Tsawari…

by Cynthia…

Forrest-

It’s been awhile since I sent you a search story…despite our wonderful face-to-face chit-chats over the past several weeks which I thoroughly enjoyed, I’d been in a funk when it came to going out on a treasure chest hunt. As other avid searchers have mentioned on the blogs, it’s quite difficult giving up one’s primary search area and finding a new one, but I knew that’s what I had to do. As you know I spent much of the last 12 months in Taos Canyon…exploring Soloman Spring, trudging through knee deep snow back OK Canyon, snowshoeing up the ridge on the east side of La Jara Canyon to the CNF boundary to see the Vietnam War Memorial through the trees in the distance, hiking up the trail-less Bull Spring Canyon to witness the panoramic view on top the high alpine meadow, and ultimately making a movie of these searches…

Then, Charmay invited us to your book signing party at La Fonda…what an event it was! I posted a comment on Dal’s blog acknowledging the joy of meeting Dal and many other searchers so I will not repeat that here. But what I do want to mention to you that I did not say prior was the brief conversation I had with Charmay…and the turning point in my mental state to start over with a new search place. I had never met Charmay prior but made it a point to introduce myself and thank her for inviting us searchers to the party. I wanted to be able to engage her in conversation so asked her about her role in San Lazaro. To my dismay, her reply to me was something like this: “In 1977, Forrest told me he had a place he wanted me to see.” (She said the name of a place and it was not San Lazaro.) She continued and said excitedly quoting you “It was here where he told me he wanted to die.” Well, trust me, when I heard those last few words, I about died…of a heart attack. I never expected to hear her say this…my memory is bad, but I tried to remember her exact words…I doubt that I remembered them precisely, but I know it’s close.

Me with Charmay...

Me with Charmay…

Which is what brings me to this story…Tsawari, the Tewa name for “white wide gap” named for the broad stratum or belt of soft whitish rock that crosses the Canada de Santa Cruz. On the south mesa lies the ruin of an old village of the Tano Indians, built by them after they left their ancient home in the Galisteo region (San Lazaro area), adjoining what now is the little hamlet of La Puebla. You’ve mentioned some of your special places as those involving finding old Indian artifacts, or pottery sherds…I felt it was time to take a recon trip to La Puebla and the Santa Cruz Lake area, to find out first hand if this is a feasible search area…and to rack my brain for solves to the poem’s clues…

I’d passed the turn-off from Hwy 84/285 onto CR88 oodles of times on my way to Taos, often noticing the sign pointing towards La Puebla but never thinking much about it. Today was different…I was delighted my route led me through a tiny village I’d never seen before, avoiding the dreaded slow-poking traffic of Espanola. The road through La Puebla was lined with lush foliage and large cottonwoods ablaze in their autumn splendor…the local folks gave a friendly wave as they drove past me, curiously staring as I teetered on top the guard rail with camera in hand…

Here the road crosses the Santa Cruz River…

La Puebla

Crossing the Santa Cruz River

The route left La Puebla and continued east on Rt 76 to Chimayo…I decided to turn south here and wind through the hills toward the southern end of the High Road to Taos, and then take the road into Cundiyo…

The picture below is looking back at Chimayo, near the famous Santuario…

Chimayo

Pic #4 Badlands

The picture above was taken near the spot where Jesse Chehak placed his tripod to photograph the badlands for the July issue of California Sunday Magazine article on Forrest. (I know because I had the privilege of driving him to the photo shoot locations.)

Below are pictures of Santa Cruz Lake: the first one is from the lookout…

Pic #5 Santa Cruz Lake

Pic #6 Santa Cruz Lake one

There were quite a few fishermen and women along the shore…I wondered if you’d ever fished here. I paid my day-use fee, properly placed the permit on the wind shield, and grabbed my pack and Molly to set off to hike around the lake…it was a glorious day!

Pic #7 Santa Cruz Lake two

I stopped and talked to the woman in the picture below…I asked if I could take her picture, yes, she replied. I asked her name…Shelbie. She offered that she was just learning to fly-fish…I found that fascinating since I didn’t know folks fly-fished in a lake (but that thrilled me since I thought that made it more likely you would have fished there years ago.) I told her I was treasure hunting…she wondered if it was for Forrest Fenn’s treasure. I just about did cart wheels along the shore…this was the first person in my almost 3 years of searching who knew your name and that you had hid a treasure chest. (She does not search, or at least I don’t think she did, until now!) I asked her what kind of fish were in the lake…she wasn’t sure and suggested I talk to one of the instructors. A few more steps along the shoreline and I met Phil, a retirement-age fellow who was teaching fly-fishing for the Santa Fe Community College. We chatted for awhile…I asked him about Browns but he said this lake was mostly Rainbows… hmmm…maybe your rainbow is trout. And the hoB is not Brown trout as many folks think…me not one of them. Anyway, he explained this was “still-water” fly fishing, I think. He said other trips/lessons included Cow River in the Pecos and the Rio Grande…another class would start next spring. I said I was interested…he also knew of you. I’m thinking a better approach to solving the poem might be to hang out with people full of information, instead of relying on the Internet…

Pic #8 Shelbie

Pic #9 Two guys fishing

My dog Molly and I continued our leisurely stroll along the lake…passing these fellows along the way…we chatted briefly and they proudly showed me all their fish on the string-thing (how’s that for technical fishing lingo…this is why I need to take lessons.)

I found a nice flat rock for Molly and me to eat our snacks…she spent time slopping in the edge of the water and sniffing inside the exposed tree roots above the receded water line. This would have been a good place to hide the chest…the roots looked liked mighty tenacles, longing to grasp “something”, like a 10 x 10 bronze box.

Pic #10 Molly

Unlike most search trips in the past when I had a specific agenda and was in a hurry, today I spent time just sitting on the lunch rock, enjoying the solitude of our private spot, watching a few kayakers in the distance paddle around the edge and three guys in an old wooden fishing boat lazily drifting around…I’m not even sure they were actively fishing but they looked like they were enjoying their time on the water…

Pic #11 wooden boat

Pic #12 Rio de Medio Canyon

Lastly, the picture above (taken from the over-look) shows where the lake goes back into the narrow canyon, where the Rio de Medio enters. There is a trail that descends from the lookout to the lake’s edge…I think I need to continue my exploration of this canyon…and spend time researching and analyzing and thinking about the poem.

I hope you enjoyed the story and pictures…I don’t know if you get the opportunity to go outside and drive around much anymore…maybe you prefer the comfort of your house and warm fireplace…

The place name that Charmay said to me has nothing to do with Tsawari…in fact, when I googled it, I had a difficult time finding anything about it…

And since winter is approaching and the search season is coming to a close for this year, I think I will make a lunch date with Charmay…she was charming, and I bet she has some great stories. I never heard how the two of you became friends, or maybe business partners…is this something you are willing to share?

Until next time, Cynthia

Post script: Forrest told me he never heard of the place name Charmay mentioned to me. Google only lists one place in New Mexico with that name, and it is a private ranch AND it is off the TTOTC map which makes it even more irrelevant. I agreed not to name this place on the blog for fear some searchers will trespass on this private property. Forrest guaranteed me he never told Charmay where he wants to die and that she knows nothing regardless of the implications. Please do not call Charmay at her home and interrogate her…she has been very upset with the recent deluge of calls. She doesn’t know who “Cynthia” is and doesn’t even remember talking specifically to me. Thank you for your understanding and please respect her privacy. cynthia