SUBMITTED FEBRUARY 2017
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!
Cynthia and Molly…