Deadwood Gulch…

SUBMITTED MAY 2018
by DAVE FROM KC

 

I thought I would share the details of my 2nd search for Forrest Fenn’s treasure.  I did not find the treasure but maybe some of my logic can help someone else find it.  Below is my failed solve #2.  My search location was Deadwood Gulch just south of Silverton CO and I will get into the details about the location a bit further below.  Everything below is just my opinion even if I forget to state it sometimes.  Thanks for understanding.

First I looked at the ‘big picture’ because I felt that was missing from my first solve which initially led me to the wrong location for WWWH.  After giving it some thought, I felt the big picture might be related to Forrest facing his mortality, looking back at his life, and making a final statement to the world about his life…or at least a final statement to his father.  Forrest mentioned on multiple occasions that his father instructed him to ‘grab all of the bananas’, specifically while riding on a ‘train’.  I figured the ‘train’ was a metaphor for life and that the ‘bananas’ were a metaphor for seizing every opportunity that life presents.  Since Forrest mentioned this train/bananas metaphor multiple times I felt like he was saying that this was very important and sage advice from his father and that he tried to adhere to it during his life.  From Fenn’s writings, I do feel as though it is important to Forrest that he impress his father.  I then went on to conclude that the treasure chest and its contents represented some of the many ‘bananas’ that Forrest had grabbed during his life.  I felt like this train/banana metaphor from his father might have been what Forrest was referring to when he stated “What surprises me a little is that nobody to my uncertain knowledge has analyzed one important possibility related to the winning solve”.  I personally have not read on any of the blogs where searchers believe a train should be involved because of the banana metaphor (I have seen searchers that like train involvement for the halts but not for the banana metaphor).  Am I the first to analyze this important metaphor from his father and is this what Forrest was referring to with his quote above?  Who knows.

 Forrest’s original idea about the poem and the location was that he would go to the location, die with the chest, and leave the poem for people to come find him and the chest.  For my solution I looked for a location that would include a steam train, a canyon, a river with ‘put ins’ for rafts/kayaks, a potential home of Brown, and other aspects of metaphorical significance for someone dying.  Forrest did say “those who solve the first clue are more than half way there, metaphorically speaking”.  I took this as a hint that metaphors were important to the solution.  I think you can still keep it simple and interpret metaphors in the solve…metaphors are not like some of the crazy complex stuff I see some searchers writing about (anagrams, codes, ciphers, etc.).

Stanza #1
As I have gone alone in there
And with my treasures bold,
I can keep my secret where,
And hint of riches new and old.

For the first stanza, I took this to mean Forrest went alone to hide the treasure and that he did not tell anyone…so it was his secret.  I interpreted “Hint of riches new and old” as a hint that the location had old riches and Silverton, CO fits this because of all of the mining that took place there (there are old mines strewn about everywhere).  For new riches, it could be a hint of the treasure itself, or possibly all of the great fun to be had in Silverton (rafting on the Animas river, riding the steam train between Silverton and Durango, hiking, fishing, ATVing, etc.)  I thought ‘Bold’ could be a hint to the treasure location, which is just a 200-foot hike up a cascading creek just north of US Highway 550 in Deadwood Gulch (we’ll discuss this further down).

Stanza #2
Begin it where warm waters halt – Clue #1
and take it in the canyon down, – Clue #2
Not far, but too far to walk.  Clue #3A
Put in below the home of Brown.  – Clue #3B

For WWWH (clue #1), I went to the ‘big picture’ mentioned above and the train metaphor.  I felt the big picture and the metaphor were the reasons this location was so important and special to Forrest…and NOT that the location was one that was special because Forrest visited it during his childhood…but instead special for the purpose Forrest was seeking for his final statement to the world (or his father).  Silverton has a steam train that still runs today between Silverton and Durango.  Train stops were sometimes referred to as ‘halts’ in the old days.  These were usually water stops where the locomotive would receive more water for steam powered fuel.  The warm waters are those heated waters stored in the locomotive.  I chose the Silverton station as my WWWH.

When the Silverton train departs, it heads south and down the canyon and follows the Animas river downstream (clue #2 – take it in the canyon down).

For the HOB (clue #3) there are several possibilities (Brown Mountain is 10 Miles due north which is TFTW and Brown’s Gulch is 5-6 miles NW of Silverton which is also TFTW).  There was a previous Silverton solution from another searcher that was using Cement Creek (which feeds the Animas river in Silverton) as the HOB because the locals call the water at the confluence ‘Brown Gravy’ (I doubted this one).  Regardless of which HOB you choose, there is only a single feasible marked ‘put in’ in this area and it is ‘below’ all of these (south and lower elevation).  Just south of Silverton (and north/upstream of Deadwood Gulch), there is a ‘put in’ on the Animas River that is used by the rafting companies and kayakers.  This is an ‘official’ put in with its own sign (see photo).  This ‘put in’ is south / downstream from the Silverton Rail Road station so this also has you moving down the river / canyon.

Below are some additional thoughts on this location and why it might be special for a reason important to Forrest.  I believe Forrest does not want his life or his name to be lost to history like the graves of the French soldiers he stumbled on in the high grass field near the waterfall he found in Vietnam.  I’m thinking he has a strong desire to be remembered long after his death (thus the books, memoirs, etc.).  He was also a very smart promoter and marketer in his life after the military.  Choosing a tourist location like Silverton would be brilliant in terms of ‘marketing’ for his immortality.  If his treasure was found in that tourist town it would be discussed on every train ride and every rafting trip…there would be businesses setup in town around the Forrest Fenn name, and they would probably create a Forrest Fenn museum in the town for the tourists to visit after they get off the train (they have a couple of hours to spend in Silverton before the return trip to Durango).  It would be brilliant!  And Forrest IS brilliant when it comes to promotions and marketing.  I understand that this thought will offend some searcher’s idealization of Forrest and also that Forrest himself might not agree and might be slightly offended by this…so this is just my opinion…but I personally would not put something like this past Forrest and would not blame him for such a brilliant plan!  I just cannot ignore the fact that this man was a self-admitted non-lover of art…yet we know he made a small fortune as a great art dealer.  Why?  Because he knew how to market and promote.  Would Forrest get the same level of immortality if he hid himself and the treasure way out in the middle of nowhere?  I do not think so.  With that said, I do think Forrest has already achieved some level of immortality with this amazing treasure hunt he created, for being a war hero, and with his other books so I do not intend to diminish that with the above opinions…I just think hiding his treasure in a tourist town would take his immortality to the next level…and I do think immortality is important to him and I might not even believe him even if he directly told me otherwise.

Many, many other train hints:
The train hints from Forrest are voluminous and at this point I do not think I could have a solve that does not involve a train.  Forrest has talked and written about trains several times and has made several comments that associate trains to death (I suggest going to the Tarry Scant website and search by ‘train’ to get the exact FULL quotes on the below bulleted items).
·       When talking about his dog Tesuque’s expression when hungry he described it as “Feed me now or there will be a train wreck with no survivors” – Death by train comment #1.
·       When answering one searchers questions Forrest gave a long response that included “Besides, I will probably get hit by a train” – Death by train comment #2.
·       In a separate video interview Forrest mentions “Yet, tomorrow I will probably get run over by a train, but I believe in karma and some of those things.” – Death by train comment #3.
·       In yet another separate interview Forrest states “I dare you to go get it.  If you find it, you can have it.  And nobody knows where it is but me. If a train runs over me this afternoon, it will go to my grave with me” – Death by train comment #4.
·       Forrest provides a very warm written response to a searcher named Diane that wrote to him about hobos and trains and referred to her as “kindred”
·       Forrest quotes his friend Eric that the far away sound of a bell “can be both forlorn and soul-stirring”.   Later in that same topic, he wrote that he acquired from Eric a cast iron bell possibly retrieved from an old steam locomotive that he keeps at his San Lazaro Pueblo.  Forrest has a thing for bells.  The old trains have bells.
·       Forrest mentions in his TTOTC book that as a child he could hear the steam train going out of Katy “The Katy Rail Road tracks were about half-mile from our house and late at night I could hear the steam engines puff and the engineers blow their air horns. It was a soothing sound and sometimes I think I can still hear when the wind is out of the east.” – The Silverton train tracks are east of the potential hiding spot in Deadwood Gulch.  If Forrest was going someplace to die, would he not want something soothing like the air horns from the train?  The Silverton train uses these steam whistles and he could definitely hear them from Deadwood Gulch.
·       The last sentence leading up to the poem in TTOTC says:  “So I wrote a poem containing nine clues that if followed precisely, will lead to the end of my rainbow and the treasure:” The Silverton Rail Road Station was at the end of the “Rainbow Route” which was a steam train dating back to 1888 that ran from Albany to Silverton, CO. (long since defunct)

Stanza #3
From there it’s no place for the meek,  – Clue #4A
The end is ever drawing nigh; clue #4B
There’ll be no paddle up your creek, Clue #5
Just heavy loads and water high.  Clue #6

For Clue #4 (From there it’s no place for the meek, The end is ever drawing nigh), I have multiple possible interpretations.

My first thought for clue #4 was that Forrest might be referencing the Animas River which is on your left (nigh) while moving south/downstream from the Silverton Station to the ‘put in’ location.  This is the river that runs along the Silverton train tracks.  It is also known as “The River of Lost Souls”.  ‘Lost souls’ are considered to be ‘damned’ souls…since the ‘meek will inherit the Earth’ the meek are not ‘damned’ souls and therefore this would be no place for the meek.  This information about being ‘damned’ or a ‘lost soul’ would be pertinent for any person who is dying (end is drawing nigh/near) and Forrest thought he was going to do this whole poem and treasure hunt to go to the place he was going to die.  Hint – Forrest calls the chest his ‘indulgence’.  If you look up indulgence you find a pertinent definition of “a grant by the Pope of remission of the temporal punishment in purgatory still due for sins after absolution. The unrestricted sale of indulgences by pardoners was a widespread abuse during the later Middle Age” (could Forrest be offering back some of his ‘bananas’ (i.e. treasure) as an indulgence to be pardoned for his sins?).  Forrest’s scrapbook #26 shows an old ‘anima sola’ which depicts a lost soul in purgatory.  Forrest pretended to not know what it was…yeah right.  Could he have been hinting at the Animas river?  I thought yes.  Anima is defined as “soul”.  Forrest has stated he is not really religious and that he is more spiritual…but I think most people have religious type thoughts when facing death and maybe the fact that Forrest was not religious during his life gave him some concerns that he might end up in some sort of purgatory if he turned out to be wrong about religion?

My second thought on this clue #4 ties back to the bananas/train metaphor.  The meek would not be the ones ‘grabbing all of the bananas’ in life’s short (end ever drawing nigh) ‘train’ ride.  Thus, unlike Forrest (and the searcher trying to find his bananas), this would be no place for the meek.  I felt this is less likely to be correct than my first thought on this above but I would not put it past Forrest to have multiple meanings to the clues and I believe the message of the bananas/train metaphor from his father is that “life is short and do not be meek…seize all of the opportunities”.  So, I do somewhat like this second interpretation…just not as much as the first one above.

My third thought on this clue #4 is that this was the land of the Ute Native American tribe.  There was an “Indian Agent” named Nathan Meeker who was slaughtered (along with 10 others) by the Utes in the White River settlement on the western side of the Continental Divide.  The Utes near Silverton were led by the peaceful Chief Ouray and there was no Nathan Meeker around trying to force the Utes into an agricultural lifestyle.  Even still, the end was drawing nigh for the Utes as they were driven from the land near Silverton despite Chief Ouray’s peaceful and diplomatic approach.  I felt this interpretation was less likely than the first or second interpretations above.

For clue #5 (there will be no paddle up your creek), I note the semi colon after clue 4.  Semi colon’s can be used for a change in direction, and I thought that Forrest might be referring to a change in direction because as you continue south/downstream from the Silverton Station and then past the ‘put in’ along the Animas River, after approx. ¾ mile (from the put in) you will come to a creek called ‘Deadwood Gulch’ that feeds into the Animas river.  This Deadwood Gulch creek runs perpendicular (change of direction) to the Animas and it has a pretty steep climb up the mountain from its mouth at the Animas.  I believe Forrest indicates in the poem that it is ‘your’ creek because ‘his’ river is the Animas (river of lost souls) but the creek you want (your creek – the one with the treasure) is Deadwood Gulch.  Hint – ‘Deadwood’ is a term used in the card game Canasta!  If you do not have the first clue you might as well stay home and play Canasta!  You need to head ‘up’ this Deadwood Gulch creek (in elevation – not North).  There is no way you would ever put any sort of kayak or raft into this steep creek and thus there is no need for a paddle.

Clue #6 (just heavy loads and water high).  The creek in Deadwood Gulch flows down from high on the mountain (water high) and features a very nice waterfall (also water high) just below highway 550 (yes, THAT highway 550 – the one also known as the ‘Million Dollar Highway’ between Silverton and Ouray).  Between highway 550 and the mouth at the Animas, the creek also contains lots of old timbers, wood, and cast iron parts from an old mining operation that, I believe, ran some sort of rail cars / trolley down alongside the gulch to carry loads down from the mines further up the mountainside (heavy loads).  When I inspected this part of the creek I did see some sort of iron wheel and some old pieces of metal that looked like they might have been used as tracks.  You have to be careful walking around this area due to all of the mining debris that included wood pieces with old rusted nails sticking out of them.  I walked around this part of the gulch below highway 550 looking for a blaze (besides the obvious waterfall).  I did not find a blaze on that section of the Deadwood Gulch below highway 550 and ultimately decided that I did not like that part of the creek for Forrest’s hiding spot because it did not have a blaze (other than the waterfall), and I could not identify any location down there that would have a spot 200 feet away where some searchers would have been that also coincided with a separate 500-foot spot where lots of people would have been.  In addition, I also did not like the fact that all of that mining debris cluttered the area…if Forrest hid the treasure in this area I could see it being accidentally discovered at some point in the future if they ever decide to clean up all of that mining debris.  If you are down in that lower part of Deadwood’s Gulch searching, I think you need to be wise and think about the part of the Gulch above highway 550 (see explanation below for clue #7).

Other misc.  hints pointing to Deadwood Gulch near Silverton:
·       In OUAW, Doug Preston writes that Forrest originally intended to leave the final clue by leaving his car in the parking lot of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.  This museum is located just outside of the ‘Golden Triangle’ of museums in Denver.  The San Juan Triangle is created by connecting the towns of Silverton, Telluride, and Ouray.  Deadwood Gulch is just outside of the San Juan Triangle since it lies just south of Silverton.
·       In TTOTC, there is an illustration of “My Spanish Toy Factory” which shows three children looking down at a triangle formation (marbles) and two of the children is pointing down at the triangle (or maybe just outside the triangle).  Deadwood Gulch is in the San Juan Mountains (San Juan is obviously a Spanish name and could be linked to “My Spanish Toy Factory” for that reason…and isn’t this whole treasure hunt like a big toy for Forrest?)

Stanza #4
If you’ve been wise and found the blaze, Clue #7A
Look quickly down, your quest to cease, Clue #7B
But tarry scant with marvel gaze, Clue #7C
Just take the chest and go in peace. Clue #7D

I am counting the whole 4th stanza as clue #7.  After searching the area of Deadwood Gulch below highway 550 I think you need to be ‘wise’ that it is not the hiding spot and also ‘wise’ to the fact that the Gulch extends above highway 550 and that area above highway 550 should be considered for a search.  You also need to be ‘wise’ to get in your car and drive up to the top part of the Gulch above Highway 550 because hiking it is impossible unless you are some sort of mountain climber (it is a little over a 2-mile drive from Silverton to where the Gulch meets highway 550).  Thankfully, as you drive up on highway 550 at Deadwood Gulch you come to a ‘turnout’ in the road that is gravel and a place to park your car (see photo).

As you look up the Deadwood Gulch from the mountainside turnout you are treated to a beautiful cascading creek that runs relatively flat and shallow between the steep stone gulch walls up to a small and beautiful waterfall.  The stone gulch walls are covered with all sorts of ‘desert varnish’ in various colors but much of it is a tarry black color.  There is no mining debris in the Gulch above highway 550.  As you look at the small waterfall (which happens to be right at 10,200 feet of elevation and 200 feet from the gravel parking area) you see something that stands out…a blaze.  I had seen this blaze before in a picture of this Deadwood Gulch cascade on Pinterest…and I went there looking for this blaze.  Directly to the right of the waterfall (as you face it) you see this large square shaped red rock facing you with three fat dark black streaks of desert varnish.  The black desert varnish streaks on the otherwise red stone really stands out and is quite beautiful (see blaze photos).

Fire is a blaze and red in color…why not a red blaze?  Tarry scant could refer to the red aspects of the stone that were not covered by the tarry colored black lichen.

Go in peace’ (i.e. Rest in Peace) could be a reference to Forrest dying and resting in peace now that he has paid his indulgence to the searcher.  When I viewed the potential blaze from near the road it appears small and a bit hard to see and almost looks like it could be some sort of native American rock art…but up close you can see that it is quite large and is just lichen created desert varnish with an unusually bright contrast between the black and the red. The only way to get up to the blaze from the parking area is to go into the cascades and walk 200 feet up the creek…there are no side trails and the sides are steep and treacherous and thick with pine trees.  It could be the earlier searchers within 200 feet simply provided Forrest with some nice pictures of their time in Silverton and that the Gulch was not a part of their solutions.  Or, it could be that the searchers were there at a time when the Gulch was full of snow.  This year, the snow was melted by 12May, but normally this time of year that gulch would be full of deep snow making it inaccessible for a search until June.   I had been to this location earlier this year with my snow shoes and snow shovel and learned just how deep that snow was in April.  When I saw the heat wave from 5May to 12 May I guessed that it might be melted and I was right….it was running strong from the snow pack melt but I was able to easily walk up it with some hiking poles and rubber boots (and waterproof gortex pants) …. Fenn being a fly fisherman would not even blink at walking/wading up this cascade.  To get to the potential hiding spot you have to walk through the ‘pinch point’ where the walls of the Gulch are closest together.
Beyond the ‘pinch point’ it slightly opens up on the other side of the pinch point and has an area that has ground with bushes and accessible cavities at the base of the stone gulch for potential hiding spots (see photo).  One of these cavities was about 10-15 feet downstream from the blaze – quickly down.  This was at the base of the gulch and was an absolutely perfect hiding spot for the chest.  The cavity was outside of the creek, so not underwater but still wet…it was about 2-3 feet deep into the side of the Gulch, about 10 inches high top to bottom, and about 3 feet across / wide….and the cavity is in a spot that is hidden behind the pinch point of the gulch so anyone on the road would not be able to see what that crazy old man was doing up there in the Gulch when he was hiding it (see photo – it is the triangular shaped hole towards the right center of the photo with a small log in the water pointing towards it).

I got out my flashlight and shone it into the cavity…I was sure I was going to see some rocks covering the indulgence when I looked inside the cavity.  My heart was broken when all I saw was a bottle, a plastic cup, and underwear!  Yes, there was men’s underwear in the cavity…they looked relatively new and when I looked up the brand name I saw they were sold at Walmart.  I knew I really was up shit’s creek at this point when I found the underwear and I was able to have a small laugh despite my disappointment.  I assume this bottle, underwear, and cup had washed down from the top of the mountain.  There is no reason for people to go into that part of the Gulch beyond the pinch point because there is no fishing to be done in that creek and there are no hiking trails anywhere in the area.  It would be really hard to get beyond that small waterfall and it gets really steep beyond that waterfall so I do not see people hiking up that Gulch just for the fun of it.  It would not really appeal to mountain climbers either because they would get soaked and it would be an insanely cold hike.  There were some other cavities in the base of the gulch that were also empty…but none were as perfect as the one cavity described above…I REALLY thought I was going to find the treasure in that one and my heart was pounding when I saw it.

Other hints related to clue #7
·       Why did Forrest make the upper elevation limit an odd number like 10,200 feet instead of 10,000 feet?  It is not the tree line…the tree line is between 11,500 and 12,000 feet.  The lower limit is a nice even 5,000 feet so I have always wondered if it might be right at 10,200 feet and this solution gave me that 10,200-foot number, which I liked.
·       Within 500 feet of the blaze is a second parking ‘turnout’ on the opposite cliff side of highway 550 that would be more popular because that one would provide the view of the larger Deadwood Gulch creek waterfall that exists below highway 550.  These two turnouts would explain why lots of people have been within 500 feet and why Forrest might have known some searchers were within 200 feet if they took a photo of the cascades / small waterfall above highway 550.
·       People bike on highway 550 all the time and I saw several people on bikes…Forrest hinted that he might just ride his bike there and throw his bike in the ‘water high’ which he could do…just toss his bike into the Gulch below highway 550 and then hike up the cascading creek above highway 550.  At his age now, I think he would need to start somewhere high on the mountain and coast down on his bike and not try to start at a lower elevation and pedal up the mountain.
·       The creek and pinch point could explain why Forrest is confident no one would ‘stumble’ upon the treasure.  It is a great ‘gatekeeper’ for the treasure.  As noted above, there is no reason to go into that part of the Gulch above the pinch point unless you are searching for Fenn’s treasure.
·       Once you are up the cascade beyond the pinch point if you look back you see a wonderful view.  You are looking North and, in the distance, you have a great view of Brown Mountain (see snow covered mountain in photo below).  You also see Silverton and if you stayed there long enough you would eventually hear the train blowing its whistle and ringing its bell from the East.  It is a neat spot.

·       I found a picture of the blaze on the internet after I had my solution for Deadwood Gulch by searching for Deadwood Gulch Silverton Colorado.  Fenn was once asked if the blaze could be pre-determined from the poem before being physically at the search location and he called the searcher a rascal for asking that question and decided after a long deliberation that he would not answer that question.  To me, that leaves open the possibility for finding the blaze prior to being BOTG.  You can find the exact quote if you wish…it is out there.
·       Fenn wrote about lichen in scrapbook 171:  “Because these strong colored rocks are a favorite of mine, once a friend told me that if I took one home, kept it in a sunny place, and sprayed it with beer once a week, it would continue to grown and keep its colors.  It didn’t work.”

Stanza #5
So why is it that I must go
And leave my trove for all to seek? 
The answers I already know, 
I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak. 

I believe the 5th stanza is simply Forrest explaining that Forrest is ‘going’ (dying) and that he has his reasons for taking some of his ‘bananas’ to this spot for people to try to find using his brilliant poem.  He has grabbed as many bananas in life that he could and maybe this whole treasure hunt thing was his ‘last banana’.  When you think about it, this poem and this treasure hunt really has been a major ‘banana’ for Forrest.  He has sold many books, achieved fame, and cemented his legacy and immortality.  This was a banana that he could still grab late in life even though he was old, weak, and tired.  Right up to the end, Forrest is grabbing every banana in life and I am sure his father is very, very, proud of him.  I am sure his friends and other family members are proud as well.  He has also enriched many lives with adventure and outdoor fun…and that enrichment of others’ lives has been his ‘stated’ answer…but I think that was only one of the answers (plural).  The other ‘answers’ are more personal IMO and I may, or may not, have guessed them correctly above.

Stanza #6
So hear me all and listen good,
Your effort will be worth the cold. – Clue #8
If you are brave and in the wood – Clue #9
I give you title to the gold. 

For clue #8 (effort worth the cold), I think my solve was solid.  You have to walk/wade into a very cold creek.  Enough said.

For clue #9 (brave and in the wood), I think that the average person searching for the treasure might look at the Deadwood Gulch cascade with some trepidation…while it is shallow, it flows quite fast and it has a rock bottom.  Average people might think the cascade could knock them off their feet or that the rocks would be slippery…there is some bravery involved walking up that creek towards that waterfall and through the ‘passage’ at the pinch point (hint – Forrest recently said to have ‘safe passage’ and that pinch point in the gulch definitely qualifies as a passage).  The wood clue is obvious….it is DeadWOOD Gulch, and the cavities I found were literally inside the walls of the Gulch thus ‘In the wood’.

I think the rest of stanza 6 was for legal purposes…he wanted to make it clear that whoever finds the treasure gets to keep the treasure.

If you have gotten to the end of this, thanks for reading.  My hope is that maybe some aspects of this solution are correct and maybe can help someone with their solve.  Best of luck to all searchers and stay safe out there.

-Dave from KC

 

Not in Yellowstone…


SUBMITTED May, 2018
by dal

 

Journalist and traveler Issac Cole kept a podcast titled “On The Road With Charlie

Charlie is Issacs dog who travels with him and rides shotgun in his truck. His podcast is about traveling the roads and meeting Americans while tracing John Steinbeck’s route in “Travels With Charlie”. Issac’s podcast is an interesting journal and tantalizing journey, well worth the effort of listening.

In 2017 Issac interviewed Forrest. When that interview was published in May of 2017 it chased many folks away from looking for the chest in the Yellowstone area because although Forrest claims to have spent about 19 of his first 20 summers hanging out in that park and nearby, Forrest mentions in the interview that he has not been back to Yellowstone since 1950.

If this is true, Forrest could not have hidden the chest around Yellowstone, since it was hidden well after 1950. So why bother going there to look for it?

The question seems reasonable. The logic impeccable.

But there’s a problem…

Forrest visited West Yellowstone and Yellowstone National Park many times between 1950 and 2010.

This is not something I made up…It is fact. And it begs the question; why did Forrest say he hasn’t been there since 1950, when he certainly has?

I think I know what happened…but lets start at the top..

Below is a transcription of the relevant podcast section of Issac Cole’s interview with Forrest:

————————————–

FENN: I was a professional fishing guide when I was 13 years old. 

COLE: In Texas? 

FENN: No, in Yellowstone. West Yellowstone, Montana and I could… I ran a tackle shop all by myself. The guy that owned it was drunk all the time, so one summer I ran the tackle shop. I could make a gross of flies in a day and wait on customers at the same time. But you know, I tied catgut leaders, tapered leaders, I made split bamboo fly rods. I had a name for every fish in that country up there: Mary and Phyllis and Johnny and I knew where all the holes were. 

I’m an outdoors person. It wasn’t so much fishing, it was being there. I remember when I could hardly wait to get on the river, and catch a big old brown trout. I’d get out there, get out of my car and look  around and walk over and sit under a tree for an hour and watch the Osprey catch fish, and watch the Eagles try to take it away from the Osprey. God has a summer place up there you know?

COLE: I haven’t fished up in West Yellowstone but I grew up going to uh, a cousin of mine owns Campflre Lodge.

FENN: What’s the name of it? 

COLE: Campflre Lodge. It has a little restaurant there and log cabins and it’s right on the Madison. 

FENN: That’s after my time. 

COLE: Yeah, probably.

FENN: Because I spent 19 of my first 20 summers, three months, in Yellowstone or West Yellowstone but the last time I was up there was 1950.


Issac missed asking the follow-up question that he should have asked. Certainly understandable since Issac was not particularly fixated on the hunt for Forrest’s treasure nor was he knowledgeable of Forrest’s background. Issac really didn’t have the framework to understand that what Forrest just said was going to be a big issue for many searchers for many years…

The question we wish Issac had asked Forrest at that point was:
“Excuse me Forrest but did you just say you have never been back to Yellowstone or West Yellowstone since the summer of 1950?”

Unfortunately no such follow-up was asked and no clarification about that statement has been made by Forrest.

So then, why do I say that Forrest has, in fact been back to West Yellowstone and Yellowstone after 1950? Where is my evidence?

I will share a few pieces of evidence that I have with you.

First is the construction of the Dude Motel in West Yellowstone.

Forrest, his brother Skippy and friend and brother-in-law Donnie Joe built the Dude Motel which is still on Boundary Street in West Yellowstone. They also built a tavern behind the motel, but the tavern is no longer there. Forrest wrote a story in his book,  Too Far To Walk, about building the motel. I don’t believe he mentions the year it was built in his story which appears in Chapter 19 of the book. But Forrest answered an email from a searcher in 2011 and we published the relevant part of that email here on the blog. In that email Forrest states that they built the motel in about 1962.

Second is Crayton’s recollection from somewhat later.
Crayton is Forrest’s nephew. Remember that Forrest’s mom and dad ran a motor-court called Fennhaven Cabins in West Yellowstone in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. When they sold the motor-court they bought an airstream and still spent their summers up there. Crayton has vivid memories of Forrest and family spending time in West Yellowstone in the summers to visit his mom and dad and do a little fishing and relaxing. Crayton’s best memories of those visits are from around the end of the 60’s to the early 70’s.

Third is a photo Forrest showed me in August of 2011.
I can’t show it too you because I don’t have it. I was visiting Forrest in Santa Fe and we were sitting on his back porch sipping cold drinks and looking at some photos from his collection. One he showed me and talked about was taken just a couple years earlier. It was of Forrest and Peggy and another couple standing at Forrest’s favorite bathing hole, Ojo Caliente, on the Firehole River. The photo was taken from the bridge that crosses the river and looking down at the folks as they posed for the pic. Forrest and Peggy in the photo looked exactly as they did in real life on that day. Because of their age in the photo it could not have been more than a few years old.

So, why did Forrest say that he had not been back to Yellowstone since 1950?

I don’t think that’s what he said. I think that’s what we heard him say…which is often the case. It’s my opinion that listeners sometimes have different interpretations of what Forrest meant than what he intended. I think this is one of those cases…

I think the words Forrest spoke are clear-

“…I spent 19 of my first 20 summers, three months, in Yellowstone or West Yellowstone but the last time I was up there was 1950.”

But Forrest is not referring to the actual last time he was up there…He is referring to the last time he was up there for an entire summer (three months).

And that is probably an honest fact…

From 1950 to 1970 he was in the Air Force and never had three months off in a summer. After 1970 his life just continued to be busy and he never took three months off again to spend in Yellowstone…

Most people can say the same thing. Few of us…after high school…except teachers, retirees and some college students…ever had three months off in the summer to go play…

So, in my opinion and based on the info stated above (and more)…Forrest just meant to say something that he didn’t. He had one phrase in mind and he spoke another. The interviewer didn’t know enough about the situation to follow-up on it.

But, if you don’t want to waste your time searching around Yellowstone…no problem. There are plenty of great places to waste time looking at the splendid beauty of the countryside…eagles, osprey, buffalo, bear, trout, ants, beaver, otter….

-dal

 

 

 

 

 

The Madison River…

POSTED APRIL 2018
BY CYNTHIA

 

I could no longer endure this winter’s wait… I needed adventure and I needed it now. 

On page 120 of TTOTC, there’s a picture of Forrest as a youngster standing at the end of a wooden table, displaying 11 large trout. The caption below the photo says “A good day on the river, I was twelve. What fish we couldn’t use we traded for potatoes and other goods. It’s what kept us going during the war when my father was making $4,000 a year teaching school in Texas.”  I wondered if that could be the reference to the line in the poem “and hint of riches new and old”. Those fish were a commodity the Fenn’s traded for food… could they be the “riches old”? And if so, then what? Where do we go from there? 

At the top right on the same page are the words MADISON RIVER. The Madison begins at the confluence of the Firehole and Gibbon Rivers at Madison Junction. Everyone who searches Yellowstone already knows this… it is probably the most popular WWWH in the eight years of Fenn treasure hunting.

And if you’re still not convinced, look at the sentence at the end of the opposite page where Forrest wrote, “But as I got older, I realized there were many moments to remember, like the time I sat under a tree on the Madison River and watched the osprey dive for fish as I wrote a note for my wife…”  The chapter concludes with the sentence “And when my tackle box is closed at last and the cadis hatch is gone, I will rest through all of time and space, pillowed down and scented in, with a smile that comes from remembering the special things that brought me to that final place, one of which was knowing Peggy was there, somewhere, waiting for me.”

It seems to me that last sentence in the chapter titled Flywater just described his “special place”, his final resting place… a place that is private and dear to him… and where he ultimately hid the treasure chest. He mentions Peggy… is it where he sat under a tree along the Madison and wrote her that note? Is the underlying message of his poem his final love letter to Peggy?

On that same page are words or phrases similar to the words in the poem… personal secrets, space was mine alone, I know, watching the waters deepen, and words “special”, most “dear”.

Even if this idea is on the right track, the Madison River flows 183 miles from Madison Junction to Three Forks, Montana. (You could glean even more hints for the Madison River in the chapter Looking for Lewis and Clark, where Forrest wrote about Osbourne Russell and Jim Bridger.) 

But where to start… I don’t like Madison Junction as where warm waters halt. I want to find a warm water spring nestled off the beaten path but not too far from the banks of the Madison River. There are a few to be found on a detailed map but the actual search will have to wait until late May or early June, when the weather settles down and the search becomes less COLD. Forrest did write, “You’re effort will be worth the cold”… if he means this literally, how much cold do I have to withstand to find his loot? 

I have a dismal feeling that I’m a good 7 years behind Dal, and Diggin Gypsy, and many folks who have already made various trips to search the YNP area, including the banks of the Madison River. I need a plan to catch up… so I thought I’d start now, using the process of elimination to help narrow the field.

I had been watching the extended weather forecasts for Pocatello, Idaho, Henry’s Lake, Ennis, and Three Forks, Montana for a couple weeks. I needed a 5-day window of drivable roadways to get from New Mexico to Three Forks, where the Madison ends (I also included a couple days in Gardiner/ Mammoth Hot Springs), and back home. My plan was to actually drive along as much of the Madison as I could so I could eliminate areas… I had already seen much of the river inside Yellowstone last fall so could skip it. This trip was intended to see the river from Hebgen Lake downstream all the way to the end.

I was out the door before 5am Saturday morning… it’s an easy drive from Rio Rancho up Hwy 550 to Rt64 to head west and north to Cortez, Colorado, Moab, Utah, etc.  I stopped for a moment along the road just north of Nageezi, NM, to get a shot of this sunrise. This alone was a wonderful reason to get an early start.

Then I continued north through Canyonlands where the road skirted Wilson Arch… I pulled into the parking area to take a picture but decided I had to climb up beneath the arch where I could see others milling around. It was worth the effort, on hands and knees here and there… wow, the view was incredible. Descending was worse… on hands and feet and butt… moving like a hermit crab down the precipitous side back to the parking area… well, that was exhilarating, and I was grinning… Yep, this was already an adventure!

In 12 hours after leaving home, I was pulling into my hotel parking lot in Pocatello, Idaho.  I almost wished I hadn’t made reservations so I could keep on driving… the adrenlin was pumping and I couldn’t wait to cross Raynold’s Pass and drop down to the river. But I knew Sunday was going to be a long day so tried to sleep.

At daybreak I bolted from bed, skipped the free breakfast and headed north to Idaho Falls, then northeast to Henry’s Lake where I turned northwest and crossed the Continental Divide at Raynold’s Pass. It was magnificent with the snow and the sunlight making it’s way through the cracks in the whispy clouds above. 

It wasn’t long until I reached the Madison at the Raynold’s Pass Fishing Access area. I pulled into the parking area, grabbed my gear, and walked along the river downstream a bit. It was beautiful, but not where Forrest hid the treasure chest, IMO… there were barely any trees. 

On MW Forrest said: ” Stop arm chairing that thing to death and get out there in the trees where the box is, but before you go, look at the poem as if it were a map, because it is, and like any other map, it will show you where to go if you follow its directions.” Yep, I feel like I’m not following the directions… at least not yet. I needed to drive upstream towards Hebgen…

The scenery did not disappoint… it was absolutely magnificent. I decided to use my cell phone to make a few videos. I held it in my left hand which I steadied on my side mirror as I drove. There was little traffic… I think it was 26º. My hand got cold but I didn’t care. I was on a mission… then I accidently dropped my cell phone as I was driving. Oops… thank goodness it bounced away from my truck, and landed face up. 

I stopped many times to get out and take pictures… I will spare Dal the inconvenience of posting so many in this story; instead, I will post a link to them at the end. (I included captions to describe the places.) 

By the time I got to Grayling Creek, the sky above West Yellowstone looked ominous… like Forrest had a direct line to God and they were warning me to turn back. So I did… 

From there I made my way back along the Madison and continued my journey downstream on Hwy287 to Three Forks, Montana, stopping at each of the fishing access areas to peruse the liklihood of Fenn’s loot hiding in the vicinity. 

The next photo is from the Lyon Bridge… yep, I count that as a possibility to “marry the clues on a map and see where the lines cross.” There are trees.. a forest of pine trees along one bank, and easily accessible, all year long.

Eventually the terrain became a wide valley… the photo below shows a herd of elk lying in the field… the river is behind them, and I don’t see trees… 

I continued on to the Lewis and Clark Hotel in Three Forks… it was a small town, but charming… probably… on any day except Easter Sunday. Nearly every eating establishment was closed… and I was starving! But I didn’t care… I was ecstatic… I had accomplished my mission. Here is the link to my SmugMug pictures for that part of my trip.

CLICK HERE

But wait, my journey and  reconnaisance trip doesn’t stop here. I planned an extra two days to stay in Gardiner and drive into Yellowstone National Park  to visit Mammoth Hot Springs and see wildlife… the 4-legged variety. (There was also some wild life of the 2-legged variety in the Two Bit Saloon in Gardiner, but that came later.) 

I had never visited this part of the park before. There are pros and cons for visiting in the winter… it is COLD…. 16º Tuesday morning as I made my way through Mammoth Hot Springs and on towards Tower-Roosevelt and the Lamar Valley.  Even though the road is open to traffic, that doesn’t mean the road is bare… driving through the hilly, windy forested area where the sun seldom shines was gut-wrenching, at least for someone living in NM who seldom has to drive in snow or icy conditions. I went slow… there was little traffic so I had the entire road to maneuver.  

I saw billions of bison and elk… not literally that many but A LOT. I stopped stopping to take pictures of them and continued on to Slough Creek where there were supposedly wolves seen that morning. By the time I got there, they were gone… how do I know this, you might wonder? Because the career wolf-pack-watchers were gone… the SUVs and pickup trucks with the big anntennas and surly people with the gigantic lenses, so I was told. 

Part way through the Lamar Valley, I decided to turn around and head back to the Terraces in the Mammoth Hot Springs area.  It was still a pretty day, albeit a bit windy and still bitter cold, but I definitely wanted to see them.  It was one of the best decisions I’d made the entire trip… I fell in love with the upper and lower terraces. It is a photographers paradise.  (One of the pros of a winter visit, less people…)

Once again, I will spare Dal the hassle of including them in this story… here’s the link to the Yellowstone photos, with captions on most of them.

CLICK HERE

I want to make sure everyone who reads this story understands I did nothing dangerous to put myself at risk. I even used my better judgment and postponed a drive through Yellowstone Monday the day I arrived, when it was snowing, blowing, and visibilty was horrible. I hated the thought of another YNP Fenn treasure searcher having to be rescued… or worse.

I also went extremely prepared… I had snow shoes, snow boots, 2 pairs of hiking boots in case one pair got wet, a winter ski jacket, hat, gloves, enough food and water inside the truck I could have lived in there for a week, as well as a shovel, chain, and flares.  

I did not actually search for Fenn’s gold at any particular spots… because I haven’t found the place to begin.  But now I have a better understanding of the terrain.

I also drove home by way of Rt191 from Bozeman to West Yellowstone before dropping south into Idaho… holy moly! This is a must-see drive for anyone in the area who has never seen this canyon and the Gallatin River. 

Now I’m so confused… this canyon and river is as beautiful as the Madison… and Fenn was a fishing guide here so would know the area well.

I have 6 weeks to solve the poem… then I return.  

As a word of caution, I hope anyone who plans to search in any of these areas looks at my pictures to understand how much snow is still there, especially in the trees. Don’t be stupid!  Go prepared and always tell at least two parties where you will be, and check in with them every day. 

I saw these words on a plaque in the lobby at the Lewis and Clark Hotel…

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take,

but by the number of moments that take our breath away.”

I am fortunate… I just had many!

Cynthia

April 2018

About Lat/Lon…

SUBMITTED February 2018
by Diggin Gypsy

 

 

So this was another one of my searches last year the poem and numbers. They matched up to this spot . Forrest said if we have the coordinates we could walk right to it lol so y’all know me. I see things. Maybe my imagination is over-cooked. Who knows? It’s a lot of fun. The first number-

So that took me to West Yellowstone  so I had to find another number to go with it   Hmmmmm I had found several over the years but I had to have the right amount for a coordinate. I didn’t pick numbers to match my spot they just automatically matched  in a place I have searched many times. Here is the second set.

This was the perfect spot for the treasure  so we got down on the ground and raked around. Bu nothing! I have to say this was the best thrill of all my searches. if I would have hidden that treasure it would have been there in that perfect location.

What are the odds that the numbers take me to a location many of us search?    Maybe the numbers are just a hint. Who knows?  I searched that whole area without luck. Maybe it’s someone else’s turn and they will get lucky.  Happy trails y’all.

 

Diggin Gypsy-

 

 

My Solution…

 

SUBMITTED JANUARY 2018
by NEARINDIANAJONES

 

Forrest has stated everything in the poem is deliberate and placed there for a reason.  Along with the words of the poem, the commas, semi colon, and the apostrophes’ all play their part to unlock the poem.

Forrest also said all you need is the book, poem, Google Earth, and a good map, a good map is an understatement, it must be the right map.  Forrest served in the military, the military uses topographical (topo) maps, because they show greater detail and information about a given area.  However, it is not just the type, but what edition to use as well. Forrest tells us he got cancer in 1988, and during this time, he began his plans for the chase.  The right map to use for the chase is the USGS topographical map edition of 1988.  The reason for this edition is it contains information that later editions change or do not show.

What is so important about using topo maps is elevation.  Forrest has told us the treasure is between 5000ft and 10,00ft, the places on the map we are looking for to correspond with the poem’s clues are altitude markers.  My War For Me, notice how Forrest mentions his altitude frequently during the story, what makes the 1988 edition so important over the other editions, is how the altitude markers are hand written, and marked with an X, verses no X and block printed in later editions.

“Begin it where warm waters halt”, is the starting point to identify the first altitude X marker.  Forrest has made statements that have confused people to which stanza has the first clues.  This is because the first stanza contains the first two clues given by the poem, but the second stanza is the starting point for the first X on the map and the poems path that gives the answers to the two clues in the first stanza. The drawing associated with the story, Teachers with ropes, is the hint instructing what to do, connect the dots. The drawing shows the teacher with her hand up to halt the car and she and the six students connected by the rope.  Forrest said, looking for the blaze first is a waste of time, because solving the clues shows the blaze, and when you recognize the blaze, you will know how to find the chest’s location.

The little girl from India hint, Forrest said she could not get any closer than the first two clues, and if you do not know the first clue, to just stay home and play Canasta.  The first stanza contains the first two clues, and it is not until you identify the other seven clues will you know what the first two clues are.  The first two clues are the blaze, and the chest location. That is why, the little girl from India, cannot get any closer than the first two clues, because if she has solved the first two, it is because she has also solved the other seven.

“Begin it where warm waters halt and take it in the canyon down,” three locations: Gallatin National Forest, Lee Metcalf Wilderness, multiple lakes that flow down Beaver Creek, and end in Earthquake Lake.  Down from where the waters converge, is a waterfall, and near that is the first altitude X marker, or number 1, altitude X marker 6901AT.  It is important to note, the altitude markers have an X drawn on the map with them, and the only letter not used in the poem is X.  We are looking for “treasures bold”, and treasures are the X’s printed on a map.

“Not far, but too far to walk.” From the first X, look for the next X following the water down, the comma tells us it is not far, and associated with walk.  Also following the canyon down from the waterfall, is a walking trail, “too far to walk.” follow it to our next altitude marker 6907T, NFBTFTW, is seven words, and where the trail and road meet is the X.

“Put in below the home of Brown.” Near the second marker 6907T, there is an old Ranger cabin. A cabin is a home brown in color, and we are looking to put in below for the capital B.  Below the cabin, and put in below Boat Mountain, we have altitude marker 6818T.  If you look closely at the map, you will see that the hand written number 8 next to the T looks like a capital B.  Tea with Olga here our black X’s have merged with red crosses or t’s, and the red crosses are called Found Corners, they now mark the altitude.  Also from Teachers with ropes the phrase “do not touch” is in red, connect the dots with red lines.

“From there it’s no place for the meek,” the apostrophe in “it’s” means two are tied together, from there to here, follow the red line to Ghost village, “no place for the meek,”, and to next red cross altitude marker, 6404T or 640for t-he meek.

“The end is ever drawing nigh;” Going left from here, following the red line, we arrive at our next altitude marker, this marker has an arrow “drawing” or pointing to it, marker 6398T.   The semi colon means this point and the next point perform same action nigh.

“There’ll be no paddle up your creek,” From the current point, there will be a red cross, and with “no” number, but the apostrophe tells us to go two red crosses up your creek.  Continuing nigh, take a diagonal line from 6398T through one unnumbered red cross and stopping at the second red cross.  “Just heavy loads and water high” is Boat Mountain, and “Just” means to adjust to center altitude X marker, 9019AT near the red cross.

“If you’ve been wise and found the blaze, “ If you were “Wise”, then you are now X, and with Found Corners found the blaze.  X’s and found corners tied together. “Look quickly down, your quest to cease,” follow the red line down to the last of our 7 points, 6547T.  Now, connect all the points to see the blaze.

In addition, notice next to this point, is a gauging station for the Madison River, but on the map, it is misspelled gage.  The definition of gage: a valued object deposited as a guarantee of good faith. Sounds like an I.O.U.

The blaze is a cursive capital f!  But we are not finished yet, back to the first stanza, and to find the chest.

“As I have gone alone in there and with my treasures bold, I can keep my secret where, and hint of riches new and old.” “As I” is f, and you find his blaze by finding the treasures and connecting the X’s.

“I can keep my secret where and hint of riches new and old.”  I keeps his secret where and hints of where to look. The I is the eye from Forrest autograph.

“But tarry scant with marvel gaze, just take the chest and go in peace.”

 The area we are now in, is Refuge Point, here is the sign at the entrance to the trailhead, see the picture of the man parachuting in, seem familiar?

Forrest says the chest is 10” by 10”, and this, along with the eye in his signature, tells us altitude X marker 6610T is the spot.  However, we must adjust, “Just take the chest, altitude X marker 6610T, and go in peace.” Below X marker 6610T, there is a grove (leave my trove) of trees in the form of a cross (peace), which can be seen in Google earth.

Center tree of the cross, a good place to sit and think in the wood.

All of this is simply my opinion.

By NearIndianaJones-

 

Season Five…

SUBMITTED DECEMBER 2017
by Diggin Gypsy

 

SEASON FIVE
13.300 miles,   2 pairs of boots,  new set of tires,  3 lost flash lights,  50 bottles of Advil.  Went thru 3 backpacks  and always lost the bear spray.  Someone on the ride always had a head cold. Don’t matter when we went someone always was sick  and shared it  with the rest of us. We’re gonna start wearing those mask the Chinese wear. Smart people them Chinese 😷🤧   Then we always had the one that was always hungry, we made them hike with a picnic in their back pack.    The one who always had to use the bathroom carried the toilet paper.  I won’t mention who that was 😂. What a team we made!   If one couldn’t hike up a hill to look in a pile of rocks the other one did.  That was mainly Charissa and Melani. I watched for grizz at the bottom of the hill.
We also learned throughout the years that no matter if your 5 feet away or 10 feet away you cannot hear each other holler;  bring walky-talkies, they come in handy. Otherwise you spend half your time looking for each other instead of looking for the treasure, and then we all hike back mad and fighting, “where the heck was you?”, hehe.
Five years of searching we have tread thru every darn huge bush. Y’all know which ones. The ones that turn fire red and leave marks all over ya and the bees and birds hide in them. From Hebgan Lake to clear beyond Earthquake Lake  them dang bushes have been searched. Hate them bushes every stump or log along the Madison and hebgan has been overturned more than twice hills have been walked and walked again, and again. and again.
So what was suppose to be an easy drive/hike right up to our spot on one of our trips  ended up in days of long hikes down that road to Horse Butte. We walked all the way to Edwards Peninsula. One minute sunshine, the next minute a darn blizzard. First day was fun. Second day it was a job. Third day I wanted to kill my sister. Fourth day the gate opened and I realized I was now crippled and could barely move my legs to get out of the truck to search within 5 feet.
So I sat in the truck eating Fritos while I told them where to look.
Here was one of our many blazes.
Yeah! A line of white marble rock all the way across the mountain.
Now where is down? lol
Well no treasure there so we decided to look for gold in a creek instead.
This year we hiked thru tall swamp grass and we searched thru all the Lilly ponds outside of West Yellowstone.
We have totally lost all fear from animals. The first year, ohh  my god, every sound we heard sent cold chills up our spines. Five years later we’re brave Viking women.
Searching is so much fun for us, I don’t care if all we walk away with is an old coke bottle and a piece of an arrowhead, and maybe a ole fish hook of the ole coots off the Madison. We have fun fighting and making memories.
We camp and we eat cheap.
 
And when it gets too cold in your tent, you go to the Madison Hotel and get the cheap room for $75 and share a full bed with your sister. Desperate times call for desperate measures!
Horrible nights sleep.  The things we do to find a treasure. We had to share a bathroom with 20 other people. That was rough!  I’d rather share with the animals in the woods. None-the-less, 2017 was a fun year of searching with my team of Diggin Gypsys. Can’t wait to see what adventures are ahead of us for season six!!!!
ps: Stay away from Bessie. She doesn’t like visitors. She is one mad cow!
Goodbye 2017
Diggin Gypsy-

 

Grayling Creek 2017: Dal’s Version…

NOVEMBER 2017
by dal…

 

Earlier this year ABC Nightline contacted Forrest, Cynthia and me about a story the network news folks wanted to produce on Forrest’s treasure and the searchers who go after it.

Forrest agreed, Cynthia agreed and so did I. The logistical problem of a story like this for the producers includes the fact that the search covers four mountain states and searchers are widespread in their opinion about which of those states the chest actually resides in. So if you, as a producer are covering this chase with two searchers and an interview with Forrest you could end up sending camera crews and reporters to New Mexico for an interview with Forrest and two other states to cover the search by two searchers. If I decide to look in Montana in fall and Cynthia decides to look in Colorado in spring and Forrest wants to do the interview when his new book comes out…that’s a lot of trips for one 15 minute story. It takes time and money to cover at least three different locations at differing times of the year with a three or 4 person crew each time. The big networks have the resources to take that kind of story in stride. Independent filmmakers would rather film a single searcher and Forrest both in New Mexico and within a few days of one another. One trip, one crew…get ‘er done.

If a producer should be so unlucky as to plan on filming a searcher who thinks the chest is located inside Yellowstone National Park…a whole new level of problems presents itself. For instance, Yellowstone National Park doesn’t want to encourage searchers inside the park and they will send staff to oversee the film crew and searcher, much like a prison guard at Alcatraz. You have to search within a quarter mile of a road…and many more restrictions for searchers being filmed.

On the other hand an independent filmmaker and searcher might just slip into the park unnoticed and “get er done”. As illegal as that might be, the story gets shot and the park is unlikely to notice. BUT…if the producer does get caught it can lead to arrest and fines…even permanent banishment from entering a national park. So folks who know the rules usually choose not to break them. The cost is too severe if things go awry.

The plan was for us to meet the ABC crew on September 18th for filming in or around the park. Esmerelda, Kathy and I left for Yellowstone on September 14th. It was beautiful the day we packed up. I heard some hooting in the woods and knew one of the critters that inhabit our woods was wondering what was going on.

BARRED OWL IN OUR WOODS

Along the way we stopped near Arco, Idaho at Craters of the Moon National Monument for a walk and a look/see. This was a good time to visit. Dead of summer this place can be uncomfortably (miserably) hot and walking around on black lava rock when it’s 96 degrees is not my characterization of “a good time”. But it’s a unique micro environment and terribly interesting.

CRATERS OF THE MOON

I like getting down on my hands and knees to look for small things. I ran directly into this guy:

HORNED LIZARD

I’m not superstitious but I have to tell you…between the Barred Owl and the Horned Lizard I was beginning to feel like we were favored. If this was the way we were starting out, the rest of the trip could be fortunate indeed!

Since starting her search, Cynthia had been looking in New Mexico. She has written some great stories about her searches there and I highly recommend you read them on this very blog. She is a riveting writer and a fantastic searcher. Her stories will entertain and inform you. But, for a variety of reasons Cynthia wanted to search up near Yellowstone. She had never been there before, not even as a tourist and there were things she wanted to check out. So Cynthia, her partner Michelle and their dog Molly packed up and headed north. Tom and Coreda and their dog Ming, who were visiting Cynthia and Michelle also headed  toward the park. That was great. I had not seen Tom and Coreda since Fennboree.

We were a big contingent. Including the 3 crew from Nightline and my wife Kathy, we would be nine people and two bronze-sniffing dogs. That chest was not going to escape this time!

As it turned out, only Cynthia, Molly and myself would be searching on camera. The question was whether we should search together in one place to make it easier on the Nightline crew or should we each search in a different location? AND…should we search inside the park or outside the park? I had ideas for both…where to search???

Another concern was snow. Winter was moving in and nobody wanted to get caught in a snowstorm while searching. It would send the wrong message to other searchers and anyway nobody looks dignified on camera while slipping and sliding around. As Kathy and I drove the loop road in Yellowstone we saw snow in the hills:

SNOW IN THE PARK

ELK IN SNOW

By the next morning the snow was gone. On the 17th of September Cynthia and I met up for some looking around West Yellowstone, finding a few Forrest Fenn memorable locations and planning our search.

BISON IN THE PARK

We decided to search together but outside the park. I was particularly interested in an area around Grayling Creek I had not been able to examine. So we made plans to look there.

Grayling Creek has interested me for several years. The clues can take me to a number of places on that lovely creek and I know Forrest fished here.

I wrote earlier about searching on Grayling Creek in Grayling Creek Part One and Part Two on this blog. They can be found HERE

The creek starts in the park and winds its way west down to Hebgen Lake. It is one of many creeks I was investigating along the line of “There’ll be no paddle up your creek”

So here are the major points of the solution we were following:

WWWH = Madison Junction

Canyon Down = Madison Canyon

HOB = Baker’s Hole Campground

WAIT!!! Stop there…Why is Baker’s Hole the Home of Brown…?

That might be the worst fishing hole on the Madison. I’ve never seen anyone lift a fish from that spot. So it can’t be because of Brown trout.

Wellllll….We were using some old information that has been around this blog and others for many years. Namely that Baker’s Hole has not always been known by that name. You can see this for yourself on a 1912 Map of Gallatin County which is easily found on the internet.

Click HERE to go to the 1912 map.

You can see on that map where Baker’s Hole is today was once known as Brown’s Camp. Not too far below Baker’s Hole is Hebgen Lake…Hebgen Lake has a number of Creeks flowing into it and I have been checking them out as potential “No paddle up you creek” type places. By the way that map was also drawn by Fred Brown. I have not been able to find out if he was the Brown of Brown’s Camp…Maybe someone smarter than me can look into that…

In earlier years I had looked at the lower portion of Grayling downstream of the old Culligan Ranch to the lake. I have also looked upstream at the stretch between the Culligan Ranch and the waterfall. Much of this stretch is on private land and I had obtained permission before venturing in. Now, Cynthia and I were hoping to search the stretch between Hwy 191 downstream to somewhere above the waterfall. Our emphasis would be on the high elevation meadow along the north side of Grayling Creek. This stretch is completely on public land.

GRAYLING CREEK

In particular there is a large open meadow on level ground where animals (In my mind) would congregate for grazing and watering. It looked to be a pretty place…somewhere maybe Forrest might choose to be his final resting place.  Isolated, but not remote.

We met the ABC crew on the evening of the 17th around a campfire at Cynthia’s cabin, down the road from the park. The crew staged Cynthia and me at a picnic table looking over maps and discussing our search plans for the next day. It was here that they interviewed us prior to the search.

PLANNING THE NEXT DAY’S SEARCH

The next morning the crew and Cynthia met at my cabin in West Yellowstone. From there we headed up 191 about five miles to where Grayling Creek goes under the highway. The day was overcast but still and comfortable. Perfect hiking weather. Cynthia and I watched as the crew prepped their film gear and armed us with wireless microphones. Then we headed out, five humans and one ambitious dog.

Cynthia always searches with her dog Molly, who seems to really enjoy snuffling around in the sage and wildflowers. She also has no problem wading in hypothermic trout streams.

MOLLY

MOLLY & CYNTHIA WALKING THE CREEK

The weather was spectacular and the meadow was beautiful. A perfect place to come and enjoy animals, the smells of pine, peace, and a beautiful trout stream. I had high hopes…EXCEPT…what Blaze????

THE MEADOW

This is almost always my dilemma. I get to a spot but cannot identify the next clue…in this case, the mysterious blaze. If I had been by myself I would have explored the place and then left…blazeless.

But Cynthia saw it right away. She was not coy about it at all. “There is the blaze”, she shouted, and five humans and one dog marched quickly toward her large, bold blaze, high on a cliff at the end of the meadow.

THE BLAZE IN THE DISTANCE HIGH ON A CLIFF FACE

As we were parading toward the blaze Cynthia stopped to investigate a willow thicket mid-meadow. To our surprise, inside was a partly camouflaged and very recently killed deer. Frighteningly fresh. That morning perhaps. It made what’s left of the hair on my head bristle. I knew exactly what we were looking at. I had seen a hidden type of cache like this  about forty years ago while filming a documentary with the Craighead brothers.

The Craigheads were considered the crowned princes of Grizzly bear research and in the process of filming with them over several days they had taken me to a number of bear “locations” during the fall and winter. In addition to a bear den we had also visited a bear food cache. It looked uncomfortably like what we were now staring at. What I didn’t know and what concerned me most was where the owner was. The bear could be very close by. If the griz saw us messing with his food there would be hell to pay. I stepped back from the cache. I quickly glanced around 360 degrees. My nervous system was on high alert. I thought that if I were a bear I would have headed to high ground to keep an eye out for anything approaching my food.

The best we could hope for was a napping bear. I did not want to alarm anyone. We were having too much fun. I moved away from the cache and quietly mentioned tp Cynthia what I figured we were looking at. No bear revealed itself. I held tightly onto my thoughts and moved toward the blaze while keeping my eyes peeled for anything large and furry.

CYNTHIA’S WILLOW THICKET IN THE BACKGROUND

As we crossed the meadow to the blaze and ventured into Lodgepole Pine thickets near the creek I yelled out “HEY BEAR!”, just so we wouldn’t surprise any napping or foraging grizzly.

Finally, we stood underneath the blaze and looked quickly down. Cynthia saw the perfect hiding spot for Indulgence. A boulder that had peeled off the rock cliff hundreds, or perhaps thousands of years ago. It was trenched under at one end. Possibly as a shelter for some previous dweller…a badger or weasel or coyote. Molly was interested in the hiding place too. It was an exciting moment. Cynthia encouraged Molly to get into that den…Molly sniffing and getting excited…Cynthia and the crew adrenalized with the possibilities in front of us…me swiveling my head watching for bears…

A GOOD HIDEY PLACE

After both Molly and Cynthia had explored the den and found nothing of significance we gave the area a thorough walk through, looking for any other possible hidey spots or smaller blazes while the crew filmed our every consideration. We noticed that there were no trails in the area and we saw no others in our luscious meadow the whole day. Not even a fisher on Grayling Creek. It seemed like such a perfect place. I thought about spreading my tarp here and spending the night anyway.

CREW FILMING

CREW FOLLOWING

After spending a further hour scouring the edges and creekside…nothing was discovered and we reluctantly headed back to the highway and our vehicles.

I have to say that I really enjoyed searching with Cynthia. She is very respectful of the landscape and very appreciative of a beautiful meadow and trout stream. We had a great time. Cynthia is enthusiastic, agile and walks fast…so be warned if you have the opportunity to keep up with her…and Molly is a hoot…Always quiet and always observing as much as possible whatever is around her. Great hiking buddies.

dal-

You can read Cynthia’s version of this search HERE

The end result of the crew’s work are two stories on the ABC site. One story is video and the other is written. The written story is HERE

The video story can be found HERE

 

Grayling Creek 2017: Cynthia’s Version…

SUBMITTED NOVEMBER 2017
by CYNTHIA

 

The sound of chirping crickets awakened me as my iPhone announced it was time to rise and shine. It was still dark but I knew I had to hustle to get ready to join Dal and the ABC Nightline crew at Dal’s place in West Yellowstone where we’d planned to meet to start the filming of what I hoped would be an outstanding piece of Fenn treasure hunting.

It was Monday, September 18th, 2017. I’d been thinking about visiting Yellowstone National Park ever since I moved to New Mexico 25 years ago. I’ve been searching for Forrest’s elusive treasure chest for almost 5 years, and now I felt like I’d run out of places where warm waters halt, at least in New Mexico. It was time to broaden my search area, and West Yellowstone and the National Park was my new destination. I was ecstatic!

Lucky for me, Dal had agreed to meet me and my friends in West Yellowstone when we were still in the planning stages of synchronizing our itinerary way back in August. Soon after, ABC Nightline asked if they could film us on one of our searches… we both said yes.

Since Dal has searched this region repeatedly over the last several years, I let him decide where we should take them. I prefered a place outside the National Park boundary so that Molly could tag along. He agreed and knew the perfect spot…. at the bend in the road where Hwy191 crosses Grayling Creek. He knew Forrest had fished from the bridge downstream along Grayling Creek to the canyon.

Dal had the solves for the first 4 clues… all I needed to do was find the BLAZE. It sounded simple at first but the previous night I laid in bed worrying about my ability or lack of knowledge in finding one that made sense for the film crew.

It was starting to get light outside when I grabbed my camera and backpack and lifted Molly into the pickup truck. The temperature was chilly and the sky overcast and gloomy… thank goodness I’d brought a raincoat. Thank goodness I’d brought warm clothing…

The film crew took some departing shots of Dal, Molly, and me as we packed our gear into Esmerelda and drove towards Hwy191 where we turned north and headed to the bridge ten miles up the road. There was a wide enough area along the highway on the south side of the bridge where we could get both vehicles off the road. On the map that follows, the red arrow at the bottom is the town of West Yellowstone, and the red arrow near the top is where the road bends and crosses Grayling Creek, our destination for the day.

In the picture below, the small bridge crossing the creek in the grassy area is for snow mobiles to use in the wintertime. This is where the crew staged their cameras for our intial interviews that morning.

While the crew transported their gear from their SUV to the bridge, Dal headed across to scout a place where we all could safely get down the bank to the creek and forest.

The ABC crew was comprised of Michelle Kessel producer, Clayton Sandell correspondent, and Connor Burton producer and drone operator.

After the interviews, Dal and Molly took the lead as we scurried down the embankment and bushwhacked our way through the trees into the grassy meadow.

Dal had explained that the trees and brush were too thick along the creek downstream from the bridge so we’d walk through the woods into a large meadow and from there we could make our way to Grayling Creek. We could see trees, we could see mountains, and we could tell there’d been animals. We could smell the sweet smells of pine needles and sage brush…

And holy moly, off in the distance at the far end of the meadow, I could see a BLAZE… a rock face looking towards us.

As the film crew and Molly and I made our way through the sage brush, Dal walked up the hillside a bit to get a better view of the area.

Dal took some pictures from his vantage point, then came back down to the meadow and joined us. I had dropped Molly’s leash for a minute to take some pictures as well, only to lose her momentarily. She had wandered off to the thicket of willows behind the folks in the picture below.

Her nose led her to this… a dead mule deer with its front legs dismembered, and brush covering her body to hide her… Dal said it looked like a recent bear kill. Hmmm, were we being watched?

Instead of continuing straight to the BLAZE, we moved to our left and walked down to Grayling Creek. The pictures make the water look brown but it wasn’t… it was clean and clear and did not look deep.

At this bend in the creek, we left the shoreline and walked back through the trees to the base of my Blaze…

There, surrounded by trees, was a perfect hiding spot… beneath the end of this large boulder. I got down on my hands and knees and peered in… I didn’t see anything glistening nor anything that looked like the bronze chest with the loot… so I crawled in even farther. Just rocks… no treasure chest. But it looked like a great place where Forrest could have pushed the chest in a hole in the rocks… but he didn’t.

The crew asked us to walk back to the large meadow. They went to the far end as we stayed put. Then they launched their drone.

Before we knew it, hours had flown by. The crew told us they had enough footage and we could head back to the bridge and our cars. In the picture above, Dal is trying to find the game trail we used to get from the meadow through the forest and back to the road.

Eventually, we all made the short climb up the embankment and back to the bridge. Clayton asked us a few more questions on camera, and asked both Dal and me to read the poem for the final footage of the morning.

Our mission was over… we provided ABC with a damn good search story and an awesome half-day adventure. They were happy… I was happy… I found a good BLAZE. Were Dal and I disappointed because we didn’t find Fenn’s loot? Not at all… despite it being after noon, our day was just beginning.

He cranked up Esmerelda and off we went… into Yellowstone National Park and Forrest Fenn’s childhood special places.

To be continued… 2018! Cynthia and Molly and Dal

Cynthia-

 

You can read Dal’s version of this search HERE

The end result of the crew’s work are two stories on the ABC site. One story is video and the other is written. The written story is HERE

The video story can be found HERE

Full Thoughts on Halving the Blaze…

SUBMITTED NOVEMBER 2017
by FMC

 

 

Last night at about 3 am, I had a new thought for my current, in-process solve.  And in thinking it through, it’s sufficiently general enough to share – it doesn’t apply to just my solve, but to a number of different end of the poem possibilities.  So here we are.

If you’ve been wise and found the blaze

The two schools of thought related to this line and the blaze generally seem to be as follows:

1 – “If you’ve been wise” refers to an owl and viewing the blaze from above, most often via Google Earth, but also potentially from an elevated vantage point.  I’d also add GE/map “wise” based place names (Owl Creek or whatever) to this school.

2 – You need BOTG to find the blaze and “If you’ve been wise” refers to you having solved the clues leading up to this point where you are looking for the blaze.  You may be keeping an eye out for owl-shaped rocks, but you are reliant on BOTG prior to this line starting.

I’d generally put myself in School 1 as I think having an explanation for “if you’ve been wise” is an important part to being able to go with confidence to your search area.  I’ve also been of the opinion that the School 2 people are taking this part of the line for granted.  If you’re just going to find the blaze when you’re BOTG, why do you need to have been wise?

But it occurred to me that maybe there’s a third interpretation.  Most people tend to think of “if you’ve been wise and found the blaze” as one clue.  What if it’s two clues?

Under my new way of thinking, you still have to find the blaze with BOTG, but “if you’ve been wise” is a separate clue with an interpretation unrelated to the blaze itself.  Enter: King Solomon.

Whether a person is religious or not, I think the “Wisdom of Solomon” is a commonly known phrase/saying.

Per Wikipedia (which matched my own limited knowledge on the subject):

Perhaps the best known story of his wisdom is the Judgment of Solomon; two women each lay claim to being the mother of the same child. Solomon easily resolved the dispute by commanding the child to be cut in half and shared between the two. One woman promptly renounced her claim, proving that she would rather give up the child than see it killed. Solomon declared the woman who showed compassion to be the true mother, entitled to the whole child. (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solomon#Wisdom)

Okay… but how does this relate to finding the treasure?

Picture the following scenario, one which I expect is fairly common among searchers (either armchair or BOTG).  You’ve solved the clues and you’re hiking up alongside your creek with heavy loads and water high up ahead (or maybe you’ve passed them already).  Maybe you’re on a trail or maybe you’re already off the trail.  You’re looking for a blaze, but at this point, you’re basically flying blind outside of that.  Simplified, maybe it looks something like this:

You think you’re looking for the blaze, but maybe you first need to be looking for something else; something that splits from your creek.  Maybe it’s another creek.  Maybe it’s a side-trail (if you’re on a trail).  But we aren’t taking that side-trail/creek because what would be “wise” about that?  We need to split the creeks in two:

And then we find the blaze, find the treasure, pop some champagne, revel in our brilliant solve, and go about arranging to give FF his bracelet and buying a new car.  Easy game.

Obviously, I have no idea if this interpretation is correct, but it’s something I haven’t seen before and it doesn’t materially impact my 2nd solve (because you have to figure out the rest of the poem first) so I figured it may be something that could benefit someone else.  Do with it as you will – I’m going to bed.

 

FMC-

My Total Eclipse Search in Thistle Creek…

SUBMITTED OCTOBER 2017
by Hoblin

 

 

As a 5th-grader in 1979, living in the midwestern US, we learned about that year’s total eclipse in school.  We made pinhole viewers in class and were allowed outside at the appropriate time to view the shadows that they made.  It was pretty cool, but I was envious of those in the Pacific Northwest that were in the path of totality, and I decided right then and there that I would definitely get myself to the right place for the 2017 eclipse.  I even saved the next day’s newspaper to remind myself!

Fast-forward to 2012, when I first heard about the Treasure Chest while living in Ohio.  Intrigued, I studied the clues for a few days and tried to solve them.  Living so far from the search area was daunting, though.  Unless I had a perfect solve, it just wasn’t practical for me to fly out to the Rockies on a hunch.  I bookmarked the poem, and put the search in the back of my mind, only looking into it once or twice per year.

Two years ago, I realized that I missed the mountains, and decided to move back to the Denver area, where I had lived in the late 1990s.  My request for reassignment at work was granted, but with planning the move, the treasure was the last thing on my mind.  A few weeks before my move, I was at the dentist’s office, and in the waiting room I came across an article in Outside Magazine about the treasure hunt.  Wow!  I would soon be living in Colorado, and almost any search area would be within a day’s drive of my new home!

After my arrival in Colorado, I had a few days before I had to start work, and I decided that I had to spend a day in the mountains, coupled with the treasure hunt.  I spent a day searching the Brown’s Canyon area, but found myself just hiking around without any direction.  Still, it was a day with spectacular views, affirming my decision to return to the Rockies.

I didn’t search at all in 2016, but that Spring I looked into where the path of totality for the eclipse would occur.  I was excited to see that it passed through the Grand Tetons.  I would be able to combine my eclipse trip with a search in Yellowstone!  I was dismayed that nearly every hotel in Wyoming was booked for those days 18 months in advance, but I was able to make a reservation in Gardiner, Montana.

As the trip got closer, I thought that I would be able to narrow down my search area.  Instead, the more I looked at maps and read clues, the more directions my mind went.  If you follow the Firehole River south, it heads toward Goose Lake, which is next to Feather Lake.  Goose feathers are “down”, as in a down pillow.  Was this the “Canyon down” in the poem?  I just kept coming up with more and more possibilities!

On August 20, the day before the eclipse, I arrived in the Grand Tetons.  Making my way toward Yellowstone and my hotel, I passed by a place with exceptional beauty on the Snake River named Oxbow Bend, and decided that it would be the perfect place to view the eclipse from.  There was a small parking lot there, enough to hold about 20 cars, so I didn’t know if I could actually get a spot there the next morning, but I was determined.

Looking at a map of Yellowstone that night, everything suddenly clicked in my mind.  Because it is “too far to walk” between the first two clues, you are driving.  Therefore, the first two clues refer to “towns” rather than geographical features.  You are driving the road from Madison Junction (where warm waters halt) to Canyon Village, and then taking it south (down).

From there, you “put in” below the Mud Volcano (Mr Fenn said to “show the poem to a child.”  If you ask a child to name some things that are brown, “mud” is a likely response).  This leads you to LeHardy Rapids (he also said that “you have to use your imagination” that hearty is the opposite of meek).  You definitely can’t paddle up a rapids!  My confidence was growing.

On Eclipse Morning, I got into my car at 1:30 AM to beat the traffic, and headed toward Oxbow Bend.  I was the only car on the road!  It was amazing to zip through the park, going the speed limit the entire way, which is unheard of if you’ve ever experienced Yellowstone traffic.  I saw deer and a fox, and the steam coming off of Sulphur Cauldron in the 32-degree weather was awesome.  Plus, my drive took my past Canyon, past the Mud Volcano, past LeHardy Rapids.  Would I actually see the eclipse and find the treasure on the same day?

I arrived at my desired parking spot at 4:45 AM, with three or four other vehicles getting there before me.  I got out of my car to view the night sky.  At high elevation, miles from any city lights, you can literally see every single star in the sky, and it is breathtaking.  Because of the cold, I retreated to my car, gazing out the window at Orion, waiting for sunup.  In the dark, I was hoping that my location was as spectacular as I had remembered from the day before.  Well, the sun did eventually come up and my memory had served me correctly.  This was where I would be viewing the eclipse from!

By 6:00, the parking lot was full.  There were about 40 people gathered there, and we all got to know each other a little bit as the hours passed.  During this time, I was able to take photos of the mountains to the west, chat with people, and watch the pelicans in the river.  A park ranger showed up because a mother grizzly with two cubs had been spotted in the area, and he was there to monitor the situation.

At 10:17, the moon made first contact with the sun.  We all donned our eclipse glasses and looked toward the sun in the east.  A few moments later, someone shouted “Look!  Bears!”  We all turned around to the west just in time to see the three bears emerge from the water on the far bank of the river.  I reached down for my camera, and in that brief instant they had all disappeared into the woods.  It was as if the wise mother bear knew that if she waited until exactly 10:17, she would be able to lead her cubs across the road and into the river unnoticed!

The eclipse itself was amazing, and well worth waiting 38 years for.  We were rewarded with almost two minutes of totality from our location, and words can’t explain what a truly incredible experience it was.  The ranger was familiar with the bears’ habits, and knew where they were most likely to emerge from the forest, although he couldn’t predict when.  I thought about waiting around after the eclipse with my binoculars to get a better look at them, but I had a treasure to find!

I hopped into the car and headed toward LeHardy Rapids.  I parked, walked down to the river, and began searching for the blaze.  Unfortunately, the road went right alongside the river.  I could hear a constant flow of traffic whizzing by, and it became apparent that the location was not remote enough for Mr Fenn to lie down for eternity with the chest.  Also, the only blaze I could see was a long, thin stretch of white rocks in the middle of the river, which was in plain sight of anybody nearby.  My map showed that there was a stream feeding into the opposite side of the river named Thistle Creek, but I couldn’t locate it visually, and couldn’t tell from my map exactly where it was.

I spent the next few days exploring the Firehole and Madison River areas as well as the rest of Yellowstone.  I saw elk, moose, deer, bison, and a coyote, and I enjoyed the nightlife in Gardiner.  All in all, it was a pretty great trip.  Plus, I got to see the total eclipse, and fulfilled a promise that I had made to myself when I was ten years old!

After returning home, I spent some time researching some of the places I had looked into in Yellowstone, including Thistle Creek.  I had always been intrigued by Mr Fenn’s comment that if you don’t know where to begin the search, you might as well stay home and play Canasta.  As others have pointed out, “canasta” is the Spanish word for “basket.”  Imagine my intrigue when I learned that American star-thistle is also known as basket-flower!  How ingenious, I thought, of him to give a clue to the end point of the search while making it sound like a clue to the beginning point!

I then looked into LeHardy Rapids, and found that while most maps label everything north of Fishing Bridge as the Yellowstone River, most geologists actually consider LeHardy to be the official boundary between the lake and the river.  So if you are traveling south toward the rapids and Thistle Creek, the end of the river is definitely drawing nigh.  Mr Fenn has said that a knowledge of geography would be helpful.

I then found a few other things that made Thistle Creek seem like a logical solve:

In “The Thrill of the Chase”, page 91, Mr Fenn states that “The sound of the rushing water was stronger than the noise of the idling engine.”  Well, if I was on the far side of the rapids, the sound would drown out the noise of the traffic from west side of the river.

TTOTC also mentions Miss Ford.  I’d have to ford the river to get to the creek.

in TTOTC, page 111, the words “DO NOT TOUCH” are capitalized and in bright red type.  Because of its sharp spines, thistle is a plant that you DO NOT want to TOUCH.

While Mr Fenn has stated that rappelling down cliffs, as well as other activities that an 80-year-old couldn’t do while carrying the chest, would not be necessary, he also said “It is always a good idea to wear a personal flotation device when you enter fast moving water.”  I found it curious that instead of telling searchers not to enter fast moving water, he instead offered safety advice for doing so.  Hmm . . .

I decided that I had to go back to Yellowstone and search Thistle Creek.  Late summer would be when the water flow was the slowest, so I returned in mid-September.  I would drive to Cody, Wyoming on Tuesday, retrieve the chest on Wednesday, and drive back to Denver on Thursday.  I captured a screenshot from Google Earth of the location of Thistle Creek and saved it to my phone.

I bought some wading pants online, and went to my local fishing outfitter to acquire wading boots.  The clerk offered advice about the three brands of boots they carried, and I avoided telling her that I wouldn’t be using them for fishing!  As it turned out, they only had my size in one of the brands, so those were the ones I bought.

I came home, ate lunch, and figured that I should try on the boots with my wading pants to make sure everything fit.  Well, what happened next blew my mind.  For the first time, I noticed that the photo on the box of wading shoes was taken from the exact same place where I had watched the eclipse!  Definitely, definitely a good omen.

I arrived back at LeHardy Rapids, consulted my Google Earth map, and with my binoculars was able to find where Thistle Creek emptied into the river.  I put on my wading gear and started across the river.  Well, I made it about 12 feet.  The river bottom was rocky and slick, and I didn’t have a flotation device.  I simply didn’t feel safe.  Instead of the 50-yard trek across the river, I would have to take the back way in, hiking 3-plus miles across land through bear country.

I drove to Fishing Bridge and started north along the Howard Eaton Trail.

The trail started along the northernmost part of Yellowstone Lake, then veered into the remnants of a forest fire.  The next generation of trees was about three feet high.  In 20 years, hikers here will be traveling through a dense pine forest at this point.

It took about an hour to reach LeHardy Rapids.  From the overlook, I could see a dozen people on the boardwalk across the river to the west, but I had the entire east side of the river to myself.  I continued the hike to Thistle Creek, and then departed the trail to follow the creek down to the Yellowstone River, searching for treasure as I went.  Because of downed trees and steep banks, I had to cross the creek a few times on the way down.  I felt like I was brave and in the wood!  Of the four million visitors to Yellowstone this year, there was a chance that I was the only one to hike down the banks of this creek.

I made my way down to the river, and at the point where the two met I was looking high and low for either a blaze or a treasure chest.  I wondered if the people on the other side of the river were looking at me, wondering why this crazy person was poking around the waters.  I slowly returned up the creek, searching under rocks and logs along the way, making sure to stop and survey my surroundings every few feet to see if I could discern a blaze.  In all, I spent an hour exploring the stream.  This is the view of Thistle Creek emptying into the Yellowstone River.  As you can see, there is no paddling up this creek!

At one point, a bright orange marker on a tree appeared in view, marking the Howard Eaton Trail.  Was that the Blaze?  I looked quickly down, and then above, below, around, and across at this point.  No such luck.  Eventually, I reached the trail again.  I followed the creek east for a while past the trail, but it was difficult.  The creek was surrounded by hip-high tall grass, and there were football-sized “boulders” hidden underneath.  I began worrying that this would be a terrible place to suffer a twisted ankle.  And then I thought about bears.  And then I thought about the weather forecast of a chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon.  Again, I just didn’t feel like I was being responsible at this point.  From my location, Thistle Creek would soon split into two forks, and each would go another mile.  There was no way for me explore them both in their entirety and return to the trailhead safely before dark.

I took the trail back to my vehicle at Fishing Bridge, happy.  I had just spent three hours in the park and seen only three other hikers during that stretch.  I experienced amazing scenery and overcame my fear of bears.  I took the path down the creek that very few have taken, and I gave the search my best shot.  I spent two nights enjoying the nightlife of Cody, Wyoming, chatting with both locals and tourists.  On the drive home I had a great time, and great meal, at The Forks tavern in Livermore, Colorado.  In summary, I didn’t locate The Treasure, but found my own treasures along the way.

My three takeaways from this adventure:

1)  If you are in Gardiner, Montana and want a cheeseburger and a beer, there is no better place to go than the Two-Bit Saloon.

2) If you are driving through Yellowstone in the middle of the night, there is no better CD to listen to than Neil Young‘s “Harvest Moon”.

3)  I still kinda feel like the treasure may be on the banks of Thistle Creek, but that I somehow overlooked it.  For safety reasons, only explore this area if you have a companion.

Hoblin-