My 10,000 Mile Boots On The Ground Adventure……

SUBMITTED MAY 2018
by RockLicker61

 

Well OK, it was only actually 9,800 miles door to door, but unless someone from South Africa has gone searching I think I can still claim the unenvied title of Furthest-Travelled Failed Searcher.

For me this craziness started after reading a news story in March 2018. It was a day that I couldn’t be bothered doing any work, so I found myself digging around the blogs and forums and I was quickly hooked.

Within a couple of days I had the basis of my solve sorted out, then it was refined and strengthened over the next couple of weeks to what you will read today. The solve builds on the work of others to narrow down the WWWH starting point, but I’m presenting a couple of (possibly) new ideas on some lines of the poem, particularly the blaze, so hopefully you may both enjoy the story and get something useful out of it.

In its simplest interpretation this solve doesn’t rely on any information you can’t find on a good map, but a small amount of googling and a bit of geographical knowledge help firm things up. Unlike many solves people come up with, I had this one down to a fairly specific area months before I put boots on the ground. This was by necessity – I’m a New Zealander living in Perth, Western Australia, so if I was going to invest (haha!) a few thousand dollars into getting to the Rockies I couldn’t afford to be going on a hunch.

But I’d just sold my trusty old pickup so I had some play money lying around, and I have a very understanding wife! In early May I found myself setting off for the 39 hour journey to Bozeman Montana. There I rendezvoused with one of my brothers who lives in Phoenix and couldn’t say no to this sort of adventure.

So armed with a healthy dose of jet lag and a can of bear spray, this is our chase…

Begin it where warm waters halt,
And take it in the canyon down
Not too far, but too far to walk
Put in below the home of Brown

This simply follows the popular solve starting where the warm Gardiner River meets the cold Yellowstone River at Gardiner Montana, then following the Yellowstone River down to the Slip and Slide Boat Ramp near the end of Joe Brown creek.

From there it’s no place for the meek

This boat ramp is used by rafters and kayakers to access the white-water rapids in Yankee Jim Canyon – definitely no place for the meek.
A less obvious interpretation is that this canyon was a stumbling block for Joseph Meek in his early exploration of the area (though this obviously requires knowledge beyond the scope that Forrest Fenn says is necessary).

The end is ever drawing nigh

This refers to the bottom of Sphinx Creek, the first feature we come to down-stream, and there’s a few ways of looking at it:
The flowing creek is continuously ending as it reaches the river.
The word “drawing” could be used because the bottom of Sphinx Creek is in a draw (also known as a re-entrant outside of the USA), which is a steep-sided gully.

Also, it’s on the left, and numerous people have asserted that nigh is an archaic word for left, though I haven’t found any solid references for this.

There’ll be no paddle up your creek
Just heavy loads and water high

Sphinx Creek is merely a trickle, even when we visited during the melt in May, so you won’t need a paddle.

The second line defines the bottom and top of the creek as we go up it.

Heavy loads describes the bottom of the creek which crosses the Old Yellowstone Trail and where the railway line used to go.

The top of the creek is a perched lake (high water) called Yankee Jim Lake.

So we head up the creek all the way to the lake.

Fresh bear tracks of different sizes were dotted all the way up Sphinx Creek – a bit worrying for us as we’d never had to deal with bears before!

If you’ve been wise and found the blaze. Look quickly down

OK, here’s where it gets interesting.

Notice the past tense on this sentence – in my opinion you have to have already been wise and found the blaze before you get there. In this case that’s because you can’t actually see it from the lake at the top of the creek.

So to find the blaze, you need to know where to look.

Have you noticed the red magnetic declination lines on the map provided in Where Warm Waters Halt? I find them odd because they’re a bit ugly, and many versions of the map have removed them for aesthetic reasons. But what are they for? It’s not normal to have these lines on a simple schematic map like this. Magnetic declination is used when you’re using a compass bearing – the lines tell you what the correction is between true north and magnetic north is at a particular spot. The presence of the magnetic declination lines is telling me that you need to use some sort of compass reading, or at least a general bearing to some remote feature in your solve.

So what is the blaze?

If you look on a map about 6.5 miles / 11 kilometres to the south west of Yankee Jim Lake, you find Shooting Star Mountain.

Shooting stars blaze across the sky, and you have to look quickly to see them.

Forrest has mentioned that it would be possible to remove it the blaze, but not feasible. I know from experience in the mining industry that removing the top of a mountain is definitely possible, but you have to have a good reason to do so to make it feasible.

But you can’t see Shooting Star Mountain from the top of Sphinx Creek, it’s hidden by the ridge on the other side of the valley. Luckily there are high points all around Yankee Jim Lake, but for this solve, you need to be “wise” and move clockwise around the lake.

A drone photo of Yankee Jim Lake, looking roughly north west, with the high point where you can see the blaze on the left

As you reach the highest point on the south-west side, Shooting Star Mountain just peeks into view above the ridge.

Another drone photo, with the high point in the foreground and Shooting Star Mountain peeking just above the ridge, slightly left of centre of the photo

I was 99% sure I’d be able to see Shooting Star Mountain from this high point as I’d used the 3D view in Google Earth and a viewshed analysis in QGIS to verify this beforehand. Still, it was a massive relief when we reached the top and Shooting Star Mountain just came into view!

Look quickly down your quest to cease

When you’re at the top of the hill and the blaze has come into view, then look down and you see a series of rock faces below you.

But tarry scant with marvel gaze
Just take the chest and go in peace

And this is where this solve joins the long list of failures!

It was a beautiful spot, with sweeping views of the valley dotted with lakes and meadows framed by distant mountains.

The view from the solve location – a fitting spot for a final resting place

We searched all along the rock faces, covering everything up to 200 feet away from the peak (in reference to the 200 feet that Forrest says searchers have been within). There were plenty of perfect little hiding places, but alas, no chest.

One of the many chest-sized nooks in the rock faces

The original solve was a bust, but I knew that I had to get closure and I had to exhaust all options before we left Montana. So, on the second day of our trip we searched all of the rock faces between the top of the creek and high point from the first solve, thinking I may have misinterpreted how to use the blaze reference.

My brother left to go back to work the next morning, but I spent that third day searching the main peak of Sphinx Mountain, and all of the rock faces on the south west side facing the blaze. Again, I found many amazing spots with beautiful views over Yankee Jim Lake, and lots of potential hiding places, but no chest.

The view over Yankee Jim Lake during the third day of searching

Our (approximate) search coverage around Yankee Jim Lake

So I go in peace, having spent an awesome couple of days hiking in Montana with my brother. We found some amazing spots, plenty of fresh bear tracks, and walked away with a couple of deer antlers as trophies.

Our trophies adorning the rental car

It’s a common cliché in The Chase circles, but this experience gave us moments to treasure, even though we walked away empty-handed.

So as my final act of closure in this chase, I’m putting this failed solve out to the world so that you might hopefully glean some insight that helps you in your chase.

You can see my solution on a Google map by clicking HERE.

I’ll be lurking on Dal’s website, Reddit and THOR under the username RockLicker61 if you want to discuss this solve. Or drop me an email at the same username @gmail.com if you want to get in touch directly.

Stay safe out there, the bears are always watching you!

-RockLicker61

On Quitting the Chase…

by Ken S.

Warning – this is verbose and long winded.

I have only been at “The Chase” for a little over five months now starting in December, 2016.  I realize I am a late comer to the party.  I have not been out in the mountains yet because we still have snow down to the 5,000’ 6,000′ level here in Montana.  I was raised in south central MT and YNP has been in my backyard my whole life.  Many of you have been at this for years and it has changed your lives and, in some cases, how you now live your lives.

For me, and for most of you, all I can think of any more is “The Poem” of clues.  I think of it as soon as I wake up in the morning.  I recite the poem throughout the day.  Nearly every night I review different websites for new clues.  I stay up way too late looking at GE, the thesaurus, dictionary, and topo maps.  I have had several “solves”, most of which “work” to some degree or another.  For me, it is consuming and I want to/need to stop.  I have many other things I need to do and think about.  I hope in giving away what I have learned so far, I can maybe get this Chase out of my head.  Really, the best way for that to happen is for someone to find the chest!

In this monolog I am going to give most all of my solutions to clues I have found in the poem.  And, yes, I find more than nine clues in the poem.  As some have said, maybe each sentence counts as a clue, but within each sentence there may be several sub-clues (you can call them hints if you want, but I will refer to everything as clues for ease of typing).  I am not going to quote or cite blog posts or videos but will trust my memory of what I have read on different websites, primarily this one.  I know many of you will shoot holes in my logic and thoughts, that’s OK.  Some of you will discount me because I haven’t referenced ff quotes.  But, maybe some of my thoughts will nudge someone else into a different line of thinking, as do many of the blog posts I have read from others.  Btw: I am  a poem purist, I have not purchased the book(s).  Line by line, here goes:

As I have gone alone in there
Alone could mean Lone Wolf, Lone Star Geyser (ff is from TX), Lone Mtn near Big Sky, MT.  I only developed one solve based on this line.  Btw, there is a Fenn couple that own land at Big Sky, MT (public record).  I don’t know if they are related to ff.

And with my treasures bold,
Treasures Bold could be the creeks that flow into the Lamar River including the adjacent creeks called Jasper, Amethyst, Agate, Crystal, Opal, Chalcedony, and Flint.  All are treasured gems.  Their creek names are bold on a topo map in the area.  I have two solves that use this phrase as a clue.

I can keep my secret where,
I have found no clues in this phrase.

And hint of riches new and old.
The word old may refer to a historic mining district.

Begin it where warm waters halt
There are warm waters all over the west and in the Rocky Mtns.  I have considered mostly those only in my area of familiarity.  In YNP I considered both Soda Butte Cr. and less warm Rose Cr. in the Lamar Valley.  Neither are hot springs.  Soda Butte is warm and Rose does not freeze in winter.  I also considered the Firehole River, the Boiling River, Corwin Springs, the hot springs at Thermopolis, WY, and in the Shoshone River at Cody, WY.

WWWH could also refer to the geographic borders of YNP, but does it mean inside YNP or outside YNP?  Soda Butte and Lamar flow from the boundary inward, Firehole/Madison, Snake, and Gardiner/Yellowstone, flow outward.

Thermopolis, WY is well below the elevation of the chest hiding place but the poem doesn’t say you have to decrease in elevation.  I used Thermopolis as the start point for a solve that looks at the really “big picture”.

And take it in the canyon down,
Different canyons that I have thought of in my solves are Lamar River Canyon, Icebox Canyon, Gardner R canyon, Yankee Jim Canyon, Firehole/Madison R canyon, Yellowstone River canyon, Big Horn R canyon, Clear Cr. canyon in Colorado, and canyons that head south (down) on a map (only those which are associated with warm or hot springs).

Not far, but too far to walk.
This phrase is so very subjective.  Even though ff was 79 or 80 yo, I have hiked long hard miles with people that age.  It also depends on the altitude and terrain.  It is ten hard miles from Buffalo Ranch to Lamar R joining the Yellowstone R.  It is several miles from Boiling River to Yankee Jim Canyon.  My interpretation for this is that ff probably walked no more that six miles total on his two round trips to hide the treasure.  The higher the altitude the less the mileage would have been.  Similarly, if he was bucking brush versus walking through high park grass, the effort and distance would be much different.

Put in below the home of Brown.
I have a few different HOBs.  I borrowed from the blog for using the Lamar R. and Buffalo Ranch.

Along the Big Horn River just above Sheep Canyon there is a long-operating bentonite plant owned by the Brown Family.

Brown could also be Brown’s Lake east of Fort Collins for those looking in the Estes Park area.

I also thought of the sewage lagoons below Gardiner and the Grizzly Adventure in W. Yellowstone.

And, here is a doozy:  In one translation I found the word Brown has a Spanish translation as the verb “doarse” meaning ‘turn, turn about, turn around’.  But, in most Spanish dictionaries “doarse” means “to turn brown, or golden” such as for sauteed food.  So, doarse is a pretty weak interpretation of Brown, but . . .

From there it’s no place for the meek,
This one is also subjective depending on one’s personal fears – or maybe it refers to a place where the meek would not be found.  At first blush I thought this meant that “You are going to have to work for it.  It’s not easy”.  Or, it could be a scary place – bears, wolves, buffalo, rattlesnakes, guarded private property, nasty switch back roads, nasty park rangers?  Could meek be a religious reference (inherit the earth).  If so, could it be related to a church camp or mountain chapel?)  The Big Horn River cuts through both Sheep Mtn. and Little Sheep Mtn and sheep are referenced in literature to be meek animals.  Meek is associated with timid so maybe “no place for the meek” is associated with the antithesis such as Devil’s Slide, Hell Creek, wolf, etc.

The end is ever drawing nigh;
Some of the blog posts suggest this as meaning “to the left” so some of my solves used it that way.  Others did not.  For my Thermopolis, WY solve I interpreted it as the Shoshone River which enters the Big Horn R just below the Sheep Canyons after its run from the YNP west entrance down through Cody, WY

There’ll be no paddle up your creek,
As with most I interpret this as a small stream or dry creek bed.  It could also mean a stream with heavy rapids that cannot be ascended even by kayak.  This could mean the Shoshone River through Cody, WY.  Also, paddling is not allowed in YNP, nor can Lamar R be paddled upstream in the canyon portion because of the close boulders.  This could also mean to bypass Slough Creek which is the only creek with substantial water flowing into Lamar R.  It could also mean Crystal Creek which is one of the “gems” streams with very little water that flows into the Lamar.

Just heavy loads and water high.  
This could mean the large boulders in the Shoshone R as it flows from below BB dam down through Cody, WY or the heavy silt load on the Shoshone R at the BB dam, the Willwood dam, and where it flows into the Big Horn Reservoir (all in the Thermopolis solve).  I also took this to mean heavy loads of huge boulders in the rapids in the Lamar Canyon.  Water high might mean the high water mark of the Lamar (or any) river.  Water high could be where Lamar joins the Yellowstone and becomes a river too deep to cross on foot.  It could also mean any alluvium, especially braided – can’t paddle that – , at a creek’s mouth such as where it spills into a larger river)  Heavy loads (lodes) might also be referencing the many prospects and mines such as in SW Montana and along Clear Cr in Colorado.  Heavy loads and water high could mean a glacier or perennial snowbank.

If you’ve been wise and found the blaze,   
For the Thermopolis solve:  you have gone past Sage Creek (wise) as you go upstream.  The blaze is the Firefighters Memorial on Shoshone River upstream of the dam, elevation:  6190’.  This falls apart at the end because of the ff comment about no human trails in close proximity.

On the Fort Collins/Estes Park solve I was looking at a B-29 crash site that I thought ff might visit and honor because he had been a military pilot.  The B-29 trail description is to look for an Arrow on the final leg to the B-17 crash site.  For this solve I ignored it being a place ff might want to be buried.

My first solve along the Lamar R included an “owl face” along the river in the foothills between Tower Falls and Lamar Canyon.  The “eyes” are two small lakes, the beak is a small hillock south of the eyes.  The Blaze is an outcrop of white soil between and north of the eyes about 200 feet.

The Blaze could also be Tower Falls as seen from Specimen Ridge.  The Blaze could also be the Devil’s Slide above Yankee Jim Canyon.  Either type of “Blaze”, rapids or falls, could easily have a rainbow associated with the spray.  The rapids would show a rainbow most of the day with the sun to the south.  Tower Falls would only have a rainbow early in the morning with the sun to the east.  Devil’s Slide is also rainbow colored rock and soil.  Devil’s Slide is on private property but the very top end is on USFS, although quite a tough hike to access.

Blaze could also be a burned area but most of the YNP area burned up in 1988 and many subsequent years so that could mean just about anywhere in MT or WY.

Look quickly down, your quest to cease,
This phrase tells me that I am very, very close to the chest.  It is either literally at my feet or just down hill from where I am standing.  If you imagine my “owl” of pond eyes, it could mean to look at the “downy legs” and talons of the “owl” which would put it at the high water mark of the Yellowstone River across from Tower Falls.

To Cease could mean two (2) C’s such as Crystal Cr. or Cache Cr.  Two C’s could also mean the continental divide where water flow splits between the Pacific Ocean (sea) and Atlantic Ocean (sea).  But, that is just about anywhere in the Rockies in MT, WY, CO, and NM.

But tarry scant with marvel gaze,
To me, this means “Get the heck out of there before getting caught”.  That could be a situation for both NP lands or private lands.

Just take the chest and go in peace. 
I think this means “Don’t whoop & holler”, don’t tell anyone you found it until you are safe at home.  Peace could be a reference to a church camp or travel through a cemetery even though the TC is not hidden in a cemetery.  Peace could mean respect for the dead killed in the B-29 crash.

So why is it that I must go And leave my trove for all to seek?
I don’t see anything here.

The answers I already know,
I don’t see anything here.

I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak.
I think this is telling the reader ff did the trip on rubber tires, probably by car or truck and that he was gone a week.  Of course, a week of travel could put him in any search state depending how many times he stopped and how fast he drove.

So hear me all and listen good,
Is there sound which could be a clue – water gurgling?  I liked the recent post from another Chaser of a natural amphitheater.  I thought that was a good interpretation.

Your effort will be worth the cold.
A synonym of cold is Icebox (canyon in YNP, another is Piercing such as water spray from a water falls.  It might be as simple as having to wait through the cold of winter before snow melts enough to search in the field.

If you are brave and in the wood
This could very well mean the TC is hidden in a hollow log thus easier for a child to retrieve.  Or, it could mean under a log thus easier for a child to see under.  Or, it could mean to duck under the water to get under a log jam.  In two interviews FF has said people should get out and kick over a log.  My favorite interpretation is that there is wood inside the chest that carries a “deed” to keep the findings.  Wood could also mean it is in the trees, if so, there are trees along the the high water mark at most rivers.  Brave might mean be careful of buffalo and grizzlies.  Brave could mean Warrior Mtn in the Idaho Springs, CO mining area.  Btw, there is a Santa Fe Mtn just south of I-70 near Idaho Springs and 8.25 miles north it leads one to a mountain called Fairburn.

I give you title to the gold.
A legal title for the finder could be inside the chest along with legal caveats and codicils.

Finally, I am saving two solves from you all because they are within a day’s drive from my home.  I plan to check them out if the snow ever melts.

Solve #1 – Begin at Soda Springs in YNP, travel down to Buffalo Ranch, cross the Lamar over to Crystal Creek.  Look around between the Lamar R bank and the top of the drainage.  Look for a hollow log or under a log near anything that could be a blaze.

Solve #2 – Begin at Soda Springs in YNP, travel down to Buffalo Ranch, look on GE for the Owl Eyes and forehead blaze.  Walk downhill to the Lamar R bank and look through the trees near the high water line along the river.

Solve #3 – Begin at Soda Springs in YNP, travel down to Yellowstone Picnic Area, hike up Specimen Ridge, break off from there and hike down to the Yellowstone R across from Tower Falls.  Look around the side of the draw on your way down as well as check out the high water area along the Yellowstone R.

Solve #4 – Begin at Soda Springs in YNP, travel down the Lamar R to its merging with the Yellowstone R.  Check out around the confluence area at the high water mark.  There could be a recognizable blaze in the area.

Solve #5 – Begin at Thermopolis, WY, travel down the Big Horn R and shallow BH canyon just below Thermopolis.  Travel down to where the Shoshone R flows into the Big Horn R (below the bentonite plant owned by the Brown family) at the upper end of Big Horn reservoir near Lovell, WY.  Follow Shoshone  R up through Cody, WY, up past Buffalo Bill dam and reservoir until you find the Firefighters Memorial (blaze).  It might be there but there definitely are human trails in the proximity.  Also, for some inexplicable reason, I doubt ff would use an industrial plant as HOB, then again . . .

Solve #6 – Begin at the Boiling R. south of Gardiner, MT, travel down the Yellowstone R canyon towards Yankee Jim Canyon.  Somewhere near there you will see the Devil’s Slide down the side of the mountain.  In this solve HOB is the sewer plant for Gardiner, MT – not very attractive.

Solve #7 – Start at Idaho Springs, CO.  I didn’t find a HOB here but I did find a Toledo Mine, Santa Fe Mtn, Warrior Mtn (brave), and Fairburn Mtn (blaze).  I didn’t work this one very hard.

Solve #8 – I didn’t develop this one very well.  Start at Brown’s Lake near Ft. Collins, search for a B-29 crash site in CO just west of FC.  There is one not far north of Estes Park but still outside of RMNP.  This one can be mostly driven to on FS roads but has to be walked to the last mile or so.

Solve #9 – Begin at Upper/Middle Geyser Basins, travel down the FH river canyon, turn around (Spanish verb for Brown) at the Firehole River Drive one-way sign, look around between the confluence of the FH river into the Madison and then up stream towards FH falls.

I admit all of my “solves” have holes in them.  This has been strictly arm chair stuff while I’ve been waiting for the snow to melt.  Remember, I only learned of the Chest Chase last December so have not had a chance to get out in the hills.  And, after a couple field trips, I hope I can get this out of my system.

And, finally, it has been nearly two weeks since I have read anything about Fenn’s treasure.  I think I have broken my addiction to the poem.  I think I’m back to my previous life again.

Ken S in Montana