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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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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…
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.
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……………
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)
Hi Forrest its Marie, we are coming to the end of our trip and have enjoyed every breath taking moment and the inspirational conversations that have come to us from the incredibly wonderful laid back people of Taos new mexico. As we sit in our hotel we are joyfully reviewing our last few days ventures in the theme of Dr Suess,
We sought it high within a tree
we sought it low on bended knee.
We did not find that house of brown
Not in the air
Not on the ground.
We did not find it in a nest
Oh where! Oh where !
Is that gorgeous chest!
We couldn’t wait to get started however the beauty of the area the shops, the galleries and the scenery were a constant distraction, the Rio Grande Gorge for example ..Wow….Wow.
This past week we climbed a mountain amongst other activities, it wasn’t pretty but I did it, and in that moment felt a sense of success and satisfaction that was known to the athlete I used to be… Every moment we’ve been here was filled with the thrill of the chase and not about work or stress or worry, not enough shopping but there is still tomorrow…. It has been a bliss filled week indeed.
When this journey started which was at the time I first wrote to you, I had one solve… by the time I got here I had several and once we saw the area there were more.
We got very excited when we incidentally came across a geo cache and tucked it back in place after signing the log. A small stuffed animal, pens and toy star wars characters had us laughing truly excited for the find. It was quite a moment. Just wanted to write again and say, thank you so much for creating the foundation for our journey One more day to try my best to find the elusive chest but I think I have already found the treasure that is New Mexico. I will leave here with the most amazing memories and time well spent, certainly one of the most spontaneous fun adventures we’ve ever had. Tentatively we coming to Sante Fe on Thursday hoping to get a copy of the books I’m a little afraid to read them just in case I want to turn around and come right back. The thrill of the chase is my best and favourite obsession….
All the very best,
Thanks for the update. If being a poet gives you an advantage in the search then surely you will find the golden treasure. Good luck tomorrow. f
Orilla Verde — The Slide Trail
Begin it where warm waters halt – Manby Hot Springs. This hot springs is just north of the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge near Taos. This was the starting point of my search (Forrest always asks searchers where their WWWH is located because that is the beginning , although I do believe the previous lines contain hints). I did not physically start there because The Slide Trail that I wanted to hike was more easily accessible by road if you drove there from Pilar.
And take it in the canyon down, Not far, but too far to walk.—The Slide Trailhead is about 12 miles downstream from Manby Hot Springs via the Rio Grande River gorge. However, one can drive to the trailhead and park their car there via the Orilla Verde Recreation area.
Put in below the home of Brown. – The high, rugged hills above the confluence of the Rio Grande and Rio Pueblo de Taos (at The Slide Trailhead) is an area known for the herd of Brown bighorn sheep that usually graze in this area.
From there it’s no place for the meek, — The Slide Trail follows the old Rt 110, which was part of a spur of The Old Spanish Trail, which is described as “… the longest, crookedest, most arduous pack mule route in the history of America…”
The end is ever drawing nigh — to me, this meant two things: follow the river/stream/creek that was to the left of the confluence of the rivers (if going downstream from Manby Hot Springs) where I “put in below the home of Brown, and secondly, that The Blaze and the end of your search isn’t too far away.
There’ll be no paddle up your creek, – The word “creek” indicates a smaller stream than the Rio Grande, so I see it as a clue to follow the Rio Pueblo de Taos (upstream from the confluence) instead of the Rio Grande. In fact, it is so narrow and full of boulders that no one could ever paddle up this creek.
Just heavy loads and water high. – The heavy loads could mean the pack mules that used to travel this route and the area of boulders (the Slide) that covers a small section of the trail. And water high could mean the various ravines and gullies that cross the trail and what probably caused the Rock Slide.
If you’ve been wise and found the blaze – the previous clues took me to the blaze, which I think was the Slide area. It should stand the test of time and be visible hundreds of years from now. I also thought the bigger blaze could be The Old Spanish Trail itself. Then you can narrow that blaze down to the Slide, and the real blaze of all blazes was the owl (wise) petroglyph / fossil-looking mark on the big, white boulder “blaze” that stood out amongst all the other boulders along the trail in the rock-slide. At this point, my adrenalin was raging—I thought I was so close.
Look quickly down, your quest to cease – I looked on the downhill side of the trail towards the river (creek). It was not too steep, and it wouldn’t have been too difficult to get to the river. Forrest should have been able to carry the chest (especially making 2 trips) from the parking area at the trailhead to this location (probably less than half a mile). Plus, it is also a bike trail which I took note of when a fellow on a bike passed me (Forrest stated in an email to Dal’s blog “what is wrong with me just riding my bike out there and throwing it in the water high when I am through with it”. This was his (Forrest’s) response about dying near the treasure chest.
But tarry scant with marvel gaze, Just take the chest and go in peace… Your effort will be worth the cold. – the word cold indicates you need to wade across the creek
If you are brave and in the wood I give you title to the gold. – The word brave indicates Indian, and this side of the creek is part of the Taos Pueblo Tract A land. In the wood refers to trees, “not in a tree but surrounded by trees.” There was a grove of junipers or pinons along the river at this particular place. However, I didn’t see this grove of trees as being “a special place” to Forrest, so I looked near the owl blaze boulder for a more “special place”.
Nearby was a beautiful grove of aspens, nestled in a gully that often had a pool of water near the trail, with rock outcroppings and huge boulders all around. To me, this was a special place in an area that is otherwise very arid and desolate with few trees. There were plenty of spaces beneath the outcroppings where the treasure chest could be hidden, and he could die near it, without being seen, unless you are really looking for him/it.
I spent an hour searching around the aspens, boulders, and rock outcroppings but could not locate the treasure chest. Not a big surprise, though, as this area has been searched by many previous ff treasure hunters over the last 3 to 4 years. However, most of us searchers know that the real treasure was my day spent outside in the beautiful weather and scenery, another day in The Thrill of the Chase.
I am done searching this particular trail and will move on to my next search area next week. (Also in NM)
I hope some of you searchers enjoyed reading about my search area as much as I do reading yours. Good luck and be safe!
I never thought I would be writing something to post for the world to see so again, please forgive my composition skills. I will do my best and try not to turn this into War and Peace. I write this adventure with a great inner conflict! I let my intentions to post this be known to the Fenn community and it was not well accepted. The reality is that I found what I was looking for and what many search a lifetime to find, if ever. That is why I’m walking away from this quest. I hope that others can find the treasures they seek. The last thing I want to do is ruin the chase or be a spoiler so I will take steps to help prevent that from happening. If the treasure is around my spot I will be glad for whoever finds it and have no regrets. This is a real life adventure that has taken several twists and turns. I have also hidden several caches along the way. One is 2 pair of boots, a screwdriver and a roll of duct tape. The other three contain numerous tools and field equipment that could be helpful. If you keep your eyes peeled you might happen upon one of them!
The Quest Begins
This adventure starts with a trip to the 2013 Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix, Arizona to watch my beloved Kansas State Wildcats play Oregon. My brother lives in Scottsdale and I had organized a boys’ weekend of football, golf and fellowship with several of my college roommates. I was flying standby because my good friend Joe had placed me on as his only pass-rider ticket other than his family. Joe trains pilots and flies for a major airline so if you fly stand-by and they have a seat open it is yours. Of course they have a seniority list and I was low on the totem pole being an add-on to his account. My best friend in high school and college was Ryan. He was flying thru Houston so I planned my trip around his. I thought I would try the flight before because as a stand-by rider you never know when you’re going to catch a ride. I was lucky and made the first flight so he would be a few hours behind. We have had a standing bet every college season since 1999 and he has yet to take a lifetime lead although he stung me this season. We all had a goodtime at the boys’ weekend except the Cats suffering a loss. We were soon heading home.
On the leg to the game, I was reading the Hemisphere article about Mr. Fenn and it instantly grabbed my attention. I put the magazine in my bag to read later. I was obsessed with coins and treasure hunts as a kid and always dreamed about the great adventures that companies like Disney put out. My treasure hunts as a kid were finding silver coins in circulation that people missed. One time I rode my bike to Bobby Ts in Miami, Oklahoma to pick up some candy. When I paid for my loot I noticed the shine of silver halves in the drawer. I asked if I could buy them and I soon walked out with about $20 worth of 90% silver Kennedy Halves. The ride back to Houston was not going to be easy due to the traffic trying to go home from the bowl game so I thought the 6:00AM flight would be my best shot. My brother dropped me off and I soon found out that my chances were slim to catch a ride home. So, I read Mr. Fenn’s article again. I had time to burn so I started deep thinking about the poem and its location. New Mexico seemed the most logical to me so I started researching hot springs in New Mexico. I knew a lot about New Mexico because my parents and Uncle Tom had places there. My parents’ place is in Ruidosa and Uncle Tom had a place in Taos. Uncle Tom (Thanks, Uncle Tom) gave me carte blanche access to the Taos House which I regularly used especially for ski trips. Taos is a very mystical place and you can feel that when you are there. I’ve been in love with the magic of Taos since my first trip there with my wife and infant son in 2002. I was looking at the state wide list of hot springs as the second flight to Houston departed without me. There were four more flights out. Maybe, I’d get lucky. When I looked at the list several were around Taos but one stuck out!
Three flights left for home and it wasn’t looking good! When my eyes hit Ponce De Leon, Hot Spring I felt like it made since. Maybe this waiting at Sky Harbor was going to pay off. Could it be? Could this Fenn guy have put his gold cache at a spring named after the legendary explorer for the fountain of youth? It was worth a shot! By the time my brother was picking me up, it had been a 12 hour Sky Harbor vacation and still no flight out. The next day played just like the first but it gave me another day to dive into my theory. I had my iPad and google earth and discovered that Ponce had what looked like a pool holding the hot water. The property had an interesting history; it was a stopover on the Camino Real. The Camino Real is an US National Historic trail system that was a trade route used by native tribes since the earliest of times. It was also used by the Spanish Conquistadors to help spread Christianity and conquer lands. It was a critically important place for early Native Americans because it supported crops and life as they knew it. This seemed like a highly likely spot that had to check out. The property had recently been turned into a conservation easement. An anonymous donor donated $500,000 to the Taos Conservation society which purchased the land from Miranda, LLC. The last flight out was quickly approaching so I ponied up and used my frequent flier miles to get home. Flying stand-by (Thanks, Joe) can be challenging but it has been a critical part of me being able to try and clear the cache.
A few weeks later, I took my first of more than a dozen trips to clear the cache. I would generally leave after work on Fridays and come home late on Sunday. My first trip out was sometime in late January of 2013. I was very naïve to treasure hunting and I thought I was going to walk out to the land and just pick it up. When I arrived into Taos it was lightly snowing and I was pumped for my first hunt! I tried to sleep but I was too excited for my adventure. I planned to start my hunt at day break. As a snow skier I’m very aware of what it takes to deal with mountain climate and I was prepared. I had purchased some cheap rubber boots to combine with my ski gear which has never let me down. I always traveled light so bringing a pair of boots was not an option. When I walked out the door fear set in. It was a whiteout! A foot of snow was on my rental car and it was coming down heavy. This was not going to deter me as I was ready for the elements minus good boots. Besides, I had two good sets of wool socks on. When I arrived at the entrance, I would always call my wife to let her know I was starting. That way someone knew where I was at. I spent hours hiking in heavy snow and learned firsthand about the property. The chest could have been at my feet and I wouldn’t be able to see it but I found what I thought had to be heavy loads and water high. It was an aqueduct that carried water over an arroyo that helps irrigate the lands below. It was held up by giant wood trestle. I had learned a lot first hand and would come back in a few weeks.
The next trip out was a couples’ trip with my wife and our good friends Joe and Cassy. Cassy grew up in Louisiana and had never seen snow. We had a great long weekend planned out: couple snowmobiling with Big Al, a boys ski day while the girls went to Oco Caliente Springs. It was a special moment seeing Cassy in snow for the first time ever. The snowmobile tour was scenic with a trip to Wheeler Peak, the highest point in New Mexico. Uncle Tom’s Taos house offered the perfect ambiance for any trip to Taos. Over the years I have taken many friends there. One of which is of particular importance. Big John has been the best of friends, (Thanks, John) over many years and has helped me in my career, my life and this quest. John is a giant of a man at over 6’ 6 and 250lbs of muscle. His type is the reason my football career could not continue in college. You might recognize his last name; he has a less popular relative that plays QB in the NFL. Anyway, we decided as couples to go after the cache. I had made them aware of the Chase and they were game so we spent some time searching with no luck. We decided Orlando’s New Mexico Cuisine was better than freezing. Every time I’m in Taos I make sure to get the best pizza (Taos Outback) and best Chile Relleno (Orlando’s) around. If you are on the hunt those places are great! John and I have skied Taos regularly for years. It offers world class skiing with minimal lift lines. My wife has been my main stay in the hunt to clear the cache. I’ve literally spent 1000’s of hours on the hunt for the chest and she has been there in support and strategizing every step of the way! Without her support, I would have never had the chance to chase my childhood dream. What kid has never wanted to go on a treasure hunt? My sons do it all the time with their metal detectors. I have searched and swam at Ponce De Leon with them a few times and we have always found something special. So why am I still looking in this place? It just makes since given the background of everything. I’ve even brought my aging parents on the hunt which reminds me of a good story!
Earp Throw Down
My aging parents have a house in New Mexico and a few months back I called them to pick me up because I was sure of the location! They picked me up at ABQ and we headed north. I had a specific spot that I wanted to dig. My mom got right in with me while my dad kept watch. After a day of nothing, we headed back to Texas the same day I flew in. One of the reasons I had them pick me up was because I knew they were both traveling armed. I was positive I would need the old eagle eyes (Sorry, Mom & Dad) to draw down! That strategy would soon come back to haunt me. We stayed the night at a small West Texas town and headed out early for the 10+ hours home. I drove home most the way to help my parents and because I like driving. We passed thru several small towns where the speed limit would go from 75 to 30 MPH in a half a mile. I would slow down because 10/10 times if you got a ticket in West Texas it would be in one of the speed trap towns. After I was about 20 miles South of Guthrie, Texas I noticed a truck coming up from behind. This was odd because I had the cruise set on a 100. He had one small light on the dash of his truck with no siren. When he got to the window he looked like he was straight out of the OK corral fight! He had dirty pants, old cowboy shirt and hat, boots with spurs and a handle bar stache. I love that look, it reminded me of my Kansas roots. I’m generally pretty good at talking my way out of a ticket but at 100 plus I was going to save my breath. The first thing he said was, “Son, do you know how fast you were going? I have been trying to catch up with you for 20 Miles!” I think we passed him heading out of town. He was going the opposite direction but I never heard the radar detector go off. My dad reached in the glove box for the insurance. Sheriff Earp noticed the Glock and the draw down I was thinking about went the wrong way. After some negotiating with a conceal permit we were on our way home and I had a $300.00 souvenir from my buddy Wyatt. As I write this, I’m still on deferred adjudication for my Nascar adventure in King County, Texas.
I was maybe a half-dozen trips into my adventure by the summer of 2013. So, it was time to take the entire family. We planned on river rafting, sightseeing, mountain hiking and prospecting. All but a few of my trips had some other adventure besides hunting for Mr. Fenn’s gold. I went skiing many times in the winter. I even told my wife if I found it in the winter I was going to leave it in the car and go skiing. On my last trip, I left it for good and went skiing. Lonestar on the backside of Ski Taos tends to make any thoughts I have drift away. My boys had a great time. They love hunting for treasures of all kinds. They got very excited when we found some old Indian pottery down Old State Highway 382. We searched and searched and couldn’t find the chest but it was a very rewarding memory with my family. One thing we did run across was an old Coke cooler that had caught our interest. It was an old, wet cooler and we analyzed it for a while. It was rusting away but had what looked to be brass screws on one side of it that I thought were not original. We finished our search and headed back to Texas.
The FF Blaze
I spent a few trips in the surrounding area of the springs. I noticed on Google earth what looked like a reverse F and another F on the grounds just to the south of the entrance. I thought this was it! I was even able to manufacture some GPS coordinates out of the books but I could not find it! My next solve was near the entrance gate. If you look at Google earth, you will see what looks like a lower case Omega near the entrance. The road also makes a horseshoe shape so the double Omega had to be the spot! I was even able to manufacture another set of GPS coordinates to locate exactly where it was at. This was the trip I brought my heat packing parents on. We spent most the day digging away until I couldn’t dig anymore. One thing I’ve learned on this adventure is that digging in New Mexico is not for the meek! I had to constantly keep my mom away from digging; I didn’t want her to get hurt. The ground in the winter months is similar to concrete. It was at this point that I realized that if a 38 year old struggles then Mr. Fenn probably wouldn’t have buried it. He always said, “I hid it, I didn’t say I buried it but that doesn’t mean it’s not buried” I kept thinking about what that meant. Is it in a cave? Maybe he used something to cover it? At this point I was fully obsessed with the hunt. I had covered every square inch of the 44 acres four times over and the aqueduct was searched out. So I went back home and studied the poem. It read it over and over again until it all seemed to click together. I viewed this is a match between me and Mr. Fenn and my tenacity was in full bloom. I felt like I had uncovered what was right in front of me!
17 dollars a Square Inch
17 dollars a square inch was the first book I bought because The Thrill of the Chase was on backorder. I read it in a day waiting to catch a seat home from ABQ. The book spoke to me and I felt like it was echoing that I had picked the right spot. It talked a lot about Taos and Mr. Sloane and I felt like it might have some clues so I started digging. The chapter about pricing paintings had a lot of numbers so I tried to make sense of them but had no luck. It was a very interesting read; I was always interested in Mr. Sloane’s bell he found in the arroyo. I thought if I found the chest I would try to buy that bell from Mr. Fenn because I wanted to have a connection with both of them. If I ever found the chest I would for sure give Mr. Fenn his bracelet back. I would not entertain him giving me anything for it but I would have a copy made to help me remember the great adventure. This is an elusive dream we all share and most people on this earth have had it. I started this quest with the dream of the chest and found something else. That is why I want to give my entire solution and all the details away. The chest and the dream of wealth have lost their luster for me and that is why I’m going to reveal everything I think might be important in finding the chest. And if you find it, I will be happy for you and expect nothing in return. I think after you read the next few chapters you might believe that the chest is somewhere at Ponce De Leon just outside of Rancho De Taos.
Ponce De Leon Hot Springs
One thing I failed to mention earlier about Ponce De Leon is that the move to make it a conservation easement started about 15 years ago around the same time Mr. Fenn was formulating a plan. If you do your research, you will see that all the timelines add up. I think the reason it took him 15 years is because he was waiting on the springs to be established as a conservation easement. The $500,000 anonymous donor stipulated that the land must remain open to the public and that slowed the process down. Another thing you might look at is the prior owner. Miranda, LLC looks like a sister company located out of Fort Worth. If you research it; you will find it is part of a real estate company and nothing else. It is interesting to note the road leading into the spring is Miranda Canyon Road. Another interesting note is that about a quarter mile before the entrance is a private drive called Tatanka Trail. It is a large property that has a house at the top of a hill overlooking Miranda Canyon Road. Tatanka Trail translates to Sitting Bull Trail which could be a hint. The property is controlled by the Taos Pueblo but I’m not sure who owns the land. If you are a landowner, you can designate some or all of your property as a conservation easement. When a conservation easement is in place the property is protected in perpetuity from being developed. In other words the property can never be developed. As a land owner you can hold the title to a conservation easement while it is managed by someone else. You will also notice that when you turn off of Highway 68 onto 382 the first road you cross is Old Santa Fe Road. This might be the best part! The property was designated a conservation easement sometime around (I couldn’t prove the 25th) 10/26/09. Roughly a year later (10/25/10), Mr. Fenn launched The Thrill of the Chase! When I discovered this I thought it was game over but I still couldn’t find the chest so I went back to the books and the poem.
Where N Blazes
I started looking for the blaze and couldn’t find one. I knew where to start and I was a couple of trips in without the chest. Frustration was setting in when I started thinking about where did Mr. Fenn start his journey? I started where he started at Blue Jeans and Hush Puppies Again. I started looking for clues and found a blaze he left behind in the Teachers with Ropes. The story adds up to 84 if you look at the numbers correctly. That is the Highway to Espanola which he mentions in the story. The road to Taos is Highway 68. If you start at Blue Jeans and add the dates of the postmarks concluding with Flywater you will find the number 68. If you add all the numbers in those stories up you can get to the number 411 meaning pertinent information. If you back off certain numbered words you can find the number 382. If you add all the specific treasure items up you can also get to 382. I have found many of all these numbers (84, 68, and 382) in all 3 books. They tend to be easier to find in Too Far to Walk. The treasure chest chapter adds up to 417 but if you minus out the odd words you will get the 413. If you Google the number 413 you will find it is a Microsoft error message and you can fix it by CLEARING THE CACHE! If you look in the Seventeen dollars a Square Inch chapter you can find all three (84, 68, 382, numbers assc. w/paintings). I will list out the ones that I think I solved but I think some remain unsolved. If Mr. Fenn posted a story on his blog it is possible you can find coded numbers if you can figure out how to look at them. I think everything in his poem is double maybe triple entendre. So, if you take 84 North out of Santa Fe and head north on 68 at Espanola you will run into 382 just before Rancho (De) Taos and that road will dead end into Ponce (De) Leon Hot Springs. I have searched in that location more times than I would like to admit without any luck. Below is a list of numbers that seem to match my theory above. Some of these numbers are hard to get to so I’m not promising you everything is perfect but it might be worth a look. One of my favorites is Chapter 45 Mountain Man. He talks about the $100 he put up and the cost per shot. Then he mentions the mountain man shoots Alexander Hamilton in the forehead. He is not on the $100 but he is on the $10 dollar bill. If you add all the dollars up it comes to $380. So, I researched the two dollar bill and Hamilton was on the first issue in the 1860s for about 7 years. When he gets shot it makes the dollar value $382! Another one I like is Concy and Me, add all the numbers up and you get 371. Then you need to add the leven in the picture on page 33. The mirror on the wall poem adds up to 68. Flywater can get you to 84. The preface of Too Far To Walk has 84 on the first page and 68 on the second. Another personal favorite comes out of Stout Hearted Men. Look at the first two roads he would take to go home to Temple, Texas. Look at the FIRST in the picture in the Mexico Beach House chapter and see if you can get to a number. I believe the unattended clue is on page 125 in the middle of the page. Try using military time with some chapters and see what you get. Jungle Wisdom is also interesting to me!
I think all the chapters below could contain helpful number clues and info if you look at it in the right fashion.
So why am I giving all this information away? I feel like I found what I was looking for! I feel that my search could not go on! I believe that an extraordinary art work should be brought to light! I’m a private person and I’m not concerned about getting credit or being publicized. I started this chase because I’m monetarily driven! I was in the Chase for the money but somewhere during the Chase that reason faded. I have everything I need and I’m content. Sure it would be nice to pay for my kids’ college and not have to worry about money in retirement. However, I felt like I solved the puzzle and that has given me contentment! I could be wrong and the chest might be steps away from my spot and if it is and one of you finds it I will be happy for you. I would like to personally thank Mr. Fenn. You have given me several gifts that I will never be able to repay! I have looked at this quest as a 1 on 1 poker match that I could compete with the best of the best. I could never beat Mr. Fenn but I like to compete at the highest level. If you see where you are at then you know what you need to work on to get better. This plays out every day with my family and colleagues I work with, people like Nicky, Big John, Scott, Mash and you. I strive to get better every day and I look for mentors to help me move forward in my career and life. These people have made me better and Mr. Fenn has moved onto the short list. I would have never dreamed that I could live out a boyhood fantasy like I did here. And countless others are living the same dream. This entire process has seemed to be destiny! I’m not an overly religious guy but everything that has happened seems to be fate and I’m humbled. Numerous pieces had to fall in place. If anyone piece was missing then I would not be typing this today! Other pieces were hours away from disappearing forever! Every piece that needed to fall into place did to help me come to my solution. Fate is the driving factor for getting to this point. So, if I’ve missed it, good luck to all of you. I hope it is found by someone deserving! My greatest fear is destroying the Thrill of the Chase so I will take precautions so that won’t happen. I know many searchers are as passionate as I am. I empathize with those who have put countless hours into this amazing Chase! I have stood beside you silently for a long time. I feel deeply this is something I need to do. So my key word is content regardless of what happens!
I believe I have found GPS coordinates in the books that can help you where to start if you can figure out how to find them. I will mail the first person $100 bucks (Except Mr. Fenn) that can figure a correct set out. I think this is an interesting part of the solution. So I’m going to keep that in my back pocket for now. I think I’ve found three sets but I would be shocked if there is not more. The GPS coordinates will not take you to the spot but they are helpful. When it comes down to it I think all you really need is the poem. It should take you right to it if you know where to start.
Super Bowl Sunday
I have been in Taos more days than I’ve been at home this month! My first trip this month was for my wife’s birthday. I was planning on splashing her with some big nuggets. It was like usual; it was half business half leisure. The plan was to go to Oco during Super bowl Sunday in the morning and start the Chase around 3:00 because it would be tumble weeds and us with the game on. I went armed with all the Intel above and felt like I just missed it! My wife found the spot and I didn’t go deep enough. I think we were standing a few feet away from the gold and let it slip through our hands! It was a devastating defeat because I truly thought like countless other times it was mine. We headed for Santa Fe for some nice relaxing one on one time. I emailed Mr. Fenn a similar solution to the one below an hour before kickoff. We flew back home on Monday.
My last Trip
A few days later I noticed the new set of questions he answered. “It is interesting to know that a great number of people are out there searching. Many are giving serious thought to the clues in my poem, but only a few are in tight focus with a word that is KEY. The treasure may be discovered sooner than I anticipated.” I felt sure he was talking to me, like I’m sure many did. So after work on 2/7 I flew back out and drove to Taos as I’ve countless times over the past year. I emailed Mr. Fenn on the way up to let him know I was heading back to my spot. This was not my first back to back weekends but my hopes were sky high. I got up early put on my ski gear and headed for my spot. I got to my spot 5 days after I left it and was in utter shock at what I had found! My pile of sticks was overturned and you could see what looked like the perfect cubby hole with depression marks in the grown. I felt like someone had just punched me in the stomach! It is hard to describe my feeling. It was overwhelming! I took several pictures and tried to gather my heart off the cold ground. I stood there for a while and then called my wife. When I told her what I found she started crying. I was in pure panic mode and that’s when I emailed Mr. Fenn. The email failed to send so I did it again with the same results. I tried a different email address and found out the same thing was happening. I sat down and tried to think things over. My first thought was someone beat me to it and I was the runner-up. I assumed Mr. Fenn shut his email account down! That’s when I posted on Dal’s blog. I was undergoing overwhelming emotions to say the least! I had my wife email him and it went through but a follow-up had her email blocked out. At this point I didn’t know what to think or do. I sat there for about an hour and decided regardless of what happened I was finished with this chase.
At that point I decided some snow skiing was in order. So I packed it up, turned off my phone and headed to Taos Ski Valley. I was still very distraught but bombing some steep blues always makes me feel better. Skiing gave me time to think. Did some someone beat me to it? Was it never there? Am I in the wrong spot? Did Mr. Fenn come get it? Does it really matter? I have put so much into this that I didn’t have the interest to continue on. I felt like I solved the puzzle. That is why I posted this Chase is over for me but mine shall continue on. In my humble opinion, that is why Mr. Fenn sent us all on this epic quest. The key word is contentment! That is ultimately why I’m giving you all this information! The Chest doesn’t mean as much to me anymore! I have come full circle and seen the place for the first time! I’m comfortable finding an empty hole. It’s life and I’m going to enjoy it. I believe all my research and everything that I’ve found. The thrill of the Chase is not about the destination or the prize but the journey. It is about discovering the thrills in the smallest moments of each of the days of your life. It is about discovering the thrill in each day you have been given, in appreciating the true meaning of a word, in truly listening to what someone is saying and in discovering things about yourself. The thrill is about the crazy adventure you get to take with your parents, watching your children’s eyes light up with discovery, feeling the support of your friends and a shared moment with your wife. The thrill is about discovering art in the most unexpected of places! So, I hope you all find it or are happy for the ones that do. Mr. Fenn was right. It is the Thrill of the Chase, and it is the Chase and not the Quarry!
My Best Solution
As I have gone alone in there To his special place
And with my treasure bold, Unhesitant
I can keep my secrets where, Hiding spot
And hint of riches new and old. New the chest, Old the Bottle caps and string
Begin it where warm waters halt Ponce (De) Leon Hot Springs head down
And take it in the Canyon down, Take it down to Miranda Canyon Road
Not far but too far to walk. Two points of entry: One is too far to walk for him, he takes the shortcut.
Put in below the home of Brown Two Homes of Brown- One is a home on the hill as you come to Canyon Road. An entry point to the arroyo is apparent (left of the V tree). The other can be seen on the Cover of Too Far to Walk. His legs make a shadow that looks like a home and has Purple and Yellow Flowers. Purple mixed with Yellow is Brown. Put in below the Purple and Yellow Flowers.
From there it’s no place for the meek It gets rough and hard to navigate.
The end is ever drawing nigh; You’re getting close and take a next left.
There’ll be no paddle up your creek, You take the dry arroyo up stream.
Just heavy loads and water high. The old coke cooler in the middle of the arroyo and an old piece of guttering nailed to some rough sawn timber. Look at the wood the chest sits on in his picture. That is rough sawn wood.
If you been wise and found the blaze, Blazes- The Book Blaze, Wood Blaze, Finnforest Wood and 42” string Blaze=Brilliantly Conspicuous
Look quickly down your quest to cease, Head south/Dig in the sticks.
But tarry scant with marvel gaze Tarry scant describes the water high/guttering with tar that’s nailed to a piece of scant board.
Just take the chest a go in peace. Take it and go.
So why is it that I must go He knows his time is drawing near and he wants to enjoy watching your thrill of the chase. Finding contentment!
And leave my trove for all to seek? “
The answer I already know, “
I’ve done it tired and now I’m weak. “
So hear me all and listen good, Pay attention: Important
Your effort will be worth the cold It will be worth your efforts to endure.
If you’re brave and in the wood Dig to the bottom of the wood pile close to the fence line.
I give you title to the gold You get the gold and maybe the title to the land?
IN THE WOOD- “He said he hid it, he didn’t say he buried it but that does mean it’s not buried.” Buried above ground with sticks! Entombed! See Expensive Memories! This pile of wood was 3-4 feet tall.
TARRY SCANT- If you Google scant wood, you will find out the wood is generally smaller than normal and is rough sawn timber which is what the tarred guttering was nailed to. It is also interesting to note that one of the companies that make scant board is Metsawood which recently acquired a scant wood producer that was named FINNFOREST.
HOME OF BROWN- There is Sage and Rabbit bush lining the road where Mr. Fenn takes his short cut. Purple + Yellow= Brown
GOLD CHAPTER- I think the gold chapter stories are important!
He talks about drinking sodas and collecting bottle caps. Those things point to the old coke cooler.
Next he talks about collecting string and it was a great mystery what happened to it and his mom was watching for the Postman. A few Feet away from the pile of wood is a bundle of 42” metal string that the Postman would use to help build the Fence that is 10 feet behind the pile. The 42” metal string wouldn’t fit through a door unless you turned it sideways.
TWO TRIPS- The gold was 42 lbs and the metal bracing string are 42” long?
ROAD- The spot is 25 yards from the road. You walk right by it!
EPILOGUE- The last picture in the TTOTC is an aging man that has chopped his wood and is looking at a crescent moon that brings a new life while all his wood has been chopped.
It could also be a giant 4 foot tall stack of sticks that are nesting the golden thunder eggs. The fence line has had all the trees sawn down and the stumps remain just like the picture.
As I found it five days after I left it. If you look closely you might see my heart on the ground!
JM, RA, RA, DA, CA, CW, JW, SR,
Thanks you for your help!
Thanks, to my wife Nicky! Without your love and support I would have not been able to travel on this epic journey!
I Love you!
What I wanted was a break from my search locations in Montana and Colorado. I’d been on a fairly consuming search for eight straight days. Beating brush, poking into rock piles, crawling into small openings and wading across half a dozen trout streams. So here I was in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park headed up a trail I’d never heard of, just for the sheer pleasure of the walk. My goal was to ignore all things “treasure chest” for a few hours. Clear my head. Then start fresh.
The trail started across an open glacial moraine, flat, gravelly, hot. It was 92 degrees in the parking lot. But soon I was walking through a cool, boulder strewn, lodgepole forest, crossing rushing creeks and listening to the sounds of Tanagers and Ravens.
Wildflowers hedged the path making the walk seem like Dorothy’s yellow brick road. I could not help but admire a colony of Calypso Orchids, in perfect bloom, astonished at how something purple and yellow can blend into the green forest floor so well. There was also Bitterroot, Balsam Root, Bistort, Strawberry, Camas, Larkspur, Lupine, Paintbrush. Stunning!
At about the one mile point I decided to sit and watch the creek roar by. I pulled up a good sized, comfortable rock and stared at the icy whitewater rushing to somewhere important downhill. While I was admiring the cool, blue mountain freshet a long legged young woman dressed in brief pink shorts and a black, very edgy sports bra came up the hill running in a long sensual gate unconcerned about rocks and trenches in the trail. She was as graceful as an antelope. Not a bead of sweat on her anywhere I could see. I carefully observed her come and closely watched until she disappeared up the hill. I never once thought about the treasure chest. I waited, hoping she might be the leader of a bevy of inappropriately attired young women from a nearby resort. Disappointingly, none others came behind her.
Overall, the trail is not steep but it is stubborn about being an uphill trail all the way to the lake. It passes by several different landscapes so that every few hundred feet the scenery is completely different. At the top of the trail, Taggart Lake. A lovely subalpine body of water surrounded by young lodgepole pine. A fire in ’85 raised about a thousand acres of the old trees nearby. Those here now, at 25 years old are even growth and immature enough to permit a wonderful green frame for the brown and purple Teton peaks in the distance. A lone fisherman was staying dry by standing on one of the numerous flat boulders around the perimeter and casting out into the clear, still water. I couldn’t tell if there were any fish in his creel.
Ignoring me as I doddered up the trail was a well dressed fellow, sitting on a flat, tan boulder on the edge of the lake. I said “Hi.” as I approached. I guess he could tell my lungs were objecting to the minor uphill walk at 6,900 feet.
“It’s mostly downhill from here”, he said.
“That’ll help”, I responded and took a seat on an adjoining boulder.
His face was weathered by years in the sun. His eyes were squinty from staring into the bright sky most of his life. He had that “monied” look. I wasn’t sure we should be in the same National Park together. He was First Class to my Cattle Car Class. He had a large sketch pad and was using a yellow pencil to draw something out in front of him. He looked to be mid-seventies and dressed nicely in a maroon knit shirt and khaki trousers. The shirt looked perfect against his tanned arms and tight stomach. His feet were protected by spendy Pikolinos chukka boots and a well worn, grey Stetson was resting beside him. It had a low crown encircled by an intricately beaded, blue and green, narrow hatband. A small fuzzy dry fly was stuck in the crown. A brownish shirt/jacket with lots of pocket flaps was neatly folded under the hat.
“Are you from around here?”, I asked.
“Down near Wilson.”, he said. I could see a Flicker jumping from pine to pine behind him, probably looking for a trail of ants working the warm pine sap.
“I don’t think you’re from near here.”, he said as he shifted his position on the rock so he could see me better.
“I’m not.”, I said. “What gave me away?”
“You know, I can’t put my finger on it, but you just don’t look like a local.”, he said.
“Probably the dirty jeans and beater ice axe I’m carrying. But you’re right about that.”, I admitted. “I’m from around the San Juan Islands up in Washington State.”
He put his sketchpad and pencil down on the boulder and looked me in the eye for the first time.
“No kidding.” He said. “I know those islands. Had a great time there. I’ve been up in Friday Harbor, Lonesome Cove, Rosario and took a kayak over to Waldron Island once with my wife. Every time it gets to be about a hundred and ten around here I think fondly of those cool coastal waters.”
“Yeah, a hundred and ten is more warmth than a body needs.”, I agreed.
There was a token bit of silence while we both focused on the lone fisherman across the way as he jerked upward with his rod to quickly set the hook. All three of us watched to see what would happen next. Nothing happened. The fish had escaped.
“What do people catch here?” I asked.
“Most come after native Cutthroat. There are a few others in here too but the natives are the prize.”
A Raven came swooping down to the big boulder nearer the hat than either of us and squawked in our direction, feigned menicingly toward the hat then took off quickly. We both chuckled at his boldness.
“Counting coup.”, I said. “Are you an artist?” I asked, motioning at his sketch pad.
“I draw a thing or two around here.” He said and passed the pad to me for a look.
It was excellent, really beautiful. It was clear this fellow knew more about capturing a mountain landscape than I knew about anything. His work looked across the lake toward the Tetons. But it was different than my actual view. It was from a higher angle and there were old growth snags in the forrest below the mountain peaks. By comparison, my view across the lake included no old growth trees. The fire more than twenty-five years ago had erased them all. There was also more snow on the peaks in his vision than in mine. The focal point of the sketch was not the mountains though, but a fisherman in action, large in the foreground wearing a Stetson much like the artist’s. He was standing on the very rocks where we were sitting and was casting out into the placid lake. His line making a graceful arc behind him toward the viewer. A fly on the end of his line frozen on paper and drawn with loving detail just microseconds before it whipped out of the viewers sight. The scene evoked those gorgeous early railroad travel posters for Northern Pacific and Canadian Pacific. It was a rich, romantic stylization of Taggart Lake, beckoning me to come visit this marvelous western vista and relax with a rod and a cool mountain lake full of native trout. I could visualize the greens, browns, purples and blues that would eventually be added.
“It’s like a travel poster.”. I said
“Well good!.”, he said. “That’s what I have in mind. It’s an illustration for a magazine cover,”
“You’re Norman Rockwell.”, I said…and then laughed.
He laughed too and stuck out his hand and told me his name.
“Dal Neitzel.” I said. “It reminds me of those Art Deco travel posters from the first half of the twentieth century.”
“Perfect.”, he replied. “You seem to know a little about art. Do you own a gallery back in the San Juans?”
“Not at all.”, I said. “I’m lucky to own a pair of shoes.”
He laughed again. “How come you know those old travel posters?”, he asked.
“When I was growing up in Detroit those posters were still around in a lot of places. I remember being able to lock my little brain onto a poster of Banff National Park that hung on a wall where my mom worked. In about 5 minutes I could create a whole adventure there while I was fixated on the trees and mountains and river. They were wonderful.”
“That’s interesting.”, said the artist. “This is an image from when I was young. That’s my dad fishing. I’m watching from up in a tall tree that used to be back there. We came up here a lot. My mom, dad, sister and grandpa too. We would fish and picnic and swim and pick flowers and watch the animals and have a grand old time.”
“You were living the life I dreamed.”, I said.
“I was living the life I dreamed too.”, he replied. “This was our family’s secret place. My grandpa took dudes up here on horseback all through the first half of the century. He proposed to his wife up here in 1910. My dad proposed to my mom up here in 1933. Both my sister and myself were conceived up here. I proposed to my wife up here in 1956.”
“That’s pretty fun that you know where your life began.”, I said.
“Yeah..I loved my mom. She was a pretty down to earth woman. She revealed all that over a thanksgiving dinner one year. About a dozen relatives were enjoying their turkey and mom just blurted it out. Wide eyes all around. My dad couldn’t find a plate big enough to hide under but mom thought everybody should know. My sister ran to her room. I don’t think she spoke to mom for a month. I had no idea what she was talking about. I didn’t even know what ‘conceived’ meant.
We both laughed.
“I’ll tell you.”, he said. “This place is part of the fabric of my life but this is the first time I’ve been up here since the fire in ’85. That fire burned out this place. Killed it. My dad died from a heart attack trying to move his stock. My mom was so disturbed after dad died and the fire that she was just a shell of the wonderful, fun-loving lady she used to be. She just quit living a few months later. I couldn’t bring myself up here any more. The place I knew was simply gone, evaporated.”
I could see redness in his eyes.
“I’m sorry.”, I said. “What made you decide to come back now?”
He looked me in the eyes and took a kind of deep breath like he was trying to decide if he should tell me.
“When I was eight”, he began. “We were all up here goofing around. Right here. On this very rock. Mom was wading out there in the sandy bottom. Dad was fishing over there from the point. My sister and I were running around trying to get warm after playing in the cold water or we might be sitting on this rock playing old maid or go fish. We all loved it up here. I wish you could have seen it. Cool, tall old growth. Wildlife everywhere.
We came up just about every sunday while the weather was good. When it was time to leave I would often run ahead of everyone else. Sometimes my sister and I would see who could get back to the truck first. Sometimes I just ran ahead by myself for the sheer joy of it. That’s what I was doing that day. I was way down the trail ahead of everyone when I saw a bear cub just ahead of me on the trail. He saw me at just about the same moment and we locked eyes for about three seconds before he ran off the trail. He was just a cub so I walked up to where he was and looked around. I didn’t see anything. I didn’t want to go looking too close in case his mama was around. I knew enough about bears at that age to know that where there was a cub there was a mom. This was a cub, and a young one at that. Smaller than me and I was only eight. But mom had to be nearby and that scared the heck out of me. I knew running might attract her so I just tried to keep calm and walked down toward the truck. When I looked back to see if anything was following me…frighteningly, there was the cub again. That spooked me and I started yelling ‘mommy…daddy…help me” as loud as I was able and I couldn’t help myself…I just started running for the truck. When I ran, so did the cub. He was keeping about 30 feet behind me but I knew his mom was going to be after me too and she could run me down in a heartbeat.
Now my folks heard me yell and my dad thought it could be a bear because there are a lot of them around but they usually don’t bother anyone. He threw his pack on the trail and ran to help me. So off we all go. Me screaming my head off. The bears, both unseen mom and young cub close on my heels. My folks somewhere behind the bear chasing my screams. My sister petrified about finding a pile of bones with my shirt somewhere down the trail.
My dad follows my screams all the way to the truck. When he reaches the parking lot, there I am up on the roof of the cab still screaming and this cub..maybe just a few months old, patiently watching me from down on the ground. My dad looks around. No mama bear in sight. So he takes off his hat and walks toward the cub trying to shoo it away. But the cub won’t go. He moves a little to get away from the hat but he won’t leave the truck. Next comes my mom and sister. They see me on the roof and dad playing with a bear cub next to the truck. My dad swats at the bear and the bear swats at the hat but doesn’t really move. Mom and my sister start laughing. Partly because they know everyone is okay and partly because It’s the funniest thing they ever saw.
After awhile my dad tells me to get down on the opposite side and get into the truck. I do that. The bear follows me around and sit’s there watching up at me. Mom and sis come down and they pile into the truck on the side opposite of the bear. Then my dad gets in and starts the rig up and begins to pull out. The bear follows us. When dad speeds up the bear speeds up. When dad stops the bear stops and sits down and watches us.
We cannot figure out what’s going on in his fuzzy brown head.
Mom figures we have to do something or that poor little bear will get out on the road and some car will run him over. Dad can’t figure out why there isn’t a mama bear around.
Now dad was moving horses around to the ranch on saturday so the horse trailer is still behind the truck. Dad has an idea. He grabs an apple from the glove box and gets out of the truck and opens up the back of the horse trailer, puts the apple on the floor of the open trailer and walks away a little bit. That bear goes to the back and just climbs right in the trailer, grabs the apple and makes himself at home in some hay. So now we are the proud owners of a bear.
We take him home and put the back end of the trailer by the horse barn, open the trailer doors and that bear hops out of the trailer, strolls into the barn and makes himself at home in a horse stall. Just like he owns the place. It was the pivotal moment in my life.
That bear was my best buddy for 28 years. He lived in that horse barn and had the run of the ranch. His name was Dick. My mother named him. Enough said. But he was a great companion. It took awhile for the horses to get used to him. We made an insulated hut for him to hibernate in. Sometimes he’d use it. Sometimes he just slept a lot and stayed in the barn with the horses. A few years he’d disappear in spring. I figured he was out doing what bears do in the spring. He always came back. When we needed to go somewhere we piled him into the horse trailer or the back of the pick-up and took him along. He was even the Best Man at my wedding. I’m not kidding. My wife and I got married on the ranch. Mom made a tux for Dick. He was the darndest bear you ever saw. He loved the county fair. He liked the kids and it was pretty funny to watch him eat cotton candy. Dogs bothered him some. He didn’t like getting his feet wet so he wouldn’t fish. He didn’t like fish anyway unless I cooked it. His favorite food was Purina Horse Chow and watermelon. He never hurt anything or anybody…never.”
“Holy cow!”, was all that I could say.
“Dick died on this day in 1973, Forty years ago today, and I needed to be at this spot. So today I am celebrating two important things in my life…an important place and an important friend. I miss them both.”
There was more to the story of course. Like the first time Dick tasted ice cream and decided all of it was his and started raiding refrigerators at various dude ranches up and down the valley. Not everyone thought it was funny. When the artist turned twenty-one he celebrated by taking Dick to a bar in Jackson and both of them got pretty sloshed. The joke was that Dick was the the most sober so he had to drive home. For years there was a bar in Jackson called Dick’s Bar. Named after…you guessed it. Dick tried skiing one spring and up at Jackson Hole there used to be a bunny run named after him. He was legend.
It was dark with a decent full moon as I walked back toward the van that evening. I was more alert for bears than I had been on the way up. I was thinking about a young orphaned bear with amazing insight and a strong will to survive. How he understood what needed to be done in order to live on and how sometimes bears are smarter than me…
I was also thinking about where warm water’s halt….
Montana…here I come…
Just about a year ago I was sitting in my not warm truck, parked just off a recently plowed road in a snow covered pullout at 7,500 feet in the Sangre de Cristo mountains of northern New Mexico.The place seemed so perfect….
My notes and what remains of my memories make up the following post…
It’s about 25 degrees outside and maybe 40 inside. Steam from my hot cocoa is fogging up the windshield. I’m sipping slowly, delaying. Putting off grabbing my ice axe and leaving my truck for the cold, cheerless canyon in front of me. In summer kids gingerly hop along the sunlit, boulder strewn bottom checking out the pools for good swimming holes while their adults toss a line here and there hoping to convince one of the locals it’s time for dinner. But in winter this place is gray and deserted. No kids, no fishers, no fish. Water is low right now. Where did everything go?
On two sides I can see tall, green shale cliffs. The canyon is at it’s narrowist right here. The road runs about 20 feet from the wall I’m parked next too. On my left about 50 yards is the creek running alongside the other wall with a light colored igneous filled crack that stands out like a tutu at a wrestling match. My blaze. It pops out of the ground six inches wide. Like a bolt of quartz lightning it zigs and zags its way up to the top of a stone cold wall about 50 feet above the creek. From there it disappears on a ledge above. I think about the time when it was formed a hundred or so million years ago and it occurs to me that it would not have been a good time to be sitting here.
As I sip and shiver a red Chevy pick-up pulls into the same wide spot and stops dead behind me. There is no other traffic on the frozen road. I watch the driver open his door and get out in my side mirror. His warm breath condenses in the cold air. He’s got a set of Carharts on, bibs, jacket and flannel lined cap. They look broke-in, like he probably wears them a lot. He has black, wool, shooting mittens on both hands and he’s carrying something that looks like a space pistol from a 50’s sci-fi movie in his right hand. Although I’m pretty certain it isn’t, I can’t make out what it actually is. He slams the driver door and casually walks up to my side window. As he heads toward me I lean forward and crank down the glass. I don’t want to appear unfriendly.
“Everthin OK?” he shouts as he gets closer to my open window.
“Things are good!” I more or less yell back. Not sure what he means.
As he gets next to my door I can see that he’s about six feet in height and maybe 50 with a one day beard and a friendly face. His eyes are bright blue and kinda squinty with decorative crows feet on the sides…like a guy who works outside in the sun a lot. I can smell cigar smoke on his carharts.
He props his empty left paw on my roof and peers directly into my face.
“You ain’t stuck are ya?” he inquires.
“No, I’m fine.” I say and then figure he probably wonders why I’m here so I add, “Just admiring the scenery.”
He turns a bit so he can look at the same miserable, gray and white, bland, frigid landscape that I am looking at.
He just sort of peers at the canyon for awhile before he says “Yep.” Then stomps his boots on the ground in a little dance that usually means the conversation is over.
He turns his head back toward me. “Okay.” He says. Then he gives the inside of my truck a quick once-over glance, “Just wanted to make sure you was okay. It’s a lonesome spot to be stuck at. No cell up here and not much traffic to flag down.” He took a step back from my truck and pointed at my front wheel with his space gun. “Your wheels look free.”, he said.
“I think everything is fine.” I said. “But thanks a lot for checkin on me. You’re right. Crappy spot to be stuck for the night.”
“No problem.” he said as he turned and walked toward the creek.
I watched him move away and tried to figure out what his space pistol was all about as I took a sip from my now lukewarm cocoa. It was bigger than a gun. Bulbous. Like a power driver or electric drill….but not exactly. No cord. No bit. He carried it with him down next to the stream. I could see his boots now. Leather hunting boots. From Sears probably. And they were untied. Like maybe they were too tight for his feet. I’ve seen a few guys wear boots that way. I guess it makes them easier to slip on and off but if I did that my little feet would be stepping right out of them driving me crazy.
He stopped by the creek and appeared to be surveying the area. He lined himself up directly across the creek from my lightening blaze. Turned and faced the road and paced off about ten steps. He got down on one knee and pointed the space gun directly at the snow covered ground and fired. It made a small “burp” and then a “whir” sound. He then picked the muzzle up and moved it to a different spot a few inches away and fired again, into the iron-hard earth. Moved it again and fired again. He did this five times before he stopped and stood. Examining his work.
I watched him closely as he moved about a hundred feet further up the canyon and repeated the process. Five shots. “Burp..Whir…Burp…Whir”.The whole event was a mystery and who doesn’t love to know the answer to a decent mystery. So I put my now cold chocolate into the the cup holder below the truck radio, opened the door and stepped out into the frigid gloom. Welcome to northern New Mexico! …
I thought about grabbing my ice axe but that seemed like an awfully threatening tool to have in my hand as I walked over to a guy I really didn’t know in a gloomy and isolated canyon just to satisfy my curiosity. I turned toward his truck and took a quick look at his license plate. What plate? There wasn’t one on the front of his truck. That probably meant he was local. New Mexico doesn’t require a plate on the front. Of course neither does Arizona, Oklahoma or Kansas. So I didn’t really know much except that the truck was probably not from Colorado or Texas where two plates are required.
Crossing the two lane without looking was a safe bet. There hadn’t been a vehicle by here except his and mine since I stopped. In fact, I hadn’t seen any other moving vehicles since about twenty miles out of Taos over an hour ago. When I got across the road I turned back toward the trucks again. Mine was plain white and looked like a standard, unmarked utility truck from ‘any city’ USA. That’s one of it’s advantages. I can leave a truck like that parked just about anywhere for a few days and if anyone notices it at all they just figure I’m on a job somewhere nearby. His was a mid 90’s, Chevy 3/4 ton, red with four rectangular hay bales in the back. Signage on the door read, “Randall’s Ranch Supply” in white text and included a phone number that started with a 575 area code. “Not from Santa Fe”, I said to myself. Not that it made any difference where he was from as far as I could tell.
I could hear the final “burp…whir” as he finished up his third set of shooting things into the ground. As he got up he noticed I was walking over to him and he smiled at me. I waved casually, the way guys do when nothing much is going on and kept walking toward him. As I got closer I pointed at his gun and said, “Gotta ask…What in the heck are you doin?”.
“I’m settin up a game.” he said. “We bring these ten year olds out here in the spring with a bunch of metal detectors and set em loose. They’ll be looking for these.” He reached into his pocket and brought out a small handful of shiny pins in several different colors about an inch and a half long, maybe an eighth inch thick. They looked sort of like fat brads with one kinda sharp end and one kinda blunt end. “The gun shoots them into the ground about an inch below the surface. The object of the game is to see who can find all eight colors of these pins first. I scatter them around in groups of about five different colors in each spot. It’ll take em awhile to find all the colors. Winner gets a $50 award. Next one gets $25 and the third gets $15.”
“That sounds like a lot of fun. Why are you hiding the pins now…why not wait til it gets a little warmer?” I asked.
“These kids are pretty sharp and they know I’m the one that hid em so the first thing they do is look for ground disturbance. If I do this in the spring, say just before the event, they can see where I’ve been through here. I’m not kiddin ya. They’ll have their places all figured out before they even get the metal detectors warmed up. These kids are special. We train them to be the best search and rescue operators in the country and their training starts when they’re nine and won’t stop till they graduate high school for the ones that stick with it.”
“Holy cow.” I said
“Yea..their pretty good.” He said. “They spend nine years learning all kinds of skills. Tracking and all manner of outdoor trades from survival to luxury. From mountain cold to desert heat. They learn how to work stone into points and wood into shafts. They can make a fire out of nothing at all except what’s laying around. They become an expert with the Apache sling. They can make one in a half an hour and they can knock a bunny at 20 yards. They can trap and skin. By the time they’re 11 you could drop em off alone on top of Cathedral Peak in January, bare ass naked, and they’d have no problem warming up, building a shelter and finding their way out of there. Heck, they’d probably put on a little weight from eatin so well. They can live off the land year round if they need too. We teach em the skills that the indians and earliest pioneers had. But they know about technology too. They can use Google Earth like a GIS expert. They can set up a website and even pump enough juice from plant life into a dead phone to make an emergency call. They can turn all sorts of abandoned devices into practical tools. These kids can read topo maps as good as a ranger. They can climb technical and find water in the Mojave. They can dive and fly a plane before they can drive a car. They can handle an excavator as easy as a helicopter. We train them to think differently about the available resources and we train them to think like a person who is lost. By the time they’re twelve they’ll be able to track down a lost kid in the southwest as good as any sheriff posse. By the time they’re 16 they can do the same anywhere in the whole west. They take the same emergency medical training that a firefighter takes. They are certified in team leadership. They take the same disaster planning courses that a FEMA operative has to take.This is a very early commitment to be a world class tracker and survival expert before they reach 15. We have more boys than girls but I have to tell you the girls are good. I think in two years the sharpest kid we’ve ever had will be graduating and she’s a she…not a he.”
Then, without stopping he asked, “What about you? Have you found it yet?”
“Found what?” I asked, trying to sound like I wasn’t looking for anything.
“Fenn’s treasure chest.” He said.
“Oh…That.” I said. “Not yet but the day’s not over. How’d you know I was here for that?”
“Well” he said. “You got a truck over there with Washington plates and the last time I checked with the County Tourism folks this was not exactly a ‘destination location’ for anyone who doesn’t live here. Second you have a copy of his poem on your passenger seat. Third you have an ice axe between the seats and that makes you sound an awful lot like a guy that keeps a blog I read once in a while about hunting for the treasure. You want me to go on? Your name’s Dal…right?” He put out his hand. “Mines Randall.”
We chatted as I followed him around while he finished up shooting his colored brads into the frozen ground. I asked if he had looked for the treasure and he said he had been out a few times. Then I asked the question that was most on my mind since I learned about the kids he brings out here.
“Have your search kids looked out here for the treasure? I asked.
“Heck yeah.” Randall said. I would say that no less than 20 kids have spent a couple dozen hours each out here scouring the place.”
“And…” I said.
“Nothin!” Said Randall. “It’s certainly not within a mile of that igneous intrusion over there.” He pointed at my blaze.
“You mean that blaze-like zig-zag thing in the shale?” I said.
“Yep.” He said with a smile in his voice. “Kids have turned up every crack and crevice, every rotted log and hidden ledge out here. They found 5 arrowheads, an abandoned mining shaft and an old rusted revolver in the creek. And you can bet your last dollar that I would not have suggested they look around here until I looked first. I’m not a fool. This place is treasure free. I guarantee it.”
“Did you go up on that ledge above the blaze?” I asked.
“Yep. I was up there and so were the kids. There’s most of a deer skeleton up there. That’s all. The intrusion doesn’t go up any higher.”
We chatted a little more and then Randall said he had to get going and drop off that hay before noon. He got into his truck. We shook hands again and he pulled off onto the two lane. I watched him disappear around a curve about a mile up the canyon and then I went to my truck and got my ice axe and about twenty feet of hemp rope, checked my cocoa but it was frozen solid like a chocolate popsicle. I left it and then headed over to my blaze. Oh…and if you should run across this place you can drive right by because about 21 others, plus myself have already looked here. It’s treasure free….
After the blue fly experience at the Manby hacienda I headed north from Taos toward the Rio Hondo and then turned west on a dirt road that leads down into the gorge, the John Dunn Bridge, and Black Rock Hot Springs. My plan was pretty simple. Find the treasure chest somewhere down near the union of the Hondo and the Grande and go home. I try not to make things too complicated.
It was a sweltering day to be in the gorge. Miserable for the likes of me. But probably a pleasant day for New Mexicans. I’m a wuss when it comes to heat. Eighty degrees is unusually hot where I come from. Ninety is life-threatening.
On the floor of the canyon one slow moving fisherman wearing a wide brimmed hat is busy stalking Browns. A couple of indignant ravens are perched on the iron portal of the old truss bridge like sentinels at the gates of hell. They watch my approach just ahead of my own dustball. I park in a wide spot in front of the bridge and keep the door closed until the fine brown powder swirls past and settles on the wooden deck. As I open the door the disgusted ravens yell at me and fly off down the river. I tell myself that next time I buy a truck I’ll go for the air conditioning.
I grab my camera and ice axe and walk behind the van to a trail hanging along the steep east side of the river. I know that the bridge’s namesake, John Dunn built a hotel down here somewhere and I figure maybe Forrest hid that chest around the foundation of Dunn’s old structure. However, I am going to have to scrounge around to find any hotel remains. I can’t readily detect where the old hotel might have stood. No part of it seems to leap into view. I know the County took over the road in the 50’s moved it over from where Dunn’s was located and the old wooden bridge was replaced around the same time. That hotel could have been knocked down in the 40’s or 50’s. The space available for building a hotel…even a small one …is pretty limited down in this tight gorge. By my eyes there were only a couple of spots where it could have been.
Over on the other side of the gorge I can make out the remains of a dark brown rock retaining wall that John Dunn’s crew must have erected when they were building the road over there.
Tough buggers those old guys. Dunn and his buddies had nothing but picks and shovels to carve that road out of the steep, hard, side of a solid rock canyon. Before Dunn, Manby had a road there too but it was little more than a very primitive trail that had been used by the Indians and Spaniards. Dunn made it into an actual road where he could drive wagons and later, his car.
After a couple of hours of searching all the spots big enough for a structure and finding no gleaming chest of gold and gems I decide to move on. South and west of the bridge is Black Rock Hot Spring. There is a trail that heads over there. It’s not far. A quarter mile perhaps from the bridge. That seems like the next logical place to look.
Its an easy trail to walk. I spot several bright red and yellow cactus blooms among the dust and rocks. About halfway down the trail there is a pretty good sized cave. Its not terribly deep but I can see how folks would have crawled into it to get out of the hot sun and rain ever since man started coming out to the hot spring.
There are both contemporary names and ancient petroglyphs carved into the rocks all along the trail. It made me realize that I was walking the very same trail ancient humans had walked to get to this prehistoric hot spring. How many trails are left that have not changed since early humans started treading them? How many centuries since the first person might have walked down here? 5…10?..a hundred?…I have no idea.
I decided to climb into the cave and have a look around. Its not a scary, dark cave. Its open with lots of light. This made it easy to look for a blaze. I can count hundreds of names and initials carved into the soft rock around the cave. Then I see it. Off by itself. Near the cave entrance. A big, clear “F”. Holy cow! My heart skips a couple of beats. I don’t feel the heat anymore. I stare at it. It could be Forrest’s. I look directly down from the “F” to the floor of the cave.
I tap the area with my ice axe. It’s solid rock. No holes. No secret hidey spots. I survey the immediate area looking for some sort of place Forrest could stash his chest. I poke around behind and under some boulders. I walk the few dozen feet down to the river and carefully look around. Nothing. It’s clearly someone else’s “F”. I wish they wouldn’t do that!
Once I’m certain no chest is hidden around the “F” I head over to the spring. The closer I get to the languid clear pools of heated water the more carvings there are in the rocks. At the spring itself the rocks are so carved up it’s hard to read the names and dates. Names on top of names. Names chipped off by weather. There are several from the 1920’s. I wonder if Manby or Dunn left their mark here somewhere. It would be cool to find one or both. After a half hour of searching I find neither and no additional “F” either.
I walk around the last rock and before me is the spring. It’s made up of two pools. The pool most inland from the river is clear and blue. It’s about two feet deep and has lots of rocks for sitting. They don’t look like sculpted rocks…like they are going to be comfortable or anything…just rocks. One would think that after all these centuries someone would have carved a nice plushy comfortable rock to sit on…
The pool is no bigger than a kiddie pool from Wallmart. I test the water with my right hand. It’s hotter than I need. I could see using it on a cool day but its already 90 plus. I’m not that interested in being hotter. The second pool is right on the river’s edge. The spring water is mixed with chilling river water so it’s less hot and less blue.
Hot springs are supposed to have all kinds of therapeutic value. I could use some therapeutic value so I look around for others. No one in sight. I strip quickly and step in. Its comfortable enough. Warmer than that icy, river water and cooler than the upper pool. It’s quite comfortable as long as I don’t get too near where the river leaks into the pool. It too is shallow. If I sit on the bottom the water comes up to my chest. I refrain from dunking my head since I don’t know what kind of critters live in the water. I contemplate the world and my place in it. That takes about twenty seconds. Then I start thinking about the treasure again. I stare at the far side of the canyon. A couple of vultures are playing on the air currents. They are doing lazy circles several hundred feet over my head. It looks like fun. The only sound is the splash of the river as it rushes by like its late for a dinner date.
After about fifteen minutes of therapeutic soaking I start getting antsy about someone showing up so I step out of the pool, air dry quickly in the New Mexico arid outdoors and get dressed.
I spend another 15 minutes checking out the area for signs of Forrest. I find none and head back to the truck feeling cleaner, tanner, healthier and unstressed by the weight of a chest full of treasure. I watch the hatted fisher angle for a bit, hoping to learn something, then point the truck toward Yellowstone and head up the canyon wall singing something by the Doobie Brothers and mentally checking one more place off my “to look” list.