If you tried to walk in that canyon of overly warm water it would be too slippery and to warm to get very far. You might get one step but by the second step you’d be sliding and your feet would be scalded. And look at that steep slope in the photo above…you’d be on your keister in no time if you put feet in that canyon…it is clearly too far to walk…because the water is too warm and the canyon is to slippery to walk…you might make it a short way but not the entire length. My imagination might be working overtime…but that’s all I’ve got…and Forrest accused me, on this very blog, of not having any imagination…

So practically any distance at all in that canyon is too far to walk…40ft would be impossible..in my opinion…

Put in below the home of Brown…I actually have a home of brown…I actually even have brown..ok…not a caps brown…but ..but…but…

Look at the pic below…

That’s pretty brown

That brown ooze is either bacteria or a mineral that comes out of the geyser…so the geyser is the home of that brown stuff…

Okay, okay…you don’t like that home of Brown…ok…try this one…

The Firehole River…It is definitely a home for Brown trout.

So if you put in BELOW the home of Brown…you could be putting in on the south side of the river..South is below on a map..North is at the top and South is at the bottom…

South is down

This is what the canyon down looks like from the other side of the Firehole river from Ojo Caliente…the South side…

The below side…the place to put in…

And no…you don’t have to swim across the river to get to the other side…because there is an excellent and convenient bridge across the river right next to Ojo Caliente…

Walk across on that bridge and along the river to the place below the home of Brown…

From there it’s no place for the meek…this is the caldera of a super volcano for crying out loud. If you are afraid of loud noises or being blown to smithereens this is no place for you.

The end is ever drawing neigh…to get to the treasure walk to the left along the river.

Til you get to the creek that you can’t paddle up…like this one in the pic below…

Fairy Creek which runs into the Firehole River a hundred feet or so from Ojo Caliente

This is Fairy Creek. It enters the river just a hundred feet or so from Ojo Caliente. At over 7,000ft it’s certainly water high and as you can see it has heavy loads of log and rock debris as well as minerals from various hot springs along it’s route.

If you’ve been wise and found the blaze…lots of blazes on tree trunks from bison using them as back scratchers…but even for the sake of this solution I cannot believe that Forrest intended a mark on a live tree to be visible for a few hundred years…The blaze needs to be something more timeless like a stone carving or a rock cairn or a large white stripe of quartz in a basalt rock face…something that will stand out and be there for centuries.

I walk up the creek and keep my eyes open. Here is a marvel gaze of the area from up on a hill. The creek winds in and out of open places and various copses of trees.

The view from  a hill down onto an open area along Fairy Creek

There are many natural rock piles in the area. They often look like this.

Could a rock pile be a blaze?

And they have interesting and exciting cubby’s for hiding 10x10x5 bronze chests.

But which rock pile? There are hundreds of them.

None that I could see were any more likely than the next…no “F” anywhere…no large quartz rock standing out…no ancient petroglyphs…

So…that’s how the solution ended…same as most end for me…no blaze…stumped…

But it was fun…I had a ball…In all..the walk from where I parked to Ojo Caliente and then Fairy Creek and then the area with potential blazes…about a half hour…about a mile and a half. Very even terrain…unless you decide you must climb a hill to look at the view…

It took me longer because I was figuring things out..and taking pictures, climbing hills and having fun…

Here’s a Google satmap of the area.

I think I’m through with small scale solutions…


Tuesday September 18th

Visting Forrest

Our trip to MO went well and Kathy and I turned Ezmerelda west and headed for Santa Fe. On Monday I visited with Forrest. Willie was the first to greet me.

Forrest already had two guests when I arrived. Alex, a writer for the German edition of Playboy Magazine and Jason, a searcher who, with Sacha, will be taking Alex out on a search this week. I guess we’ll all have to read the German edition of Playboy to see if they found it.

Alex has some serious journalism under his belt. He excels at profiles. HERE is his web page. I’m looking forward to his story. I need to brush up on my German….

Jason, Alex and Forrest in Forrest’s office as Alex grabs a couple shots of Forrest for the story he is writing.

Jason is a First Sergeant in the Army. That makes him a senior non-commissioned officer with three up and three down and a diamond in the center.

Typically a First Sergeant would be in command of an entire company of infantry. I walked to the other side of the street when I saw those senior NCOs headed in my direction…Jason looks like the kind of guy who could find that chest…I don’t know where he’s looking but I hope it’s the wrong place 🙂 He worries me!!

Forrest was looking good. I think that was the first time I saw him wearing a shirt that wasn’t checkered. Alex interviewed him for a couple of hours while Jason and I listened intently for clues or hints…there weren’t any that I noticed…maybe Jason feels differently. You’ll have to ask…or read the story. I don’t know when it will be coming out.

Before we left Forrest posed with Kathy next to Ezmerelda wearing one of Kathy’s new acquisitions. It reminds me of the lodge hats that Fred and Barney used to wear on The Flintstones.

Forrest and Willie on the front porch saying goodbye to Jason and Alex.

It was great seeing Forrest. Nothing new to report. No bombshells. Just that a good time was had by all.


Thursday September 20th

Heading Home

 

I went by Ezy in the repair shop parking lot this morning. I had not made my decision yet about what to do with her…junk her or have them replace the motor…

Kathy said I should let Ezy wear the buffalo hat and take a pic…

I don’t know…looks like she’s smiling to me…

So I walked into the shop and told them I wanted them to put a new motor in her…

I feel so much better and I believe Ezy does too…

So we moved the last of the mountain of stuff Kathy collected at Yard Sales in Kansas, Arkansas, and Missouri from Ezy to our brand new (to me), 2005 Ford Expedition…it was the only vehicle we could find that was big enough to haul all the stuff we had inside Ezy…and we left Cortez for Mesa Verde National Park…

What a place…800 years of settlement by folks who made houses and communities starting in pits about 550AD to the  amazing cliff dwellers around 1200AD and beyond…then…they simply disappeared…vanished!!…Pretty cool trick…

The park protects nearly 5000 archaeological sites. It was home to thousands of folks who planted corn, raised families and built communities all over the Mesa. The educational exhibits did a phenomenal job of increasing my understanding of how those folks lived.

The Mesa Loop Drive is a lovely self guided driving tour with interpretive signage and a museum and naturalists…excellent job…

Not all the communities at Mesa Verde were cliff dwellings. Below is an archaeological dig on a pit house. One of the oldest types of housing found in the park.

They even have dioramas of several of the pueblos and cliff dwellings that are great fun to lose yourself in…

I wonder if some archaeologist a thousand years from now is going to be looking at the foundation of my house and trying to understand what life must have been like back in the early 2000s?

The views in the park from the top of that Mesa are absolutely staggering…

And let us not forget that one of the prizes for finding the chest is a turquoise and silver bracelet made from beads found by Richard Wetherill one of the original investigators of Mesa Verde…even before it became a national park in 1906. Below is a pic of Richard Wetherill and party at their camp in the park.

The “new to me” Ford is running great. It has more gizmos than I know what to do with. Even air conditioning and adjustable peddle heights for the brake and accelerator…But get this…this thing gets about 12mpg…About half of what Ezy gets. When I get back to Cortez to pick up Ezy I’ll be selling this SUV back to the dealer where I bought it…

But I’m not complaining…I’m happy as a clam that Ezy is getting a new life and I have a reliable vehicle to drive back to Lummi Island…. and holds all our collected wonders 🙂

 

UPDATE
October 21st, 2018

Headed back to Cortez, CO to pick up Ezy. Two solid days of driving each way…
Anxious to see Ezy. I hope she remembers me…

Looking forward to the drive through the aspen color in the foothills. Might stop HERE to see the Pando, the Trembling Giant…say hi…take a few selfies…ask the giant about life, Home of Brown….that kind of thing…

by dal


 

 

 

 

 

 

Chasing Forrest’s Treasure…

 

DECEMBER 2017

 

Unless you live on an ice floe in the arctic you probably know about Cynthia’s book, “Chasing Fenn’s Treasure”.

This is a great book not only about searching for Forrest’s chest but also about the best hikes in northern New Mexico, and even more specifically, about enjoying yourself in the great outdoors. This is NOT a book about cracked up solutions and secret codes …this is a book about searching with style and joy and persistence over several years in some of the prettiest country northern New Mexico has to offer. It is a journal of Cynthia’s remarkable treks and it is a guide to places near and dear to everyone looking for solace and Indulgence in New Mexico.

What makes it better than the norm is Cynthia’s captivating storytelling, her cheerful approach to searching and her delicious photographs. This is a book that is going to make you want to hike around in NM whether or not you believe the chest is there. But if you do believe the bronze chest is resting somewhere in the Land of Enchantment then this is not just a good read…it’s a necessary guide. There is just no sense searching in NM until you’ve looked through this informative journal.

The book itself is certainly impressive. It’s a full 8.5 by 11 inches with a full color, glossy card cover. Inside there are 129 information filled pages…practically everyone of them contains full color, beautiful photos that fundamentally illustrate her searches but also excite and delight the reader.

I’m not the only fan of this book…Forrest said this:

“Cynthia, I love your book. You are a natural for the chase, so full of energy and fun. f”

The way you get your hands on the book is to order it directly from BookBaby. You can find out more about ordering and even check out sample pages, here:

https://store.bookbaby.com/book/Chasing-Fenns-Treasure

Ohh…and if you want a signed copy…it’s possible. Cynthia told me all you have to do is buy a book and then take her out to lunch… 🙂

I’ve been to lunch with Cynthia and I have to say, it’s an enviable experience…

dal-

 

 

 

Grayling Creek 2017: Dal’s Version…

NOVEMBER 2017
by dal…

 

Earlier this year ABC Nightline contacted Forrest, Cynthia and me about a story the network news folks wanted to produce on Forrest’s treasure and the searchers who go after it.

Forrest agreed, Cynthia agreed and so did I. The logistical problem of a story like this for the producers includes the fact that the search covers four mountain states and searchers are widespread in their opinion about which of those states the chest actually resides in. So if you, as a producer are covering this chase with two searchers and an interview with Forrest you could end up sending camera crews and reporters to New Mexico for an interview with Forrest and two other states to cover the search by two searchers. If I decide to look in Montana in fall and Cynthia decides to look in Colorado in spring and Forrest wants to do the interview when his new book comes out…that’s a lot of trips for one 15 minute story. It takes time and money to cover at least three different locations at differing times of the year with a three or 4 person crew each time. The big networks have the resources to take that kind of story in stride. Independent filmmakers would rather film a single searcher and Forrest both in New Mexico and within a few days of one another. One trip, one crew…get ‘er done.

If a producer should be so unlucky as to plan on filming a searcher who thinks the chest is located inside Yellowstone National Park…a whole new level of problems presents itself. For instance, Yellowstone National Park doesn’t want to encourage searchers inside the park and they will send staff to oversee the film crew and searcher, much like a prison guard at Alcatraz. You have to search within a quarter mile of a road…and many more restrictions for searchers being filmed.

On the other hand an independent filmmaker and searcher might just slip into the park unnoticed and “get er done”. As illegal as that might be, the story gets shot and the park is unlikely to notice. BUT…if the producer does get caught it can lead to arrest and fines…even permanent banishment from entering a national park. So folks who know the rules usually choose not to break them. The cost is too severe if things go awry.

The plan was for us to meet the ABC crew on September 18th for filming in or around the park. Esmerelda, Kathy and I left for Yellowstone on September 14th. It was beautiful the day we packed up. I heard some hooting in the woods and knew one of the critters that inhabit our woods was wondering what was going on.

BARRED OWL IN OUR WOODS

Along the way we stopped near Arco, Idaho at Craters of the Moon National Monument for a walk and a look/see. This was a good time to visit. Dead of summer this place can be uncomfortably (miserably) hot and walking around on black lava rock when it’s 96 degrees is not my characterization of “a good time”. But it’s a unique micro environment and terribly interesting.

CRATERS OF THE MOON

I like getting down on my hands and knees to look for small things. I ran directly into this guy:

HORNED LIZARD

I’m not superstitious but I have to tell you…between the Barred Owl and the Horned Lizard I was beginning to feel like we were favored. If this was the way we were starting out, the rest of the trip could be fortunate indeed!

Since starting her search, Cynthia had been looking in New Mexico. She has written some great stories about her searches there and I highly recommend you read them on this very blog. She is a riveting writer and a fantastic searcher. Her stories will entertain and inform you. But, for a variety of reasons Cynthia wanted to search up near Yellowstone. She had never been there before, not even as a tourist and there were things she wanted to check out. So Cynthia, her partner Michelle and their dog Molly packed up and headed north. Tom and Coreda and their dog Ming, who were visiting Cynthia and Michelle also headed  toward the park. That was great. I had not seen Tom and Coreda since Fennboree.

We were a big contingent. Including the 3 crew from Nightline and my wife Kathy, we would be nine people and two bronze-sniffing dogs. That chest was not going to escape this time!

As it turned out, only Cynthia, Molly and myself would be searching on camera. The question was whether we should search together in one place to make it easier on the Nightline crew or should we each search in a different location? AND…should we search inside the park or outside the park? I had ideas for both…where to search???

Another concern was snow. Winter was moving in and nobody wanted to get caught in a snowstorm while searching. It would send the wrong message to other searchers and anyway nobody looks dignified on camera while slipping and sliding around. As Kathy and I drove the loop road in Yellowstone we saw snow in the hills:

SNOW IN THE PARK

ELK IN SNOW

By the next morning the snow was gone. On the 17th of September Cynthia and I met up for some looking around West Yellowstone, finding a few Forrest Fenn memorable locations and planning our search.

BISON IN THE PARK

We decided to search together but outside the park. I was particularly interested in an area around Grayling Creek I had not been able to examine. So we made plans to look there.

Grayling Creek has interested me for several years. The clues can take me to a number of places on that lovely creek and I know Forrest fished here.

I wrote earlier about searching on Grayling Creek in Grayling Creek Part One and Part Two on this blog. They can be found HERE

The creek starts in the park and winds its way west down to Hebgen Lake. It is one of many creeks I was investigating along the line of “There’ll be no paddle up your creek”

So here are the major points of the solution we were following:

WWWH = Madison Junction

Canyon Down = Madison Canyon

HOB = Baker’s Hole Campground

WAIT!!! Stop there…Why is Baker’s Hole the Home of Brown…?

That might be the worst fishing hole on the Madison. I’ve never seen anyone lift a fish from that spot. So it can’t be because of Brown trout.

Wellllll….We were using some old information that has been around this blog and others for many years. Namely that Baker’s Hole has not always been known by that name. You can see this for yourself on a 1912 Map of Gallatin County which is easily found on the internet.

Click HERE to go to the 1912 map.

You can see on that map where Baker’s Hole is today was once known as Brown’s Camp. Not too far below Baker’s Hole is Hebgen Lake…Hebgen Lake has a number of Creeks flowing into it and I have been checking them out as potential “No paddle up you creek” type places. By the way that map was also drawn by Fred Brown. I have not been able to find out if he was the Brown of Brown’s Camp…Maybe someone smarter than me can look into that…

In earlier years I had looked at the lower portion of Grayling downstream of the old Culligan Ranch to the lake. I have also looked upstream at the stretch between the Culligan Ranch and the waterfall. Much of this stretch is on private land and I had obtained permission before venturing in. Now, Cynthia and I were hoping to search the stretch between Hwy 191 downstream to somewhere above the waterfall. Our emphasis would be on the high elevation meadow along the north side of Grayling Creek. This stretch is completely on public land.

GRAYLING CREEK

In particular there is a large open meadow on level ground where animals (In my mind) would congregate for grazing and watering. It looked to be a pretty place…somewhere maybe Forrest might choose to be his final resting place.  Isolated, but not remote.

We met the ABC crew on the evening of the 17th around a campfire at Cynthia’s cabin, down the road from the park. The crew staged Cynthia and me at a picnic table looking over maps and discussing our search plans for the next day. It was here that they interviewed us prior to the search.

PLANNING THE NEXT DAY’S SEARCH

The next morning the crew and Cynthia met at my cabin in West Yellowstone. From there we headed up 191 about five miles to where Grayling Creek goes under the highway. The day was overcast but still and comfortable. Perfect hiking weather. Cynthia and I watched as the crew prepped their film gear and armed us with wireless microphones. Then we headed out, five humans and one ambitious dog.

Cynthia always searches with her dog Molly, who seems to really enjoy snuffling around in the sage and wildflowers. She also has no problem wading in hypothermic trout streams.

MOLLY

MOLLY & CYNTHIA WALKING THE CREEK

The weather was spectacular and the meadow was beautiful. A perfect place to come and enjoy animals, the smells of pine, peace, and a beautiful trout stream. I had high hopes…EXCEPT…what Blaze????

THE MEADOW

This is almost always my dilemma. I get to a spot but cannot identify the next clue…in this case, the mysterious blaze. If I had been by myself I would have explored the place and then left…blazeless.

But Cynthia saw it right away. She was not coy about it at all. “There is the blaze”, she shouted, and five humans and one dog marched quickly toward her large, bold blaze, high on a cliff at the end of the meadow.

THE BLAZE IN THE DISTANCE HIGH ON A CLIFF FACE

As we were parading toward the blaze Cynthia stopped to investigate a willow thicket mid-meadow. To our surprise, inside was a partly camouflaged and very recently killed deer. Frighteningly fresh. That morning perhaps. It made what’s left of the hair on my head bristle. I knew exactly what we were looking at. I had seen a hidden type of cache like this  about forty years ago while filming a documentary with the Craighead brothers.

The Craigheads were considered the crowned princes of Grizzly bear research and in the process of filming with them over several days they had taken me to a number of bear “locations” during the fall and winter. In addition to a bear den we had also visited a bear food cache. It looked uncomfortably like what we were now staring at. What I didn’t know and what concerned me most was where the owner was. The bear could be very close by. If the griz saw us messing with his food there would be hell to pay. I stepped back from the cache. I quickly glanced around 360 degrees. My nervous system was on high alert. I thought that if I were a bear I would have headed to high ground to keep an eye out for anything approaching my food.

The best we could hope for was a napping bear. I did not want to alarm anyone. We were having too much fun. I moved away from the cache and quietly mentioned tp Cynthia what I figured we were looking at. No bear revealed itself. I held tightly onto my thoughts and moved toward the blaze while keeping my eyes peeled for anything large and furry.

CYNTHIA’S WILLOW THICKET IN THE BACKGROUND

As we crossed the meadow to the blaze and ventured into Lodgepole Pine thickets near the creek I yelled out “HEY BEAR!”, just so we wouldn’t surprise any napping or foraging grizzly.

Finally, we stood underneath the blaze and looked quickly down. Cynthia saw the perfect hiding spot for Indulgence. A boulder that had peeled off the rock cliff hundreds, or perhaps thousands of years ago. It was trenched under at one end. Possibly as a shelter for some previous dweller…a badger or weasel or coyote. Molly was interested in the hiding place too. It was an exciting moment. Cynthia encouraged Molly to get into that den…Molly sniffing and getting excited…Cynthia and the crew adrenalized with the possibilities in front of us…me swiveling my head watching for bears…

A GOOD HIDEY PLACE

After both Molly and Cynthia had explored the den and found nothing of significance we gave the area a thorough walk through, looking for any other possible hidey spots or smaller blazes while the crew filmed our every consideration. We noticed that there were no trails in the area and we saw no others in our luscious meadow the whole day. Not even a fisher on Grayling Creek. It seemed like such a perfect place. I thought about spreading my tarp here and spending the night anyway.

CREW FILMING

CREW FOLLOWING

After spending a further hour scouring the edges and creekside…nothing was discovered and we reluctantly headed back to the highway and our vehicles.

I have to say that I really enjoyed searching with Cynthia. She is very respectful of the landscape and very appreciative of a beautiful meadow and trout stream. We had a great time. Cynthia is enthusiastic, agile and walks fast…so be warned if you have the opportunity to keep up with her…and Molly is a hoot…Always quiet and always observing as much as possible whatever is around her. Great hiking buddies.

dal-

You can read Cynthia’s version of this search HERE

The end result of the crew’s work are two stories on the ABC site. One story is video and the other is written. The written story is HERE

The video story can be found HERE

 

Grayling Creek 2017: Cynthia’s Version…

SUBMITTED NOVEMBER 2017
by CYNTHIA

 

The sound of chirping crickets awakened me as my iPhone announced it was time to rise and shine. It was still dark but I knew I had to hustle to get ready to join Dal and the ABC Nightline crew at Dal’s place in West Yellowstone where we’d planned to meet to start the filming of what I hoped would be an outstanding piece of Fenn treasure hunting.

It was Monday, September 18th, 2017. I’d been thinking about visiting Yellowstone National Park ever since I moved to New Mexico 25 years ago. I’ve been searching for Forrest’s elusive treasure chest for almost 5 years, and now I felt like I’d run out of places where warm waters halt, at least in New Mexico. It was time to broaden my search area, and West Yellowstone and the National Park was my new destination. I was ecstatic!

Lucky for me, Dal had agreed to meet me and my friends in West Yellowstone when we were still in the planning stages of synchronizing our itinerary way back in August. Soon after, ABC Nightline asked if they could film us on one of our searches… we both said yes.

Since Dal has searched this region repeatedly over the last several years, I let him decide where we should take them. I prefered a place outside the National Park boundary so that Molly could tag along. He agreed and knew the perfect spot…. at the bend in the road where Hwy191 crosses Grayling Creek. He knew Forrest had fished from the bridge downstream along Grayling Creek to the canyon.

Dal had the solves for the first 4 clues… all I needed to do was find the BLAZE. It sounded simple at first but the previous night I laid in bed worrying about my ability or lack of knowledge in finding one that made sense for the film crew.

It was starting to get light outside when I grabbed my camera and backpack and lifted Molly into the pickup truck. The temperature was chilly and the sky overcast and gloomy… thank goodness I’d brought a raincoat. Thank goodness I’d brought warm clothing…

The film crew took some departing shots of Dal, Molly, and me as we packed our gear into Esmerelda and drove towards Hwy191 where we turned north and headed to the bridge ten miles up the road. There was a wide enough area along the highway on the south side of the bridge where we could get both vehicles off the road. On the map that follows, the red arrow at the bottom is the town of West Yellowstone, and the red arrow near the top is where the road bends and crosses Grayling Creek, our destination for the day.

In the picture below, the small bridge crossing the creek in the grassy area is for snow mobiles to use in the wintertime. This is where the crew staged their cameras for our intial interviews that morning.

While the crew transported their gear from their SUV to the bridge, Dal headed across to scout a place where we all could safely get down the bank to the creek and forest.

The ABC crew was comprised of Michelle Kessel producer, Clayton Sandell correspondent, and Connor Burton producer and drone operator.

After the interviews, Dal and Molly took the lead as we scurried down the embankment and bushwhacked our way through the trees into the grassy meadow.

Dal had explained that the trees and brush were too thick along the creek downstream from the bridge so we’d walk through the woods into a large meadow and from there we could make our way to Grayling Creek. We could see trees, we could see mountains, and we could tell there’d been animals. We could smell the sweet smells of pine needles and sage brush…

And holy moly, off in the distance at the far end of the meadow, I could see a BLAZE… a rock face looking towards us.

As the film crew and Molly and I made our way through the sage brush, Dal walked up the hillside a bit to get a better view of the area.

Dal took some pictures from his vantage point, then came back down to the meadow and joined us. I had dropped Molly’s leash for a minute to take some pictures as well, only to lose her momentarily. She had wandered off to the thicket of willows behind the folks in the picture below.

Her nose led her to this… a dead mule deer with its front legs dismembered, and brush covering her body to hide her… Dal said it looked like a recent bear kill. Hmmm, were we being watched?

Instead of continuing straight to the BLAZE, we moved to our left and walked down to Grayling Creek. The pictures make the water look brown but it wasn’t… it was clean and clear and did not look deep.

At this bend in the creek, we left the shoreline and walked back through the trees to the base of my Blaze…

There, surrounded by trees, was a perfect hiding spot… beneath the end of this large boulder. I got down on my hands and knees and peered in… I didn’t see anything glistening nor anything that looked like the bronze chest with the loot… so I crawled in even farther. Just rocks… no treasure chest. But it looked like a great place where Forrest could have pushed the chest in a hole in the rocks… but he didn’t.

The crew asked us to walk back to the large meadow. They went to the far end as we stayed put. Then they launched their drone.

Before we knew it, hours had flown by. The crew told us they had enough footage and we could head back to the bridge and our cars. In the picture above, Dal is trying to find the game trail we used to get from the meadow through the forest and back to the road.

Eventually, we all made the short climb up the embankment and back to the bridge. Clayton asked us a few more questions on camera, and asked both Dal and me to read the poem for the final footage of the morning.

Our mission was over… we provided ABC with a damn good search story and an awesome half-day adventure. They were happy… I was happy… I found a good BLAZE. Were Dal and I disappointed because we didn’t find Fenn’s loot? Not at all… despite it being after noon, our day was just beginning.

He cranked up Esmerelda and off we went… into Yellowstone National Park and Forrest Fenn’s childhood special places.

To be continued… 2018! Cynthia and Molly and Dal

Cynthia-

 

You can read Dal’s version of this search HERE

The end result of the crew’s work are two stories on the ABC site. One story is video and the other is written. The written story is HERE

The video story can be found HERE

A Method to the Madness…Finding WWWH

SUBMITTED FEBRUARY 2017
by Cynthia

 

Forrest has stated many times: “Start at the beginning so figure out WWWH.” Or simply, “Start at where warm waters halt.” Followed by “WWWH is the hardest part of the poem to figure out.” Yes, Forrest…we understand. Any searcher who has placed their feet on the ground traipsing from their parked car to what they think might be a good solve for where their warm waters halt , understands. I doubt if any of us know for sure if they are one of the searchers who knowingly, or unknowingly, was within 200 feet of his treasure. I’m in that boat…and I feel like I’m sinking fast.

Like many of you wiling away the days until the snow melts, re-reading TTOTC for the hundredth time, and trying to sleep while Fenn’s poem loops through your head, I wondered if there is an easier way to find a warm water spring that is not indicated as “warm” on a map. One of the conundrums I’ve noticed since the Little Girl from India appeared on MW is that since she can solve the first two clues and WWWH is probably one of the first two clues, then doesn’t that mean “it” (the warm waters) has to be identified on her map? Here is a picture of a section of the map and spring just upstream from the Red River Fish Hatchery near Questa, New Mexico. This is my story…to prove my point, maybe.

I am a map person. I have always loved road maps. When we, my family, traveled by car over 50 years ago (as interstates were still being built), I was the kid in the back seat holding the road map, squished in the middle between a brother and sister who honestly didn’t care about maps, or where we were going. They were idiots, I thought at the time.

How can a person not care where they are going and not be anxious with anticipation of what is just around the next bend? I always kept an eye on where we were to make sure my dad didn’t miss a turn…he never did…he was born with a “compass in his nose”, so to speak, and I think, luckily, I inherited the same gene. Now my entire wall is covered in large National Forest maps, and I couldn’t wait to head north to one of them, where the springs are marked by small circles, no names attached.

Saturday, Feb 4th started off just as the weatherman predicted…sunny, blue, cloudless skies with temperatures to reach the low 60’s in Albuquerque, unseasonably warm for this time of year. Molly and I hit the road…it was time to put my theory to test. I thought it might be easiest to find a warm water spring in the winter when the creek banks are snow covered. If a spring had warm water, the snow should be melted around it, right, making it easier to spot? While researching fishing spots in New Mexico, I had read that the lower portion of the Red River is popular in the winter-time because the springs above the fish hatchery helped keep the water warmer there than in other fishing places. So by deduction, I assumed that at least one of the two springs I circled on the map had warm water.

The ride up through Santa Fe, Espanola, and Taos was uneventful. It was the weekend and, despite the beautiful day, there was little traffic. I had been to the Red River Fish Hatchery 4 years ago. I smiled as I remembered my first honest to goodness boots-on-the ground search…. I was such a rookie back then. I thought I had nailed Fenn’s location and the poem would be pretty easy to follow to the loot! (I hope you all are smiling as you read this.) Boy, was I ever wrong!

Today’s search was different…I wasn’t in a quest to find Fenn’s trove but to find the little circle on my map marking a spring. I was searching for where the warm waters halt…


I parked at the far end of the hatchery, hoping no one would notice the empty truck sitting there unattended, with no one visibly walking amongst the various tanks of fish. Molly strolled freely while I snapped a few photos. Then I grabbed her leash and steered her to the path along the privacy fence, containing the off-limit properties to folks like me. We moved rapidly along the path of footprints in the snow, quiet, stealth-like, hoping no one would notice us.

The end of the path led to this property, a private residence surrounded by more fence. It looked like a lovely vacation home, or week-end retreat. A sign said “Beware of dog”. I laughed, and whistled…I wanted to see the dog. None showed up.

The narrow path now opened up into an old road. It was still partly snow covered, and where the snow had melted, the slick mud made the walking messy. But, when you are a Fenn treasure hunter, the condition of the trail does not matter. I dismissed the thought of Molly’s muddy feet and my disgustingly muddy hiking boots inside the clean truck later. We were on a mission…I couldn’t let it matter.

Within 10 mins or so we came upon a footbridge crossing the river. The snow looked quite deep on the other bank where most of its days were spent in quiet shade. There didn’t appear to be a path upstream on that side…we’d check it out on the way back.

In another 5 minutes or so I could see a spot of tiny green leaves peeking through the brush along the river. I knew it had to be the warm spring.

We carefully made our way down the short embankment to the green vegetation growing in the water there. The water trickling from the mouth of the spring was tepid, not nearly as warm as I had anticipated. But it was warmer than the river water…does this count? I didn’t know.

I poked around in the spring’s brush while Molly poked around the edge of the river. I was sort of disappointed but felt I proved a point, sort of. The snow had already mostly melted on the sunny side of the river, but the green vegetation growing in the tepid water did help identify the “warm” spring before I got to it, and I didn’t really need to touch the water to know it was “warm”. But mostly this supports my theory that the place where the warm waters halt can be marked on Little Indy’s map, but still not be identified as such. I mean, yes, you know it’s a spring, but there are a gazillion springs in the Rocky Mountains north of Santa Fe, so you have to solve the poem to identify where the right one lies; hence Forrest saying, “WWWH is the hardest part of the poem to figure out.” Capiche?

After a few more photos of the spring, we headed back to check out the footbridge before hitting the parking lot. Along the way, I noticed a few things I wanted to mention to someone…(please don’t mention this to other searchers, insert smiley face here.)

Look at this next picture. Notice how the sunny side of the river is desert-like with its rocky, sagebrush covered terrain, but the shady side has more trees and is more mountain- like. Is this why Forrest sometimes says “walk out into the desert…” and other times says ”in the mountains…”? This place looked like both.

And although I don’t think this particular section of the canyon is where Fenn’s treasure chest is hidden, I think it is “like” the place where it “could” be hidden. The spring was maybe, at the most, a half mile from the parking lot at the hatchery. Look at the path…easy, not dangerous. Take your kids and let them play in the water. No wild animals to eat them, you, or your dog. This is CNF land…so not private property as long as you don’t jump that fence. No one pointing a gun in your face because you are trespassing on their land. The road to the hatchery is open all year long since fishermen fish the river year round. (Remember, Fenn originally thought he was going to die where he hid the chest. Would he limit it to a seasonal place…one where the roads were closed due to snow for 4 months a year?) And, it’s not a busy place crawling with people, but there might be an occasional passer-by, especially if it was summer.

If any readers are freaking out now because I gave away their solve, relax. This particular stretch of canyon was written about and searched to death 4 or 5 years ago. I didn’t discover it … some earlier searchers used the tailing ponds and Pope Lake as their solutions. I prefer using an actual warm spring as my warm water. But, IMO, this is not the right one.

By the time we reached the truck, it was after 1:00 but still enough daylight to drive into the town of Red River and continue our exploration of the river itself. As I approached the Moly Mine on Rt38, I stared at the movement ahead… Holy smokes, after dozens of times driving through this area, I was finally going to see the mountain sheep. I parked along my side of the highway, turned off the engine, and watched, and took photos, and watched some more. I was in awe… Molly was not. After a quick glance, she curled up in the passenger seat and took a nap.

I hated leaving the sheep but had an agenda I wanted to finish. So on we went…into the town of Red River, a sleepy little old western ski town, a dot on the northern stretch of the Enchanted Circle.

I made our usual stop at the City Park, a dog-friendly place with dog-friendly accessories, namely poop bags and a trash can to put them in. Molly wandered aimlessly whereever her nose took her, dragging her leash behind her with nose on the ground on the scent of those noisy squirrels. Molly LOVES squirrels…coming here is a treat…we do not have squirrels at home. I used this time to call Michelle and see if she’d look on the Red River city webcam to

see if she could see us. She saw the truck and we discovered there is about a 20 second delay. Why does any of this matter? It doesn’t…but with Michelle directing me to point to align my arm in a direct path to the web camera, I found where it is located. On a pole above the Town Hall building. See the arrows pointing to it in the second picture below. (Slurbs, that black arrow is for you, my dear friend…I want all color-blind searchers to see what I see!)

We continued east on Main Street at the far end of town, going straight where the main road Hwy 38 bore off to the left. Even though this stretch followed the Red River, there was soon so much snow, I knew we would not be hiking to find any more warm water springs.

We did continue to the end of Rt 578, and I stopped to take an occasional picture or 12. I was amazed at the snow depth where the plows made snow banks along the pavement that were 8 feet high. It was a beautiful valley, even more so this day with the snow-covered terrain.

On the way back through Red River, we stopped at the Dairy Bar for a bite to eat. Then mosied on home the 3 hours or so it takes to make the drive.

If you’d like to see more pictures of our day, click on this link:

If you looked at the pictures, you can see the snow is really deep when you approach the end of Rt 578. This is where so many good trailheads begin, trails we used to backpack up to Lost Lake, Horseshoe Lake, Middle Fork Lake, Wheeler Peak the long way many years ago, trails that take fishermen to their special places. Might there be warm water springs along any of these trails or forks of the Red? I don’t know…there aren’t any tiny circles on my map. Will I hike these trails, walk along these streams, search for Fenn’s treasure here? Probably. Will I wait until May when the snow has melted from the last shady spot on these trails? Hardly! I will pack my snow shoes the next trip!

Cheers!
Cynthia and Molly…

The High Road to Taos

SUBMITTED march 2015
CYNTHIA

The High Road to Taos

Like many of us Fenn treasure hunters, I can’t wait to get out there again and head to my new primary search area in the mountains north of Santa Fe. However, it seems like the calendar pages are turning in extra slow motion this winter and that spring-time will never arrive. To try to satisfy the desire to search, yesterday I went out to the Battleship Rock/Little Bonita Falls area in the Jemez Mountains to re-search an area I’d been to several times prior…however,  I found this to be disappointingly unsatisfying.  So upon waking this morning, I decided to drive to my primary search area high in the Sangre de Cristos to check out the snow depth there, with hopes of heading there in a week or two…

Since I had lots of time today, I decided to travel to my destination via the scenic byway called The High Road to Taos, one of the most spectacular routes in the Southwest, winding through the rolling hills of the high desert mesa, through tiny hamlets and villages, and eventually through part of the Carson National Forest, before dropping back down to Taos.

a1 high road to taos sign (800x533)

The beginning of The High Road to Taos at Nambe.

Winding through the hills with the Sangre de Cristo mountain range in the background.

Winding through the hills with the Sangre de Cristo mountain range in the background.

I have driven The High Road to Taos many times, and never tire of its beauty…my eyes can’t seem to absorb the splendor quick enough to fill my brain, just as pictures cannot capture the exquisite uniqueness and enchantment of this high desert landscape. As I was driving along in awe and stopping here and there to take pictures (add another 100 photos from today’s trip to the hundreds I already have), the village of Cundiyo popped into my head…where Eric Sloane had drawn a picture of the church there, and Forrest published that drawing in Seventeen Dollars a Square Inch. I had never been there but after seeing Eric’s drawing, it was on my list of places to see, someday…and today was that day.

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Entering Cundiyo from the south.

As I entered the little village, the road abruptly went from two lanes to one lane, with the buildings built right along the twisting, narrow street…making it seem like a quaint little European hamlet, but not…some of the places probably hadn’t seen new paint for decades, and it was obvious there wasn’t a designated crew for litter pick-up…but, nevertheless, it was worth the visit.

Main Street through town

Main Street through town

Main street through town

Main street through town

The tidy Cundiyo Church…the gate was not in Eric’s drawing, nor were there any trees in the background.

The tidy Cundiyo Church…the gate was not in Eric’s drawing, nor were there any trees in the background.

 I had parked in a small area across from the church and decided to walk the dogs through this quaint little town to take more photographs, only there was a large dog, unleashed, standing in the middle of the street, intently watching us as we got closer. I stopped to contemplate the situation…my dogs are friendly but …about this time a car began to drive by so I sort of waved…the car stopped, a lady rolled down her window, so I asked her where the road went if I kept going north…she asked where I wanted to go…I explained anywhere, I didn’t care…I had stopped to photograph the church, and oh what a lovely little village this was. She and her adult daughter seemed more than happy to chat…they explained where the road went, if I went left or right at the t-intersection, and that there was another church in Rio Chiquito just before getting back up on the High Road to Taos. I also asked if they knew the dog that was still staring at us from the middle of the street (they obviously don’t have leash laws there)…they didn’t know, and the lady said that even if we got past that dog, there were more unleashed ones to venture past if we went farther. I made the decision right then to forget the walking and do more driving for pictures…so back in the truck we went. Not far from there, we encountered these two places, across the street from each other, both unique in their own way…

I loved the bright colors

I loved the bright colors

a unique place but I probably wouldn’t want him to be my neighbor

a unique place but I probably wouldn’t want him to be my neighbor

That's a lot of cow skulls…

That’s a lot of cow skulls…

Traveling on, we soon came to the village of Cordova…Eric also made a drawing of a church in Cordova so we took the main road through town, only I never saw a church…but we did find a cemetery…one of the most colorful ones I’d ever seen.

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a11 cemetery (800x533)

Somewhere between this cemetery and Truchas, I noticed a van at an odd angle off the side of the road…a young man leaning against the side eating an apple looked at me and sort of waved…I stopped, rolled my window down, and looked curiously at him. He wondered if I could pull him out of the dirt embankment his front wheels were immersed in…I thought for a moment and said I’d pull off the road to see…happily, I found the heavy duty tow chain I carry beneath the back seat, assuming that some day I would be the truck needing pulled out of a snow drift or mud-hole. Out of all the times and miles I carried this, I never used it, so was delighted to finally be able to rescue some poor soul from his misfortune…and misfortune it was. Seems it was unlucky John Gray’s first day of work as a delivery man, and he wasn’t familiar with the area…he thought he could make a u-turn there in that muddy turnout  and soft dirt bank…not. It didn’t take long to attach the chain to his back bumper and my tow-hooks. He asked me to go slow, so as to not pull the  bumper off his employer’s van…it made me nervous…he watched as the chain grew taut…hollered when it was good, jumped in the van and put it in neutral, and gave the go-ahead to proceed. I was so pleased when his 4 wheels were on solid ground, and I smiled since the van’s bumper was still attached. He was grateful…I felt like a hero.

Continuing our journey, we soon started the uphill climb to Truchas…made famous in Robert Redford’s movie, The Milagro Beanfield Wars. I love this picturesque-in-its-own-way little village.

The Truchas Peaks in the background

The Truchas Peaks in the background

Loved the fire hydrant…very spiffy in an otherwise non-spiffy environment.

Loved the fire hydrant…very spiffy in an otherwise non-spiffy environment.

I love this mural...and photograph it every time I drive past…today the traffic was kind enough to wait for me as I took the picture from my window.

I love this mural…and photograph it every time I drive past…today the traffic was kind enough to wait for me as I took the picture from my window.

We traveled through many other small villages as we made our way to the Carson National Forest stretch of the High Road to Taos. The higher in elevation we went, the more snow we encountered…these kids looked like they were having a blast…

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Finally we got to Taos…as I was waiting for the light to change, I decided to take a picture through the windshield of Pueblo Peak aka Taos Mountain.

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At this same intersection, I turned here to head over to my route. I noticed an old, skinny, hippie-looking guy standing on the corner,  hitchhiking in the direction I was headed. I didn’t give it much thought since I NEVER pick up hitchhikers. Well, I pulled into the Visitor’s Center parking lot to send a text…when I pulled back out onto the street five or so minutes later, he was still standing there holding his plastic grocery bag containing a couple cans of Fosters, smoking his cigarette down to the filter. I rolled my window down and asked him where he was headed…he said one and a half miles up the canyon…I said I was going that way if he’d like a ride…I asked if he minded sitting beside a big dog…he did not mind…I asked him if he minded putting out his cigarette (hell, it had to be burning his fingers and lips by now)…he said no, he didn’t mind and tossed the butt on the ground. I pulled Molly out of the passenger seat beside me so the fellow could get in…despite missing most of his teeth, he was a chatty fellow and wondered where I was from…we chatted, he offered that he is a poet but never published, and wondered if I’d like him to recite a poem to me while I drove..I said that would be nice. He had a pleasant voice and nice delivery…it was a poem about the old days, and buffalo that roamed, and Indian spirits, automobiles and new highways. I wish I would have asked him if I could record it on my phone…it was delightful. I asked him if he had heard of Forrest Fenn, a famous poet and author who lives in Santa Fe who has published several books, mostly about the Taos Society of Artists from a century ago…sorry, Forrest, he did not know you. We reached his destination and I dropped him off…he was the icing-on- the-cake, so to speak,  of my pleasant day…his name was John Mason, just in case he ever gets published…and I will always look for him on that corner in case he needs a ride home.

On up the canyon we ventured…my dogs Molly and Emma and me…I was still hopeful of a search next week in this area…the snow was minimal, until I got here……………

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a19 second snow (800x533)

I think it might be April until this snow has melted and we can find the blaze…

Until next time…Cynthia (and Emma and Molly)

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Cynthia