Jeremy Does Forrest……

SantaStrikesBack click to enlarge

About the Artist
Jeremy Parnell is a searcher from Lexington, Kentucky, who joined the chase in 2015. He works as a software developer for the national governing body of equestrian sports by day, and pursues an interest in art, philosophy, and puzzle solving in his free time. He’s a self-described “geek”, loves comics, and “knew all the Marvel characters even before the movies”. One day a friend challenged him to draw a story. A couple of glasses of bourbon later, and this was the result. You can find him at where he infrequently posts art, photos, and random thoughts.

Searching with an i-phone…

Just checking in here as one of those thousands of people who have read this blog and Forrest’s essays but haven’t spoken about my own hunt.

… And to tell you a quick story that I hope will make you chuckle.

I live in the Yellowstone area, and while I haven’t chased the clues as much as I should living so close, I do enjoy thinking about the poem as I hike, drive and take photos in the area.

Which brings me to my story.

I was driving home after having hiked to Grizzly Lake one afternoon recently, and I found myself pondering the poem. I couldn’t remember the words, so I spoke a command to Siri on my iPhone and asked her to “recite the Forrest Fenn poem to me.”

Well, the first time I asked, Siri must have misinterpreted my words and just decided to “recite a poem,” so she made one up:

“Oh freddled gruntbuggly
Thy micturations are to me
As plurdled gabbleblotchits on a lurgid…
Oh, even I can’t listen to this anymore.”

I laughed at having found a hilarious iPhone “Easter Egg” and tried one more time, changing the directions a little:

“Siri, recite Forest Fenn Treasure Hunt poem for me.”

She replied:

“Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Haven’t you got
Anything better to do?”

I never was able to get the phone to recite the real treasure hunt poem for me, but I got a long giggle out of my failed attempts and hope that you will, too.

As for the portion of Siri’s response about “Haven’t you anything better to do?” I can honestly answer, no, I’m afraid that hiking around mountains, lakes and forests (and maybe stumbling onto a literal treasure during my explorations some day) is something I consider one of my best uses for spare time.

For the record, when I have pored over maps to make the clues fit, the need to look at the maps differently has allowed me to rediscover some of the history, geology and geography that surround me. Most of my the X’s on my maps don’t necessarily fit the clues; they just look like great places to explore that will (gratefully) get me further off the beaten path.

For yet one more bonus in all of this: I went with my mother on a day trip through Yellowstone two days ago to wildlife watch, leaf peep and catch a geyser eruption or two. She drove, so I recited the poem and told her about the search. [Her first instincts put the Treasure somewhere around the Firehole Drive or Ojo Caliente, in case you are interested. Those were two of my first thoughts when I first read the poem last year.]

The next day, Mom said,”I’m not so sure this treasure hunt thing is a good idea — I was up past midnight thinking about it.” Today, she’s been learning to use the satellite views on Google maps so she can test her theories. Pretty awesome.

Thank you all for sharing information and stories. Thank you, Forrest for the spark.


Eleven Clues…


Last summer the Travel Channel shot an episode of Expedition Unknown with Josh Gates on our favorite treasure hunt. I’ve been waiting for them to announce its air time. This is what I found in their season rundown:




Premieres Wednesday, November 18 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT
An eccentric art dealer stashed a $3 million treasure somewhere in the Rocky Mountains and then released 11 clues to its location. The most amazing part? He’s still alive. Josh Gates is granted a rare interview with the puppet master behind this high-stakes game, and then joins America’s brightest treasure hunters who are racing to the riches.


So I guess I’m going to have to tune-in just so I can find out a couple things:
1. What the other two clues are
2. Who America’s brightest treasure hunters are
3. Who the puppet master’s puppets are
4. Why it’s amazing he’s still alive
5. Why it’s a “high stakes game” if it doesn’t cost anything to play

I dunno…but it sounds like they got the guy who sold me that aluminum siding to write their promotional copy and didn’t bother giving him any facts to start with..

If you want to read it for yourself:

20 Seconds of Holy Cow…


by dal…


The last time I walked this stretch of the Madison I got caught out in the open in a fast moving thunderstorm where I was the tallest object around and perfectly grounded while I was knee-deep in river water. The surprise storm brought a moody darkness and a chilling wind that did nothing to make me feel comfortable. Lightning has always scared the daylights out of me and I couldn’t decide whether I was safer staying in the river or hugging the flat grassy shoreline in soaking wet clothes. Another conundrum!

Just as I was moving out of the river a powerful bolt of searing white light exploded into the ground a mere football field away from me and up on the bank. The attack was so loud that I couldn’t hear it. My brain only registered it as a very strong pressure wave that pushed against my skeleton and then set my whole body tingling from the electrically charged air. I couldn’t imagine a worse place to be stranded. I was trying to remember the facts about lightening that I learned at the science museum in Boston many years ago. Nothing surfaced in my clogged brain except the point that a lightning bolt could discharge about a BILLION volts in less than a second.

The back part of my brain where hundreds of generations of prehistoric learning resides, took over. I decided to head for the spot where the lightning hit the ground. It would certainly be the odds-on safest little plot in the valley since everyone knows that lightening never strikes twice in the same spot. It must be true! Please let it be true!

The only flaw in that plan was the 100 yards of open space I had to cover to get to the safe spot. The back part of my brain was screaming at me to move quickly…but not to run…”and why not run”, I asked the rear of my brain which was now in charge? “Because”, it answered, “running will attract the attention of the storm.” At the time it made perfect sense and I walked quickly but did not run.

The storm passed as suddenly as it had appeared. Before I even got to the safe spot the lightening was a mile away and the rain and wind had both quit to an eerie and uncomfortable stillness.

Then, in a flash, sunshine and warmth descended from heaven and the place looked like a rocky mountain dreamland again. My fears were washed away and forgotten.

That was a couple years ago..

Today I was revisiting that spot because I had the sense that I was not completely together when I was here last and I probably missed searching in areas about the size of Rhode Island. I wanted to come back and look again..with all my wits…

So here I was walking the river..back and forth in areas where my sight overlapped. Every inch in every 100ft column would be looked at twice from different directions. I knew how to search..what I wasn’t sure about was what in the heck I was searching for..a blaze of some kind..a mark or geological remnant or device that would be around for a hundred or more years…semi to fully permanent. As I approached the bank of the river on pass number 117 I saw something odd in a foot of clear water about three feet out…


Click to open larger, uncropped image

Just sitting there. It was about ten inches on each side and about five inches high. Is that a latch? Is that thing made of bronze? It’s not supposed to be in water!!!!

I grabbed my camera and took a set of pictures.

I put the camera down and leaped into the water straddling the object. I bent down and touched it gently…rough, not smooth…I dug at the gravel around it with my fingers…deeper than five inches…much deeper…

Not the chest…

A concrete pier.

But it gave me an exciting moment..twenty seconds of HOLY COW!!!


A Critical Analysis of the Briggs Method

by Jeremy Parnell


Andrew Briggs, a searcher from the United Kingdom, claims to have found a hidden message encrypted in to Forrest Fenn’s poem. A cipher, he says, developed more than two hundred years ago by Thomas Jefferson to send secret messages to Lewis and Clark, reveals the following:

“Go west. In a short hour you see a big lake, cross it, run south – west. ——————–. Mirror this trail. Aim south and look heading west for a grey ‘F’ sign.”

The blank is a part he couldn’t figure out, but he says the rest leads to a relatively small area of the Rockies. If you can solve the part he couldn’t, you’ll find the treasure chest. He’s published his solve and how it came about in an ebook, Title to the Gold, available at Amazon.

Andrew Briggs is just one of many searchers who claim to have solved Forrest Fenn’s riddle. His method, however, achieved a certain status and piqued the curiosity of more than a few searchers when Forrest Fenn said in a September 14th radio interview that:

“He’s a pretty bright guy. He’s got a lot of it figured out, I… maybe.” (source)

We don’t know what that means. Later in the interview Forrest states that he can’t find the treasure chest after reading Briggs’ email about his solve. There’s been no further clarification as of this writing (9/20/15).

I was curious what, if anything, Andrew Briggs had figured out. Many of us were. Particularly we were confused because he does employ, in part, the Jefferson Cipher (also known as the Lewis and Clark Cipher).The confusion over Briggs’ solve being mentioned so prominently by Forrest Fenn largely stems from a general understanding that ciphers won’t get you anywhere in looking for the treasure. This understanding comes from Forrest himself. Codes and ciphers, he says, “will not assist anyone to the treasure location”. (source)

Still, Forrest Fenn’s statement about Andrew Briggs left a lot of searchers wondering: Should I buy this guy’s book? Is there anything to it?

No one is implying (except for Briggs himself, perhaps) that Forrest Fenn has endorsed his use of the Jefferson Cipher. I won’t even try to figure out in this post what Forrest Fenn meant when he said that Andrew Briggs has a lot of it figured out. Anything I come up with would be pure speculation. However, the use of a cipher is certainly the most controversial aspect of the Andrew Briggs Method and I do think we can apply critical thinking to that much of his solve, at least.

I must confess that before hearing of Andrew Briggs, I didn’t know that Thomas Jefferson was a cryptography enthusiast and built devices to encrypt messages hundreds of years before computers were invented. More information about the Jefferson Cipher can be found here. I was instantly hooked into this interesting aspect of American History that somehow escaped my notice. Hooked, not because I thought that it might actually solve Forrest Fenn’s riddle, but because it was fascinating in general to a fan of history and cryptography like myself.

I should mention that I’m a software developer. I’d like to think that I’m a better software developer than I am a treasure hunter, because at least my software does sometimes work and, so far, none of my treasure hunting adventures have panned out. Early in my involvement in the search for Forrest Fenn’s treasure I came across his seemingly prohibitive statement about ciphers, so I didn’t even try to go down that route. I liked the idea of a simple treasure hunt using a poem that I took to be like the map in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, a map with no names but otherwise a point-by-point search (Andrew Briggs disagrees).

I didn’t go down the route of trying to crack Forrest Fenn’s poem like a hacker trying to crack a password, but I could. I do these things for fun. My most recent coding adventure was trying to see if the Martingale Betting Strategy had any advantage over a simulated roulette wheel in Vegas. You can give that a try (spoiler alert: the house usually wins).

Call it a waste of time if you will, but I enjoy wasting time in this way. To me it’s fun. Indisputably, though, Andrew Briggs’ Method can be put to the test using software. I didn’t want to buy his book, but I did want to program a Jefferson Cipher decrypter. What a decrypter does, essentially, is it takes an encrypted string of text, unlocks it using a keyword, and reports back the unencrypted version. Human beings can do this, of course, as Jefferson and Lewis did, but as a program it becomes an automated process, and you can run many iterations quickly. Briggs seemed to be suggesting that words that appeared to be not encrypted actually were. I wanted to test that.

I won’t bore you with indepth details of how the cipher and the decrypter works. It’s only interesting to nerds like me. Still, it’s important to provide the code for fellow programmers to confirm these things on their own. You can find that here.

After coding my decrypter I now had the ability to do what Jefferson and Lewis couldn’t, and what Andrew Briggs didn’t. I could now run as many keywords as I wanted, against as many phrases as I wanted, in very little time at all.

The Gist of the Andrew Briggs Solve
I don’t want to get into the logic that Andrew Briggs uses to reach his conclusions except to say that I disagree with nearly all of it. I don’t want to be too critical and say it’s nonsense. It simply resembles the justifications used by a lot of searchers. For all I know, he can be as right as anyone else. It goes like this: Forrest Fenn mentioned something, somewhere, and therefore my interpretation is justified. Or, lining words up like this makes the most sense for some reason or another. I don’t want to be too critical because we all do that, and it’s not really essential to the core of his solve. I want to be fair and keep an open mind in applying my tests. As they say, the proof is in the pudding. Never mind how you get there, does it work?

I think it’s a fair summarization of his method to say the following:

  1. Andrew Briggs identifies which phrases from the poem are the nine clues (what he calls Forrest Fenn’s first layer of security) and devises his own phrases as answers.
  2. Andrew Briggs then applies the Jefferson Cipher to these answers using keyword phrases he came up with after trying “hundreds” of keywords. (he calls the cipher Forrest Fenn’s second layer of security).
  3. There are other layers of security, but they follow from the second layer being confirmed by yielding meaningful hidden phrases.


The confirmation of his answers to the nine clues, again, comes in the form of hidden messages revealed by the cipher.

Example: Andrew Briggs identifies “Tarry scant with marvel gaze” as a clue. He then decides “Spiderman” is the answer for various reasons (according to Briggs: “a Native American trickster spirit the Lakota called Inktomi”). He then applies the cipher using his special keyword phrase and out comes “VYDEOZ”. This is, according to Briggs, his “eureka” moment that led to other meaningful phrases being revealed in a similar fashion.

Essentially, according to Briggs, “… multiple sections of meaningful text were produced that logically described a set of sequential geographical directions. It seemed to me that the odds against this happening by chance were astronomical.”

Odds. Vegas. OK, we can test that.

Testing the Andrew Briggs Method
Again, I didn’t want to buy his book. I did, however, want to see what came out of a Jefferson Cipher when applied to words in Forrest Fenn’s poem. I picked one that everyone generally agrees is likely to be a clue: “Blaze”. Andrew Briggs tried “hundreds” of words. I wanted more. To paraphrase Neo in the Matrix, “I need words. Lots of words.”

I ended up downloading a flat text file of over 109,000 of them to plug into my system.

I ran my decrypter against the words, attempting to decrypt Blaze using each of the 109,000+ as a potential keyword candidate. Here are the results.

I didn’t know what to expect, keeping an open mind. Generally, if you try to decrypt an already unencrypted word you can expect to get something that looks encrypted. Blaze is a human readable word, not obfuscated in any way. If something human readable came out of the decryption process, it’s easy to think that maybe there was an encryption after all. Like Briggs, I found most of the results to be unintelligible.

Still, “accomplished” yielded a phonetic version of “aches” (“aiykes”) which is how I imagine one would be who’s “done it tired” and now was “weak”. As I scrolled further I noticed clearer words. “Amen” yields “ahour” or “a hour” if you want to be generous. This was sufficient to demonstrate potentially hidden directions as Briggs might be using, so I stopped scrolling. I encourage you to check for more hidden messages. I moved on to other things.

Having satisfied myself that I might find hidden messages randomly, I then thought that this isn’t a fair test. Maybe Briggs was employing some other means in his solve. I didn’t want to, but my curiosity often causes me to spend money on a wide variety of things; I bought the book.

The Andrew Briggs Method, described above under gist, is actually very easy to test with the tools I created. The premise he puts forth is that the discovery of additional directional messages, hidden by the cipher, confirm that his choices for answers to the clues are correct. We can employ counterfactual reasoning here and falsify that premise: The discovery of additional directional messages hidden by the cipher in other random phrases demonstrates that his conclusion may not be correct.

OK. Let’s try some crazy ideas.

One of the clues Andrew Briggs identified is “where warm waters halt”. The answer to that clue, he decided, was “Rattlesnake Springs”. Among other hidden phrases, he felt that because the TTLESNA yielded “on green”, this was meaningful, and confirmed his choice.

For our test, we need to see if messages come out of phrases that Briggs didn’t use, running keywords that Briggs didn’t use.

Let’s substitute Briggs’ location of Rattlesnake Springs with a different one. Because I found it amusing that someone was digging in Central Park for Forrest Fenn’s treasure, let’s try that. Most would consider New York to be an odd choice because it’s nowhere near the four states Forrest Fenn has greenlighted.

I ran “Central Park NY” and here are the results. Again, feel free to look for your own hidden messages. It’s half the fun.

Amazingly “unearth” led credence to the poor guy in New York. It yields, in part, “iris”. Look quickly down!

Attorney yields, in part, “blue”. Are we looking for a blue lake? Didn’t Forrest Fenn say he checked with an attorney about land rights, on the off chance that someone might find the treasure? Wasn’t Blue Lake in Taos the subject of a huge legal battle over Native American land rights?

Look for more. These are real, complete, words revealed on terms that Forrest Fenn might have used, albeit on a very strange location.

Let’s try another one, farther away. “Paris FR”. Here’s the results. Brief scan, “valuable” yields “u ford”. Again, directional. Should we ford a river? Should we look under the rusted Ford?

Let’s try one from Briggs’ area. “London UK”. Here’s the results. “Adaptive” yields “move”. Didn’t he say he rewrote his poem several times, adaptive? “Amicus”, an adviser, yields “beauty”. Have fun looking at any word starting with “cli-” as it renders “ice-” and a potentially useful suffix.

Forrest Fenn’s neck of the woods. “Santa Fe”. Here’s the results. “Debtors” yields “owl&mom”. Is Forrest’s mom the wise one? Didn’t he say in the book how long it took his parents to pay off their home?

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, not even close. It’s just some of the ones I found when briefly looking. I ran, but didn’t even check, Antarctica for your enjoyment. Here’s the results. It only takes a few minutes to run each of these. I can’t imagine how long it would take Lewis.

Long story short, there’s a lot of words or almost words in these decrypted results. There’s others that can easily be interpreted into a meaningful phrase with a little creativity.

My favorite, by far, is when I ran “My Back Yard” (results) and found that “acquiesce”, which means “accept something reluctantly but without protest” yields “lvlguffymc”.

Naturally, this can only mean that I must look for a level area (“lv”) of Guffey, Colorado (first autocomplete result that popped up when Googling “guffy”). M = mile. Roman numeral C = 100, second placement. OMG, there’s a Bull Moose Restaurant & Bar about a mile from State Highway 9 (nine clues!) off 102! This must be the home of Brown!

In addition to real words, Andrew Briggs uses similar coded fragments to form his hidden message. To be fair, maybe not as poorly as I did in Bull Moose Restaurant & Bar example.

If you’re still with me, following Andrew Briggs Method will indeed yield human readable patterns, possibly because human beings are hardwired to see patterns in random data and likely because the cipher has a finite number of combinations using the alphabet. However, we’ve also demonstrated that patterns are found, many of them clear and complete directional words, employing other keywords that Briggs didn’t use, ones that Forrest Fenn might have, on phrases that aren’t ones that Andrew Briggs says are confirmed by the discovery of hidden messages. The presence of these other hidden messages force us to accept one of the following conclusions, for one of them must be true:

  1. Either Forrest Fenn encrypted all of these meaningful patterns into the solve, OR
  2. Forrest Fenn encrypted some of these patterns, and the appearance of any others is merely coincidental, OR
  3. Forrest Fenn encrypted none of the patterns, and thus all appearances are coincidental.


I’ll leave it up to you to decide for yourself which of the above statements is true.

If you are into ciphers and finding hidden messages, there’s plenty to enjoy here. I imagine some of you might like the idea of using a cipher to solve Forrest Fenn’s riddle. If so, I’ve done some of the ground work for you already. The results files are there for your enjoyment. Anticipating that someone might request it, I even ran the entire poem against the 109,000 plus keyword candidates, in case you’re looking for the “word that is key”. Here’s part of that (rather large) data dump.

I imagine most of us were sweating Forrest Fenn’s statement a little, even if just a little. What the heck did he mean? I don’t know, but for those of you who were concerned I hope that I have given at least a little cause to be skeptical that it has anything to do with codes or ciphers. There’s plenty of reasons not to buy Andrew Briggs’ book. I don’t know him, but he seems like a decent guy. Still, the only thing I found interesting is the use of the Jefferson Cipher, which is tested here. Everything else is pure speculation, in my opinion. You can find enough of that on the blogs. If you really want to spend $10 for no reason, I accept PayPal donations at Or, you can save your money and just send me a thanks if anything I said here helps.

Best of luck,
Jeremy Parnell

P.S. Mr. Briggs. If you read this and you’d like me to alter my software to devise another test, I would be happy to explore that option.

You Are Invited….


Charmay Allred Invites you to an Autograph Party

Please join us and bring a friend

Leon Gaspard – The Call of Distant Places
A new book by Forrest Fenn and Carleen Milburn


Monday September 14, 2015
La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe
Santa Fe Room
5-7 pm
Light refreshments will be served



The authors Carleen and Forrest at the book by Lou Bruno

ThomasD sent in two sets of great pics from the book signing. We need some way to caption the pics and ID the folks. I’ll work on that when I get back, but for now here are the pics on his smug mug site.

THIS LINK is the book signing itself
THIS LINK is the searchers get-together after the book signing.


PHOTO 1   click on photo to enlarge it

2. Wiseone
3. Cynthia
4. dal
5. Slurbs
6. Katya
7. JDiggins
8. ItsAllMine
9. (wishes to remain anonymous)
10. Randy Bilyeu


click on photo to enlarge it

PHOTO 2    click on photo to enlarge it

  1. 1. Syd5000
    2. Deb
    3. BoomerGirl
    4. Art?
    5.Randy Bilyeu
    6. BajaGold
    7. (wishes to remain anonymous)
    8. Doug (what is his blog name)
    9. dal
    10. Cynthia
    11. Amy (not Amy on the blog)

Happy 85th Forrest….

AUGUST 22, 2015



Cynthia Meachum made this wonderful greeting just for Forrest.
Add your greeting to Forrest in a comment below.


The Fenn’s in camp about 80 years ago…

I Don’t Like Peas….

JULY 2015

This Letter to the Editor from West Yellowstone resident and retired librarian Jan Dunbar appeared in the West Yellowstone News in 2008. At that time Forrest was contributing articles to the newspaper much like his scrapbooks here, the stories on his blog and the stories that are in his two memoirs. Some of the stories in his memoir were originally written for the West Yellowstone News.

Below is Jan’s letter as it appeared in the 2008 West Yellowstone News. I added the photo which came from Crayton’s family photo collection.


I have enjoyed the reminiscences by Forrest Fenn lately in the News. (He probably wouldn’t like to be reminded that we called him “Bubba.”) I wasn’t acquainted with him, but I knew his sister June slightly, and his brother Skippy quite well. Skippy worked as a boy for Jean Cardon Young’s father Con Peterson in the old O. P. Skaggs on Canyon Street. Skippy was lively, to say the least. And I knew Donnie Joe Heath.

There is always some old crone who goes about correcting things. So here I am. I have to mention that we called Donnie Joe’s mother “Bess,” and she wasn’t the postmistress. She worked at the post office for Alice Hanson who was the Postmaster. Alice always said “There are no ‘mistresses’ in MY post office.” That was her kind of humor.

And later, at West Yellowstone High School, Skippy’s daughter Lana was in our first or second graduating class. She had a pair of little brothers, one of whom was Crayton who shared First Grade with our son Romney and who, as they all had to, survived a harridan of a teacher. She may not have been the worst teacher I ever knew, but she was a close second. I think she disliked little boys, and that class had about ten of them. It was her vision that all plates should be empty after the lunch hour, especially devoid of the canned carrots, beans and peas, regular fare in those days. Crayton did not share her enthusiasm.

Each day after lunch, small desks of those who failed to eat their vegetables were put out into the hall where the culprits sat before their cold and miserable peas or carrots until they either ate the vegetables or had to be excused to go home. Crayton never gave up. One day as I was walking down the hall, there was Crayton, sitting stoically before his cold plate. “Crayton,” I said. “Whay don’t you just eat those peas and go back to class with your friends?” He looked at me with those beautiful big brown eyes, and said, “But I don’t like peas.”

Later I heard that Crayton Fenn was the youngest licensed plumbing contractor on record. No doubt he became interested in such a profession, having dumped so many cold peas down the drain.

Jan Dunbar


Crayton's grandfather Marvin and Crayton hanging out at Marvin's Airstream Trailer at the West Fork Campground between Ennis and West Yellowstone. Probably taken in the mid 80's.

Crayton’s grandfather Marvin and Crayton hanging out at Marvin’s Airstream Trailer at the West Fork Campground between Ennis and West Yellowstone. Probably taken in the mid 80’s.


Searcher Could Use a Little Help….

JULY 2015

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 12.05.41 AM
A searcher and regular commentator on this blog, Michael Hendrickson started a GoFundMe page to help him raise money for a prosthetic leg.

If you have a spare buck and a free moment maybe you can help out.

Michael is a good guy who’s had some bad luck..

You can visit his GoFundMe site here.



CBS Sunday Morning….

JULY 2015
by dal…



In early June I went out to search around Yellowstone National Park with a CBS News crew from New York. They were creating a story on the treasure hunt for CBS Sunday Morning. When I met up with them they had already followed a family from Colorado who were searching and had also been down in Santa Fe and talked with Forrest…and I believe a few other folks in the area who know Forrest.

The Producer of the story, Dustin Stephens, contacted me about a month earlier and we decided on a date and location I would be searching where they would be able to meet up with me. What follows is a Behind The Scenes look at the shoot I experienced with the CBS News crew.

The location was to be near Fountain Flats in Yellowstone National Park. The date was to be June 5th.


A lovely warm creek on the edge of Fountain Flats in Yellowstone National Park

Getting permission to film professionally in YNP is typically a simple process…unless the Chief Ranger is Tim Reid and unless you are going there to film a “searcher”. So when Dustin filled out the necessary forms and sent them in, the whole “permission” process became convoluted. The administration didn’t really want to allow a story about searchers in their our park. They tried to prevent it but could’t quite pull it off.

To begin, Ranger Reid would not allow himself to be interviewed by CBS because apparently “treasure hunting” is beneath him. The administration would only allow the crew into the park to film me if the crew, and I, agreed to a number of restrictions. For instance, I was not allowed to carry any kind of “searching tool”. So I agreed to leave my ice axe in Esmerelda. The crew had to stay within a quarter mile of any road, which meant that I could not search beyond a quarter mile of any road. There were other rules too and many were unusual restrictions for a news crew. The most interesting was that we had to have a “guide” with us. The guide would be a ranger and the ranger would only be available for half a day so we had to get all filming inside the park accomplished during that time. Of course this meant that there would be someone official from the park with us if we were to actually find the chest. No sneaking it out of the park since the guide was watching us. It also meant we would not be able to postpone due to weather or equipment problems. We had a one half-day window and that was firm, not negotiable. I am pretty certain the administration used this requirement to absolutely limit the filming to something unreasonable in the hope that CBS would cave and film somewhere else. But CBS agreed to everything and we all met on June 5th at the appointed hour in the parking lot at Madison Junction to run off and start filming.


Near Fountain Flats

But the gods were not with us. The crew had been pulled off the Searcher story and were ready to pile into their vehicles and head for Billings to do a breaking news story on Dennis Hastert. So there we were, ranger guide, searcher guy, correspondent and news crew all ready to go but CBS News wanted the team to go do another story. Of course that meant they lost all opportunity to film in the park after their hard fought battle with the administration to do so. Hung by their own brand new rope.

So that gave me a day to think about where else we could film. Film crews are used to working hard to get all the footage and sounds they need to tell a story, but no one wants to scrabble up hill, over uneven terrain carrying cameras, tripods and microphones a great distance and I didn’t want to spend hours driving up some dusty service road before we could get out and hike to a good spot.

Wild strawberries

Wild strawberries



I checked my list of 17 possible locations to check out on this trip. These are all places the clues in the poem take me right up to the blaze. My sense is that I will have to find the blaze when I get to any spot and then, if found, move on from that point in the poem. Whit’s Lake seemed like a great possibility. Short drive, unlikely to be any other humans nearby, 20 minute hike from the vehicles and possibly picturesque. The clues to that area seemed strong. But since I had not been there I wondered if there was a blaze. Certainly we could film up there as long as we wanted.


Since Whit’s Lake is on Forest Service land I wanted to check in with the USFS about filming there. The Forest Service has regulations about professional filming on their our land as well as the Park Service. The folks at the Gallatin Nat’l Forest Ranger Station on the north side of West Yellowstone were very helpful and very gracious. They were curious about the treasure hunt because they had heard about it and were interested in more detail. I shared what I could before they got busy with phone calls and daily business. They were courteous and welcoming and even offered up a suggestion for a place I might want to look. A lot different than the Park Service. They never even mentioned the legal hassles if the chest were found on Forest Service land. “Go forth and search.” the district ranger told me.

Approaching Whit's Lake

Approaching Whit’s Lake

Whit's Lake

Whit’s Lake

We did. Dustin, Mike, Barry, Andre and I proceeded up to the lake the next day. We filmed an interview followed by my search of the area around the lake looking for a lovely blaze.


Mike and Dustin talk about the filming on the tree shrouded trail to the lake


Barry, Andre and Mike setting up for my interview as a string of dudes on pony’s ambles by.

I found a potential blaze in a solitary rock on the side of the lake and another potential blaze in a waterfall from  the feeder stream heading into the lake…Neither very strong blazes but I would be foolish to walk away without checking them out…

Once again I found no chest. But I had a great walk, the day was beautiful. The company was great. The wildflowers were lovely…



My search along with all the other elements of this CBS News story aired on July 12th…

You can watch the story HERE. Look around on that page and you should find some additional footage including a clip of Forrest reading his poem..

Check out their Facebook page and Twitter feed too..