May 2020

By voxpops


Circle Subaru

Going round in circles on Table Mountain near Dubois, WY

Okay, I admit it, for a few years I’d been going round in circles. Although, come to think of it, they were definitely more like rectangles with corners that elbowed into some of the Rocky Mountains’ most intriguing landscapes.


Bog Lake north of Dubois, WY

There was the isolated splendor around Bog Lake, where we gained the much-coveted accolade of getting stuck in the snow at the highest elevation the local tow-truck team had ever attempted a recovery.

Now Its Worse

Fools rush in!

Then I’d shared a bath with a moose amid the majestic Tetons, and danced with a bear on a hillside near the Custer Gallatin National Forest .

Male Moose CU

Swamp buddy in the Tetons

And if that were not enough, there were encounters of a spooky kind where mysterious geometric patterns embellished the bluffs near Big Piney.

Big Piney Markings 2

Road to nowhere?

But in the summer of 2018 things changed. Blindly groping my way through a miasma of numbers (oh yes, I’ve long been a digit-diva [divo???]) and grasping at phantoms that put in fleeting appearances before my mind’s eye, I was gradually drawn back to a trajectory that I’d all but abandoned in favor of tangents and mental chasms a couple of years before. Here was a line that stretched far into unknown territory, but one that cried out for a closer look. And within sight of my flight path was the oddest place I’d encountered so far. There within a few hundred feet lay my heaven and hell. One spot seemed suffused with peace, and the other filled me with abject terror. To either side a supporting cast of characters kept watch. The horseman urged his steed up the slope while Frosty tilted an icy top hat northwards. A youthful sentry gazed up toward the Google satellite, and a patriarchal signature was etched into the hilltop. And all bore witness to J C Penney’s bold seal, stamped in high relief among the rocks.

I think most searchers have been affected to a greater or lesser degree by pareidolia, but this was beyond anything I’d experienced before. And as it all wormed its way into my subconscious, it rekindled the paranoia that had afflicted me so brutally earlier that year, especially in relation to one very specific spot. I won’t dwell on the effects, suffice to say that they were severe and unpleasant, but as I had already developed some coping strategies I was able to gradually claw my way back to a reasonable equilibrium – although I was to notice that by now the world around me had shifted in some subtle and indefinable way.

By now I was certain that I’d found a place that was very special. But compared to previous occasions when coordinates had led directly to curious finds, here it was like building a house in a field of Jell-O. I tried combinations within the core of the hillside and I looked beyond, but I couldn’t quite nail anything definitive. In spite of this I felt it was important to at least try to visit this unique place, if at all possible. Early in the summer of 2019 the opportunity arose. I was able to book tickets via Denver to Oregon, where we have family, with the added bonus of being able to visit the Da Vinci exhibition as well as take in some new sights.


The changing faces of the Mona Lisa

By this time, after more than five years and around a score of BOTG searches, many from my current home in the UK, I had become as much invested in the spiritual side of the Chase as the treasure hunt itself, noting the strange congruity between deep thought and physical or mental discoveries and manifestations. And although my desire to successfully conclude the search was still strong (despite deep and understandable reservations among family members), the metaphysical strand was becoming ever more intriguing. That said, I wasn’t beyond using this to my advantage when it suited, and it was becoming increasingly necessary to provide “valid” reasons to my beloved for yet another Fenn folly – and this wasn’t to be the last time I had to make the BS edible in 2019!

As ever, the virtual didn’t quite tally with the real. A quick inspection of the area showed it to be unremarkable up close, and it was more difficult to navigate than Google had promised, even to the extent that I couldn’t even definitively locate the spot that had caused me such angst. Still, it rooted out a few demons, and I spent a pleasant and peaceful half-hour sitting and gazing out over the creek, swollen with snow-melt, that had required me to don makeshift waders made from garbage bags to help with the thigh-deep flow

MV village med

Lost civilisation on Mesa Verde

Bear Cinnamon

A beautiful cinnamon bear whose lunchtime we disturbed in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison

With a mixture of mild deflation and inevitability I hiked back to meet my wife, who was en route to the pickup point, choosing to walk a few miles extra to enjoy the warmth of the afternoon and imbibe a sense of the locality. Little did I suspect that I was also walking towards a future encounter that was to prove far more significant.But right then we headed out for a magical few days exploring Mesa Verde, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, and sun-drenched canyons where echoes of the past could still be heard.

Here, if you’ll forgive me, I’d like to digress for a moment. I’ve titled this piece “Understanding” for a number of reasons, and the following story is completely unrelated except for how it has impacted my thoughts on where the Chase might be leading us in a metaphorical sense.

A couple of years ago I recall that someone put out a video of a guy dancing on top of a mountain in high heels, and I thought it was very funny and quite sweet. It had something to do with the “lead searcher,” although the details have slipped my mind now. Maybe you remember it. Well, back in the early “noughties,” before I moved to the US, I got to know a couple of kids who had been adopted. They were siblings who had been born to a prostitute in Guatemala, later abandoned, and brought up in an orphanage there. The American couple who wanted to adopt them visited them in Guatemala so that they would know who were to be their step-parents. The trouble was that the adoption process took two years to complete. By the time the kids arrived in the States they had been living in limbo, unsure of their future and with little idea of how their new home would impact them.

At the same time, the man of the house was becoming increasingly unsure that he wanted to be a surrogate father.The children were introduced to their new way of life, already on the cusp of becoming teens, with little knowledge of English and with a background that was one of almost total insecurity. Within the first couple of years in the US the stepdad had moved out, leaving the children to the care of their new stepmom who is fortunately one of the most loving and selfless people I know. The stepdaughter struggled in school and while the stepson did better, he seemed uncomfortable in his own skin.

By the time the boy turned eighteen he had made up his mind that he didn’t want to remain male. Meanwhile, his older sister seemed attracted to men who were themselves outcasts, usually on the wrong side of the law. She ended up having an intermittent relationship with a guy who was in and out of jail and gave birth to two children as a consequence. Needless to say, he disappeared.

I was stunned when the stepson decided to journey to Thailand for a gender-change operation shortly after his eighteenth birthday. I worried that someone so young could end up regretting such a decision for the rest of their life. But fast-forward the best part of two decades and she (formerly he) is now a successful professional and has weathered the storms of learning how to cope with a new identity and the sometimes aggressive reaction of those with whom she has sought a closer bond. The sister is also doing fairly well although it has been a long and uphill struggle for her and her kids.

What is interesting is how prejudice and a lack of understanding can color one’s perception of people who have had to struggle all their lives and who have chosen a different path from one’s own. The rush to judgment rarely involves stepping back to consider the colossal hurdles that have had to be overcome, and the need to seek either the company of those who are also “different” or the irresistible urge to remake oneself and begin again. And it can take tremendous courage. I have also known a youngster who decided to make the change from female to male. I couldn’t begin to fathom the reasons for it beyond knowing that here there was also childhood trauma, but I have been amazed at this person’s courageous decision to leave home before turning twenty and journey to one of the most macho states as a fledgling “male” with little experience of either the outside world or of relationships.

So what am I trying to say? I suppose it could be summed up as acceptance, tolerance, and respect -as well as a little support – for another’s choices and situation. And I must say that I can’t recall Forrest condemning anyone for their lifestyle in his Scrapbooks (and there have been a few “interesting ” characters parading through them), but more to the point it was a lesson that I needed to take to heart too, as I was soon to discover.

IMG 20191027 102908597

View from the slopes of Snowdon in Wales

Back in Wales I was left feeling that, although I’d discovered an important place, I’d not been able to link it definitively. I kept trying to squeeze the final drops out of the poem to pinpoint a precise spot. At the same time I became a little too caught up in the cascade of cryptic messages issuing forth from a website that was now featuring a bare-assed leprechaun. I found myself in danger of reverting to paranoia.

Having had many strange and unexplained experiences in the last few years, I’d become both hyper-aware of, and susceptible to, perceived messages – after all, aren’t we supposed to listen good? But separating the wheat from the chaff was not always straightforward. And however selfish the notion of continuing to search was, I couldn’t let go of the idea that the place I’d discovered had not yet done with me. I had yet another spot to check, and I was also ruminating on the possibility of some kind of tunnel or underground repository.

A domestic pact was negotiated. Based on the notion and importance of a spiritual quest, a return to the States would be tolerated – just. For my part, I promised not to break the family finances. So in late September 2019 I packed my well-worn rucksack for the umpteenth time and boarded another Denver-bound flight.

But one thing I hadn’t paid enough attention to was attitude. For some reason I just couldn’t summon up genuine positivity. Almost as soon as the plane touched down I began to question why I was still doing this. Twenty-four hours of travel and a seven-hour time difference didn’t help. Neither did running into a massive tailback on the freeway well before 6:00 am on a Saturday morning. I have to confess to little empathy for the drivers whose fender-bender had only added to the roadwork chaos. I’ve still a long way to go with tolerance!

Things didn’t improve by the end of the day. After saying “howdy” to my canyon and its denizens I stood and stared at the long “blade of stone” I’d studied so minutely on Google. It was actually a gigantic mudbank! I thought about the next eleven days I had to fill, and the cost, but determined to make the best of it. As for the poem I was out of ideas. The situation wasn’t helped by two small incidents the next day. First, I saw that Dal had published Scrapbook 206 – all about failure. Talk about rubbing salt in the wound! And Michael Houle’s video where he balanced enjoyment against some of the more negative aspects of the Chase really spoke to me. I was also intrigued by the final segment which featured a hypothetical approach to finding the hidey spot in relation to the blaze, based on distance. It was something I’d been thinking about quite a bit over the preceding months.

Second, as I considered what to do with myself, I joined the Sunday tourists at a well-known recreational area and drove around rather aimlessly until a canyon overlook caught my attention.


Beautiful sight – shame about the glasses!

I dug out my camera, which had seen so much Chase action, and started to take snaps of the impressive scenery. It was something to do on a lovely, bright afternoon at the beginning of autumn. Half-an-hour later I was back in the car and driving away when I realized something wasn’t quite right. The speedometer was blurred and the rest of the world seemed slightly fuzzy. I stopped the car and put my hand to my face. My glasses were no longer there. Somehow they’d disappeared and I hadn’t even noticed, not even while I was taking photos! I retraced my steps and scoured the area, as well as the car, multiple times. Other kind souls joined the hunt, but it was a fruitless endeavor. Fortunately, I’d been particularly careful to pack an old backup pair, and so I drove back carefully to the hotel, grateful for the sunshine, and dug out the spare. They were almost useless for reading but would suffice for driving. This was not going to be a 20/20 trip!

Monday morning dawned with a decision. I’d never seen Santa Fe and thought that the home city of the author of this wild enterprise had to be worth a visit. I set off happy to have a destination and a purpose.

The Colorado mountains are breathtaking. The disappointment of the past couple of days was replaced by a sense of wonder. The contrast with much of Wyoming, a region I’m so much more familiar with, is marked, and each of the four search states definitely has its own identity. I should have stopped to take some snaps of rust-red peaks and craggy gorges, but I tend to be relentless when I have a destination in mind, and push on until I’m too tired to continue. But I did at least pause to pick up a hitchhiker.

Back at some small town gas station, while I was on my way over to the search area from Denver, I’d been approached at the pump by a guy asking politely whether I could spare some change. He seemed clean and neatly turned out and he’d caught me unawares, so I’d given him the brush-off. This wasn’t the first time that I’d “passed by on the other side” and it had played on my mind. A little while later I’d been struck by something. This was America. I’d spent many hours mediating contractual disputes at the courthouse where I lived in Oregon for a decade. A recurring theme was financial hardship and misery resulting from medical expenses which were being chased by debt collection agencies. Bankruptcy or near- crippling repayment regimes were frequent outcomes. Living for the past three years in the UK where, despite the system creaking and groaning under the burden, healthcare is paid for through taxation and is provided free at the point of delivery, it was too easy for me to forget that a regular guy might be forced into seeking handouts through bad luck. I don’t know if that was this man’s circumstances, but I wished I could go back in time and act more compassionately, but I couldn’t, so I thought at least I could help out a guy who needed a ride. He turned out to be an international long-distance runner who trained near his home at an elevation around 10,000 feet. I was in awe and could hardly imagine the stamina and fitness required for that!

Over the years I’ve found that although I occasionally have insights during searches, I need time to process them. This normally happens when I’m back home and can no longer test the theories. It’s endlessly frustrating! Sometimes though, a solo lengthy drive (providing there are not too many heart-in-mouth moments!) can induce a similar semi-meditative state. Having dropped my hitchhiker near his destination and as the miles sped away I returned to contemplation and mulled something that had bothered me for a while. The way I had got to my spot was long and convoluted. I could look back and, with the benefit of hindsight, refashion it into a simple trajectory, and yet it always seemed like there was something missing, something that would unequivocally confirm the place. But now, as I drove, I was reminded of words that the pipe-smoking, shamrock-toting little fellow had pointed to. Going from memory, it suggested that although someone had not been wise they’d found the blaze and the effort still counted. A thought occurred to me and I wanted to check it out online.

At Pagosa Springs I checked into a rather shabby motel, trying to save a few bucks in a touristy town. Munching on some snacks leftover from the journey, I squinted at my little netbook screen through inadequate lenses and pulled up a few websites and, of course, Google Maps (I think, collectively, we searchers must have brought their servers to near breaking-point!). I also emailed Forrest to let him know I would soon be in his area and asked if I could buy him coffee or lunch.

The next morning, following overnight rain, the whole region was shrouded in fog. It was not pleasant driving, but it was an apt metaphor for my search. But eventually the clouds lifted, revealing the sunlit beauty of the San Juans. After a brief detour around the base of Sierra Negra and another to a pueblo, I soon found myself in Santa Fe. I’d received no response to my email, and none would be forthcoming, so I only spent a short while in the city, not least because it was overloaded with tourists and uncomfortably hot in direct sunlight. Apart from a brief visit to Collected Works and the cathedral, I just took a few photos of the quaint old downtown and satisfied my curiosity as to the whereabouts of Mr. Fenn’s modest mansion before heading back to my casino hotel to pore over maps again.

SF colonnade

Downtown Santa Fe in late September

SF cathedral int

St.Francis Cathedral, Santa Fe

That “measure distance” function in Google is so useful. Using my new ideas I even managed to draw a sort of “X” although it kind of resembled one of those old-fashioned egg timers. But my crude artwork was not what made me do a double-take. Peering through the weak bifocals, I could see that the center of my hourglass was, believe it or not, right back where I’d been just a few days ago. But it had shifted the focus to the other side of the canyon. And there wasn’t a coordinate involved in finding this place. The setbacks of the last few days were forgotten as I prepared to point the trusty little Nissan Kicks that Enterprise had bestowed on me back up the highway so recently traversed.

Two days later I stood below the point marking the middle of my “X.” As I stood and stared at an object I’d literally said “hello” to a few days before, something gradually came into focus in my mind and … well … I laughed. This wasn’t what I expected at all! It seemed to be telling me that this was all one huge joke – a very clever one, but nonetheless a joke. I’d stood on practically the same spot a few times previously and never made the connection. But beyond this rather rueful mirth, it prompted me to confront something uncomfortable. I began to sense that Forrest was not just yanking our chain, but holding up our addiction and letting us look it full in the face. It was like, “What didn’t you understand about the word ‘contentment’?”

Forgive me for not elucidating further on what it was that I’d seen, but as that was not the end of the story, I’d rather leave it unidentified. I can’t remember whether it was then or a little later that the phrase “Look quickly down” took on new meaning. I had always interpreted that phrase in a specific directional sense, but as it floated into my consciousness I simply looked down at my feet and thought about what was there. The ground. My feet standing on the ground. Under. Stand. The instruction appeared to be to understand something. And I thought I knew what it was. Where was all this chasing leading? It was a journey back to where we started, but with a new understanding of the place that contentment needed to occupy in our hearts.


Please don’t be sarcastic about my sarcophagus!

Not quite prepared to relinquish the hunt completely, I took bearings on a number of local points and over the next twenty-four hours tried half-heartedly to make them fit, sending Forrest a few rather grudging updates along the way. I even found a “coffin in the wood” that was just large enough to crawl into, yet remained partially open to the elements. But in the end I just sat on a rock and contemplated love, stupidity, addiction and responsibility. I had received some worrying news from home and knew I should be there rather than indulging myself out in the Rockies. I felt stranded, lonely and selfish, and just wanted to be back with my wife, but the flight was still a few days hence and I had a ticket without the option to make changes.

Then, as I prepared to head back to Denver, Forrest popped up with a new scrapbook. One paragraph caught my eye in particular: ‘My friends complained that the story had consumed me. Maybe so, because a note written to myself at the time, reads “I am drawn to Mr. Sharp like smell is drawn to a daffodil.” (that unfortunate comment is the by-product of too much wine, and working too late at night).’

Was Forrest implying that we shouldn’t worry too much about things that consume us? And what about the “too much wine” for a guy who says he doesn’t drink? As for “by-product,” I imagined it with an extra “e.” But the word that struck me most forcibly was “daffodil.” It was not the first time that Forrest has used that word, and I had already thought about its oblique connection to narcissism.
Searching for answers I came across this:
And one answer seemed to leap off the virtual page at me:
Ramon Verhoeven, repaired codependent, learning to live with a narcissistic abused adult/child
Answered Feb 5, 2019 · Author has 1.3k answers and 550.6k answer views

I think about that in this way:
A narcissist is born with true selves. During childhood , enduring abuse, the fake EGO takes over and pretends to be the true selves. The true selves are still around , but without the narcissist able to get in touch with them. Somehow that is leading to a permanent combat of the two. I read once a psychologist say: the two I’s in a narcissist hate each other, being one I the true selves and the other I the fake one. Must be hell living this way. And in hell you try to find relief: addiction.

Another thing I noticed is that people, who have a narcissistic partner, can easily become addicted. Living in the constant pressure of the partner, they also look for a way out.

Some of you may remember a few months back a university professor seeking searchers prepared to answer a psychological profile questionnaire. Like many, I took part and was a little taken aback by both the extent of the survey and some of the questions, particularly those investigating possible childhood abuse. Ramon Verhoeven’s Quora submission seems to speak directly to that same issue, and having had a “difficult” childhood I recognized the profile he described. It struck a chord in relation to the internal struggle the past few years of searching had required. So, returning to the theme of this piece, I would argue that the Chase asks us not just to try to understand the needs of others, but also to understand our own inner selves. Of course we’re all different, with a great variety of life experiences, but a big part of my personal Chase has been the concept of repairing – or at least bridging – the divide: recognizing the two divorced parts within me and attempting to cross the void between them. I hope it’s not too much of a stretch to use the allegory of Apollo 11 journeying across the cosmic vacuum to the moon. It’s a long, painful and arduous mission but one that some of us need to take before we can be content in and with ourselves. And even though this “marriage” can be tough on our loved ones, maybe in the end it will be “worth the cold” – more on that later.
I was halfway to Denver when something occurred to me, but, as ever, it would require a Google search. For twenty minutes I fought the urge to turn around, but the idea proved too strong and I swung through 180 degrees, heading back to the last major town I’d passed so I could find a motel room. While my less-than-fragrant clothes jumbled and tumbled in the motel’s laundry, I fired up my netbook. By making a small adjustment to one of the legs of my “X” the center point shifted a short distance north. Then, through the magic of the internet, I was able to spot a potential alcove – a significant find that dovetailed with the latest scrapbook. However, although this was encouraging, I wasn’t taking into account my mental state, which wasn’t conducive to making logical leaps.

Concentration was lacking and my thoughts were divided between home and the search. I collected my clean clothes and consumed a rather lackluster meal in a local restaurant.

Later that evening, tucked away in my modest room, I was musing about Fenn’s description of how, “As I was closing the chest for the last time, I felt part of me slip inside and become part of the treasure, or at least I thought I did.” I wondered how literally that statement was intended to be taken as I flipped idly through the motel’s satellite TV channels. I put the remote down as one of the Harry Potter movies flashed on the screen. Initially happy to have a little innocuous and diversionary entertainment, within seconds I was shaking my head in disbelief. I had entered the film at the precise moment the characters were discussing how a soul can be made to inhabit a physical object, allowing a person who has killed another human being to save their soul from destruction. To use a British colloquialism, I was gobsmacked! This was yet another of the hundred and one strange “coincidences” and unexplained events that had occurred in my hunt. Another was shortly to follow. But before I turned in for the night I pondered the long-term effect on Fenn of having to kill so many people in Vietnam. There was a reason he called his treasure chest “Indulgence.”

Following my usual pattern when searching, I awoke very early the next morning and switched on the computer to check emails and try to come to a decision as to whether to return one last time to my spot. The old Acer netbook still runs Windows XP, which usually means it’s reliable but wouldn’t be much of a loss if I dropped it off a mountain or left it behind in the rental car. It has never had a problem booting up, yet today was different. As I watched the little boot-up progress window it suddenly froze, leaving just one little square block at the very end of the progress bar. I didn’t know what to make of it other than to think that I had one final task to perform. I needed to check the “alcove.”

Now before you think I’m completely crazy paying attention to a minor computer anomaly, this was only one of a number of such odd instances. There was, for example, the time the BBC site morphed into a succession of graphic analog clocks all displaying 4 o’clock. And later an online company logo would drop part of the name leaving “OR” prominently displayed. But whether insanity was at work here, or something more mystical, combined with the previous evening’s experience it was a double-whammy that left me feeling disturbed. What was in the “alcove?” What might happen if I went there? Like Shrödinger’s cat, there was no way of knowing without going. Forrest Fenn’s kitty was simultaneously both alive and dead up until the moment the box was opened.

To cut a long story short the journey was a washout, and I just didn’t have the mental stamina left to try to rectify the situation. In a kind of blind frenzy I dashed about, ruining a new pair of shoes in the mud and nearly getting caught going where I shouldn’t. It was as I was hurrying back to the car that a thought catapulted to mind. “Worth the cold – a word that is key – cold turkey.” Become addicted and then suffer the consequence as you try to extricate yourself from the obsession. That’s what this seemed to be about. Miserable and dejected, I started up the Nissan Kicks and cruised back towards the big city. “Kicks:” I thought about that name. Kick the habit, do it just for kicks, plus a couple other derivations that suited the situation. With less than 100 miles to go, I broke down and howled, an uncontrollable, deep throated baying that erupted from the depths of my being.

Fortunately traffic was light. By the time I’d recovered composure I was hoarse and emotionally spent. Six years of being in the Chase had taken its toll.

At the Econolodge near Denver airport I was booked for two nights and wondered what to do to kill the time. Eating fast food is not really a time spinner, although sitting in a traffic jam for half-an-hour as you try to weave your way past yet another accident to reach a Chinese take-out establishment helps. What is it with Denver drivers? That night I was restless. At 3:00 am I awoke and felt the need to look out of the window. Across the parking lot I could see two large trucks sporting two large logos. The nearest declared “Xtra” in bold letters, and the further one responded with “Serta.” My mind immediately started to analyze the names. It didn’t take long: “X-art” and “Se-art.” With the Chase chock-full of art references it made sense to me. Maybe I needed to go look at some art.

Maybe that would put the mystery to bed at last – preferably on a brand new Serta mattress!

P1000818 2

Morning after the night before: taking inspiration from the art of trucking

Not wanting to get stuck in downtown traffic or pay exorbitant parking fees I grabbed a spot more than 20 blocks from the middle of the city and walked into town. The early October morning was cool and there was a hint of winter on the way, but setting a brisk pace soon had my circulation going. I reached the art museum a good half-hour before opening time and looked for a spot to sit down and rest a back that complains mightily if actually asked to do the job it applied for.

In front of the library there were some concrete benches, but the area was also clearly a gathering place for the homeless and other mavericks. Trying to keep myself to myself didn’t work; a guy started talking to me in a rapid-fire verbal torrent. I responded as politely as I could, although my hearing’s so bad these days that I find it difficult to interpret unfamiliar speech patterns. At first, my inclination was to find my own space to wait, secure in my familiar small bubble of solitude. But then the bubble burst. I suddenly felt it was ridiculous to avoid another human being simply because they were down on their luck, with their “difference” prompting me to feel anxious, or suspicious, or protective. I asked the man, probably in his forties with damaged teeth and a rather gaunt expression, whether he’d mind my sharing his bench. Avoiding a small pool of water, I sat down and started chatting with the guy, although he did most of the talking and I just listened to his story.

Hearing how he had to share the streets and shelters with drug addicts, survive on food bank handouts that sometimes made everyone sick, and yet manage to remain positive and optimistic left me feeling very small. I asked him what his secret was, and he told me that it was faith. He spoke of how we all have to undergo trials, and this was his. When I left him I felt that he’d given me something very valuable. The art museum itself was interesting but a little bit of an anticlimax, if I’m honest.

Back home, I tried to avoid the Chase blogs and suffer the cold turkey. I set myself the target of one month of abstinence. What I hadn’t reckoned with was my ever-active mind. At night, especially, the cogs would grind, and early in the morning of my wife’s birthday another piece of the puzzle slotted into place. I managed to hold out a couple more weeks before giving in and checking Dal’s. I hadn’t quite made the full month, but I figured there were extenuating circumstances! I was amazed at the plethora of Scrapbooks. The promise to myself of cold turkey was soon forgotten as I devoured Forrest’s offerings, and gradually a chink became a chasm, and the turkey morphed into cheese with an attitude! Was understanding at last beginning to dawn?

-by voxpops






Diggin Gypsy Signs Off…


By Diggin Gypsy


I’ve finally  come to the end of my chase  I’ve had a good run. When I started in the summer of 2013 I never knew I would have visited West Yellowstone so many times in my life. I’ve done things I never thought I would do. One was hiking thru huge snow drifts beside the Madison at ghost village, climbing up mountains and sliding back down them on my butt. Dodging grizzlies around Hebgan lake and running from the moose at refuge point.

When me and my sister began the chase my mom and dad had just died it was a way to move on and try not to let death overcome us with sadness . We thrived and became strong adventurers bringing along family members to join in on the fun .

I’ve had the best times of my life searching and have met wonderful friends along the way The chase does take a toll on you though, years of racking your brain. I’ve flooded the ole coot with many emails, especially after a good margarita night. How does he deal with everyone after all the years? I have no clue.  I’m surprised he hasn’t said good riddance to us all.

If I can tell all the new chasers one thing it would be to make the chase not about always finding the treasure.  When you’re searching and it isn’t where you think,  look at your adventure as a treasure. Don’t let the chase consume your life. That isn’t what Forrest wanted.

And let’s all remember this man kindly hid a treasure for us all to have a chance to find. Let’s don’t join chat sites that bash Forrest. Let’s keep the chase without drama and the way Forrest wanted it to be, for families to enjoy being together outdoors.

Happy trails y’all I’m off to new adventures. Luv you guys.

-Diggin Gypsy






Imagine That!…

November 2018

By Voxpops


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Lake Vyrnwy in North Wales. An entire village was submerged here in the late 19th century when this valley was flooded to provide drinking water for Liverpool

There’s a book I read recently for our local book group: Days Without End by Sebastian Barry. It’s a tale centered in the Indian Wars and the American Civil War. At times it’s funny, at others horrific, and with its stream-of-consciousness delivery, you might say it’s more of a tone poem than a novel. How historically accurate it is I can’t say; certainly, with its references to cross-dressing and interracial exploits, it feels a touch implausible and anachronistic in places, and yet it is an imaginative tour de force, carrying the reader deep into the blood-soaked landscape and vomit-inducing stench of war.


For me, the past year has been a lesson in the power of imagination. There have been periods of terror offset by flashes of enlightenment – all brought about through intense introspection as a result of my involvement in the Chase. It’s only now that I’ve concluded my search that I’m able to look back with a sense of perspective, and begin to understand how imagination has played a critical role in forging a path that I could follow both physically and metaphorically.

We all know that Forrest Fenn ranks imagination above knowledge, but it might be worth asking ourselves why that is. What is it about imagination that will propel us forward to the hiding place, while knowledge leaves us scratching our heads in confusion? To answer that I want to start by examining the reasons given for the treasure hunt: “…to get kids off the couch and away from their texting machines…” and: “…in a terrible recession… I wanted to give hope to those who had a sense of adventure and were willing to go searching.”

As someone pointed out recently, given the decision to write the poem and hide the treasure preceded the economic downturn by more than a decade, we can pretty much discount the second reason as a prime mover for the Chase, unless we’re prepared to grant Forrest clairvoyance. It may well have been something that gave added impetus to the timing, but even then it seems unlikely that a family deeply affected by the recession would have the spare resources to gamble on the one-in-a-billion chance of finding the chest. But before we dismiss it entirely, the word “hope” is interesting. Whether or not we’re in an upcycle or downswing, the human condition is one that needs – is almost desperate for – hope: hope that there is something better in the future; hope that our lives are not lived in vain. Hope springs eternal according to Alexander Pope in his poem An Essay On Man, in which he castigates mankind for believing that he can use his knowledge of science to “scan God.” So by Fenn saying that he wanted to give hope, maybe he was talking about the power of imagination over that of knowledge, where the latter speaks to man’s desire to measure and classify everything, and the former grants access to a cosmos of fresh ideas. Perhaps there are some things that transcend the known, and yet remain vital to our wellbeing.

As for the first-mentioned reason, we probably spend about 90% or more of our “search” time online, with a tiny proportion given over to BOTG. Families searching together certainly give their kids wonderful and real experiences that they couldn’t possibly match with their “texting machines,” but overall, even though there’s probably been a huge upswing in searchers’ exposure to the wilderness, the Chase has probably also been instrumental in increasing our slavish devotion to gadgets!

So we’re left with two given reasons that are not altogether satisfactory. And if we accept that, then is there a hidden or underlying reason? I would contend that there is, and that it is partly to do with imagination – to help us develop that faculty and to open our minds to whatever influences may be present. In my own search that has meant using imagination to bridge the “gaps” between clues, and developing a kind of sixth sense for recognizing “aberrations that live out on the edge.” It’s more of an art than a science, and if, like me, you’re not used to that way of thinking it can be a lengthy – and at times frightening – learning curve.

Merriam Webster defines imagination firstly as: “the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before perceived in reality.” That’s an interesting definition because it allows for truly “blue-sky” or visionary thinking, not necessarily grounded in reality. In the context of the Chase, my contention is that the only way to successfully complete the challenge is to delve as deep into your imagination as it’s possible to go, until you develop the technique of mirroring Fenn’s thinking. The problem is knowing when you’re beginning to succeed, especially if there’s apparently so little to help you confirm your progress (ignoring for a moment the books and ATFs, which have the tendency to confirm everyone’s solves!). But I would suggest that if you can develop this technique you will have flashes of insight that help you plot a way forward. The mirror may be very cloudy at first, and progress will be stumbling, but with time and persistence things should become clearer.

Of course without knowing where to begin and without understanding how the numerical framework comes into play, imagination alone won’t be sufficient, but it can certainly help with both these elements. However, here’s the rub. There’s no way to know in advance whether your poem interpretations and mirror-imaging are correct without testing the ideas on the ground – possibly many times. I seriously doubt whether this depth of “vision” can be obtained by fireside cogitation alone. Even though I believe the answer we’re all seeking is fairly simple in one sense, the possible permutations are almost endless. We’re talking about a slow and dogged development of this faculty, which requires getting off the couch and out into the wilds.


Castle Rock and Green River during a storm

My last trip to Wyoming was not a particularly happy event – and nearly didn’t happen at all. It came after what my doctor diagnosed as an acute psychotic disorder. I was recovering from a bout of flu when I began to have serious concerns about the Chase, and these rapidly morphed into terrifying thoughts and delusions. Basically, I had spent so long making connections at a profound level that I’d forged pathways into my own darkest mental recesses. In short, I’d let the demons out of the cage. It was an intensely unpleasant experience that was also very distressing for those around me. So the trip, which had almost been canceled, was foreshortened and took place alongside a wife who had come to, quite understandably, detest everything about the Chase.

But before you dismiss what I’m about to say as the ravings of a diagnosed lunatic, I’d ask you to consider what Fenn really had in mind for the most ardent searchers. This is “The Thrill of the Chase.” We might normally define this as the excitement of the hunt. But what if we adjust the emphasis a little?

Fenn has a way with words – to the point of exasperating the reader. Take SB 178 as an example. The first line is: “Pony Ault was the only important client our gallery had in Santa Fe, and she seemed to know everyone.” Does that mean that Pony Ault was the only person living in Santa Fe who was an important client? Or does it mean that she was the only important client… period? Well, the latter seems unlikely since Forrest could boast of some of the biggest names around as clients. But now read the entire SB slowly and carefully, and pay particular attention to the final paragraph; does that alter your perspective at all? A quick Google search for Pony Ault will reward you with very little. But you will find the name given as a founding member of the Santa Fe Art Institute, along with William Lumpkins, a member of the Transcendental Painting Group, which aimed to convey spiritual truths through abstract art. Interesting.

Now try, “It doesn’t help to stretch a tangent.” Back in 2016, if I’d read that sentence with the emphasis on “tangent” instead of “stretch,” I might have saved myself a couple more years of searching, and perhaps some heartache too.

So to return to TTOTC, the word “thrill” originally meant “to pierce.” If we read the line with the emphasis on “Thrill” instead of “Chase,” we might conjure an image of a searcher being pierced by something. So could the phrase really be referring to searchers being hunted down and pierced? And if so, by whom and with what?

We all know from the fishing stories and the cover of OUAW that Fenn is angling for something. It’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that he’s looking for someone for a reason. What that reason is remains known only to the poem’s author. I honestly don’t believe he’s looking for the cleverest searcher; after all, there are some pretty amazing brains working on this, but cleverness doesn’t seem to be what’s required to solve the poem. Could it be, instead, that he wants someone with the necessary imaginative skills to complete the journey? And if so, why?

I believe the answer to these questions is a spiritual one. An abiding image for me is from an interview during one of the earlier bookshop appearances, in which Forrest breaks his vocal stride to deliver a line which goes something like, “nothing is as it seems.” When you watch the video it seems like a non-sequitur, and that draws attention to it. What is not what it seems? From my own experiences this year I would suggest that we’re not talking about a regular treasure hunt, but about a vision quest where outward appearances may be deceptive. I’m not the first to suggest this as a plausible scenario, but I would like to support that viewpoint and relate it to the concept of imaginative solving as I try to make sense of what’s been happening in and beyond my own chase.

I will say upfront that the search is over for me. Interpret that as you will, but it certainly tallies with my current predicament. I am stuck in Britain, unwilling to risk my marriage any further for a box of gold. Unless the domestic situation changes, there will be no more trips to the Rockies. Besides, the Welsh countryside is equally impressive, just on a smaller scale!


LLynnau Cregennen near Cadair Idris in North Wales

In the past, the various artefacts I’ve found and spoken about as being Chase-related have caused some controversy and hilarity. That’s completely understandable, particularly if you don’t know the reason why a particular spot has meaning, or how a specific find can help spark the imagination sufficiently to be able to move forward in a solution. On the other hand, my own interpretation has developed over the course of time as I tried to make sense of the simple practicalities involved in placing strategic “pointers,” or generating distinctive symbols that appear on Google searches.

At one time, I was convinced that Forrest or someone he trusted had somehow gone around secreting these little “aberrations.” Take the smashed pottery as an example. See the “Garden City” name here? Now look at the picture of the book cover in SB 172 – and note the publisher’s address.


Smashed pot courtesy of the Garden City Pottery Company and found near Daniel, WY

It’s these tiny coincidences that I kept discovering that had me believing these were plants. Now, after being able to see more clearly the role imagination plays, my understanding has both shifted direction and deepened. Now I believe that if you can open those mental channels sufficiently, your subconscious will “notice” things (aberrations out on the edge) that can assist your conscious mind in its deliberations. They are not necessarily things that have any direct relevance to the Chase, but they are things that help reinforce the connections you are making. And that also means that they are likely to be different for every searcher.


Stone “triangle” in the Big Piney area

The two quartz-filled stones forming a triangular window are another example. These were so important to my developing trajectory in terms of confirmation that without discovering them I could easily have floundered. They would probably mean little or nothing to another searcher who happened upon them while on a different trajectory. And that’s another thing that I’ve changed my view on. There are many possible routes to the chest. It was only after discovering my end point that I realised I’d taken a particularly convoluted path. If I’d understood things better earlier on, the path would have been much simpler. So why did I find these stones that could have been placed there by anyone? Because my imagination needed them as a spur. A bit like, “…seek, and ye shall find.”

The “frog” offers another small insight. This was how I found it when first searching at this spot. It gave me a heck of a boost.

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Stone “frog” discovered near Marbleton, Wy in 2017

When we returned to the place this year, it never quite looked right. I tried to get the same angle and effect, but to a certain extent it eluded me. It’s not that there’s anything particularly different about it twelve months later – maybe just the lighting – but I’m not sure I would have even noticed it if I didn’t already know it was there. In other words, it had already given up its meaning to me, and because I no longer needed it to give my imagination fresh impetus, my subconscious now ignored it.

So my conclusion from all my “finds” (of which there are many), is that whether FF placed any, all or none of these, it doesn’t matter. What matters is whether you have created the conditions necessary for your imagination to assist you. But as I discovered to my family’s deep concern, there may be a price to pay for diving so far into the deep. Beware!


And this might be an appropriate point to mention another book that passed my way from our book group: The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst by Nicholas Tomalin and Ron Hall. This is a fascinating account of Crowhurst’s attempt at sailing singlehanded and nonstop around the world as part of a competition in the late ’60s. The work involved old-fashioned investigative journalism of a kind rarely seen these days, and uncovered a tale of hubris, fraud, resilience, shame, and (inferred) suicide. What is particularly intriguing towards the end is the state of mind of Captain Crowhurst as he tries to formulate a theory of man’s forthcoming evolution while drifting in the Atlantic, but descends into incoherence and madness. And although it’s tempting to ridicule the man for his vain attempts to set himself up as some kind of new prophet, his long, lonely days at sea had given him the opportunity to use similar techniques of “imaginative penetration” to those that I believe are required in the Chase. Unfortunately, he paid the price for straying off course (both literally and metaphorically) after being pierced by something from deep within.



Petroglyph near Torrey Lake, Dubois, WY

One thing that shouldn’t be forgotten when considering the importance of imagination is that Forrest has said he would never tell anyone his secret spot. If that is literally true, then the poem, on its own, does not reveal the spot. If it did, that would contradict his statement, and he would have, by inference – even if only obliquely – told the whole world his hiding place. So although the poem contains all the ingredients necessary to discover the spot, the method of cooking is missing some vital instructions. In order to measure and mix all the ingredients in the right order, we’re going to need directions from the subconscious. Without them, the task is hopeless in my opinion. And specialized knowledge, beyond a comprehensive knowledge of geography, will yield nothing useful. To bake the cake according to Forrest’s recipe, we need to be able to navigate precisely, and rely on a level of imagination that approaches divination.

In support of that, and to suggest that logic, while important, can really only take you so far, I want to touch on a couple of things that have occurred to me since returning to the UK from my last search. Because I had left Wyoming with the job unfinished, I continued to ponder my finishing moves. This was around the time of the Dizzy Dean SB. A major breakthrough was forthcoming relatively quickly, and with the aid of Google I was able to home in on a spot which contained a symbol that echoed what I’d found at my start point. A helpful arrow was also visible nearby. I had been checking my progress against the website wherewarmwaters-halt.com that someone had referenced around that time. After congratulating myself for finding what I assumed was “the spot,” I was irritated to find the website continued to make insistent “noises.” At the same time I had the nagging suspicion that, despite what looked to me like a perfectly acceptable hiding place, I hadn’t quite finished. There were loose ends. During this time I was sending my “moves” to Forrest in somewhat coded form, and what seemed to be coming back via the website dovetailed neatly with my situation. (I have no idea who is actually behind that site.)

Suddenly, as I went over and over the data I had amassed, the penny dropped. I used a technique that I’d honed on previous excursions to pinpoint a spot – in a totally unexpected area – and noticed something in a Fenn drawing that seemed to offer support. But still the WWW-H website shouted its orders. I wasn’t done yet! This time, rather than use the website for confirmation, I allowed it to lead me to a spot about a mile distant that I should have noticed before but didn’t. The place had meaning for me via its distinctive rock formation. The website went quiet, and I breathed a sigh of relief, tinged with slight annoyance that I’d succumbed to being led rather than working it all out for myself. But my relative peace of mind didn’t last long. The combination of what I’d discovered at the spot, what I picked up from a few rather odd blog posters, and my own still rather fragile psyche’s promptings sent me into a downward spiral. Once more I endured terrifying thoughts and deep paranoid suspicions that lasted for days. It was very difficult trying to keep this from spilling over into my daily life and rekindling my wife’s angst.

But as I wrestled with these demons, a thought occurred to me. What would happen if I spun these thoughts 180 degrees? What if reinterpreting them as positive rather than negative symbols might be the way to go – and avoid a real crisis? So then began a slow but steady period of recuperation. Even though I’ve never been a very successful meditator, I tried to recall some of the techniques I had encountered briefly in the past. Things improved, and I continued with trying to use imagination in a wholly positive way. And that was when I began to discover its real power.

Font8 Rainbow

Rainbow on the horizon near Fontenelle, WY

When you open up your imagination as a direct consequence of delving deep into the subconscious – in this case attempting to get on the same wavelength as Forrest Fenn – I believe that your subconscious will attempt to help you. This concept was brought into sharp relief for me during late summer as I tried my best to practise a form of mindfulness.


The beautiful countryside of Montgomeryshire


River Vyrnwy near Dolanog North Wales – a spot for tranquil contemplation

Here I was, back in Wales, not really thinking about the Chase anymore, when out of the blue I discovered that the coordinates of my home in Montgomeryshire, which we’d moved to from Oregon two years prior, added up to 166 – a really odd coincidence. I was jolted back into search mode, and tried to see if my subconscious was attempting to tell me something. For some reason I felt I had to visit the Rainbow horse riding trails in Dyfnant Forest, just a short distance away from where we live. Specifically, I felt directed towards the spot where a lookout tower used to be sited at the top of a hill to help protect the surrounding forest. There, my trusty GPS refused to function, and so I had to rely on intuition and what I remembered from the map to guide me to the exact location.


One of four metal posts from the old Lookout Tower in Dyfnant Forest North Wales

I found the metal posts indicating where the tower had once stood in the middle of brambles and undergrowth. The trees had been felled in the immediate vicinity and on one stump just below the summit I spotted something rather bizarre. Three identical small pegs had been inserted into carefully drilled holes surrounding the center point of the tree rings.


An odd, knotty find in the middle of nowhere


The leaping hare

A beer bottle cap with the image of a leaping hare lay to one side. Why anyone would take the trouble to make this with such care and in such an awkward-to-access spot was beyond me. I spent hours pondering it, and then came across this whimsical piece of craftwork adorning a tree in our village a couple of days later.


3 and a knot


I did as I was asked

There appeared to be distinct correlations to many of the things that had featured in my Chase (the three-sided fire pit, the three-cornered stone, the three-coordinate rectangle, even the chalk graffiti at the Museum of the Mountain Man where “Fenn” looks like “Fe3 – with the “3″ twisted 90 degrees CCW.”)


St. Melangell’s church at Pennant Melangell, North Wales

I had a look on GE and traced a line north through the two locations. Some miles distant, a third and related tri-pole symbol appeared in a village that I’d never heard of. Looking it up on Google, I found that Pennant Melangell hosts a church and shrine dedicated to Saint Melangell, a sixth century hermit and now the patron saint of hares. The coincidence was remarkable, if a little spooky.


The shrine to St. Melangell, where pictures and postcards of hares have been placed by pilgrims

My wife and I visited the shrine, adorned with pilgrims’ images of hares, and took in the beautiful surroundings, including a rock shelf where the virgin hermit used to sleep out of the reach of wild animals.


The rocks where the hermit St. Melangell slept during her life around the sixth century

I was perplexed. It was quite clear that Forrest had zero to do with the placing of the “symbols” that led me to the shrine. But they definitely had resonance for me in the Chase, and came amid a cascade of odd incidents, chance meetings, book readings, and online “contacts” that I couldn’t explain. A few seemed quite otherworldly. What I suspect is that Forrest knew he was setting up a “spiritual” challenge when he launched the Chase, but he probably had no personal knowledge of how this would affect each individual searcher with their unique insight and experiences. For me, it was a major process of spiritual discovery that has profoundly affected my worldview.

By the time we visited Pennant Melangell I’d stopped communicating directly with Forrest. But it seemed that he hadn’t quite finished with all of us. As autumn arrived, it came with a series of public communications from Fenn, which sent me wearily back to GE. I really didn’t want to be doing this anymore. Each of Forrest’s posts contained pointers. I used them to tie in with what I knew of the area of the Rockies I’d “landed” in. They helped me navigate to the blaze, and then (after a couple of false starts) to the final location, strangely only some 200 ft. from where I’d “spent” the previous couple of months, never noticing what was so close by. And at last things became clear. Here was the symbol that mirrored those at the two “ends.” Here was where you’d at last find J.C. Penney. Here was the place that finally brought the poem to a close – and for once I had no doubt in my mind.

But I could no longer claim that it was “my” doing. It was a question of making the effort over five years, yes, but then it was the recognition that not only had I made use of prompts from Forrest through his public utterances, and occasional searchers’ pointers, but also that whatever was at work deep below the conscious ego was far more in tune with events than “I” ever could be.

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Looking westward wistfully from Wales (actually it’s south, but I like the W’s!)

But despite all this the chest remains out there for anyone to find and retrieve. I don’t know whether circumstances will ever be right for me to return to the Rockies, and that’s hard to live with, admittedly, but I try to be content with things as they are. I stay off the blogs as much as possible in order to concentrate on “real” life, but as you can see I’m not always successful! (It may be that Forrest has also now withdrawn from public interaction, but only time will tell.) The Chase has taken me to the darkest places, but also to radiant uplands. I have made discoveries that go far beyond anything I could have imagined – and for that I’m eternally grateful. I certainly feel more “integrated” than I ever have done in my 65 years.

To wrap up these musings on imagination, I have a sneaking suspicion that the chest will only be recovered when it is ready to be recovered. Yes, that sounds fanciful and a bit “woo-woo,” but if you believe, as I do, that this a vision quest as much as it is a treasure hunt, it may require a certain state of mind and personal readiness. I know that all of this will send some searchers into fits of giggles, and others will just sigh and shake their heads, but that’s OK; there will be a few who will be curious and willing to keep an open mind, particularly when they return to some of the Scrapbooks and other Fenn writings with this in mind. Remember that there’s a reason the Little Girl from India can get no closer than the first two clues with her map and poem. Anyway, I apologize to those looking for concrete pointers that none of the places pictured here are anywhere near my final spot (nor even the places the first two clues lead), but I sincerely believe that those willing to delve deep can find the same haunting hillside that both beckons and bars me (for now). And lastly, to return to books, if any of you are into motor racing, and particularly Formula 1 (sorry, Nascar fans!), Damon Hill’s autobiography, Watching The Wheels, makes for a fascinating read, as well as touching tangentially on the theme of this post.





Closing In…

by voxpops

Go in peace

Here’s the dilemma. You’ve invested your soul in the Chase… and many thousands of dollars. It has rewarded you with views, experiences, and wildlife encounters to last a lifetime. And yet it has also teased you mercilessly – pushing you to keep going with hints, revelations, and yes, even tires! So often you think that you must have reached the end, but no, there’s yet another stage to complete… and then another. Where and when do you draw the line? I confess that I still don’t know the answer to that question, but eventually, if there really is a chest full of gold, it must reveal itself to the persistent searcher. And that’s why I was out there again, clawing my way toward the end of the rainbow.

Let me remind you.


In my search, the “asterisk” marks the start point of the Chase. It lies a little way from another marker that reveals the essence of the trajectory that the searcher must take. Look above the drop-pin for the critical element; then view the wider image for something that may or may not be helpful

It means something to me!

After failing to find the treasure at a far distant omega on a previous trip, I had assumed that the trove would therefore be found near the start. As my wife was reluctant for me to search alone following bear confrontations earlier in the year, I asked a friend to meet me there, and we went a-hunting. Here’s the center of the asterisk, which had been submerged earlier in the year, but was now revealed as a circular disc of stone.

Odd how the Google image seems to enhance reality

After a couple of days fruitless searching, my partner had to leave to rejoin the real world, and I was left wondering where the heck I’d gone wrong. I spent another couple of days retracing our steps, looking down at the significant rock formations, trying to cajole my crumbling brain to make the connections. But it was only when I looked up that the penny dropped. Remember the scrapbook with the tangled telephone cable? How about the Native American “listening” by the telephone pole? Crossed wires! I raced to the nearest cafe with an internet connection and fired up Google Maps. It only took me a couple of minutes to relocate the omega.

My first discovered omega

I began to use the “measure distance” function and drew lines from point to point until… wow… I landed in a place that I would never have considered part of the Chase… until I remembered another scrapbook. And it fitted perfectly! It was a long drive, but the summer weather cooperated, and I arrived excited and ready for whatever I might find. I will draw a veil over what I actually did find – suffice for me to say that trespassing is neither necessary nor a good idea as part of the Chase, that landowners and local officialdom are not likely to view it kindly, and that, with better planning, awkward and embarrassing situations can be avoided!

My remaining time was spent trying to parse the information I’d uncovered, drawing more lines, and taking side trips to far-flung outposts of the Rockies – all of which poduced a big fat zero. As on previous trips, I ran out of time, and took the flight home more than a little puzzled. I knew I was onto something, but why wasn’t it working? It wasn’t long before I discovered my error. When Forrest talks about following the clues precisely, he’s not merely using a figure of speech. Precisely means with precision down to a few feet. I had made an error of calculation that, over the large distances involved, had amplified itself to an order of magnitude that was bound to lead me astray. I corrected the error and… wow again!

*If you wear a smile to the right spot you will wear a grin going home. f “

One of my perennial failings is impatience. You would think that after nearly five years of painstaking work on the poem and BOTG, I would have overcome that by now. If so, you would be wrong. I was back in the UK and tearing my hair out. How was I going to get back to search that spot? I emailed my friend in the States and asked if he was up for another adventure. He was (what a trooper)! As he prepared to fly out there, I kept working on the coordinates, coming up with three likely spots, all within a couple of hundred feet. There was the anchor:

You need to look very carefully to find the anchor

Here’s how I see it

And if that was too much of a stretch, there was also the smiling frog, which I shall keep to myself for now. And there was my friend’s frustration as he reported back that he was drawing a complete blank, trudging across the empty landscape. I felt crestfallen, and guilty for sending him on what was turning out to be a wild goose chase. And yet…

It was only later that I spotted the “lighthouse,” flashing its friendly warning like the asterisk so many miles distant. And didn’t it also resemble a keyhole?

Bring a flashlight!

I fired up GE and loaded the coordinates. Usually, when you use the time slider on GE, the earlier images are too low-res and blurred to discern much at high magnification. This time it was different. I could clearly see that the “lighthouse” didn’t exist in 2009 and before. I connected the images I’d found, and revealed something fascinating, apart from the fact that they aligned nearly perfectly. A year earlier I had sent Forrest certain coordinates based on something discovered in the poem. I now realized I had been prescient but premature. That was the wrong time to use that clue. Now it fitted perfectly, and it said something about “in the wood” that I would never have guessed if I hadn’t gone on a frantic Google hunt as these revelations dawned. I had to get back there!

It was then that my wife decided that she had to get over to the States within a few weeks to deal with some pressing family business. I would have just been in the way during the visit, but what if I used the opportunity to make one more trip? We’ve reached that point in life where we dread flying – particularly across multiple timezones; it leaves us wiped out for days, and the whole security rigmarole takes any of the remaining fun away. But this was just too good an opportunity to ignore. I left Val at Salt Lake City and headed out to my spot. Two days later, I was as frustrated as my friend had been. I had found nothing… until I decided to check the two “ends” of my specific line of latitude. At one end there was a circle in the ground, and at the other end was… smashed pottery.

Someone had a smashing time!

Wasn’t there a scrapbook about smashing pottery? I looked closer:

Garden City Pottery Co.

The Garden City Pottery Co., based in San Jose, was big in the early part of the 20th century before going into decline, finally shutting its doors in 1987. As with most of my artifact discoveries, this was found where there was little in the way of human detritus. Why would someone have taken a large and heavy pottery vase – almost an antique – out into the wilderness just to smash and discard it? And why were the pieces arranged as they were, with a few shoved in between sage brush roots, and the others in a line that pointed toward the circle? It was not a major find, but coupled with something else I had discovered out there it told me to head south. And so south I went. In fact I went so far south that I was starting to brush up on my Spanish! After a day or two of this, I turned around and retraced my steps. Sitting down near some water, I tried to think. It’s something that I find much harder to do when I’m BOTG than when I’m in the warm cocoon of my own home. But this time I made a breakthrough. What if I reversed something important? I went down to a key spot – nada. I went up – zilch. But wait… what’s that?

Frogs on the brain!

The frog stone set me thinking again. It was the second time a frog had entered the arena for me. Maybe I wasn’t so far off. I hoped that the weather would hold –  the temperature was plummeting during the night, but there was little in the way of rain… yet. I was venturing into some territory that might be difficult to extract myself from if a storm hit. Interestingly, by now I had exhausted all of the poem’s coordinates. I used to think that it was simply a question of unlocking these numbers, and they would take you to the treasure. Now, I was beginning to realize that Mr. Fenn expects you to use logic and imagination in spades once you’ve made use of the coordinates. So that’s what I tried to do. And one October morning I alighted from my rental car, walked to the spot my thought processes had indicated, and stared in wonder at a reversed question mark. My photos are not bad, but they can’t convey the clarity with which the 3D image presented itself on site.

…ti si yhw oS

Looking from above the reversed question mark is probably the better way to view it:

What the heck is it saying?

I knew I had uncovered an important clue, but I had no idea how to use it – and as usual my time was running out. I had to rejoin Val at her sister’s place.

It was on the flight that I thought I had the answer. As soon as I could, I checked coordinates and became convinced that I’d found a potential ending location. The only trouble was that we were talking private land again. I’d learned my lesson on that front, and so I tried to re-plot my next move. Fortunately, my wife and her siblings had more work to do that didn’t involve me, and so I rented another car and drove across three states back to the spot. I checked all possible permutations, and came within a whisker of another bear encounter. I stumbled into a clearing in the trees, saw the disturbed ground and smelled the very pungent odor. I think I was lucky that I’m such a clumsy hunter that there was no way I could have surprised this particular beast. I kept that foray as short as possible, walked back to the car uttering a few choice oaths aimed at the poem’s author, and returned to the hotel to think some more.

That was when it hit. It was a real “duh” moment for me! I had not extended my line from the question mark far enough. The frog had given me the answer. And when I looked online, there it was: the second omega! (I should point out that my “discoveries” are not random, but occur within a few feet of specific coordinates that are derived in one way or another from the poem.) This time the omega was upside down. By now, I had learned to stop assuming that I’d reached the end – despite Google’s suggestions! I’d also noticed that most of the markings I’d found – and was yet to find – are clearly visible on Google Maps, but not on Bing, etc. Food for thought. So, despite this scintillating piece of evidence, I earmarked a couple more places that fit the pattern that was forming for me, before tromping out to the omega.

2nd Omega – but upside down

Of course, there was nothing there, apart from a veiled instruction. Well, that’s not quite accurate. What I did find was this:

Get gas!

Coincidence, quite probably, but it was conveniently pointing toward my next destination. And as I walked back to the car, I came across this interesting skull that has nothing to do with the Chase but makes an interesting photo:

Furry friend

It was what I found at the next destination that was the “aha!” moment for me. When I clambered up to the spot that I’d earmarked as a potential pivotal point, I was met by a pair of stones standing in formation. Bear in mind that the next two photos were taken after I had picked up the stones to examine them. I didn’t replace them as neatly as I found them, but they are roughly as they appeared to me.

Rock steady

Upon examination, the stones, which had a quartz-like core, had been cut to length in order to form a stable triangle, and had been very carefully positioned so that they provided a specific view when looked through. I don’t bend very easily these days, but I managed to get down there and make a mental note of what I saw.

Triangulation point?

Gradually, things were falling into place, but there was something about the shape formed by the stones that eluded me right then; the answer would arrive later.

There was still much walking to do, and calculations to make, but something was crystalizing in my mind. Exhausted from walking many, many miles in temperatures ranging from the teens to the upper sixties, I returned to my room to think some more. Once again, I thought I had the measure of what was going on, but on my final morning, I failed yet again. I couldn’t quite make the ending stick. I drove away, making it about 250 miles before stopping for the night. And of course, as I pondered my recent finds, I remembered something I’d seen on Google. It was something so obvious that I’d completely ignored it! And it occurred right where my two lines crossed.

As a result, I came up with two possible hiding places and chose… the wrong one. I careened back to the spot, and spent all of 15 minutes checking – with one eye on an approaching storm. It was no good, I’d have to go. But when I Googled the second spot (and its partner), that was when I saw the evidence, as clear as anything I’ve found during the Chase. I won’t say what that evidence is, but it pulls together almost every aspect of the Chase and provides a glimpse into the motivation behind the whole saga. I was tempted to delay my return flight, but with the weather turning and commitments at home, I knew it could wait for another day – even if wild geese are involved…



Asterisk, Omega, and Grizzly Bears….



Let me take you back to November of 2016. At that time I sent a story to Dal about finding a piece of truck tire, apparently encrusted with canine droppings. After studying my own video I came to the conclusion that this was a Chase marker left by Mr. Fenn at a specific location to which the poem directs you. Naturally, I came in for some considerable ridicule, but early in 2017 Forrest created an eBay listing about money that his own dog had chewed and partially excreted. Following on from the listing’s premature removal came the raffle of that same pile of indigestible moolah in aid of the Santa Fe Children’s Museum. For those who were observant, there were inconsistencies in the information Forrest presented that pointed toward the same place where the tire had been located. And after that came a story about the “waning of art.” Draw your own conclusions.

Tire as originally discovered – picture extracted from late 2016 video

Fast forward to May of this year, and I was chomping at the bit to get back out there. In fact I’d been getting paranoid about the avalanche of information Forrest had been releasing, as well as the avalanche of snow that had been falling across the Rockies (up to 200% of normal in some areas). I already had a flight booked for the end of May, but mixed feelings of urgency and confidence, with just a hint of smugness thrown in, spurred me on to add an extra trip (number 12) at the beginning of May. I was convinced that the treasure would be located close to where I’d found the tire, and I had the specific coordinates to hand. I prayed that the snow would be gone by the time I got there.

So where was there? Let’s just say that I was north of Jackson, WY. It’s three flights and over twenty-four hours travel time for me, plus a seven-hour time difference; these days I find that exhausting. So by the time I was on-site, I was feeling a tad discombobulated. The second emotion was disappointment. I was confronted by snow cover that was over two feet deep in places – and a six-inch swamp elsewhere. Searching in that environment would be near to impossible. And what was I looking for? I wasn’t sure, although like most searchers I had ideas.

But the first little crumb of good news was that the segment of tire I’d left by the roadside was still there, and I popped it in the rental car’s trunk. I’d been hoping to recover the “poop” that would still be in its original location, if it was indeed artwork, but the snow and water made hunting for that impossible.

Tire picture taken at home after recovery – you can just make out the mark (first tread notch on left) where the “poop” was attached

Tire picture taken at home after recovery – note cut edge

Tire picture taken at home after recovery – note ragged edge

Tire picture taken at home after recovery – note “sculpted” edge

Two days of searching produced a big fat zero – except for some very large and very obvious freshly made paw prints: bears! I tried to stay alert.

Paws for thought

My main spot was completely obliterated by the snow, and in any event I sensed that something wasn’t quite right about it, although I couldn’t quite put my finger on what that was. It was time to turn my attention to the secondary locations. Although I could see that they would more than likely be under water, there was a chance that some marker might be visible, if not the chest itself.  Prior to making the trip, I’d made arrangements with another searcher to check these spots for me last year, but for reasons beyond anyone’s control that had not been possible – and as it turns out I’m glad that fate intervened.

Too much snow!

There I was on day three, squelching in hastily purchased gumboots through the snowmelt, when I looked up and caught movement. I’d already disturbed what I later discovered was a sandhill crane – a gray jumbo of a bird that is as impressive to watch during take-off as any 747 or Airbus.

Sandhill Crane

This time it was no bird, but an enormous grizzly apparently foraging for breakfast. Fortunately, I was still a hundred yards or so away and he hadn’t spotted me. Of course, as soon as I picked up my camera Murphy’s Law swung into action, causing me to knock the focus switch and so prevent me from getting the best shots. But I was able to grab something before deciding I might be better off getting out of there and returning after feeding time.

Getting the hump!

Grizzly on the move

I have to admit I was nervous as, a couple of hours later, I traversed the area where the grizzly had been wading, keeping up a barrage of noisy yelps and other gibberish to warn of my approach. I kept search time to a minimum, and was turning to go when I looked up to find a wolf standing at the edge of the trees, watching me. It was a magnificent creature with predominantly snowy white fur. I wasn’t able to get a photographic record, but the sight of him is imprinted in my memory. Those unexpected glimpses of nature in the raw are the moments that stand out in the Chase for me. More to come on that later…

By now something was beginning to nag at me. It wasn’t just that I was searching in potentially dangerous bear country, but I had the feeling that there was yet more to this hunt than the couple of hundred miles that my trajectory had already covered over the last few years. I went back to the poem and looked for the thousandth time at the final verse. Then it dawned on me. I repacked my rucksack and hit the road.

Where I was headed was quite different in terrain and geology, and when I arrived I saw a myriad purple and yellow flowers as well as rocks encrusted with multi-colored lichens. Ring any bells?

Beautiful colors on display

And then I made the fatal error. After years of trying to let the poem lead me, I succumbed to force-fitting the solution. I ignored the spot where the poem told me to go, as it seemed too close to human habitation. The place I chose instead was logical, but I stopped thinking rationally and spent over two days literally digging in the snow. The area was flanked by a ridge that was largely snow-free, but running along the length of its base was a gulley that was still chock-full of the white stuff. I purchased shovels and set to. Now bear in mind that this area is over 7,000 feet in elevation, plus I’m overweight and over sixty years old. You get the picture! I not only got very tired, but I started to get strangely depressed and obsessively focused on this one spot. (Interestingly, I read a report a few weeks later that oxygen depletion at high altitude can lead to depression and even suicide.) I became convinced that Forrest had chosen this location since it would only become truly accessible for a limited period each year. What made matters worse was that when I returned to the hotel room and looked at the spot on my small phone screen, I was sure that there was a square or rectangular object located in the center of the gulley.

A workout at over 7,000 ft.

However, I didn’t just Google the place I was at now. During those idle hours, I retraced my virtual steps and, using the precision tools in the poem, found – for the very first time – Forrest’s asterisk. It was unmistakable and it was many miles distant. I had never been there physically, and now wondered if the spot would reveal any useful information. I lodged the info at the back of my mind, and prepared for more digging and searching.

The “asterisk” that the poem leads you to

Time ran out, along with the good weather. During the final afternoon, having spent hours searching a cliff and its rock cavities, the heavens opened and unleashed a torrent of rain and hail. Within minutes, the access road was a muddy sluice, throwing up clods of sticky brown goo that clung to the wheel arches and underside of the car, and would soon set like cement. I jet-washed the rental car and headed back to the airport, once again in relatively good spirits, knowing that my wife and I were still booked onto a flight three weeks later, and that I’d get another chance to solve this particular riddle.

At the end of May we flew into Salt Lake City in blazing sunshine, and drove to our motel. It was hot, and my wife was unused to the altitude. Searching in these conditions would prove to be an ordeal for her – not least because she didn’t share my confidence. The creek I needed to search was awash with snowmelt run-off. It really wasn’t possible to make an exhaustive search there, and it made me wonder if I’d messed up yet again. We spent the next couple of days expanding the search area considerably, but I kept coming back to the logic that sent me to the creek.

Searching in snowmelt

It was just as we were deciding to call it quits and leave the area that I made a discovery. The method I’d used to solve the last stanza had led me to the creek, but what if I reversed it through 180 degrees? I checked the coordinates, and then I checked Google Maps. What I saw there astonished me. I have viewed miles of sagebrush from the comfort of my armchair and I’ve never spotted anything that looked remotely like an omega. But that was exactly what I saw now. In fact, right next to the coordinate marker was what looked like a “T” or a “J” – possibly even a cursive capital “F.” Then came the omega – oriented perfectly for GE viewing – followed by something that might be an “o” or a square. The first and last symbols were ambiguous, but the omega was as clear as day – at least to me. My wife was, as usual, unimpressed. You can make your own judgment call from the screenshot.

Omega: “TΩo” = “Tωo” = 2 = the second omega (possibly)

Naturally, I was cock-a-hoop and itching to get out there to pick up the treasure! But nothing in this Chase is ever that straightforward. We searched high and low. We rearranged the coordinates. We gave ourselves blisters. But there was no darn treasure! As far as I was concerned I’d parsed every line of the poem, and reached the end point. There was an omega but no treasure. What else could I do? I looked at the other symbols and tried to work them into the solution, but the capital letter gave me no hints unless combined with the final symbol to perhaps read “Two” or “To,” and the square – if that’s what it was – suggested that I had to complete that on the ground to find the chest’s resting place. But were we talking yards or miles?

Where’s that darn chest?

And then I considered the asterisk. What if the poem leads you all the way to the end – the omega – but the treasure is at a second omega. Could the asterisk be that place? It was time to visit the star of the show.

We drove for hours in blistering heat. We walked about a mile. We found a creek that was a raging torrent. I laughed as I stood on the bank and pointed at the place where the submerged asterisk – the stepping stones – ought to be. It was a ludicrous situation. A trillion gallons of snowmelt were cascading through that ravine. And yes, I’ve done some crazy things over the past four years, but there was no way I was going to venture into that maelstrom (as I described it in an email to Forrest). If he has secreted the chest there, it would have to be held in vault-like security so that it can’t move or spill its contents under those conditions. And yet…

You have to laugh!

We left there and drove to the desert to check out a possible corner of the square. There was nothing evident in that locale and I was beginning to lose hope. My wife was tired and fed-up, and just wanted to quit searching and visit family, so we made tracks for Eugene, Oregon.

My brave wife in desert heat

While in Oregon I kept turning over the evidence in my mind, but nothing new was forthcoming. But then, just as I was about to admit defeat, I saw a post on one of the blogs that intrigued me. Now, I don’t normally pay heed to others’ methodology because, like the so-called “hints,” you can all-too-often find yourself lost down a gigantic rabbit hole. But I was clutching at straws. I used what I found there to give me a new search place, a short distance from the asterisk.

As they say, hope springs eternal. Anyone who is an active searcher knows that is true, otherwise why bother? With only a few days left before our flight home, we set off on the thousand-mile journey back to the asterisk.

It was a beautiful morning and much cooler than on our previous foray as we left the car and hiked into the search area. This time we needed to cross a couple of wooded areas to reach the spot. As we approached the first one, it dawned on me why the woodland was there in the middle of scrub: water! And sure enough, as we scrambled down through the trees into a shallow valley, there was a stream that was serving as runoff from the overflowing main creek. We found a downed tree and edged across to dry land.

Heading down to the water

I was heading directly for the area we needed to reach – a clearing among the trees – but was unsure of how to access it. By climbing a steep hillside I thought I might be able see the best way in. I suggested to my wife that she stay by a rock while I went ahead to scout. That turned out to be a good move. As I reached the top of the crest, and peered down into the gloomy forest, I spotted movement. A bear was on the prowl.

Going up to look down


Because I wasn’t sure if the creature was aware of our presence, I thought I’d better make noise. I began yelling and whooping. It stopped and turned toward me. Then it bounded up the hill in my direction. That wasn’t supposed to happen! As it reached the edge of the tree line and paused, I called to my wife to back away. The bear was young, maybe a year or two old, and was beautiful. When it stood on its hind legs and looked straight at me, perhaps a little over thirty feet away, its eyes were intelligent and calculating.

I ran a brief test, and half-turned away to see if it might lose interest. Mistake! It immediately began to move in my direction. Quickly, I swung back to face it full-on, and began backing up while fumbling for the bear spray in my left jeans pocket. I tried to dislodge the safety catch by feel, never losing eye contact with my new friend. As my fingers found purchase on the plastic clip, the canister released a tiny puff of spray, shooting a yellow jet about ten feet forward of me. That was enough. The bear immediately turned away and began lumbering back into the trees. Phew!

Beating a slow retreat – thank goodness for the bear spray!

I returned to my wife who was in near-panic mode, and did my best to comfort her. From her vantage point lower down the hill, she’d only glimpsed the top of the bear’s head, and so was unsure exactly what was afoot. That may have made the situation even more difficult for her – not knowing exactly what was happening.

No encores, please!

We waited a few minutes before I climbed up again to see if the bear was still around. I caught sight of it loping away through the clearing that was our intended destination. Reasoning that time was what was needed, and that the bear would want to get away from these troublesome humans, we took our time retreating downhill before making a cautious approach through the trees at a lower level.

By the time we reached the clearing, there was no sign of the bear, but I was unable to concentrate on the search, thinking about our previous encounter. A largish rock in the center of the clearing was my goal, but there was nothing obvious around it.

Searching with spray at the ready

I began to widen the search area, but very soon I heard my wife call out that the bear was back. Looking up, I could see it moving among the trees on the hillside, roughly where I’d spotted it originally. It watched us, fortunately without making any further attempt to join the party. I ushered my wife out of the clearing and decided not to return.

He’s back! (Look to the bottom right)

Here’s a closer view

Re-crossing the stream via a different tree, my wife slipped and fell half into the water, scraping and bruising her leg on the log. She fought back the tears. By the time we got out of there, we were both soaked. Briefly and half-heartedly we checked another spot before returning to the car. At that point, my wife released her pent-up emotions, we hugged, and then began the long, long trip home. I had forgotten the yellow pepper spray that had caught and stained my fingers during the stand-off. After touching my nose absentmindedly, I was given a hot and painful reminder. Don’t stand downwind of that stuff, but don’t leave home without it!



So after all that, do I think I’ve reached the end? I really do – both ends, particularly now I’ve had a chance to correct a minor error. But it may also be the end of my hunt. Thirteen sorties are enough. We cannot afford yet another trip to prove me right or wrong. But just in case there’s some crazy, deep-pocketed speculator out there with money to burn on a shred of old tire, I’ve just put it on eBay at an eye-watering price to fund the final trip. Here’ are the UK and US eBay links:

UK eBay


US eBay

There again, should a TV production company be prepared to fund a trip in late summer, then great, too. But otherwise, if the treasure is where I think it is, it can stay; it isn’t going anywhere fast! And if I ever do write the book of my four-year adventure, I will include my methodology in that. Meantime, good luck to you all.


I’ve Done it Tired…



This brief account follows on from my previous search, as told in “The Anomaly,” which Dal kindly published on this site. That article told of the discovery of a single stone at a key set of coordinates gleaned from the poem.

I’m sure that there will be many who will be extremely sceptical about what follows, but I know what led me to the spot described, and I truly believe it explains the phrase “I’ve done it tired,” and sheds much more light on “tarry scant.”

After the discovery of the flat, marbled rock on the marsh-bound log just a few weeks ago, I couldn’t resist the temptation to throw more of our dwindling retirement pot at one more search. I had a glimmer of understanding of why the trove was not to be found in that particular fen, and I believed I now knew where it pointed. The broken corner was one clue, and a rereading of the poem provided another.

Getting statrted

Getting statrted

Early in the morning, after flying in from Britain, I was hard at it, fighting my way into more squelchy mires, and getting nowhere. As before, I wasted three-quarters of my very limited time going back repeatedly to the same spots. I really should learn that if it’s not there, it’s really NOT THERE!

Way to go!

Way to go!

A place to admire?

A place to admire?

Reflecting on the reality

Reflecting on the reality

It was only toward the end of my allotted week that I was able to see that I’d missed yet another layer in this bottomless pit of a poem. It was a real revelation for me and I was excited. I stared at the poem and marveled at the way the pieces interlocked in such ingenious ways. I am no longer at all surprised that it took 15 years to perfect. The rainbow’s end was not far away!

Pot of gold?

Pot of gold?

Armed with new information, I was able to narrow my region down to a very localized area. And yet I found nothing, despite long hours and much GPS work. I returned to the motel quite despondent. I was due to fly out in the morning. My wife who, by this time, was threatening to lock up both my shoes and credit cards, was not going to be at all pleased!

It was 2 a.m. when I awoke with a start. What had I walked right past the day before?

I am so used to urban living and seeing the flotsam and jetsam of everyday life that I’d not paid attention to something that should not have been where it was. I had had to sidestep a chunk of heavy-duty tire, which some dog-like animal had seemingly defecated on. Why was it out there? There was no other debris around, and it lay a reasonable distance from the access road, and not somewhere you could take a vehicle without considerable difficulty. There didn’t appear to be much of it visible, and it didn’t look rough on the outer edge – as you’d expect from a shredded tire – but it was quite worn.

And what about the poop? In the early hours of the morning, I allowed myself to speculate that it was some kind of humorous sculpture, deterring curious passers-by from looking underneath, and it was the only place I had seen anything like dog excrement in that place dominated by hoof. It would also decrease the likelihood that anyone would pick it up and take it away. I emailed Forrest about finding his “Damien Hirst” sculpture!

When I arrived near the location, it was just before the first glimmer of light was due to wash across the sky. I needed to get this done and drive to the airport. It was bitterly cold, too. I waited until I could just make out the trees, and then headed into the scrub. You can watch the grainy video here:


Fortunately, due to knowing the coordinates, it was pretty easy to find, even in the semi-dark. My flashlight kept threatening to quit on me, though, and I’ll admit it felt a tad spooky! When I found the tire, I prodded with my cane, but couldn’t determine if the poop was real or not without closer examination. If it hadn’t been so cold, it would have been much easier to tell. I tried to flick the segment over with the ferrule on my cane, but it was heavy – very much so for it’s size. I couldn’t hazard a guess the type of vehicle it had originally adorned – others may be able to help. But it was weighty enough that if you dropped it somewhere it would stay put, no matter what gales and storms might howl around it.

Everything may not be as it appears

Everything may not be as it appears

On closer inspection I could see that this was certainly no road-ripped shred, but a carefully edged piece (look at the section nearest the camera), perhaps designed to look like the top of a partially buried tire, as my wife later suggested. I knelt down and raised it up. It probably weighed between five and ten pounds. There was no cavity underneath – and I checked by prodding with my cane. I was disappointed – nothing. I scanned all around in a widening circle. Still nothing.

 Look at the way the leading edge is “sculpted” and the side does not appear ragged. There’s also quite a bit of “where"

Look at the way the leading edge is “sculpted” and the side does not appear ragged. There’s also quite a bit of “where”

I carried the incongruous item out of there, not wishing to leave such a monument to everyday human activity where it didn’t seem to belong. As to its Chase credentials, I’m convinced but you must make up your own mind.

Sitting in the airport lounge, and rechecking the poem, in a fateful replay of September’s revelatory moment, I realized what spot it was marking, and where the master trickster has more than likely hidden his cache – the third “I”. In fact I’d walked within twenty feet of it, my gaze directed to a different spot! But there’s no going back for me. I have expended not only way too much money, but too much goodwill at home. Any future search will have to be done by proxy. And sadly, I will never have that joy of opening the lid for the first time.


The Three Bear’s Adventure…



It all started for me last winter, sitting at home with an air boot on. The Today show featured Mr. Fenn giving clues to his poem.  I had to find out more.  Researching more about the poem on the computer, I discovered a searcher was missing.   Our condolences to Randy’s family and friends.
Begin it where?  O’boy, dad and I learned this fishing the boundary waters. New and old meanings of words.  Warm = Friendly  waters = come together or meet. Halt at state line.

Weeks later, the air boot came off.  I was off and limping. Having found three warm waters in NM,  only one was on public land.  Like a drone bee I headed to the hive. Wow my first day, there were 2 spots that fit the poem but no chest.  I reached out to Mr. Fenn.  After that phone call, I felt discouraged.   But after a night’s sleep, I was ready to start again.  Learning more definitions of ‘tarry scant’ lead me back to the park.  I thought I saw what looked like a teepee shaped boulder in the woods on the north side of a fence.


Glowing rock

 Behind the fence but no snow

Behind the fence but no snow


Standing there in marvel gaze, I wondered how to go behind the fence.  I went  down the canyon to a home of Brown,  the visitor’s center was open early for the season.    I went inside to ask some questions and maybe found a picture that implies a hint.



There was so much to see and explore in the park that I called it my fun parks.  Behind the teepee boulder, I found a pool of cold water with big rocks.  Some of the rocks were pointing to the center of the pool.  I definitely had to check that out. After a poke with my stick and a beep beep from my metal detector, I knew I had to wade in.   Nothing but rocks with metal in them.   I spent one week looking at blazes & pools in an area of about .9 tens of a mile.  When nothing was found there, I explored the entire park. The weather was a little cold but it was still fun exploring.

Nails in the tree at the state line.

Nails in the tree at the state line. What I thought I knew that just wasn’t so.


I spent months and numerous trips looking for places where the clues would work. On one of my early trips, some friends mentioned this web site and then Jenny’s. Thank you  and congratulations Jenny.  I felt Weekly Words and the comments hinted to areas where I was looking.  At times, I felt someone was messing with me. Hope you had a laugh or two.   Then I started reading more and more.  First all the past WWs and then   more pages at Dal’s site. The ‘what ifs’ and ‘what if’s’ in red really caught my attention.

I saw a comment from Jeremy P. quoting Mr. Fenn –   ‘What if no one ever discovers my art?’   That kicked me into gear.  To me that meant something.   Thank You for that comment.

One time a couple walked by me with a very professional looking camera.  I had that surprised look on my face. lol   Just when you think no one is watching , there is.  Hope they didn’t take a picture of that.


image7New and old tree blazes.   The older tree gave a shadow to a rock in the morning sun. hmmm image8


Still no chest. Earlier this year, my sister joined in the adventure.   One weekend, my Brother and Sister joined me with BOTG to watch my back. My Sister had decided to get the book TTOTC to see if there were any hints in the book.   I thought there sure were plenty.  Thanks for the book Sis.  She found things on the web that I didn’t find or think of.  image10


Thanks for the bear spay and camera Sis. I saw two bears one morning.


Mother bear is on the trail just inside the shade by the tree.  The cub is going up to the left above the dark green.   Glad I heard them down in the water and got out of there.  It wasn’t the four legged animals in the park that worried me the most but the two legged ones that I felt were watching me.  I believe ‘Do your own work or you might not know what it means’.

Next trip out, Sis and I hit the trails including the James M John trail.  In the satellite view on Google Earth,  we saw trails that looked like shapes of things hinted to in the book.   When Sis read the ‘Ode to Peggy’ poem from the book, it hit me. Ahh a light bulb moment.   One image looked like a pregnant women.  The pregnant women in the trail looked quickly down upon two ponds.   One looked like an arrowhead with an X in the trail. The other pond looked like a tea cup or pot and had a Y shape in the trail. That’s it, we had found  the X spot.  Up to the X to check it out.  We found foot prints in the pond so we knew someone had already been there.  We looked around the trails surrounding the pond.  I  found a soup can bottom or metal rusty round thing – trash. Then the CE5 was hinted.  Sitting in the motel, Sis and I talked about it.   We looked there and found rocks but didn’t look under the rocks.  My metal detector had been acting up.  Sis got online to find a new detector. When you need one, you can never find one close by.  We ended driving an hour away to get one.

The next time up the trails, Sis was a little sick so she sat in the car. When I checked out the rocks again with the new metal detector, I got the beep beep and I’m thinking, it’s here. The big rock was cracked so I could move it in pieces. I found MRE’s. More Trash




On the pregnant woman image trail, I found these rocks on top of the hill. Cool huh? Just think of the Indian history there!

Sis only had a week off, but we went home with some cool trash.  What it meant we didn’t know.   I went back and  lived out there most of the summer.

Back to Google Earth.  Along the top of lake Maloya, there looks to be the image of  a lazy Z in the shore line.   The top of the lake looks like horns.  Look closer at the horns of  the lake.  It appears like to be an arm going across to a circle, 36.995331-104.367324.   At CE5 , we found more trash.  Another rusty tin to add to our treasure. As I was walking back to the car, I’m thinking –  ‘All I’m doing is picking up clues’.   After the fact clues, my head hurt even more at this point.  GPS had shown me a different state line than the one marked with a sign. Computer research on the state line showed the actual state line may be different.

One weekend, my Brother happened to be back in the area for a wedding.   This gave us one more chance to go take a look at the state line in dispute.   Hunting season was upon us.   I needed to take one more peek.  Yes is was marked and I cleaned it up, more trash. There was no way to go look at the other spot safely or alone.

So thare she blows, Ask a kid.

This sure got harder as we went on.   Now to find the words,  places,  and right definitions.   In our tool box which contained the Poem  and the Book TTOTC.    Word=definition=place   park=to park=place  I thought two parks and his rainbow.  I saw a lot of rainbows on the trails.  One looked like a double arc together to make an x but the picture did not catch it.  Besides it was in the wrong state.  The full rainbows we saw had a start and an end.  2, 3,  6 and songs, rhymes, and kids stories refer to hints.  The double omega = mirrors.   Speed bump called rabbit hole. Thinking this has been a long time for me to be here.  There are a lot of smart people out there searching too but I feel there is a part of the game that is missing. luck=nudged   Which felt like running in front of a stampede in a horse park. Feelings, maybe computers are getting close. The Web, All you.     The six w’s –  who, what, when, where, why, & how.


Go west young man and grow with the country.

I got the chance to learn more of the history of the area.  A two trail thought.   A Trail that has a mirrored trail.  The Oregon Trail goes the same way west as the Lewis and Clark trail.  The Santa Fe Trail has the mountain route and the Cimarron “plains” route.  Both start 300 miles west of Toledo OH.   Mirrored trails from a Midwest point of view. The book mentions his routes:  a mountain route  and a plains route to Yellowstone .   6 points of crossing.  Number 6 is a number we see used frequently. Funny how those historic markers or rest stops we stopped at are about 40 mile apart. When to mirror, what?  I hope you understand what I’m trying to explain.

Possible Blazes:

# 1 – A rock with an edge that glowed in the morning sun.

# 2 – Trails that looked like hints from the book.

# 3 – Two state lines on GPS and  a monument place

# 4 –  Highway and trail, new and old .  Two Historic sites and a trip to where “see


# 5 – Two historic monuments and readings of the poem we would like to see and hear.

As seen on TVs.
My favorite thought is for a chance for all to go see the chest whenever they want to.   A chance to get my family’s name there and help them, and hide in a group of names.   Honor to the Armchair Searchers because you gave freely.   Where did Mr. Fenn hide it?  Did he really hide it there?   lol

Two mirrors on top in the chest,  to be in two places at one time.   Both ends of his rainbow.  To honor two families’ that were Brave in his times of need.   Mirror the end? or double endings?    There are hints of  two songs that  are in line  together   Give me a home in the land of the free and the home of the brave.   And in the end cremated to be in two places at once.

Now for a little fun.

Mr. Fenn is this how you see your rainbow?

To Wonder Land.
Mr. Ed. I’ll show you a new trick for an apple.
W. Sure
E. Grab my hat for me, put it on but hold onto it and don’t more your arm.
W. Ok
E. A nod and smile to ya.
W  Wait… a minute you did that last week.
E. Yes,,,, and you gave me a carrot, Thanks for the apple. chump Happy Hollow Ween, Trick or Treat.

Edna mode says,
What did you expect for  Free ? All the answers. Silly rabbit ask a kid.

I am just somebody that wanted to get into a good book and an honored place. As they drive into the morning sun, looking to see treasure’s of new and old.  They are heard singing carpool karaoke.   I’m proud to an American and God bless the U.S.A.

First Bear-


The Anomaly…

by voxpops



The captain invited us in. We all squeezed into the cramped cockpit and gazed admiringly, but (in my case) uncomprehendingly at the jet’s array of dials and controls, and then out into the infinite space beyond. They served us afternoon tea, and from the elegant menu card I selected a fine fruitcake, which you could slice with a dainty silvered knife. Then we landed in New York, and I learned, expensively, not to get hustled into street card games.

That was my first trip to the States (coach!), back in the early ‘80s, when air travel was civilized, relaxed, and still a tiny bit glamorous. Fast forward almost 35 years and it’s something to be avoided if at all possible, and endured if not. The Airbus is aptly named.

I have crossed the Atlantic scores of times since that first trip, not least on a quest to find the treasure who is now my beloved wife, but this time was my last ditch attempt to finally finish the Fenn Chase. It has been a number of years in the making for me, but I want to concentrate on the last two in this article.

This is a difficult piece for me to write. I want to try to help searchers be aware that there is a nugget of information out there that will be of enormous help to them in their hunt, without handing it to them on a plate.

 Hiking up from Hebgen

Hiking up from Hebgen

Where to begin? Maybe at the conclusion of my first BOTG trip in 2013. Firehole, Hebgen, Upper Coffin Lake, sore feet. I thought, like most noobs, that I had it all figured out, at least enough to find blazes and hidey holes as we walked up the trail. Prior to that, I’d pored over the map of NM and Colorado looking for suitable Browns near to hot springs – the usual – but now I knew that FF was intimately connected with the Yellowstone area, it had to be down the canyon and close to Hebgen. Boy, was I wrong.

One of the Coffin Lakes

One of the Coffin Lakes

So, in my post-trip analyzing, I started to think more deeply. Everyone was picking their favorite WWWH, based mainly on whether they could find some Brown connection a few miles down the river, and perhaps even a blaze-like object nearby. How could that work? How would you know – and I mean, KNOW – that you’d got the right starting spot? Surely the poem should tell you.

Well, I looked and I looked, and I looked some more, and then I got bored and distracted and started to invent my own again, falling into the “let’s overload the Google servers with our endless Rocky Mountain scanning” trap for months more.

Meanwhile, there was The Anomaly. You read the poem and there are specific instructions. OK, but what do they actually mean? “Begin it…” I was back to square one. But hold on… maybe not completely. There was one instruction that you could perform without knowledge of geography, or history (as some suggest).

It seemed glaringly obvious to me, so I originally dismissed it. But I kept coming back and back to it. At the time I didn’t know much about Forrest, but since then and through Dal’s site, in particular, I learned that Forrest has highlighted this aberration on more than one occasion. Nobody seemed to be talking about it, though, and maybe it still isn’t being discussed today. I can’t be sure. But I was chatting about it recently with my wife, and despite our cultural differences (she’s American, I’m British) we were both taught about this in school.

So what is The Anomaly?

Seek and ye shall find.

Anyway, I put this little morsel into use, alongside the “oooh, if I mix that vaguely watery-halty thing with this brownish smudge I get right alongside that off-white mark that has to be the blaze,” it narrowed the field considerably. I placed a mark on the map.

I convinced myself. It was there! Definitely! Well maybe… or there! Yes, there! No, wait.

There’s no 4-way stop with these guys

There’s no 4-way stop with these guys

Well, I couldn’t wait. One cold February morning I got in the car and headed east – I had been watching the weather, and maybe it would be OK when I got there. I had to be there before anyone else beat me to it. It was fun, sort of, if you count driving down slippery cattle trails, getting stuck in snow drifts, and performing a heart stress-test as you drag yourself through the white stuff. At least I knew the terrain now, and could come again as the conquering hero. And return I did, this time with my wife and without the snow, and along with the unshakable belief that Indulgence would be waiting for me at the spot – because it was associated with The Anomaly (or at least close). Oh, and there was the “Y” that I was certain that I’d seen from GE. My wife thought it was an animal trail, Guess who was right?


Getting to know the badlands

We returned home, with a new appreciation for the wide-open spaces, the rock formations and the rainbow of colours (I use the “u” now I’m back in Britain – get u-sed to it). My wife started to unpack and I started back out on the highway, convinced I knew where we’d gone wrong. The lovely lady was not best pleased. But this became something of a pattern of mine. I kept having to return to places in order to convince myself to finally put to rest erroneous ideas. It sounds like expensive folly, and, yes, it was an expensive way of searching, but it was frequently in those repeated moments of letdown and acceptance that new and more focused realizations would well up.

Deja vu all over again

Deja vu all over again

I laid to rest all my old and dried up WWWH, and began to look at the poem afresh. Where do warm waters actually halt, and how will that help me? Back at my old school desk, hidden away at the rear of the classroom, I used to avoid the teacher’s gaze, stare out the window, watch the clock (which I swear moved a thousand times more slowly then than it does now) and impress railway lines into the wood. I never learned to concentrate, but I needed that skill now. What is FF talking about? Clouds? Deserts? What? Something was nagging at the back of my mind. Was it something I’d seen briefly on a Google search, or was it some crumb of general knowledge that had lodged like the bit of BA fruitcake that fell between the seats? I checked the answer, and bingo! I rechecked. Still bingo. Great! But how to apply it?

It took very little to establish the answer to that question. There, in the poem, without a shadow of doubt, was the counterpart to the WWWH intel. And if I’d bothered to check all the way through, I’d have found another pointer to it that also added a second useful snippet of info. I now knew where to look on the map. It could only be one possible place within the four states. Funnily enough, it was a place that had been in contention during my stick-the-tail-on-the-donkey phase of searching. And the HOB fell right into place after that. Whoo-hoo! We were off. No stopping me now!

Except that’s all I did do – stop – for weeks. Left, right, up, down, I couldn’t get any further. No place for the meek, no blaze, no nothing. Had I got it wrong? But then something occurred to me. I thought about Forrest and his life.

To this day, I have not read FF’s books. I am sure they are a great read and contain lots of useful pointers. But you have to be able to tell the wheat from the chaff. I didn’t want to become clogged with so much info that I wouldn’t know what was useful and what not. I have seen so many searchers use incredibly convoluted interpretations based on this page, that picture, these works that Forrest references. I wanted to keep it “simple.”

Nonetheless, there was a fundamental piece of information about Forrest and his life that could prove useful. In fact, every serious searcher knows the fundamentals concerning Forrest, and they are important in being able to offer a line of reasoning that can be applied in your search. And right here was a possible hint to that awkward clue: “no place for the meek.”  The meek shall inherit the earth, so what do the others do? Yay, I was off again!

Bang, bang, bang, the answers fell into place. This was fun – and pretty easy! End is ever drawing nigh? Check! There’ll be no paddle up your creek, just heavy loads and water high? Check, check, check!

The next few lines were still open to interpretation, but they seemed to fit the area. Must be time for a trip. Let’s look at GE again.

Whoa! What’s that? I looked at the map. As clear as daylight was a blaze that shone like the full moon. And it seemed accessible. It had to be the spot. No question. Except there was one. What about The Anomaly? Well, maybe that’s just a serving suggestion. No, I say again, what about The Anomaly? Get lost, this is more exciting, this has to be it! And if it’s not, there’s another blaze over there. We’ll check them both, and another couple of spots for good measure.

How to find a "blaze" in one easy lesson

How to find a “blaze” in one easy lesson

It was a fun trip. Lots of Native American references, a windy plateau, stunningly beautiful scenery, and a motorized adventure that put hairs on our chests (much to my wife’s dismay), but no chest in our hands, of course.

What about The Anomaly?

Okay, you win, I promise to factor it in.

Back to the checklist. All those still tallied. What would The Anomaly add? Well, it brought me close to this interesting place that featured a perfect blaze… Close? Close???!!! Didn’t Forrest say that you had to follow the clues precisely?

Jeez, what a taskmaster! The alter ego can be a pain in the derriere, but sometimes you need to pay attention. OK, so let’s backup to HOB. “Not far, but too far to walk. Put in below the home of Brown.” Something my wife had said a long time before about one of those words came back to me. Although she’s not really a searcher (i.e. she’s not a raving lunatic), she will drop these little suggestions every so often, and I have learned the hard way not to ignore them. Before Forrest made the comment about not going where an 80-year-old wouldn’t, she had already told me that he wouldn’t have hidden it in some of the places I’d identified. It didn’t stop me looking there, but it got me extra servings of humble pie every time.

So what if I applied the principle behind my wife’s suggestion to another word from the same group… and voila! Now we’re getting precise. Let’s go back to the map and see what that does. Oh, yes, we’re no longer close, we’re right on it. And look at that! The name of this place is absolutely perfect. And it is almost begging us to go search there.

You may have read the report I sent Dal about that abortive and very expensive trip in the snow (again), that was followed up by two more to the same spot.

Red in the face at almost 10,000 ft

Red in the face at almost 10,000 ft

But there must have been something very compelling about that spot…? I’m glad you mention that, because, yes, there was – and still is.

Care to share? Well, OK, up to a point. It’s the blaze. It’s the 85/15. It’s where The Anomaly and the poem coincide. It’s where FF becomes terrain, so to speak. It’s a verifiable pivotal point. It also happens to be very beautiful.

And how do you verify it?

With The Anomaly.

Making use of The Anomaly

Making use of The Anomaly

And what if you haven’t discovered this anomaly? The words in the poem help you identify where it is, but of course they’re not always precise as just words. For precision and verification, you need to unlock stanza 2, identify the (exact) places described in stanza 3… and find The Anomaly. And of course, I’m talking numbers here.

Alright, so I’ve discovered this anomaly or aberration, and identified the blaze, but you now say it won’t give me the chest…? No. Those three rugged trips taught me that stanza 4 is not some airy-fairy love and peace message, but some more, very clear, instructions (and to purchase proper studded tires in the winter). The blaze is only a waypoint. A marker that is then used to redirect you.

And how do I know where I’m to be redirected to? Word meanings need to be studied. If you look quickly down in the right way, you’ll find it, eventually. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Not when you’re as slow to comprehend as this old man.

Which brings me to this last week. After going back and back over the poem since those trips to the blaze, I had been edging toward the right place. I also noticed something else. Something was being described. Not just a poetic word picture, but something more tangible, something you could see on the page – on the map. Not something you found already there, but something you could draw for yourself. I wasn’t exactly sure what it was yet (I had a choice of two possibilities), but it was looming out of the fog.

Elk arrives as the morning mist clears

Elk arrives as the morning mist clears

Actually, fog is a good way to describe the process. The poem is like a thick blanket of fog in the beginning, and as you make the discoveries, so pockets begin to thin and clear.

One place that had begun to clear was part of stanza 5. “So why is it…”, if recognized as something beyond a straightforward question about F’s state of mind, is readily interpreted as Wyoming or West Yellowstone, or another likely place. But does it contain more specific info? I believe it does. In fact, couple stanza 5 with The Anomaly, and you have a specific set of instructions. In fact, I was so sure of this, I booked a plane ticket – giving myself one week to wrap this show up (mistake number 1; mistake number 2 was to turn the air-jet on full above my plane seat and then go to sleep).

Making an early start

Making an early start

My instructions gave me two places to check, a few hundred yards apart. There were two due to minor variations possible in interpretation. I arrived on location feeling jaunty and up for anything. Even the car rental people had been really friendly and helpful – everything was right with the world. Within minutes, I was disabused. No sane 80-year old would try to get up to location 1 with a 40lb pack. The area was littered with fallen trees, dense undergrowth, and large boulders. I made it with great difficulty, sweating and panting, to the exact spot, and gave it only a cursory inspection. It was not going to be here.

Location 2 was the more compelling location for numerical reasons. You can interpret that as you will, but if you know enough about FF, you’ll probably be able to work out what I’m saying. Except it wasn’t at all compelling when I arrived. It was a veritable swamp. My GPS told me to go into the mire. Fen or no Fenn, I wasn’t going in there.

No place for the sane

No place for the sane

I spent the rest of the search day, checking out a bunch of other less plausible coordinates, attracting a little unwanted attention, and going deaf.

Now, my hearing is shot from years of playing keyboards, but I can still make out what most people are telling me (even call centre [sic] operatives – sometimes). Just as I was going out to dinner, my last vestiges of auditory perception trailed away into a distant and muffled bunch of static. Well, thought I, that’ll make the motel room right by the highway more pleasant.

I should have known what was to come next. My throat got scratchy, my nose started running, and I knew that I’d have to go back to that infernal swamp. I bought some ear drops, aspirin and a pack of trashcan liners, and headed out to the location at first light.

Something wicked this way comes

Something wicked this way comes

This time I looked more carefully, and whereas, it had looked like the place was inaccessible the day before, now I could see where some animals had found a (mostly) dry path into the interior. My GPS told me I was getting closer and closer… and then I was at the water’s edge, seeing the reflections in the still water. Scanning the reedy marsh, I saw channels of muddy water, a few trees where the land got a touch drier out in the middle, and something staring at me. I peered into the still-very-dim light and made out a female moose. She was watching me impassively. What was considerably less passive was the enormous male splashing his way toward her, his magnificent antlers looking much more impressive on the move than on the wall of some rustic tavern.

Morning, Ma’am!

Morning, Ma’am!

G’day, mate!

G’day, mate!

Behind the swamp

Behind the swamp

A little nervously, I watched them for a while before resuming my surveillance. I looked down, and if it had been a cartoon or a corny comedy, I would have done a double-take. Instead I just gawped. I was looking into the water where a large log was mostly submerged. Sitting on top of the log was a single, square-ish, marbled rock. I looked around. There were no other rocks anywhere near. Behind me was rotting vegetation, perched on a muddy bed. In front of me was the swamp. The last boulders I’d seen were about fifty yards back, before you got down to the fen itself.

I rechecked the GPS. The exact spot was about fifteen feet out into the swamp (although allowing for the device’s current margin of error, it could equally be right there at the log). The Anomaly had brought me straight to this festering spot. Surely it couldn’t be the treasure’s location? Could it be in the wood, under the water? I knew retrieving the chest was not going to be easy, but I hadn’t expected this.

Now you can see the log as well

What’s that?

The stone

The stone

So let’s just think this through. How could it have got there? Could a moose have brought it in to mark the choicest reeds? Well, they do have large jaws, but the rocks tend to crack their dentures. Could a fisherman have found this spot and placed it here for later reference? Why? It was the only place you could get to along the animal trail – you couldn’t miss it or mistake it for somewhere else, and it was a heck of a stretch to put it out on a submerged log. Besides, it didn’t look like a fish would be seen dead in that fetid fen. And there was no evidence of recent human ingress. Why would you go there?

Now you can see the log as well

Now you can see the log as well

But if it had been placed there deliberately a few years ago, why had it not been swept away? As I was to discover over the next couple of days, the water levels would rise and fall with the rainfall, but as it was on the side away from the mountain, there was practically no current to disturb it. There was no logical explanation.

I reached out and prodded at the stone with my cane as that was the only way to reach it without getting down and dirty in the mud. There didn’t seem to be anything underneath it (apart from the log). I poked around the log, but soon realized that if I was going to check it out properly I’d have to get into the water. I sneezed violently before extracting the plastic liners from my backpack, deftly transforming them into high-fashion waders.

High fashion

High fashion

I sank almost to my knees in the slime. The swamp attempted to steal my Gucci ripoffs, but I persevered, prodding around the base of the log, and sinking my hands into the rich silt. Nothing there – well nothing you’d want to take home with you. The stone just sat there making no comment.

Going for broke

Going for broke

Company for breakfast

Company for breakfast

Stepping out, I realized my mistake. The “waders” had perforated, making a mess of my seriously unfashionable trainers and jeans. If I was to search anymore, I’d need to take off my shoes and swap pants for shorts, and then use double-skinned liners.  Back in the water, I slipped and almost fell.

Doing it in style

Doing it in style

Not wishing to be turned away from the airport as some kind of undesirable stowaway bum, and having cleared out a half-gallon of goo from my sinuses, I knew I needed to stay warm and dry if I was to extend the survey. So I rented a drysuit. What I didn’t expect was the bright light and interrogation cell. Where are you going? Why are you going there? Actually, aside from that, they were really nice guys, and their recommendations probably saved me from hypothermia, or pneumonia.

Everyone turns out to admire my outfit

Everyone turns out to admire my outfit

I looked really cool as I drove back to the location in my snazzy blue and yellow suit, attracting admiring glances from all and sundry. I sloshed back and forth to the trees at the bog’s centre and sat down in the water (not to read the paper or munch on my sandwich, but because I tripped and lost my balance). I was so glad of that suit. After a couple of hours of this, I called it a day and returned the outfit, feeling somewhat stupid for wasting the time on searching when it obviously wasn’t to be found in that depressing environment.


Looking cool

I confess to uttering a few oaths at Forrest Fenn then. All this work and just a slab of rock? Was he playing games? Had someone else substituted the rock for the chest? I had already written to the poem’s author to tell him what I found.

Maybe I was just plain wrong,

And yet, and yet…

The poem took me to the coordinates. The coordinates took me to the marbled rock. What was it telling me???

Coordinating the find

Coordinating the find

Changing channels

Changing channels

That evening and the next morning I felt rough – very rough – and thought I might have to quit, and time was running out before my return flight. Forrest had broken his few weeks of near-silence and published Scrapbook 158. It told me (and all searchers) in no uncertain terms that no one else had found the treasure and it was waiting patiently. That gave me enough of a lift to carry on. But how? Where?

I played with a few of the words: e.g. weak = week = 7 and adjusted my search area, but it just led me into almost impenetrable undergrowth. I slipped into an almost hidden rocky creek and cursed again. This was stupid. I wandered in a more tranquil and open area, but the numbers were all wrong. Something was awry – it was all slipping away. Think!

Does this fella know?

Does this fella know?

That night it hit me. Hard. The drawing. What is the drawing saying?

OMG! The realisation slammed into me like a charging moose. I had two possibilities for what this drawing represented. I thought it was the first, and I had ignored the second, because it simply didn’t look complete. Why hadn’t I thought to complete the second BEFORE flying out. In my mind’s eye I stared at it, watching as the shape finished itself, creating a twin. That was when I made the final, fatal error.

Next day, the day before I was to fly out, I started riding the backwards bike, doing the thing that Forrest had recommended. But I hadn’t thought to really concentrate on where I was going. This is the trouble trying to think on location. You need to do it in the calm of your own home, before committing time and resources. The place I ended up was ironic, but I couldn’t make it fit. I wasted the rest of the day scrabbling around in nebulous spots; and I wasn’t doing any better the following morning when I frittered away my final opportunity, trying to make a runway into a secondary blaze.

I sat in the airport, numb, and feeling sorry for my co-passengers who would have to endure my snotty sniffling. We boarded the plane. We deplaned. Bird strike and hydraulic leak. Now I was going to miss my flight home. I just wanted to be with my wife, and put myself to bed with a hot cup of tea and a couple of aspirin.

I slouched miserably, waiting to see if the airline would be able to reroute me. And then it dawned – a clear, opalescent blue. I almost ran out of the airport, but I knew I was risking serious illness if I carried on with this venture. Why, oh why does an insight occur at the wrong time, namely when it’s already hindsight?

Clarity at last - but too late

Clarity at last – but too late

Looking at Google Maps on my phone and going through the reverse pedaling again, I this time chose the mirror instead of the twin. And lo and behold, there it was. THE spot.

By this time, you’ll be smiling slightly patronisingly (note the British “s” – and if you’re observant you’ll have spotted a few more) at this man having lost the plot completely. Just give me a chance to explain. Forget about my sloshing around in the quagmire, and exuding my incubated aircraft germs into the mountain air, and let me recap the whole process:

  • The Anomaly is there, discoverable, and must be used at the appropriate juncture in the poem.
  • The entry to the poem is via THE place where warm waters halt, which is found by using general geographic knowledge, by understanding the references in the poem itself, and/or by knowing who wrote the poem. Once found, it cannot be unfound: the correlations in the poem guarantee you have the correct place.
  • Stanza 1 contains broad hints to the start place, the end place and the entire theme of the poem.
  • Stanza 2 has both general and ultra-specific instructions. HOB will further confirm your starting point.
  • Stanza 3 needs a little imagination and flair to get you started, but all the ducks fall into a row after that.
  • Stanza 4 is both direct, and likely to mislead if you’re unwary. Look at all possibilities before wasting your time and money. Remember, Forrest has a great sense of humour.
  • Stanza 5 contains more vital information, and again, play around with definitions and ideas until things start to gel.
  • Stanza 6 demands that you pay attention. I strongly suggest you do. The last two lines are still slightly fluid for me, but definitely contain more than one hint.
  • The Anomaly, plus other critical info that goes with it, will NOT lead you to the chest, but will lead you to where you start to ride the backwards bike. Oh, and you might see a nice reflection.
  • Once you get to that point you’ll need to start all over again! Don’t throw away the poem or your clues, as you’ll need those again, plus a healthy dollop of imagination.
  • The FINAL end point is in a beautiful, easily accessible location that is frequently visited.

Take this, as always, with a large pinch of salt. I failed – yet again – and I’m kicking myself for my asinine mind spasm as I write – ouch! But the wise ones may see here something that sparks their interest and enables them to verify what I’m saying. If I’d had this partial roadmap at the beginning of my chase, I could have got as far as I did – and further – in a tenth of the time, but then, in reality, I would have also probably dismissed it as some old geezer’s crazy ramblings. I would have been an idiot if I had, because when I eventually followed this map myself, I was able to see a picture emerging – a big one.

Good luck.

Oh, and for those who wanted to know (yes you, sir, the one in the far right corner there) I did get rerouted, and made it home in one piece. The captain was a disembodied voice, and there was no silverware or prettily printed menus, but my wife is beautiful, I’m still deaf and sniffling, and my treasure was here all along. Thank you and good night.


Down… But Not Quite Out…



Location, location, location – and on November 23rd 2015 I had it! I wanted to get in the car and drive right then, but Thanksgiving loomed large, and it was going to be a major family gathering. And of course, family comes first.

At the end of the month and into December, the snow began to fall in earnest. But as Christmas gave way to the New Year I wondered whether a quick dash might still be possible. Then the Randy Bilyeu tragedy took us all by surprise, and the notion of searching for treasure while others searched for a missing comrade seemed inappropriate to the point of callous.

A little of the gilt and sparkle was rubbed off the Chase by Randy’s disappearance, but the puzzle still remained to be solved. Gradually, we searchers gave ourselves permission to talk about the poem again, and I had to make a decision. If I were to head out, even while the snow was thick on the ground, I stood a chance of being able to make it to my spot over frozen ground, whereas if I waited until April or May I risked getting bogged down in snowmelt mud. So why not just sit it out until the summer? It wasn’t just a burning impatience that led me to make the decision to go (although that was certainly a factor), but the inconvenient truth that my wife and I will be emigrating around the end of May, and so our window of opportunity is tiny. That was why I decided to give it a shot in mid-March. It would turn out to be an expensive and foolhardy decision.

Val and I loaded up our trusty Subaru (veteran of previous searches over crazy terrain) and pointed the hood eastward. It’s a two-day drive from our home, and while the journey was uneventful, fresh snow in the passes and plummeting temperatures gave rise to a little anxiety. Val was tolerating my search obsession – just – but she worried, justifiably, about our physical condition and ability to deal with hazardous conditions.

The afternoon we arrived at our motel was sunny and crisp. So, after stocking up with provisions, I suggested we do a reconnaissance trip to locate the winding forest trail that would lead to our spot. All seemed to be going well. Where there was snow, it wasn’t too deep; and where there was mud, it was frozen near-solid for the most part. By using GPS and a carefully prepared set of waypoints, we found the turnoff that would take us to the chest. It seemed doable. Nearby, we spotted a road grader. Its significance eluded me at the time.

1-The Trail

Appearances can be deceptive

Up bright and early the following morning, we were greeted by a cloudless sky and a temperature only just above zero. I tried to chip off the previous day’s frozen mud that had collected in the Subaru’s wheel arches and was fouling the tires, but it had set like concrete. It took a half-hour of chipping and prying to clear sufficient space to apply the Autosocks that were to help us achieve grip on the final stretch. Chains were to be a last resort. We checked our supply of food and water, blankets, extra outerwear, tools, shovels, flashlights and cameras… and then we hit the trails.

2-Sun on Snow

Perfect conditions?

Having scouted the day before, we knew we could get up to the turnoff, and so we did, with just a brief moment of indecision when we weren’t sure if we’d taken a wrong turn. We hadn’t. But for some reason I wasn’t feeling my usual nervous excitement at getting close to a search location – more a sense of emptiness. Perhaps I knew, deep down, that now was not the right time to be doing this.

Keep your socks on!

Keep your socks on!

Ready to roll

Ready to roll

At the turnoff, we fitted the Autosocks (a great invention – so much easier to use than chains) and headed into the woods. The first couple of hundred yards were fine, but then the tracks from other vehicles got deeper and the central hump of snow correspondingly higher, until we began to bounce from side to side of the ruts. A drop-off appeared on the driver’s side to aid concentration!

 Heading up

Heading up

A little deeper

A little deeper

Listing to port

Listing to port

And then we were stuck. Worse, we were lodged at a steep cant.

Getting an angle on it

Getting an angle on it

It was a nail-biting moment, but after ten minutes of shoveling we were clear again. It was then that Val made a really sensible suggestion: “Why don’t we turn around now?” She spotted a small patch up ahead that was free of snow. It probably wasn’t quite wide enough to execute a turn, but I also wasn’t quite ready to quit, and to my shame and ultimate folly I ignored her, muttering some lame excuse or other, and plowed ahead – literally.

I could sense that the car was struggling now, and up ahead I noticed a split in the trail where there was sufficient room to maneuver. I could even park up and try to hike the remaining three miles on snow shoes, although I was leery of attempting that in such extreme conditions and with a slipped disc that sent shooting pains of indescribable ferocity down my right leg. And anyway, right now we had momentum and an uneasy sense that things might be okay if we could just keep moving forward.

We lurched around a hairpin, shuddered another fifty yards or so, and ground to a halt. Forward gear, reverse, forward again – none of it made the slightest difference, except I felt the back of the car sink another few inches.

Down she goes!

Down she goes!

After a few more rounds of this, we ended up with two wheels on opposing corners not even touching the surface. The car was resting on a platform of around twelve to eighteen inches of solidly packed snow, while the wheels spun uselessly in the ruts.

That sinking feeling

That sinking feeling

Outside the air was pure, the trees bore their burden of snow in perfect serenity, and everything felt pristine and as it should be – except for us. Here we were with our mud-splattered Subaru, tools, shovels and chains scattered around – noisy intruders with no place being here. A fox came to check us out. He stood, unafraid, with his orange-brown coat vibrant against the stark white backdrop.

Where the air is clear

Where the air is clear

We're the interlopers

We’re the interlopers

He'd seen enough...

He’d seen enough…

Ten o’clock turned to eleven, and eleven to twelve. Val, to her undying credit never uttered those four little words: I told you so. Uncomplaining, she worked alongside me, shoveling snow and inserting improvised chocks. We jacked up the car, added chains, rocked the vehicle back and forth, and tried brute force, sending up a fountain of snow and grit. But by now the wheels were spinning inside the Autosocks, and my heart was pounding like a jackhammer, unused to the exertion at considerable altitude.

Learning lessons!

Learning lessons!

By nearly one in the afternoon I knew it had us beat. Even if we could have got the Subaru rolling back down the hill, we would not have been able to negotiate the hairpin in reverse without skidding into a wall of snow.

No going back

No going back

We needed outside help, something every guy hates to ask for. I reached for my phone. Every now and then, it would offer a couple of bars for a few tantalizing seconds before snatching them back, only to tease us again, but this time with a different carrier. Eventually, I managed to get through to our hotel, and had the surprised receptionist give us the number of a local tow company. It was Saturday afternoon. I crossed my fingers that someone would be on call, and that the signal would hold – not to mention the battery, which was showing a cute little heart over the relevant icon.

Of course, it crossed both of our minds that our own hearts might give out on this adventure. Val, who displayed such calm dignity throughout the ordeal, said later that she had been resigned to whatever happened, and I remember thinking fleetingly that I didn’t really want to die of hypothermia – it seems so acquiescent. But if that scenario had come into play, there would only have been one person to blame… As it was, we didn’t need to worry. A couple of calls later and we had arranged to walk the mile or so back to the trail junction to meet the tow truck driver, partly because I had serious doubts that he’d be able to get up the trail with a heavy rig. As I could only walk slowly and in spurts it took a while to cover the distance. My limping became more pronounced and painful, and I told Val to go on without me if the truck couldn’t get to us, since I would need to stop and rest my back every couple of hundred yards. Fresh prints in the snow told us that the bears were beginning to stir. My bear spray was at the ready.

We made it to the rendezvous point. I don’t think either of us has ever been so glad to see a guy with a truck! Differentials locked, and the two of us alongside the driver, the truck made it all of twenty yards up the trail. There was no way it’d be able to get to the Subaru. We abandoned our steed for the night, riding back to town in the truck – an hour’s journey over dirt roads that were turning to slippery mud in the afternoon sun. On the way, we chatted with the driver – a great guy and a vet who had served all over the world – and he told us that under normal circumstances we couldn’t have made it anywhere near our forest trail at this time of year. But because the snowpack was lower than normal and they’d continued to plow and grade the road, the easy conditions on the lower slopes had lulled us into a false sense of security.

Back in town, we handed over our car key to the service station owner, who arranged to send up a team with ATVs in the morning, and promised they would be able to bring our vehicle down.

Sunday morning dawned clear and noticeably warmer. We waited… and we waited. Around noon we received the call – yay! Our car was at the service station, and we were now infamous for having gotten our vehicle stuck in one of the highest places the mechanics had ever had to work! Any further and they wouldn’t have been able to get there, even with ATVs.

Apparently, to rescue the Subaru, they had to jack the car up high, attach cables slung around trees, and spin the car on its axis. Then, with an ATV fore and aft, they drove in fits and starts back down the trail, pausing every now and then to dig it out again or give it a helping tug with an ATV. It was a major job, and we were substantially poorer as a result. But, as we told them in a roundabout way, they were our guardian angels that day, and without them (and a signal on our cell) things could have ended very differently. We thanked them profusely.

The lessons are obvious, but on the plus side, we met some great people, saw some fabulous scenery, and enjoyed a real Western adventure. My wife has told me that we aren’t doing this again – and if our flight schedule out of the country has anything to do with it, we won’t be. But flights can always be rescheduled… no?