Mike's Treasure Hunting Page
Documenting some of my trips to search for Forrest Fenn's hidden treasure,
and my various musings on the treasure hunt

Forrest Fenn's treasure chest. This is a blog documenting my search trips looking for Forrest Fenn's treasure hidden somewhere in the mountains north of Santa Fe. I will also be adding some of my musings on the treasure hunt, and my search strategy. However, I won't be putting what I consider my best leads here. Those I will be keeping close to my chest. Entries will be added as time and ambition permit. I admit that some of my ideas are unconventional, and even controversial. But then the conventional wisdom hasn't gotten anyone to the treasure so far. Maybe it is time to think outside the box. My adventures won't necessarily be getting posted in the order they happened or my ideas in the order they came to me. The date next to each entry just signifies when it was posted here. Comments are not enabled on this blog. I don't have the time to police and moderate comments, and unmoderated comments become a breeding ground for spam and other bad things. However, you can always email me.


Mini Post: There are no shortcuts! (posted 12/28/16)

There is an entire universe of possibilities within the 24 lines and 166 words of the poem. A lot of people look into that abyss and see no hope of solving it. So they start looking around for imagined shortcuts, hints, or cheats, or any conceivable way to try to circumvent actually having to solve the poem. I've seen some crazy stuff over the years. Microscopic examination of the photos and drawings in TTOTC hoping to find hidden messages is a current fad among some hopeless cases on the Fenn forums. Using the drawings as maps is another. Then of course there is the endless trawling through TTOTC looking for the hints it allegedly contains, but all people ever seem to find are rabbit holes to nowhere. There are no shortcuts according to Fenn himself. He's said that several times. People don't listen. They are lazy. The poem is too intimidating, too hard for them. They don't know where or how to begin. They can't get a handle on it. So they look for shortcuts that aren't there. Why are they so surprised then when the treasure isn't there when they go to collect it? I'm never surprised when it isn't at the end of their imagined shortcut. Often I have told them they were on a fool's errand before they even went. They never listen. Usually they never learn either, and go right back to looking for shortcuts that aren't there again, so they can be certain of failing again next time.

The abyss of the poem doesn't frighten me. The possibilities within it are immense in number, sure, but adding extraneous extra parameters, (usually imaginary in nature), which just further multiply the possibilities exponentially, is a sure-fire losing proposition IMHO. Just stick to the poem, people. Forget your imaginary shortcuts to nowhere.


Winter Searching for Fenn's Treasure (posted 11/23/16)

Snowy landscape in Denver Colorado. I just got back from a great trip out to Colorado. The primary reason for this trip was to search for Fenn's treasure. This violates my usual rule of not making special trips out west just to search for the treasure. However, I used some of my massive accumulation of airline points to fly for free. I also got a great deal on a hotel room, and the rental car was inexpensive as well. So the whole trip cost me very little. I've spent more on weekends where I never even left the state of Florida. I also got to meet up with and hang out with some good friends while in Colorado, so it wasn't really a violation of my primary treasure hunting rule.

Denver had a snow storm the day before I flew in. Everything in town was covered with a beautiful layer of snow. It was only about four inches or so in town. Not too bad at all. There was more in the mountains though. Here is a photo I took while out walking around in a park near my hotel. OK, I guess the cat is out of the bag. I'm searching in Colorado. Not going to tell you where or why in Colorado though.

A chilly morning in Denver Colorado. So this is what greeted me my first morning in Colorado. It was CCCCOOOOOOOOOLLLLLDDD!. Fortunately I brought my heavy winter coat and some very warm socks and boots. My feet are my Achilles heel (pun intended) when it comes to the cold. My feet are always the first thing to get cold, and once they get cold, there's no warming them up until I get indoors and into heat. So I have learned the hard way to keep my feet warm with thick, woollen socks, and insulated boots. That way I am good to go for all day or night in just about any weather.

So, throwing caution (and Fenn's advice) to the wind, a friend and I went out searching in the mountains in winter. We are professionals, kids. Don't try this at home. My friend is a Colorado native, and used to the weather conditions. I am originally from the Great White North. I learned to drive on snow, ice and slush before cars had anti-lock brakes and traction control, so it was no problem at all. We headed up into the mountains to check out some possibilities. We each have our own potential solutions, but decided to work together helping each other. It's safer going out with a partner in the winter, or just about anytime for that matter.

Snowy landscape in Denver Colorado. It was absolutely beautiful up in the Rockies. I have seen the mountains in Spring and Fall and loved them then, but they are beautiful in winter too. Here is a photo of a frozen pond somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Not going to get specific about any of the locations we visited. Hey Lars, you can walk across that ice if you like. Me, I walked around it.

So, we came away empty-handed, but that's OK, we both learned things about our favored areas and potential solutions. Mine seems as solid as ever. Just gotta keep putting the pieces together until they fit correctly. The most important thing is that we had a lot of fun. I can't wait to get out there again.

Click to learn how to meet them


My working principals for solving the poem. (posted 11/23/16)
(originally posted on Harry's Chase Forum 11/13/16)

I know a lot of people are going to disagree with this, and that's fine. It just means you aren't competing with me, and probably have no chance. :D

So here are my 9 working principals for solving the poem.

1. Keep it simple. We have probably been over-thinking this. A Texas redneck in an old pickup truck full of kids should have a shot at this.

2. The solution isn't going to be anywhere Fenn has ever written about. Forget Yellowstone. People don't hide something they want to stay hidden then write whole chapters in books about the place where they hid it.

3. Don't waste time and effort looking for the supposed hints in TTOTC. It just leads to rabbit holes.

4. Don't build solutions around the stories in TTOTC and TFTW.

5. Fenn isn't giving out constant hints to help us. Ignore all Scrapbooks, Weekly Words, etc., except those where he is giving clear and unambiguous instructions. Examples: Dams are not involved, or LGFI (Little Girl From India).

6. Speaking of LGFI, my interpretation if that unusually straight-forward answer from Fenn is that it is impossible to get past the first two clues without BOTG (Boot On The Ground). So trying to build a complete solve before heading into the field is folly. Concentrate on solving the first and second clues only, then BOTG for the rest. If you can't travel, or are disabled, then you are screwed unless you can partner up with someone.

7. Do not communicate with Fenn. We've all seen the sort of human wreckage that can result from too much of that. Plus it serves no purpose.

8. Don't go nuts. Gotta be realistic. The odds are very long. No obsessive searching to the point of bankruptcy and/or ruined relationships.

9. Most importantly, just stick to the poem. Fenn says everything we need is in it. All else is distraction IMHO.

That's it. Feel free to disagree, criticize, pity me, whatever, I don't care. Nobody else's strategy is working any better. At least I'm not burning books, or looking for deep meanings in grease stains, or into the triple digits of failed cross-country search trips with nothing but maxed-out credit cards and destroyed families to show for it like some hopeless cases are.


There's a new Fenn forum (posted 11/23/16)

There is a new Fenn forum on the old Interwebs. It provides a much better format and no draconian moderation and censorship like the other forums. It is full of people who have been booted off of the other forums and blogs for not toeing the line on the official Fenn narrative about the chase. It is a real breath of fresh air. Check it out. It's called Harry's Chase Forum. I am no longer recommending or promoting those other Fenn forums, and all links to them have been removed. I highly recommend that newbies to the chase should start out at Harry's to get a balanced and realistic view of the chase and what they have gotten themselves into.


The end of the rainbow? (posted 09/10/16)

The poem rolled up and the ends joined. According to Fenn, if the clues in his poem are followed precisely, they will lead to the end of his rainbow, and the treasure. A couple of questions immediately come to mind. First off, rainbows have two ends. Which end the correct one? But wait, Fenn was a pilot. From the sky a rainbow can appear as a complete circle. So are there even any ends to his rainbow? So I was contemplating this, and having an email discussion with another searcher about the number of people who think the the treasure must be reached at the line "Just take the chest and go in peace." in the poem, in spite of the fact that a full 1/3 of the poem remains after that line. Suddenly the idea hit me that maybe the poem should be looked at like a rainbow seen from the sky. If the ends wrap around and join, then there is no beginning or end to the poem.

Another view of the rolled up poem. So what happens when I roll up the poem like this? Suddenly the starting and ending points are not at all obvious just looking at it. From the context of the words though, it seems reasonable to see the line "Just take the chest and go in peace." as the end. That would make the next line the true beginning. Does the poem make sense reading it this way? Yeah, kind of. At least as much sense as it makes reading it the way it is printed in Fenn's book, and on his web site, which is to say not much at first blush. I can hear the masses shouting that I am messing with the poem. Well, am I really? The poem still has all 24 lines, six stanzas and 166 words in the same order as always. Nothing has been replaced, moved, paraphrased deleted or inserted. All I have done is find a new way to look at the poem. Is it the correct way? I guess only time will tell. It is one way that the searchers out there convinced "Just take the chest and go in peace." is really the last line before having the treasure in hand could be correct, without the need to essentially throw away one 1/3 of the poem, when Fenn says it is dangerous to discount even one word. I'll be keeping this possible interpretation in mind from now on while working the treasure hunt.


Mini Post: A Short Trip to Colorado (posted 08/30/16)

The snow covered peaks of the Rocky Mountains. My globe-trotting ways took me to the Denver area. Hunting for Fenn's treasure was not the main reason for the trip, but while I was there, I had to check out a half-baked solution idea I've had on the back burner for a long time. I had a great time exploring up in the Front Range. My solution idea turned out to be plausible. I can't eliminate it as a possibility. So further research and exploratory BOTG trips will be necessary.

Another big thing on my agenda was a meetup with other Fenners. There is a very active group of Colorado Fenners. I have been in contact with many of them for a very long time. I'd been looking forward to finally meeting them in person. We had several fun get-togethers while I was there. I won't share any of their names, for fear of tarring them with guilt by association. Some might consider us the misfits or renegades of the chase. I prefer to think of us as the sane ones, the non book-burners, the non 200+ trip obsessives. We had a really fun time. I'm looking forward to getting out there and meeting up with them again. It could become a regular thing if my travels continue taking me through Denver.

In anticipation of future regular meetings, we formed a committee to look into a name for our group. After much deliberation they came up with: Fenners United in Combating Kooky and Oppressive Forum Fiats. We were all set to adopt it, until someone pointed out that it formed an unfortunate acronym. So the naming issue was sent back to committee and tabled until our next meeting, which I hope will be soon.

Click to learn how to meet them


Mini Post: Geology vs Geography (posted 08/22/16)

I've been having a very interesting email discussion with a fellow treasure hunter about the difference between geology and geography. It highlights an aspect of my thinking on the poem that seems to differ somewhat from many other people. I thought I'd share it. Fenn said a comprehensive knowledge of geography might help in solving his poem. One way I think a lot of people go wrong in the chase is confusing geography with geology. We probably need to start with a couple of definitions. Go to a dictionary and look up the definitions of geology and geography. I'll wait.

See, there is a difference. Geology is the study of the natural composition and structure of the landscape. Geography is the study of the man-made division of the landscape into artificial socio-political regions. So maybe people who are trying to associate things from the poem with geological features in the landscape, like hot springs, and rivers, might just be making a mistake.

My take on this is that Fenn probably knows the difference between geology and geography all too well, and really meant that geography might be of help to us, not geology. I see geography as the socio-political overlay sitting on top of the underlying geology of the search region. The poem clues, to me, seem much more likely to refer to geographic features. We should probably be following the poem clues through the geographic landscape, not the geologic landscape, in my not so humble opinion.

Edit: 09/14/16 So I've been getting questions about this post. Some people are still confused about the difference between geography and geology. Let's just consider WWWH. So here are a few examples of things people have put forward for their WWWH:

The Continental Divide - A geologic feature.
Hot springs - Geologic features.
The Firehole River - A geologic Feature.
The Red River - A geologic feature.

I'm thinking that if you are using any of these as your WWWH, then you are probably wrong. Here are some other examples:

Thermopolis, WY - Geographic feature.
Stillwater County, MT - Geographic feature.
Ojo Caliente (town), NM - Geographic feature.

Do you see the difference? Geology refers to specific natural features or regions of the landscape. Geographic refers to artificially created socio-political subdivisions of the landscape done by people. A river is a river is a river, no matter what people choose to name it. It is a geologic feature of the landscape. It was there before people came along. A city, town, county, state, or nation, or any other kind of artificially created region made by people arbitrarily drawing lines on a map is a geographic feature. There is some overlap between the two. The town of Ojo Caliente was named after the popular hotsprings of the same name. So the distinction can get a little blurry. Most people seem to be thinking in purely geologic terms though. I suspect that is where people are going wrong.

Just to be clear, none of these examples represent my current thinking about WWWH. I have discovered what I feel to be a really great geographic WWWH that nobody else anywhere has ever mentioned.


Critique of Decall's "Solution" (posted 08/17/16)

Hey, Decall old buddy. A little bird told my you were missing me and wished I was around to critique your solution. Why am I not there? You'll have to ask Stephanie the real reason behind her Stalinistic purge of the forum. Maybe you'll get a straight answer out of her. I hear things are quiet there. That's a shame. Guess that's what happens when you decide to take a perfectly well functioning forum and slash and burn it into some kind of pathetic HOD jr. Anyway, here you go. Just remember, you asked for it.

Let's get one thing straight up front. A solution = finding the treasure. So all you really have here is a theory. Since you have tested it and come up empty, it is a failed, or incorrect theory. It is not a solution by any stretch of the imagination.

After reading through it, the phrase that immediately comes to mind is, "everything except the kitchen sink," and then you threw in two of those, just for good measure. I've told you for years that everything isn't a hint. Can't be a hint. But I guess you just see hints everywhere. Sorry, but my eyes started glazing over by about 1/3 of the way into it. Cripes, could you have made it any more complicated and convoluted? Rube Goldberg is spinning in his grave and saying "I got nothing on this guy." Fenn wants you to earn the treasure, but my goodness, you are making it a 1000% harder on yourself than necessary. Just stick to the poem.

Speaking of the poem, it seems to be lost in the shuffle. You are basing your theory on way too much extraneous material from the books, from the scrapbooks, and from your own fertile imagination, and not using the poem. Instead of letting the poem lead you, you are trying to shoehorn a lot of things into the poem that just don't fit. You have created the mother of all non sequiturs. You can't see it. You are too thoroughly steeped in the wicked brew of confirmation bias and self-delusion to be anything less than utterly proud of your creation. But the absolute proof it is nothing but a failed theory is your lack of a bronze box containing 26 lbs of gold and misc. trinkets.

I'll give you an A for imagination, and an A for guts for publishing that. Failing grades in everything else though. Looks like it is going to be Fenn Summer School for you, buddy. On the whole, reading it reminded me of one of those Family Circus dotted line cartoons.

There you are. You really didn't expect any different response than you would have gotten on the forum, did you?

Click to learn how to meet them


RIP Chasechat (posted 08/15/16)

It's the end of an era. Chasechat isn't dead, but it may as well be. It is certainly dead to me. It is now useless as a free and open place to exchange ideas. It is now just a heavily policed, monoculture and vanity blog for one person. The sad story of what happened is too long to post here. So click here to read it if you are interested. Funny how Fenn Treasure blogs always either implode and die, or become stale and useless. I wonder why that is?


Negative Clues (posted 07/30/16)

Some people are convinced Fenn is tossing around all kinds of hints and clues in an effort to bring this to a close soon. I think it is safe to assume most of what people think are hints or clues, really aren't, since they haven't helped anyone, and he is generally up front about releasing hints or clues. But what about the things Fenn actually says are hints or clues? They don't seem to be helping anyone either.

Could it be that they are negative hints? Designed not to help, but to hinder, and drag out the chase? I can almost hear legions of Fenners shouting "That's crazy!" in outraged unison. Think about it though. Most Fenners approach the chase assuming Fenn wants the treasure found soon (in spite of history pretty clearly showing otherwise). So maybe some of his "official" hints and clues are actually meant to make finding the treasure harder, not easier. How is it possible for clues to be negative, but still be true, you ask? Well I'll give you a couple of possible examples.

First example: He eliminated Idaho and Utah, Everyone hailed this as a huge narrowing down of the search area. This had to be a great positive clue. Surely this would make finding the treasure so much easier. Hasn't really worked out that way so far. Why? A couple of possibilities. Maybe the first few clues (if solved correctly) lead to someplace in one of those two eliminated states. The later clues might then take you into one of the remaining four states. But with Utah and Idaho eliminated, many people would discount out of hand a solution to the first few poem clues that led them to one of those two states. Or what if the treasure is hidden very close to the border of Utah or Idaho. A potential solution might start in one of the four remaining states, but as later clues seemed to be marching inexorably toward the border of an eliminated state, it might also be dismissed. So eliminating those two states could actually be a negative clue, designed to make finding the treasure harder, while still being perfectly truthful.

Another example: Dams aren't involved. This was the great leveling of the playing field clue. Fenn said he felt he needed release this clue because of something he said to someone that he felt made things unfair unless everyone else knew it too. This has just got to be a great help to us, right? Well what if his comment gave the person in question a significant disadvantage, instead of an advantage? What if he wanted to level the playing field by giving everyone else the same disadvantage? Even if Fenn didn't mean it to be a disadvantage to us, how can eliminating dams be a disadvantage? Well nearly every river in the west is dammed. Many have several dams along their length. Do we need to eliminate all rivers with dams? How far away do we have to be from a dam for it not to be part of our solution? People tying to solve the poem are going to tend to shy away from any solution that takes them close to a dam, even if the dam is truthfully not in any way involved in solving the poem, and just happens to be nearby.

It's really not hard to look at any of his official clues or hints and see how the common interpretations of them could actually be taking us way from the treasure, rather than getting us closer to it, whether by design or not. And that just might be one of the reasons the treasure hasn't been found yet.


Like eating dust? Then follow the herd. (posted 06/20/16)

How do we crack Fenn's poem? It's all a matter of context. How do we find the right context? Most people think we need to get into Fenn's head and think the way he does to understand what he means by what he wrote in the poem. He says it is straight-forward, and for him it is. For the rest of us though, maybe not so much. Fenn is too close to the problem, and of course he already knows the solution. To him it may really seem simple. But what about his life history makes him see the solution the way he does? There aren't many people in the chase as old as Fenn, who have lived through so much and had so many unique adventures as he has. Do we need to have been born in the 1930s, lived through the depression and WWII, lived summers in Yellowstone as a kid, worked as a fishing guide, been a poor student in school (he may be lying about that), wanted to go to college but been unable to, had a career in the Air Force, been an artist, started a second career as an art dealer, become rich, hobnobbed with the rich and famous, been investigated by the FEDs, got cancer and almost died, etc., etc., in order to understand what Fenn means in his poem? If so, he may be the only person on Earth who really understands what he wrote.

The prevailing opinion among searchers from day one has been that we need to understand Fenn to understand his poem. I admit that I was in that camp too for a long time. But that doesn't seem to be getting us anywhere. Either we are missing something vital about Fenn's history or his unique outlook on life that is critical to deciphering the poem, or just maybe we are taking the wrong approach entirely.

What if releasing his memoirs at around the same time as announcing he hid the treasure just threw us all off track (either intentionally or unintentionally on his part) and made us all think we had to understand him to understand his poem? So just maybe we have all wasted the last 6 years researching him to death for nothing. What if he really means it when he says the poem is straight-forward? What if he really meant it when he said a redneck from Texas in an old pickup truck full of kids should be able to solve this? Lately I have been trying to think like a redneck from Texas. I do own a pickup truck, so that should hopefully help. Too bad I don't have any kids. Might have to borrow some.

I've come up with some new ideas looking at things this way, and not worrying myself about all the minute details of Fenn's life. The chase is going off in a completely new direction for me. My next BOTG recon trip will take me to an area I never would have considered before.

Maybe it's good to buck the conventional wisdom once in a while.

Click to learn how to meet them


Mini Post: Blink and you'll miss it (posted 06/12/16)

I had an interesting/disturbing thought. Maybe the blaze is only visible part of the year, and maybe only briefly at that. Maybe that is why it is so hard to find. My working interpretation of the poem has always been that it will lead me to the blaze, and the blaze will show the way to the treasure. I ran across an interesting thing. In the 1930s people planted a bunch of larch trees in a German forest in the shape of a swastika. Most of the year this was not noticeable. But in the fall when the tree leaves changed colors, a large and prominent swastika could be seen from the air in the middle of the forest. I am not going to post an image of it because the swastika is a very offensive symbol, but if you want to see what it looks like go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forest_swastika.

I am not suggesting that Forrest Fenn planted a bunch of trees to make his blaze (but I guess he could have). Maybe he just noticed that if you are standing in a particular place, maybe high up, in the early fall just when the leaves are changing, the natural pattern of colors form some sort of arrow or line leading to the hiding place. Maybe it is a pattern he spotted from the air in his plane and noted long before he even thought of hiding the treasure. Maybe the poem leads to a high point where the pattern can be seen from the ground in the fall. The rest of the year there is no blaze. Maybe there is only a few week window where the blaze is visible. I hope not, but I guess it is a possibility. This treasure hunt is certainly a lot harder than most people assume coming into it. This idea might be one reason why.


Mini Post: Been a while... (posted 05/31/16)

It's been a while since my last post here. Lots of things have changed in the last six months. The company I work for got bought out by a much larger company. We lost all our upper management. I got promoted several steps up the corporate food chain. My new position requires me to work long hours and travel a lot. So there hasn't been a lot of time left over in my life for blogging in general, and blogging about the treasure hunt in particular. That doesn't mean I have stopped thinking about it or participating in it. I'm just kind of in stealth mode these days.

As a long-time blogger I understand the desire and the actual need to post and keep the blog updated regularly so it doesn't get stale and lose Google ranking. But I also don't believe in posting just for the sake of posting. I've got a lot of other really important things going on right now. This blog has just had to wait until I had something important to say. Today is the day. See post immediately below. I've been thinking about the post-Fenn future of the chase. It might just be an ugly circus.


Don't Take Any Wooden Nickles Fake Fenn Treasures (posted 05/31/16)

There are a couple of things about the chase that bother me (more than a couple really, but the others are stories for another day). The things that are bugging me today are that, once Fenn is gone, it will be hard to prove to everyoneís satisfaction that the person who eventually finds the treasure, actually found it. And why is that? Partly because of the natural skepticism and denial of other searchers, but also because of the other thing bugging me. Once Fenn is gone, I expect lots of hoaxers to pop up out of nowhere claiming to have found the treasure. These two problems make me suspect that we will never be entirely sure if the treasure was really found, if it isnít found before Fenn dies.

There will be people who are going to call hoax on anyone who claims to have found the treasure, and that won't be an unreasonable claim. As soon as Fenn dies and isn't around to disavow any hoax find, I expect hoax treasures to start turning up in every one of the four search states. Excellent documentation of the find will be required to convince (most people) that the one true treasure really has been found, especially after Fenn is gone. But even that may not be enough to convince a lot of people.

After the first few hoaxers pop up, every new claimant is going to be treated with extreme skepticism. And I expect there to be elaborate, expensive, and convincing hoax finds. Why not? Like I have always said, this isnít really about finding a box with 26 lbs of gold in it. It is really about the bragging rights and the celebrity that will go along with finding it. Fenn has taught a lot of people a lesson here with his chase. For the cost of a few hundred thousand Dollars in gold trinkets, he has bought himself the equivalent of hundreds of millions of dollars in publicity and created an entire cult of personality around himself. There are a lot of people out there who would like to emulate him, and can afford to put together a good copy of Fennís treasure. After Fenn is gone, all they have to do is come forward with the fake treasure and a convincing story, and start basking in the resulting fame and celebrity. Fenn wonít be around anymore to say ďThatís not my treasure, and thatís not where I hid it.Ē Plus we donít have a detailed inventory of what is in the chest. So who will be able to invalidate the hoax when somebody shows up with a bronze box full of gold coins and misc. jewelry? I have no doubt that there are at least a few people out there just waiting for Fenn to die so they can put their hoax plan into action.

The possible scenarios that may play out if multiple hoaxers come forward are fascinating to imagine (and will no doubt will provide much fodder for late night TV hosts). Iím sure it will be a circus. Enter some poor little guy who actually did find the treasure. Who is going to believe it? Theyíll be called a fraud, a faker, and a hoaxer. They will be ridiculed. Fenn wonít be around to acknowledge the find. The true find will likely be dismissed as just yet another hoax, and a poor effort at that. The chase will go on forever, with everyone still chasing a carrot that no longer exists.

Fenn is a smart guy. I suspect he has foreseen this issue. Has he taken some sort of steps to prevent the coming hoax circus after he dies? Or is he actually looking forward to it? After all, if the chase never really ends, he will never be forgotten. And isnít his not being forgotten really the whole point of this?

Click to learn how to meet them


Fenner Mini-Meetup in Sarasota, FL (posted 11/26/15)

A fenner mini-meetup. So last night the three of us ChaseChat Regulars got together in Sarasota. It was a great evening. Left to right are myself, Will and NTMI. We compared notes in a drama-free environment, figured out definitively where the treasure is, and decided to split it three ways. Sorry to everyone else. Then we spent the rest of the evening mapping out an easy path to Middle East peace, ending world hunger, and curing cancer. It was quite a productive evening, and a good time was had by all.


Mini Post: You know you are a Fenner when... (posted 10/06/15)

This is probably not the Brown we are looking for. When you look at a scholarly paper on a subject totally unrelated to the treasure hunt and the fleeting question of whether the author could be THE Brown passes through your mind. It's crazy. Fenn has created a treasure hunt so full of generalities that it is possible to see potential connections everywhere. Is it any wonder nobody has found it yet?


Mini Post: Just got back. (posted 09/24/15)

I haven't posted for a while. That doesn't mean the treasure hunt hasn't been on my mind. In fact, I just returned form a vacation trip to the fabled Rockies north of Santa Fe. I was in bad need of a vacation after the last few crazy months at work. But I was determined to actually relax on this vacation. So intense treasure hunting was not high on the list of priorities. I instead spent most of my time just relaxing at an interesting spot (Ojo Caliente Spa) that I found on one of my earlier search trips. I did get out and examine one area of interest just because I was reasonably nearby and the curiosity was intense. I'm not going to say too much about where that spot is, because I didn't really get to look around as much as I wanted to. A road had been washed out and not yet repaired, so I wasn't able to get everywhere I wanted to go. So that spot will need another look in the future.

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More Than 300 Miles West of Toledo. (posted 09/01/15)

This way to Toledo. So just how easy is it to fall down a crazy rabbit hole while researching Forrest Fenn's treasure? Real easy. Take Forrest's really helpful "clue" that the treasure is more than 300 miles west of Toledo. This comment is something I have come back to again and again over the years. I heard this early on after first joining the hunt. It seemed like a joke. Since we know the treasure is somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, then yeah, it has to be more than 300 miles west of Toledo. Ha, ha. Wait though...which Toledo? Forrest didn't qualify that. What if there really is a clue here? Everyone's first thought is that he meant Toledo, Ohio. But what if he didn't mean that Toledo? There are a lot of Toledos in the US, and of course they are all named after Toledo Spain. So there are a lot of Toledos around. What if he meant there is a clue more then 300 miles west of one of those others?

So I spent a lot of time looking at the various Toledos, and what was more than 300 miles west of them. Most of them didn't have anything interesting more than 300 miles west of them. Toledo Spain was the easiest to eliminate since the Atlantic Ocean was less than 300 miles to the west. Toledos in Ohio, Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois didn't seem to have anything of interest more than 300 miles to he west of them, depending on what Forest means by "more than."

One of the Toledos was more interesting. Going 300 miles west of Toledo Kansas puts us just a few miles short of the Colorado border. Colorado is one of the four states where the treasure may be hidden. So going more than 300 miles would put us in Colorado. This is interesting indeed, because my theories tend to put the treasure in either New Mexico or Colorado. So maybe this could be a kind of confirmation that I am on the right track, possibly? Also, more than 300 miles west of Toledo, KS puts us pretty much smack on the mountain branch of the old Santa Fe Trail. Hey, Forrest Fenn lives on the Old Santa Fe Trail! Coincidence? I don't know. I've always kind of figured the Santa Fe Trail figured into the solution somehow. I have already cooked up and searched several solutions related to the mountain branch of the Santa Fe Trail. So this really was looking like a possible confirmation of my theories.

That's where things sat for a while. But since rabbit holes don't have a well defined bottom, one day I revisited the Toledo idea. I had a close look around the area more than 300 miles west of Toledo Ohio. About 330 miles west of Toledo I noticed a little town called Tampico, IL. I thought that name was kind of odd, A little bit of Old Mexico in the middle of the American Heartland. So I took a closer look at it. Wouldn't you know, it is a famous place. Tampico, Il is the birthplace of President Ronald Reagan. Hey, another president! Presidents keep cropping up as I research the chase, and here is another one. Forrest talks about Washington in his book The Thrill of the Chase. I found LBJ in the poem. A couple of other presidents have also popped up during my research. So this is interesting, but it doesn't really get me any closer to the treasure.

What about the name Tampico? It has a strong spanish flavor to it. It really stands out in the middle of Illinois. So I Googled Tampico just to see what comes up. Besides Tampico, Mexico, there are also a few other small towns in the US named Tampico. There is a Tampico Beverage Company. There is a film titled Tampico, but the plot doesn't seem to have anything to do with the chase. Then there is a popular song from the 1940s called Tampico. Well, songs seem to keep cropping up in the chase too. This looked promising. I looked up the lyrics to the the song.

(Fisher / Roberts)
June Christy & Stan Kenton - 1945

I, Tampico, Tampico, on the Gulf of Mehico
Tampico, Tampico, down in Mehico 

You buy a beautiful shawl
A souvenir for Aunt Flo
Authentic Mexican yarn
Made in Idaho

I, Tampico, Tampico, on the Gulf of Mehico 
Tampico, Tampico, down Mehico

The senoritas, they waive, when you arrive at the dock
The native costumes they wear
Are slacks and bobby socks

I, Tampico, Tampico, on the Gulf of Mehico
Tampico, Tampico, down in Mehico

You buy some pottery there
To beat the luxury tax
You find that when you get home
They sell it cheaper at Sachs

I, Tampico, Tampico, on the Gulf of Mehico
Tampico, Tampico, down in Mehico

You ask a Mexican band
To play a rumba-down-dare
He turns and says to the boys
ďHey, fellas, dig that square!Ē

I, Tampico, Tampico, on the Gulf of Mehico
Tampico, Tampico, down in Mehico

Down in Mehico

The line about Made in Idaho really jumps out. Fortunately Forrest had already ruled out Idaho as the location of the treasure before I found this particular more than 300 miles west of Toledo connection, otherwise it may have led me astray. However, just because the treasure itself isn't in Idaho, that doesn't mean the solution to the puzzle can't start there. Hmmmmmm. Something to think about.

And if you think that is finally the bottom of this particular rabbit hole, well think again. There is even more. I found several other 300 miles west of Toledo connections that I'm not quite ready to share. One in particular is pretty amazing, and could just make me re-think my whole approach to the chase. I'm just not sure how much weight to give to it and these other possible connections. Forrest may just have been joshing us after all. Still, what I have found seems very compelling. A little dilligent research would probably turn up my undisclosed connections for anyone out there interested. There's plenty of room left down in this rabbit hole, so feel free to dive in.

Click to learn how to meet them


Mini Post: It wasn't where it was supposed to be, so somebody already found it. (posted 08/30/15)

I see this all the time on the Fenn treasure blogs and it drives me nuts. Some lady just posted an utterly crazy, Rube Goldberg complex, utterly impractical solve on Chasechat. Naturally the treasure whasn't where it was supposed to be, according to her. What is her first thought? Was it that something about her crazy solution could be wrong? No! Her first thought was that some other person must have already come up with the exact same insane idea and beat her to the treasure. What the heck is wrong with people? Why can't people just accept it when they are wrong? And why can't they see it when they have gone totally off the rails into crazyland with their ideas? Why are they the only ones surprised when there is no treasure at the end of their journey? I mean hey, I have had some strange ideas too. I've posted some of them here. But I always try to sanity check them before actually investing time and money into them to go searching. I also always try to be realistic about the true odds of finding the treasure. When I don't find it, I know it is far, far more likely because I failed, than because somebody else beat me to it.

Although I find people like this infuriating, (and there have been plenty of them over the last 5 years), at least they don't present any real competition. I don't have to worry that this particular lady, or any of the many others before her, is ever going to beat me to the treasure. Seeing just how hopeless some of my competition can be is one of the things that makes me feel better about my own chances of someday finding the treasure, and that helps keep me going.

Whew, I feel better now after getting that rant off my chest.


Mini Post: How Does He Know? (posted 08/27/15)

How does Forrest know his treasure hasn't been found yet? He seems quite certain it hasn't been found, and seems to think he will know in short order if it is found. How? He can't go check on it periodically. He can't take the risk of being followed, or having someone plant a GPS tracker on his car. He has said over and over that he is the only person who knows where the hiding place is. If we can believe him, then there isn't a close friend or family member who is checking on it for him. So if someone did actually find the treasure and not announce the find? how would he know?

This is a subject that has been getting a lot of action on the blogs lately. A lot of ideas people put forward seem very impractical to me. They suggest radio transmitters or GPS transmitters in the chest. The problem is that the batteries would likely have died years ago already. Another idea I can't buy into is that it is within the view of a webcam. Again, there is the battery issue. Not to mention that a webcam is going to stick out and make people wonder what it is watching. I don't think technology is involved. I think there are several simpler solutions.

1. The bracelet. Forrest goes on and on about wanting his favorite bracelet back. To me, this is an obvious ploy to be notified by the eventual finder when the treasure is found. Even if they return it to him anonymously, he'll at least know the chest has been found by someone.

2. The uniqueness of the contents. If someone finds the treasure and tries to liquidate it quietly by selling off the various bits and pieces, could they get away with it? Maybe not. Many of the items in the chest are unique, and the chest itself is very unique. Trying to sell any of the unique items could give away to Forrest that the treasure has been found. He has done a lot of buying and selling of unique items. He has a lot of contacts among art and antiques dealers. One simple thing he could do is place standing orders with other dealers that if certain items ever came on the market to contact him because he would be interested in buying them. So if the unique items in the chest got sold, he would likely find out about it fairly quickly before they have changed hands very many times.

3. The unnamed item in the chest. Forrest says he included something special in the chest for the finder, but refuses to say what it is. There has been much speculation that it may be an IOU for a large sum of cash that he or his estate would pay the finder. That would almost certainly get the finder to come forward and contact Forrest or his estate.

4. The character of the finder. Maybe it will take someone like Forrest to find the treasure. Someone who isn't afraid of the limelight. Someone who isn't worried about paying some taxes on the find. Someone who understands that the bragging rights that come with being the one to solve the puzzle are the real prize, and could be parlayed into a far bigger fortune than the chest contains. (Someone like me?)

5. All of the above? Maybe Forrest has baked all of these things into the chase.

So maybe Forrest doesn't need to check on it, or have a helper do it, or need high-tech gadgets, to be reasonably certain that the treasure likely hasn't been found yet.


How Far Is Too Far To Drive? (posted 08/9/15)

So how far away from Forrest's home in Santa Fe did he travel to hide the treasure? Since he didn't even tell his wife in advance that he was doing it, he must have needed to concoct a story to cover his absence from home if he was gone any length of time. The further away from home the hiding place is, the more elaborate the story must have been. This is an issue I have contemplated at some length. I even created a spredsheet a while back with diving distances and times from Santa Fe to various cities in the four states. The purpose was to determine how much time Forrest would likely have needed to hide the treasure in various places. This spreadsheet assumes he was driving, and that he needed at least a couple of hours to actually hide the treasure once he reached his destination. Of course Forrest could have easily arranged to be in Montana or Wyoming for an extended length of time if he needed to. Hiding it closer to home he could have just said he was going fishing or to San Lazaro for a few hours or for most of the day. The middle distances are most problematic for concocting a lie that would keep his wife from being suspicious, IMHO.

A spreadsheet of driving distances from Santa Fe, NM.

These towns were mostly picked at random, looking at maps of the four states. I wanted a good spread of locations all through the Rockies north of Santa Fe, as unbiased as possible by any of my half-baked solutions. Los Alamos was chosen because it was an example of a place very close to his home. Eurika, MT was chosen because it is in NW MT, just south of the Canadian border and about as far away as he possibly could have driven. The rest are more or less picked at random. Notes: RMNP = Rocky Mountain National Park, YNP = Yellowstone National Park, GNP = Glacier National Park.

There are two reasons why I created this spreadsheet. Forrest would need to make up some sort of excuse for his absence while hiding the treasure. The further away and longer it would take, and the better the excuse would have to be. The second reason is to try to determine how far an 80 year old man might be comfortable driving with a box containing 20 lbs of gold in his car. Think about all the things that could possibly go wrong. He could get carjacked. He could break down and need a tow (imagine the awkward conversation with the tow truck driver as you ride beside him with a big, heavy bronze box on your lap). He could get robbed. He could get stopped by the police for some minor infraction and the cops could insist on searching his car. All these things are improbable. But the longer the trip, the less improbable they become. And not just because of the extra miles and driving time. Each added stop for gas, food, or overnight stays in motels just add to the possibility of something going wrong, or someone remembering seeing him later after he announced he had hidden the treasure. I wanted to get a feel for how long he would be on the road with his treasure going to various places. I think Forrest had balls of steel to even drive around the block with it.

Click to learn how to meet them


Spanish Class (posted 08/02/15)

Forrest makes a big deal in his book The Thrill of the Chase out of the fact that he spent his time in Spanish Class in school goofing off and making marbles and yo-yos instead of paying attention and actually learning some Spanish. Well whether that is true or not, I'm sure Forrest has picked up a fair amount of Spanish during his long life lived in Texas and New Mexico. He could hardly avoid it, and really he would need it to get by. I have always thought that TTOTC was full of misdirection. So maybe Forrest writing about his blowing off Spanish Class could be misdirection too. Maybe Spanish is important to solving the poem. Certainly it would help any searchers looking in New Mexico or Colorado to know some Spanish, because so many of the place names are in Spanish. I came into the chase knowing just a little Spanish, the result of dating a Hispanic woman for a few years, and working with Hispanic people for many years (I mostly learned Spanish curse words from them). I always like learning the meanings of new Spanish words and phrases I come across on search trips to the Southwest. I began compiling a list. I wrote them down so I could reference them in the future, but the way my brain works, as soon as I write something down, I usually remember it forever. It should also be noted that the dialect of Spanish spoken in northern New Mexico and Colorado is somewhat different from the "Standard Spanish" you might be more familiar with in Mexico or Spain. A copy of The place Names of New Mexico is invaluable to anyone searching in that state. Anyway, here is a list of southwestern Spanish words and phrases and their English meanings searchers may find helpful.

árboles = trees
agua = water
aire = air
amarillo = yellow
arroz = rice
azul = blue
blanco = white
bosque = forest
cañada = glen, ravine
caliente = hot or warm
camino = road
carne de vaca = beef
casa = house or home
casita = small house
cerro = hill
conejo = rabbit
Costilla = little rib or furring timber.
Cristo = Christ
cueva = cave
El Camino Real = The Royal Road
El paso = the pass.
estacado = staked or tied
frío = cold
frijoles = beans
fuego = fire
ganado = cattle
gato = cat
hacienda or rancho = ranch
Huerfano = orphan.
huevo = egg
lágrimas = tears
La Junta = The Board, The Junction
La plata = the silver.
lago = lake
Las Anamas = The Souls, Spirits
llano = plain or flat land
marrón or moreno = brown
montaña = mountain
negro = black
nuevo = new
ojo = eye or spring
oro = gold
oso = bear
perro = dog
pescado = fish
pollo = chicken
Pueblo = village or people.
puente = bridge
puerco = pork
queso = cheese
rata = rat
Raton = mouse
Rayado = Lined, streaked, streaky, pinstriped
real = royal
Rio = river
Rio Arriba = upstream, or river above
Rio Blanco = White River
Rio Grande = Big River
rocas = rocks
rojo or colorado = red
sangre = blood
tesoro = treasure
tierra = land or Earth
tinaja = jar
Trinidad = Trinity
trucha = trout
vaca = cow
valla = fence
verde = green
viejo = old
viento = wind

Then there are the words I learned on a trip to Mexico a few years ago. An old Mexican fellow said these are the two most important Spanish words a man can know, and this is the order in which they will be used.

cerveza = beer
baño = bathroom


Some Recent Revelations. (posted 07/26/15)

Did you ever have one of those "Oh my God!" moments where you totally unexpectedly stumble across something that seems amazingly profound? I just had two of those in relatively short period of time. Those two revelations really jerked me around. I feel like I have a case of mental whiplash. I had a strategy for solving this that seemed to make sense and seemed to be producing progress. Now in light of these two revelations, I may have to entirely change my approach to the chase, including the areas where I am looking.

First things first. What started all this? I was looking up something online. I don't even think it was chase related. I believe I started out on Wikipedia reading something. You can kill hours on Wilipedia. The article you are reading will have dozens of links to other related articles. If you keep clicking links you can fall deeper down the rabbit hole until you are on a completely different subject than where you started. That's what happened here. I saw an interesting looking link and followed it. Then followed another, and another, and then, POW! What came up next was a real shocker. It totally transformed my view of the chase. It could be a major revelation.

Wish I could be more specific about what I found. I need to wring everything potentially useful out of it before I publicly post what I found. Watch this space because it will probably appear here first. I'll give you a few hints. I have always believed Forrest was hiding things in the poem in plain sight and all of us searchers have been overlooking them. I have found a few things hidden in the poem already. I discuss one of the things hidden there in an earlier post. Well what about his book The Thrill of the Chase? He says he has hidden hints in it. For the past few years I've not been a believer that anything in the book (aside from the poem) was helpful in getting us to the treasure. It all just looks like misdirection to me. And I still think it is misdirection, but maybe with just a nugget of truth thrown in so Forrest can claim after the fact that he wasn't really misdirecting us. What I found on Wikipedia concerns one of the stories Forrest tells in one of the chapters of his book. Forrest seems to be pointing us off in a certain direction. Everyone reading that chapter is going to come to the same incorrect conclusion about what he is really saying unless they know what I found by following a link in that Wikipedia article. Now I know that where he seems to have been pointing us one way, he could have really been pointing a completely different direction. And it is a direction that seems to make much more sense to me. The clues in the poem work better. A clearer path forms. This revelation leads me back to an older idea I had years ago when I first got into the chase. suddenly it is viable again. I'm glad I hadn't posted it here or on the blogs yet. The idea comes fully from the poem alone. I didn't even have a copy of TTOTC yet when I originally formulated it. So it should be untainted by all the misdirection in the book. And yet it is confirmed by this alternate meaning of one of the stories in the book. This is exciting stuff. As long as I am not falling into the trap of confirmation bias again. We'll see.

The second possible revelation is only tangentially related to the first, but no less profound. I have been giving a lot of thought to the possible nature of the blaze. People put forward a lot of silly ideas for the blaze. Most are utterly impractical. I have to wonder sometimes if the majority of the people posting on the blogs have ever actually spent any real time outdoors, in the mountains and forests of the southwest? Anyway, Forrest says people have correctly identified the first two clues in the poem, but missed the rest. Conventional wisdom is that the third clue is the blaze. I'm not married to the conventional wisdom about the poem, but it is as good a theory as any other. So if the blaze is the third clue, then why aren't people spotting it? As someone who feels I may have good possible solutions for the first two clues, the nature of the blaze is an important question. Why Am I not seeing it either if I have the first two clues correct? There are two possibilities for why not that I see:

  1. Searchers are seeing the blaze, but not recognizing it for what it is.
  2. Searchers would recognize the blaze if they saw it, but they are not seeing it.

Well, maybe there is a third possibility too. Maybe it is a combination of those two things. Maybe the blaze is both hard to find, and difficult to recognize. But not because it is well hidden or terribly obscure. Maybe it is because of all the misdirection Forrest has piled on us. We are full of silly ideas about what the blaze might be. Maybe it is an f or other figure carved on an aspen tree, or maybe it is a white patch on a rock or an animal, or maybe it is some hidden Indian rock art, or maybe it is a cairn, or maybe it is a person named blaze, etc., etc. The ideas people put forward for the blaze are endless and mostly impractical. Looking at the big picture, all of the conventional ideas for the blaze have a couple of things glaringly obvious in common (aside from all being wrong, that is). The first thing is that people think Forrest has hinted at them either directly or indirectly in TTOTC or his scrapbook posts. The second thing is... Well that's where part of the revelation comes in.

Just as I had run out of time and was leaving my area on my last search trip out west, I had a new idea about the possible nature of the blaze. I thought I saw where everyone else might be going wrong. I saw the thing all the other incorrect blaze ideas had in common. It was only a half-baked idea though. It was interesting, and different, but not terribly specific. Like I said above, Forrest is piling a lot of misdirection on us. But just maybe there could be the tiniest nugget of truth hidden in there in plain sight, lost amidst all the misdirection. He's not coming right out and saying what the blaze is and how to find it. He expects us to work it out. The treasure is worth a lot of money. He expects the finder to earn that money. We need to actually think hard about this. This is not a simple puzzle. On the other hand, maybe we are all making it even more complicated than it really is. He says he has told us everything we need to know to solve the poem.

So, mulling over all the things in the above paragraphs:

  1. Everyone either misses or doesn't recognize the blaze.
  2. All blaze ideas put forward to date are probably wrong.
  3. All blaze ideas to date have something besides their wrongness in common.
  4. Wrong ideas are fueled by Forrest's misdirection.
  5. Assume a tiny nugget of truth so he can deny the misdirection.
  6. We may have all been compounding the problem by making it excessively complex.
  7. We need to actually think about this.
  8. He has told us everything we need to know

So all this stuff has been churning around in my head lately. (I know, my head is a scary place.) After mulling all these above ideas around for a while, something hit me out of the blue. POW! another major revelation. I quickly jumped on the internet and did a little research to make sure it was a real possibility, and not just a product of faulty memory. Sure enough, it is a real possibility, at least in my mind. I now have a completely new view of the possible nature of the blaze. Future search trips are going to be really interesting for me. Because if I am right, a completely different strategy for finding the blaze is needed from what is needed to find the earlier, and probably the later clues. I think Forrest really threw us a curve ball with the blaze. It may be the thing that separates the deep thinkers from the rest of the crowd. That may be why nobody to Forrest's knowledge has figured out the poem beyond the first two clues.

That's the funny thing about the chase. Every time I think I am out of ideas, if I just wait a little while, something new hits me, and the game is afoot again.


Mini post: I may have almost given away the store! (posted 07/21/15)

Writing up my adventures in Fennland has been a lot of fun. It's something I have been meaning to do for a long time. I probably should have been writing things up as they happened, while they were still fresh in my mind, rather than working from years old memories, old notes, and jumbled collections of out of order photos. It has been amusing to look back and laugh at a lot of my earlier ideas. Some of them seem so silly now. Writing things up got to be so much fun that I just kind of charged ahead robotically. I had made a list of my previous searches and some other chase related subjects I wanted to write about, and just started plowing through it and posting things without stopping to review whether I might actually be giving too much away. After all, these are old solves and old ideas. Things that for the most part I no longer believe are viable.

I began writing up one of my adventures, and really threw myself into it. It was going to be a long and fascinating (I think) story. It is the story of the idea I have spent the most time and effort trying to work into a complete solution to the poem. I have spent years, on and off, working this one idea. It was just so compelling that I just couldn't let it go no matter how many dead ends I hit along the way. All the pieces seemed to fit so well. Eventually though, after huge amounts of online and book research, and three boots on the ground visits to the area, I just couldn't find a way forward. I had to reluctantly abandon that idea and move on to other things. Having spent so much time and effort on it, naturally this particular idea had pride of place on my list of adventures to write up. I also thought other Fenners would be really interested in this particular story because of how well some things about it really seemed to to tie into clues people think they see in Forrest's book The Thrill of the Chase.

So about a week ago I began writing. Like I said above, it was going to be long because I had put so much into it over the years. There were photos to find and sort out. Screenshots from Google Earth and topographic map services that needed to be taken, and just reams of information to type up. I plowed into the the huge project with gusto, and have been working happily on it for the last week or so. I just treated it like any of my other older ideas that I no longer really believed in. I tried to be as complete as possible. I kept re-writing and expanding sections as I remembered things that I had initially forgotten to include. The story was getting really long. I considered breaking it up into several posts. I almost had the first installment ready to post here. I was just proofreading it last night before uploading it. That's when I noticed something. I didn't think too much about it at the time. After sleeping on it though, I realized there was something significant right in front of me that I had missed.

Writing up these old adventures and ideas, and reviewing them from the perspective of a later time and more experience is probably a valuable thing. I highly recommend it to other searchers. Sometimes you can see things that you missed at the time. Things that with hindsight you can see made the idea unworkable from the very beginning, but were not apparent to you at the time. Sometimes it is just the opposite. You can look back on an idea that seemed unworkable at the time, with impassible roadblocks and dead-ends, and suddenly see a clear path forward that was obscured to you at the time. The latter is what happened here. I was just about ready to post the first installment, and was re-reading it looking for bone-head mistakes and errors, when I noticed something. Maybe the dead-ends weren't so dead after all. Maybe there really is a way forward past the roadblocks that had always stopped me. Anyway, posting that idea is on hold for now while I re-evaluate some things. Maybe it is still a viable possibility. Maybe this idea I have put so much effort into over the last few years isn't quite dead yet. Just maybe it will lead me to the treasure yet. So sorry guys, you don't get to see it after all. Maybe sometime in the future after I am sure I have wrung everything out of it I can.


The "Downhill" Problem (posted 07/18/15)

If you read Forret Fenn's treasure poem literally, (not that I am necessarily advocating that), then one thing should become obvious. The poem seems to be leading you downhill at almost every turn.

  1. And take it in the canyon down,
  2. Put in below the home of Brown.
  3. There'll be no paddle up your creek,
  4. Look quickly down, your quest to cease,

The word "down" itself is used twice in the poem. "Below" is used once. "There'll be no paddle up your creek" has been interpreted by some to mean go downstream. Each of these four lines can, and has been interpreted as either guiding us downhill, or telling us to look down. And in my opinion, that is a problem. Why? I'll explain.

Maybe others look at things differently, but I work on the assumption that the treasure is hidden somewhere that (1) very few people ever have reason to go, and (2) someplace safe from natural disasters for many years to come. Let's look at the first point. Where do people live, work, farm and play in the Rocky Mountain region? In the river valleys, flood plains, and the basins. These are generally areas at lower altitudes with easy access to water, relatively flat ground for building on, rich soils for cultivation and milder climates. These are the places for the most part where communities of all sizes from tiny hamlets to large cities grow up. Going up higher into the mountains you generally leave people and civilization behind. The higher you go the drier, rockier, steeper, colder and stormier it gets, and the fewer people there are. So when the poem seems to be taking us down, down, down, lower and lower in altitude, as far as I am concerned that means it would be taking us closer and closer to people, and into places where the treasure would be less likely to remain undiscovered in the long run. So I don't believe that is necessarily the correct interpretation. The second point is that canyons, river valleys, arroyos and flood plains are prone to natural disasters. Flash floods and landslides are always a potential concern. Fenn isn't foolish enough to hide his treasure somewhere that may be subject to a flood that could wash it way, or a landslide that could bury it. So I don't think it is hidden in a narrow canyon or arroyo that can be subject to flash floods or rock slides, or in a wider river valley, flood plain or basin with enough flat, arable land to attract people.

Then there is another good reason to suspect that "down" doesn't necessarily mean "down" in the poem. I think it is pretty obvious Fenn is using a lot of metaphors in the poem. "No paddle up your creek" is clearly a metaphor (maybe even several). So maybe it is a hint that we should not to take other things in the poem terribly literally either.

So in short, I don't think the "downs" in the poem necessarily mean "down" in the sense of lower altitude. Not necessarily the "below" either. So what could they mean? I have compiled quite a list. I'm always adding to it as I think of, or stumble across new unconventional definitions of down. Here is my list to date:

I see several of these options as good possibilities. I'm not going to say which ones I especially like or which fit into my current solutions. Feel free to guess. Keeping an open mind, I can't totally discount the possibility that one or both of the downs, and the below in the poem actually do mean down in the sense of lower altitude. Just maybe not too much lower. Perhaps there is a vertical gradient to the poem, but not one so steep as to take us down into inhabited or dangerous areas. Another possibility is that the beginning is at very high altitude, and we do go down, down, down quite a way to the location of the treasure, but are still well up into the mountains above the towns and valley bottoms.


Mini Post: My Fenn Book Shelf (posted 07/17/15)

My Fenn treasure hunt book collection. Just for fun I took a picture of my collection of books I use for the chase. Click the photo for a larger view.

The atlases at the bottom, and everything to the left of the Amateur Astronomer's Handbook are part of my chase reference collection. I didn't buy all these books just for the chase. I have always been a geology and mining geek. So I already had the Roadside Geology series of books and all the atlases except for Montana. Finding Everett Ruess isn't really chase related per se, but there was a time when I thought the two mysteries might be intertwined. The slim green book between Forrest's Too Far To Walk and Day Hikes in Santa Fe is a guide to historic gold mining sites in New Mexico, another import from my extensive geology and mining collection. The Place Names of New Mexico is invaluable to anyone searching in that state. The Codex is a fictional novel that was inspired by Forrest's treasure hunt, and it is a fascinating read. Too Far to Walk by John Hersey is a very strange novel from 1966 that I thought Forrest may have been hinting at in the poem. After reading it, I am not so sure, but I'm not ready to totally discount it. The Outlaw Trail by Robert Redford is a book that Forrest does directly hint at in TTOTC. However, the book is so full of information that if there is a hidden hint in it, it is well hidden indeed. On top of the bookcase, and difficult to see, is a copy of Sid&Charlie's solution which he sent to me to review and comment on before he went public with it. There's also a recent issue of New Mexico magazine, which I subscribe to.

There isn't anything visible there that will give away my current strategy. I removed a couple of books from the case before taking the photo. After some thought I did blank out the title of one book which represents an older theory of mine that I mostly no longer believe in, but still need to nail down a few loose ends on, and am not quite ready to talk about. This bookcase is conveniently at arms length away from me for easy access as I sit at my desk and do research on the computer. There are a few other books in my collection that I consult from time to time while researching the chase, but aren't kept here. I have books on Native American culture, Pre-Colombian History of North America, and works on history, geology and mining. They are only tangentially related to the chase and are kept elsewhere.


Mini Post: Riches New and Old (posted 07/14/15)

What could Forrest be referring to in the first stanza by riches new and old? Here is the line in context in the first stanza:

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.

Could he be referring to people? People named Rich, Richard, or Dick maybe? Sticking with the presidential theme started in the previous post, then Richard Nixon is an obvious possibility for one of the riches. LBJ sent Forrest to Vietnam. Nixon was in office when Forrest retired from the Military. Those two men bookend the most important period of his life. Then there is something else. All the water references in the poem remind some people of the Watergate scandal. I'm not sure I buy the Watergate argument. However both men did leave office in disgrace, just different types of disgrace. A theme of presidents does run through Forrest's stories. Though as a poem purist I try not to rely too much on things he has written outside of the poem.

So if Nixon is one of the riches, which one would he be, and who is the other one? I suspect Nixon would be the new rich. The old rich could be Richard Wetherill. He would certainly be a prime suspect in my book for being one of the riches. He's another important man in Forrest's life. If the riches actually are references to people that is. They could be references to completely different things.


Bragging about hidden things I have found in the poem (posted 07/13/15)

So I recently got in a bit of a pissing contest with another poster on a Fenn blog. He started going all "I know something you don't" about Forrest's poem, and put forth a few unimpressive hits. Well two can play at that game. So I jumped in with both feet and and upped the ante quite a bit with my own "I know something you don't" line and some much more specific and tantalizing hints. This back and forth want on for a while, and I am the first to admit it was kind of childish and annoying. Eventually the other posters had enough and the inevitable calls of "Tell us already," and "Put up or shut up" began. Well just to one-up the other guy one more time, I actually am going to tell everyone something I know that the rest of you don't.

As I was hinting at in my posts, I have found two things hidden in the poem that nobody else to my uncertain knowledge has ever mentioned before. They both relate to the Vietnam War. They are both hidden in plain sight, right in front of our faces. Yet people just aren't seeing them. Hell, it took me years of staring at, parsing and re-parsing, and obsessing over the poem before I saw them. When I finally did notice them, well it was a real facepalm moment. I'm going to share one of them with everyone now so you can all enjoy your own facepalm moments.

So what is one of the things I found hidden in the poem? I found this guy:

Photo of Lyndon B. Johnson. "Hey, Hey, LBJ ... How Many Kids Did You Kill Today?"
Lyndon Baines Johnson, Texan, 36th President of the United States.
The man who sent Forrest Fenn to Vietnam to kill people, and nearly be killed a couple times himself.
A man who is hated with a true passion by many Vietnam Veterans.
He's one of the hidden things I see in the poem. The funny thing is, he's not really even hidden. He's been right smack in front of us all this time. Yet nobody seems to have noticed.

Here he is:
Forrest Fenn's poem with the letters LBJ circled.

I found it about a year ago, and then shortly after that found the another hidden Vietnam related thing in the poem. I've been keeping them my little secret up till now. Forrest says he worked on the poem for 15 years. So do you think those three capital letters are there, in that order, by accident? Not a chance. Some might say, "But wait, maybe the LBJ reference points to Texas instead." I thought about that possibility too. Then I found the other thing hidden in plain sight in the poem that also points to Vietnam. It is even more obviously a reference to Vietnam, because Forrest actually mentions that thing in the "My War For Me" chapter of his book. It's also hidden in plain sight too, but in a completely different way. You can play find-a-word with the poem until the cows come home and you won't spot it. I'm keeping that one to myself for now, because I suspect it hints at the nature of the blaze. I'm not going to put all my best intel out there for all to see, no matter how loudly they yell put up or shut up. Maybe I will try harder to stay out of pissing contests in the future though. It's not really fair to the other guys anyway when I pull out the big gun (LBJ would have loved that line, and probably would have stolen it for his own use).


The unexpected treasure hunt (posted 07/12/15)

Anyone who knows me knows I am a geology geek and a mining nut. I love to go poking around old mine dumps, collecting mineral specimens. I love to hike through the mountains and deserts and try put together the history of how the landscapes around me came into being. Most of all, I love to go gold panning on the rivers of the southwest. Been doing that for a very long time. Back in 2013 I decided to not spend this entire trip searching for Forrest Fenn's treasure like I had spent my previous vacation. I was instead going to spend part of my time in Colorado doing the gold panning and mineral collecting I love so much. I was going to hit several spots in Colorado where I had panned before and gotten good color. I was also going to visit a few old mines and poke around their dumps looking for interesting specimens. I had it all planned out. I had a day or two that I hadn't planned anything for, so I started looking around on my various maps of the general area where I was going to be looking for other interesting diversions. The Point Bar public panning area on the Arkansas River southeast of Salida jumped out at me. I have always meant to try my hand at panning there. So I penciled it into my schedule. Then I noticed something on my map a little way upstream from Point Bar. Suddenly the hunt for Fenn's treasure was back on.

A map of Swissvale, Colorado It was nothing really. Just a tiny little speck on the map. A blink and you'll miss it community of about a dozen houses squeezed in between the highway and the Arkansas River, a little upstream from Point Bar. But the name of the place got my attention. Swissvale. So why would this tiny little non-town in the middle of nowhere interest me? Well a couple of different lines of inquiry I had made into Fenn's treasure in the past suddenly converged when I saw that name in that place. I'll explain.

The first piece of the puzzle was an item on a long list of potential Warm Waters Halt locations I have been compiling since I first got into the chase. I Have a very long list now. It wasn't so long back then, but it still had a lot of entries on it. One of those entries was Salida Colorado. Why Salida? Well it is a bit convoluted. I have never been a big believer that Fenn's Warm Waters Halt location from his poem refers to hot springs. After all, hot springs are a place hot or warm water appears, not a place where it halts for the most part. Plus he says waters, as in plural. So there would have to be multiple waters somehow. However, I try to keep an open mind, and any hot springs on my maps get circled, and some get added to my list if there is some kind of halting involved in the flow of their waters. So back to Salida. About seven or eight miles west of Salida is Poncha Pass, and the famous hot springs there. Well the town of Salida had built a system of insulated pipelines to bring the hot water from several of the springs (note plural) down into town to supply hot water for their Aquatic Center. When I discovered this, Salida got added to my list of potential WWWHs and highlighted. Why? Well we have multiple warm waters halting temporarily at the Salida Aquatic Center, before being discharged into the Arkansas River. Sounds like a pretty viable solution to WWWH to me. In fact, I still think it may be. Maybe I shouldn't be sharing this much with you lucky readers. Anyway, I could never find a viable next step in the chain. No home of Brown. So Salida had languished on my WWWH list.

The other line of inquiry that converged on Swissvale can be found in my below 50 Shades of Brown post. I have to admit, that I have always considered that Idea a bit of a longshot. To recap: The general idea is that instead of looking for something that is brown, maybe we should be looking for something that has colors in it that when mixed make brown. Just a little whimsy of an idea I never really took terribly seriously, though it is an interesting way of looking at the landscape of the chase, and it does sometimes produce unexpected results, like at Swissvale. So where is the Brown in Swissvale you ask? The short answer is that there isn't any. Confused yet? Let me explain. In my below 50 Shades post I got the idea of flags with colors that when mixed make brown. I presented the example of the Colorado state flag. Well that isn't the only flag that has colors you can make brown out of. There are actually a lot of them. Colorado is the only one of the four search states with a halfway decent claim to brown in the flag, but there are a lot of countries on Earth, and each of them has a flag too. I looked at a lot of flags and noted the names of quite a few countries proudly flying flags that if you got right down to it, are actually brown.

The german flag. One country flying a flag that if you squint hard enough is actually brown is Germany. Mix black, red and yellow and you get brown. (Hey, wasn't Forrest Fenn stationed in Germany while in the Air Force?) By now you must be confused. Germany? What the bleepedy bleep does Germany have to do with it? Bear with me, I said it was a little convoluted. If you mix the colors of the German flag together you get brown. So maybe Germany is the home of Brown. But the poem isn't really directing us to the home of Brown. The line actually says, "Put in below the home of Brown." So if Germany is the home of Brown what is "below" it? Well a quick look at a map of Europe shows that Switzerland is below Germany. I'll give you three guesses what country Swissvale was named after. Suddenly I had a possible below home of Brown to go with what I had always considered to be a very strong WWWH. And the game was afoot!

Ok, so did I really think Swissvale was a strong possibility for HOB? No, not really. It was probably a wild longshot at best. I might have even laughed if someone else had presented the idea to me. I certainly wouldn't have under any circumstances made a special trip clear across the country to check it out. But I was already planning to be literally only two miles away from the place at Point Bar anyway. It would be foolish to not at least check out the area. Nobody is having any luck finding the treasure following the conventional wisdom and usual, cookie cutter ideas. So why not give it a shot? Who knows, might get lucky. Will almost certainly have fun. I didn't see a downside.

So once my vacation was under way, and I was at Point Bar, I cut my time there a little short and went just down the road and across the river to poke around the Swissvale area. Next I had to figure out the "put in" part. Put in where? Into the river? There was no public access nearby, and were would I go from there? The river was already full of rafters and kayakers. They weren't finding the treasure, so getting cold and wet didn't seem to make sense. How about put into the mountains instead? That seemed to make more sense. The river valley had mountains on both sides. All I had to do was find a way in that looked likely.

A statue of a bull buffalo at Swissvale, Colorado On my first drive through Swissvale I almost ran the truck off the road. There at the side of the road was a statue of a huge bull buffalo. It looked a lot like the picture of Cody the buffalo in Forrest's book The Thrill of the Chase. Maybe this was a sign I was on the right track, I hoped. Other than Cody, things actually didn't look terribly promising. The only paths leading off the highway all seemed to be private driveways. I drove quite a way downstream from Swissvale still not seeing any likely "put ins." So I backtracked back upstream and crossed the river at Wellsville and then followed the very scary primitive road (glad I own a 4X4) along the far side of the river back downstream toward Point Bar until I was opposite Swissvale. A couple of streams coming down out of the hills above had carved canyons down to the river. I hiked, climbed and boulder scrambled up a couple of these narrow side canyons (which were certainly no place for the meek) hoping for some kind of sign of the blaze. No luck. I drove even further downstream looking for more side canyons. Eventually I had to just admit defeat and turn around. I went back upstream and re-crossed the river.

It was getting late, so I decided to head back to Salida and get a room for the night. Wouldn't you know it? They were filming Fast And Furious 7 in the mountains above Salida at the time, and the film crews had booked almost every motel room in town. (How many freeking lame sequels are they going to milk that franchise for anyway? Hollywood is officially out of new ideas.) I almost resolved to go back to Point Bar and camp there for the night. I didn't have my camping gear with me, but I have spent many nights in my truck. I could do it if I had to. Then at one of the last Motels on the way back out of town, I managed to find a room. After dinner I pulled out my laptop and maps. I fired up Google Earth, and had a real close look at the Swissvale area. There actually did appear to be a couple of paths leading off the highway and up into National Forest land in the mountains above the river valley. One of them looked promising. It looked like it lead to an old quarry or mine. Well I like old mines anyway. That was right up my alley. So I resolved to give Swissvale another shot the next day. Note: This was long before Forrest ruled out mines.

The next day I went back to Point Bar for a while and did a little panning and hung out with the other miners there for a while. About midday I left and headed downstream for Swissvale. I missed the turnoff for the old mining road just outside Swissvale the first time and had to backtrack. Eventually I got off the highway and "put in" to the mountains. The road was a little rough, steep and overgrown, but fairly easy going in my high-clearance 4X4 truck. I got maybe 1/4 mile in, then the bottom fell out, literally. At a hairpin curve in the road, the road just disappeared. A flash flood had obviously come crashing down a side canyon some time in the past and totally washed away the road. I stopped and got out of the truck to assess the situation. There was a deep and utterly impassible canyon between where I was stopped, and where the road continued up the mountain on the other side of the chasm. I clearly wasn't going any further in my truck. I backed down the road to a place where I could turn around. Then I parked and geared up for a hike with my hat, water, walking stick, bear spray and hiking boots. I climbed down into the canyon and back up the other side. After that it was fairly easy going up the old mining road again.

It was a long hike up that road. It didn't look far on the map, but it was steep, full of switchbacks, and it seemed like it was never going to end. I had plenty of time to think while I hiked and looked for potential blazes. I got to thinking that this could actually be the perfect hiding place. If the road had been intact when Forrest hid the treasure, then washed out afterwards, that could explain why nobody had found the treasure yet. Those thoughts put a spring in my step and a smile on my face as I hiked up the mountain. I was gaining a lot of altitude above the river. At a couple of places along that road the trees opened up and there were impressive views down the Arkansas River Valley. I took some photos, which I unfortunately can't seem to locate. If I ever do find them, I'll post some here.

Eventually I reached the end of the road. It ended at a quarry or open pit mine of some kind. I never did figure out for sure what they had been mining there. Maybe it was an old gold mine. There are a lot of them in the area. It may have just been a materials pit where they dug gravel for construction of the highway back down in the valley. Who knows? I hunted around the area thoroughly looking for anything that could be the blaze. I found nothing. No blaze, no treasure. It was quite a letdown. On the way back down the mountain I looked again out over the long vistas over the Arkansas Valley looking for anything that could be the blaze. Forrest says to look at the big picture. I always try to do that. Not just the things right in front of me, but things far off in the distance too. There was something off in the distance. A bright white patch of ground to the northwest. (Wish I could find those photos.) It did stand out against the green background. I knew what it was. It was a travertine mine at Wellsville. The entire area around the mine was covered in white dust stirred up by mining activities. So look quickly down. There was nothing of note visible from where I was. Just a steep drop-off down the side of the mountain. I decided to go get a closer look at the area around that mine. It was all downhill back to the truck. Good thing too. I was beat by the time I got there.

Once again I drove to Wellsville and crossed the river. There was a spiderweb of dirt roads in the dusty area around the mine. None of them looked to go anywhere promising on my maps. Look quickly down. I concentrated on the area downhill from the mine, between it and the river. There wasn't much of interest there. A few ruined buildings, just foundations really, on private property. No likely hiding places for the treasure that I could see. Eventually I had to conclude this was not the place.

I had gone alone in there. It had been no place for the meek. I had been brave and in the wood. But it had all been for naught. Oh well, I had only spent a little over half a day investigating the possibility, and hadn't really had to go out of my way at all. It had been an interesting adventure, in the true spirit of the chase. I could cross one more spot off the list of billions of places the treasure could be. Now back to our regularly scheduled vacation.


Mini-Post: A square peg doesn't fit a round assumption (posted 07/11/15)

So I woke up this morning with my back very sore and stiff. My advice to any young people reading this blog is to take good care of your body. Because when you get old, you will feel every bad thing you ever did to it each morning when you wake up. I stumbled to the medicine cabinet while trying to work the kinks out. Still half asleep, and distracted by pain, I fumbled and groped around in the medicine cabinet looking for the bottle of Ibuprofen. I couldn't find it. Did I take it to work? Did I leave it in the kitchen? What could I have done with it? I looked around the house and still couldn't find it. This was very puzzling because I could clearly remember recently buying another large bottle of Ibuprofen at the grocery store. It had to be here somewhere. Wait, that's it. I just bought it. It is still in the box. I went back to the medicine cabinet, and there was the box containing the bottle of Ibuprofen. In my bleary-eyed and distracted state I had focused exclusively on trying to find a round bottle, and had completely ignored the square box that the bottle came in.

What does any of this have to do with Forrest Fenn's treasure hunt? I see a possible parallel. The utter lack of results to date from everyone participating in the chase could come down to a mis-match between expectations and packaging. Maybe we are all assuming (perhaps bleary-eyed and distractedly) that the chase should unfold a certain way, but Forrest has packaged it completely differently from what we expected. Forrest Fenn knows human nature. He is a trickster. He could have created the perception of a round hole solution in our minds, but then actually manufactured a square peg solution instead. The solution could be right in front of us. We could all be looking right at it, but not seeing it because it doesn't fit our preconceived expectations of what it should be. So note to self: Always challenge your assumptions. Don't take it for granted that you are sure you know exactly what you are looking for.


50 Shades of Brown. (posted 07/10/15)

"Put in below the home of Brown." How much effort have we all put into trying to figure out the meaning of that line? Let's put aside the "put in" and "below" and "home" parts for now and just concentrate on Brown for a bit. Brown is probably the most confusing word in the poem.

Brown and I have gone round and round over the years. I've had lots of solutions for Brown. Back when I was a wet behind the ears newbie to the chase, I leaned toward brown trout, as so many other newbies always do. Later I favored places with the word Brown, or the Spanish equivalent in their name. These days I think both are too obvious and too ubiquitous. I think deep down, right or wrong, we all expect the clues in the poem to lead us to unique and special places, not to just one of many similar ho-hum places. This post recounts Just one of my many past and present ideas about the nature of Brown.

A couple of years back I had a new idea about the possible meaning of Brown. I had been kind of trying to get into Forrest's head and look at the poem from his perspective. I knew he was an artist, and an art dealer. He had a lot of friends and business associates who were artists. What does an artist think of when he/she sees the word Brown? About this time I was cursing my own near total lack of artistic ability. Why couldn't Forrest have been an engineer? I'd have a much easier time getting into his head. Anyway, What do I know about artists? I knew most real artists were always broke (the stereotypical starving artist thing). Due to their perpetual lack of funds, artists had to be frugal and creative. Your average painting to live and living to paint artist can't afford to go down to the artist supply store and buy dozens of tubes of every color of paint in the rainbow and beyond to paint their masterpieces. Only hobbyist hack artists with day jobs can afford to buy all those different colors. Real artists, who don't normally have two spare nickels to rub together, can't afford that kind of extravagance, and don't need that sort of pre-packaged variety. A real artist may have maybe ten or at the most a dozen tubes of paint, carefully chosen so he or she can mix them to create just about any other color needed, and they have the skill and knowledge to do it. So I got to thinking, how would an artist make the color brown?

I did a little Googling. Wow! So many different ways to make brown. Any artist worthy of the title wouldn't have any trouble making brown even with a very limited number of colors to choose from. Google says to make brown, I could mix the primary colors of Red, Blue and Yellow together. Or I could mix a primary and a secondary color together like blue and orange, or red and green, or yellow and purple. Or I could make brown by mixing red, yellow and black. The list goes on.

Anyway, the point is that maybe an artist looks at the word brown and thinks of a combination of other colors. So maybe we aren't really looking for something that is literally brown. Maybe we need to be looking for something that has all the things needed to make brown in its name or in the names of surrounding landscape features. Or maybe not even in the names. What if words aren't even involved. Reduce brown to its most basic and fundamental properties. What if there were a great big symbol, right in front of us, that an artist might look at and think of Brown? What if that symbol contained all the colors needed to make a nice, rich brown if they were mixed together?

The Colorado State Flag. The Colorado State Flag contains the three primary colors of red, yellow and blue. Mixing them would make brown. The flag also contains a white stripe, but maybe that's not important. I see this as a very ironic solution to Brown, and I have always figured Forrest for being ironic. Why is it ironic? What is the first thing you see when you cross the border into Colorado? At every crossing point is a sign that says "Welcome To Colorful Colorado." Most of us look at that sign and think of the green and gold of aspens, the blue of the skies, purple mountain majesties, etc. What if Forrest Fenn looks at that sign and thinks Brown? That would be ironic. So if Colorado is the home of Brown, does put in below the home of Brown mean go to the next state to the south, New Mexico? Hmmmmmmm. Food for thought.

The Colorado State Flag is just one idea for a thing an artist might look at and think of as being fundamentally brown. I have a list of others. Most of them I'm not quite ready to share with everyone since they lead to much more specific areas. I will end this post with one more parting shot though. In Forrest's book The Thrill of the Chase, there is a chapter titled Tea with Olga. In that chapter three different colors of tea are mentioned, red, black and green. What do you get if you mix those three colors? You guessed it, Brown.


My core assumptions about where Fenn probably did and didn't hide his treasure. (posted 07/10/15)

Here is what we know about the location where Forrest Fenn hid his treasure:

I freely admit that what follows are only assumptions. I don't have much in the way of facts to back them up. However, you have to start somewhere to try to limit the boundaries of the search area.

Well that certainly narrows it down...Not! Even narrowing down the area using these assumptions to only parts of two states still leaves a huge area where the treasure could conceivably be hidden. Plus I do not limit myself entirely to only this area in my deliberations. I see these assumptions more as guidelines than rules. If an idea leads me into Wyoming or Montana, I go ahead and follow it to its logical conclusion, but I do tend to assign somewhat lower priority to such ideas.


My first Forrest Fenn treasure hunt adventure. (posted 07/09/15)

Note: This story was originally written up in 2013 and posted on Fenn Treasure web site shortly after returning from my search. That explains the difference in tone and style from the later stuff. It is pretty much bog standard newbie stuff. I later expanded on it and added some extra details. I did not originally go into a lot of details because I wasn't sure I hadn't missed something in these areas, and might search these places again. I no longer consider most of this to be any part of a viable solution to the puzzle, so I am going to provide clarifications now and additional info at the end.

I first heard about Forrest Fenn's treasure last year (2012) just after returning from a Fall vacation in the Rocky Mountains. Damn! Missed it by that much! Working only from the poem on Fenn's web site at this point, I did a lot of online research over the winter so I could go back and go searching the next Spring. I hit on a spot I was pretty sure must be where the treasure was hidden. It had warm water halting.[1] It had a geological feature with Brown in its name,[2] just down valley (but too far to walk). It was also a popular brown trout fishing area. Using Google Earth I spotted a rocky area down stream (no paddle up your creek) of the Brown feature that looked really promising for hiding a treasure chest. [3] I didn't see any kind of "blaze," but I just figured I needed to have boots on the ground for it to be visible. I was certain I had it all figured out. Best of all, it was in an area North of Santa Fe, but not an area I had seen mentioned as a place people were searching for the treasure. So I wasn't too worried that it had been searched before or that someone might find it before I could get there.

I made plans to go through Santa Fe on my next trip out west and pick up a copy of The Thrill of the Chase at Collected Works, then head out to my spot and pick up the treasure. I couldn't wait. I was so sure I had it all figured out. This was going to be easy.

In a moment of lucidity a few weeks before my trip, I decided that I should keep researching other areas and not get totally fixated on just one spot. So on the off chance the treasure wasn't where I thought it was, I'd have at least one secondary search area to look at while I was out west.

So back on Google Earth I found another spot that looked fairly promising. There was warm water,[4] and a vague reference to Brown.[5] But what really got my attention were two nearby strange circular features in a clearing in the thick woods that could only be seen from above[6]. They kind of looked like owl eyes. There was much talk on the treasure blogs about the word wise in the poem referring to owls. Forrest was a pilot. I figured he might have seen these features from his plane and come back later on foot for a closer look and decided it was a good hiding place. This would be my secondary search site.

Then I found another spot that looked kind of so-so promising There was warm water halting and plenty of places to hide things (at least it looked that way on Google Earth), and something that could be interpreted as "water high." There was nothing related to Brown that I could see, but maybe actually being on the ground there would turn up something. So I decided to make this my third search area since I would be driving by anyway to get to the other two. [7]

Finally it was time to hit the road. I got to Santa Fe and got my copy of TTOTC. I read through it in record time. Everything I read just further convinced me that I had guessed correctly about the location of the treasure and my primary target was indeed the right spot. I was thrilled at how subtle clues in the text all seemed to point to my primary spot.[8]

So I was off to find my spot and pick up the treasure. It is a fair drive from Santa Fe. Bad weather slowed me down. I got there late in the day with fading light, but began my search anyway. I was surprised by what I found. The area was apparently very popular with fishermen and others, possibly local kids. There were fresh footprints almost everywhere I went. It began to look like there was no way Forrest could have "gone alone in there." Still, there was nobody around at the same moment I was there, so maybe it was possible. I made my way down to the rocky area where I thought the treasure must be hidden. My second surprise was how rugged the terrain was there. It was much steeper, rockier, and more difficult going than it had looked on Google Earth. This was certainly "no place for the meek" as the climb down to the rocky area was difficult and treacherous with steep drop-offs and much boulder scrambling required. I decided to wait until the next day to search this rough area since the light was fading fast.

After a night in a nearby motel, and a hearty breakfast, I got back to the search. There were many nooks, crannies and alcoves in the rocks where a treasure chest or even bigger things could be hidden. It certainly looked like I was in the right spot. Everything matched up to the poem in my mind.I was looking for the blaze which I assumed I needed to be on the ground to find. I searched all up and down the rocky area. It was very tough going. I nearly fell several times, and did actually fall once, but fortunately landed on soft sand rather than rocks, or I might have broken a hip, as it was I sported a big, painful bruise for a week after. Unfortunately, I never found the blaze or the treasure. I gradually came to the conclusion that in spite of my spot meeting all the criteria of the poem and the hints in the book, there was just no way an 80 year old man carrying a 40 pound chest could get to it.[9] I'm on the low side of 50, and wasn't carrying a heavy chest (just a spare tire), but the climbing was nearly killing me. So I gave up on this spot, at least for the time-being. I'm not going to disclose just where it is, because I am not 100% sure I didn't miss something. All the pieces of the puzzle just fit so nicely and point perfectly to this spot (at least in my mind). Maybe there is an easier path down, or a nook or alcove that I missed. I may return on a future trip and have another look around.

So I got back on the road and headed to my next spot. It was actually easier to go to my third spot next, since it would be on my way to the second spot. The third spot was a complete bust. On the ground it looked totally hopeless. It was much more built up and populated than I expected. It would be hard to hide anything there without it being immediately found by somebody. I also saw no sign of anything Brown-related. I actually felt a little silly for thinking this spot could even be a possibility. So I didn't waste much time there and moved on to my secondary spot.[7]

The secondary spot tuned out to be a full of surprises too. I got as close as I could by road to the features I had spotted in Google Earth, then struck out on foot in the woods with GPS to guide me. The spot was not too far off the road, but tall fences (I believe erected to protect fish habitat) blocked a direct rout. So I had to hike the long way around through thick woods. I found that navigating through the woods with GPS is more difficult than I expected. It is nearly impossible to follow a straight course to your goal. Trees, bushes, ravines and impenetrable thickets block your way and must be navigated around. It wasn't far as the crow files, but it took me a lot longer than I expected to get there. I began the search with the feeling that this spot was not as good a fit with the clues as my primary spot. But after actually being on the ground and looking around a while though, it seemed to fit much better. The clincher was finding an ancient rusty old car, stuck in a ravine, just like the one Skippy owned that was wrecked by the bull buffalo. It looked so similar to the illustration in the book that I thought this had to be a clue that I was on the right path.[10]

Finally I found the two features I had seen on Google Earth. They were difficult to spot from the ground. I had actually walked past them a couple of times and had to backtrack before finally seeing them. They were definitely man-made. I am not yet ready to say exactly what they are, but they may be the answer to the riddle of the double omega at the end of the book. [11] I looked around and found something that could possibly be the blaze. With only a little imagination I could see a couple of Fs in it.[12] I was getting really excited, but what I saw next damped down the excitement. Nearby was a hole someone had dug in the fairly recent past. Obviously I wasn't the first to find this spot. I am not a big believer that the chest is necessarily buried. So the hole didn't worry me too much, but the thought that other people had already searched the area did worry me. The area had the general look of having been metal detected. Looking down from the "blaze" leads me back to the old car. So I thoroughly searched in and around the car. This area had also been recently searched too as I found freshly used toilet paper behind some nearby trees. I didn't notice it earlier when I passed by the car. Eventually I ran out of time and ideas and had to hike back to where I parked my truck. I didn't find the treasure. I left concluding that one of the following was true:

A. This was the wrong spot.
B. This was the right spot, but someone found the treasure before me.
C. This was the right spot but I (and the others) had missed finding the treasure.

I am not going to disclose where this spot is just yet either, because I want to have another look at it on my next trip out west. Just in case option C. is the correct answer.[13]

I can't wait until my next trip out west. I have a new area in mind to search, and I want to revisit my secondary site from my last trip. [14] I am thoroughly enjoying the thrill of the chase.

If I ever meet Mr. Fen, I will shake his hand and thank him for giving me such a fun new hobby. I won't even ask him for any new clues. That would be like cheating.

Additional info and clarifications:

  1. Navajo Dam on the San Juan River. Note: Fenn had not yet ruled out dams at the time.
  2. A sharp bend in the river downstream from the dam known to the locals as "Brown's Bend" or alternately "Brown's Corner."
  3. A rocky bluff above the river, just down stream from Brown's Corner, accessed by a short hike from a natural gas well maintenance road.
  4. A creek originating at a hot spring in the Jamez Mts.
  5. Ron Brown Realty Jemez Springs, NM
  6. Two strange circular features in the woods that I could not make out the purpose of and had me very curious.
  7. Not going to go into detail about this place. It did not work out the way I had expected on this search, but it is an important waypoint in a later solution I still consider to be possibly viable.
  8. My first experience with the chase related phenomenon known as Confirmation Bias./li>
  9. This was before Fen clarified that he took the treasure to its hiding place in two trips.
  10. I failed to take photos. I had my phone in GPS mode, and had neglected to bring my other camera along on the hike. I got so caught up in the search that I completely neglected to take any photos. Now I have a policy of photographing everything on my searches so I can review the photos later for anything I may have missed in the field.
  11. They were two very large prayer labyrinths. They were both obviously old and very overgrown. I guessed that they were possibly built in the late 60s or early 70s. One was so overgrown and eroded as to be almost invisible even while standing in the middle of it. I finally discovered it by literally tripping over one of the stones making it up. The other seems to have received some maintenance with the last few years and was more recognizable, but the grass was tall and hid it from any distance away. Both were far more visible from above in Google Earth than they were at ground level. Alpha and Omega are common symbols used in prayer labyrinths.
  12. A long steel pole stuck in the ground at the edge of the more obvious labyrinth. The pole had some horizontal bars sticking out one side near the top that almost made it look like capital Fs. A very convincing blaze. Again, I wish I had photos.
  13. Though I no longer consider this area the probable hiding place for the treasure, I am not going to disclose its exact location. I don't want to lead people to the area so they can dig it up and destroy it. Fortunately, the labyrinths are almost invisible in more recent Google Earth image data.
  14. When I returned the next year, the area was even more overgrown. The "blaze" pole was missing. The old car was also mostly missing. I found parts of it scattered down the length of the ravine it had been stuck in, but not enough parts to make up the whole car. I was not convinced a flash flood could have destroyed and washed away most of the car, especially since it had obviously sat peacefully there for decades. I suspect metal scavengers had found it, tore it apart and sold it for scrap.

Now for the rest of the story. I no longer consider these areas to have been the hiding place for the treasure. With hindsight and experience I can see now that the clues in the poem are a poor fit at best for the spots. The area on the San Juan river is also just too heavily trafficked by fishermen and local kids for anything to stay hidden there for long. After Forrest ruled out dams as being involved, that was the final nail in the coffin of this solve.

The area in the Jamez Mountains that has the twin prayer labyrinths hidden in the woods is an even poorer fit to the poem clues. It is just an area I fixated on after seeing something unusual in the Google Earth imagery. I then tried hard to twist things in the surrounding landscape to fit the clues. Seeing the old car on the ground just fed into my confirmation bias. In any event, the treasure is not there. I seriously doubt it ever was there. Again, the area is too heavily trafficked by people for anything to stay hidden there for long. Other treasure hunters seem to have found it based on the signs of digging I saw there. Local metal scavengers also found it. There were also several well used primitive campsites in the woods. So either recreational campers or homeless people also frequented the area. Someone had also done maintenance on one of the prayer labyrinths not too long before my first visit. Someone is maintaining at least one of them. So this is not a likely spot where Forrest Fenn would hide something expecting it to stay hidden for a very long time.

The other spot was a bit of a throw away. Just a "Well the pieces don't really fit very well, but I'm going to be in the area anyway so I may as well have a look" kind of spot. On the trip documented here I saw nothing of importance. I'm very glad I didn't talk more about it in the past, because it came back to the forefront in a later potential solution in a different capacity. Now it figures into one of my solutions as a waypoint in the poem. So until I completely exhaust the potential of this area, I'm not going into any details about the location.

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