Archive for November, 2011

Third wife of Kit Carson. 1828-1868 (Kit Carson Museum)

I couldn’t help but notice the naysayers who read and comment on the many articles describing Forrest Fenn’s treasure hunt. They are the doubters, skeptics and cynics who believe that Forrest Fenn is pulling our collective leg; that he has decided, as one of his last formal, public acts, to play us for fools rather than do what he says he has done—that is, to offer up a million dollar treasure to those willing to decipher his clues and go out looking.

I am somewhat torn by this bit of information. On the one hand, it means that fewer people will be searching for his treasure. And, on the other, it could also mean that we as a people have “developed” to where the kind of challenges offered by Mr. Fenn are seen as meaningless amusement and that wilderness no longer draws us from our comforts as it once did.  It means that the heroic/tragic tales of Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and Sacagawea, of Joe Meek and Tom Fitzpatrick, of Kit Carson and Josefa Jaramillo and of Jim Bridger now molder unread in forgotten libraries and that we have lost something special.

There is no need either to question or to defend the honesty of Forrest Fenn. We need only to look at his motives and see what they say and, fortunately, The Thrill of the Chase has more clues about this part of Forrest Fenn than it has about how to find the treasure.  In short, despite a far above average biography, Forrest Fenn fears to leave this world as unknown and unremembered and the rediscovery of the life of Forrest Fenn in a hundred or a thousand years would be his ideal scenario.

We know this because he left a number of 20,000-word autobiographies in the bronze jars and bells he fabricated and hid around New Mexico and he fantasizes about his desire to have been buried along side his treasure chest. He is saddened that the name of his beloved father appears but once in a Google search along with the number of his burial plot in a small Texas town. He writes poignantly of a late night solo flight down the East Coast as he ruminates on our place in the Universe. He brings tears with an account of his accidental encounter with the grave of a French soldier in Vietnam who, without Maj. Fenn’s intervention, would have gone through eternity with no one to know or remember who he was, or how he died.

I have the same fears as Forrest Fenn; we all do. No matter what we profess to believe, what we know for sure, is that we will die and what will be left is our legacy and nothing more. And, for most of us, even that will soon fade away. Few of the billions of individual stories that have been played out here on Earth attain the levels of those reached by Moses, George Washington, Madam Curie or Steve Jobs. But we are all somebody. Our determination to hang on to that living uniqueness— even in death, is as strong as our desires for a great many other things—like, for example, a king’s ransom in gold and jewelry.  For me, it would be difficult not to believe that Forrest Fenn’s treasure chest is hidden out there somewhere.

Maybe though, the naysayers need a more practical answer as to why they should trust Forrest Fenn on this one. Let me provide that answer. Much of Mr. Fenn’s fortune obviously is in gold and jewelry rather than in Wall Street investments. What difference does it make then, if a part of his gold and jewelry is under his bed or hidden somewhere where he has every confidence that it will not soon be discovered?

Best wishes,


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Anyone who watched Colombo for more then two shows knows that the development of a profile of the perpetrator is the key to solving a mystery. This is a profile of the perpetrator of our little mystery, Forrest Fenn.

If you have read Mr. Fenn’s memoir, The Thrill of the Chase, you know that he is the former owner of a very successful art gallery in Santa Fe, N.M., as well as a writer of books, a philanthropist, an amateur archeologist of note and a collector of many things—gold, knives, books, art, bottle caps and bits of string. Mostly, though, he collects the artifacts of early North American Indians of the Plains and the Rockies. He is a fly-fisherman and a lover of all things mountains—specifically the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. He is a pilot, a veteran of two wars, a risk-taker and a decorated hero; a ruggedly built gentleman with a friendly face and an immense curiosity; he has the imagination of a five-year old steadied with the discipline of a warrior. Other than a few aging National Park retirees, he is one of the few people now living in New Mexico who actually know who Osborne Russell was.

I am pretty sure that no one has ever called Forrest Fenn dumb—except for Forrest Fenn himself, a couple of “old biddies” from his youth, his teenage chum, Donnie Joe, and maybe his Spanish teacher. To be sure, according to his own statements, he slept through classes, barely made it out of high school and, overcome by a fit of foolhardiness, is now offering up a million dollars for the taking. On the other hand, he also flew close to 300 combat missions in one of the most complicated fighting machines ever built and, for a time, held a nuclear weapon in his care. He made a fortune in a very competitive business where he had no formal education or prior experience and then published half a dozen books on the subject. A diagnosis of ADHD has got to be in his files somewhere.

Consequently, when Forrest Fenn makes light of his education and mental faculties, he is using his considerable native intelligence to lull you to sleep, to win you over and then give you a thorough trouncing. Despite his being tossed from his unregistered space at Texas A&M and being twice shot out of the SouthEast Asian sky, I am guessing that Forrest Fenn has seldom been defeated at something he really wanted to win.

Mr. Fenn has a crafty side to him. His admitted sales philosophy is that of a game that he is going to win, not by cheating but by setting you up.   Some of his anecdotes in The Thrill of the Chase are examples of such behavior. He even offers a few surreptitious phrases in the very first chapters that explain exactly what he is up to: “I tend to use some words that aren’t in the dictionary, and others that are, I bend a little.” (p. 3), “Occasionally it’s wise for the fox to dress like the hound” (p. 7), “I never thought I had to believe every thing I said” (p. 14) and, later in a story called “Jump-starting the Learning Curve”, his father councils, “What we have learned is that you should always tell the truth, but you should not always tell ALL of the truth” (p. 26).

Thus, among the clues that he has given us, one must fully expect “clues” that are not what they seem at first reading. Perhaps the major clue in the entire book is one of these. On p. 131 he writes, ”I knew exactly where to hide the chest so it would be difficult to find but not impossible. It’s in the mountains somewhere north of Santa Fe.”  Note the difference between that sentence and, “…a treasure chest he says he buried somewhere in the mountains north of Santa Fe.”

And therein lies the trap. All news articles I have seen on the subject of his treasure chest interpret their own rephrasing of his statement to mean, “… in the mountains of Northern New Mexico.” But that is not what Forrest Fenn said. His statement could mean that he has hidden his treasure chest in any of the mountains from Santa Fe north to, and through, Alaska. Likewise, he never says that he “buried” the treasure but only that he “hid” it.  The Nation’s press from The Santa Fe New Mexican to The Huffington Post have conspired to lead us astray and I am convinced a chuckle can be heard every time Forrest Fenn reads such things.

However, despite this discovery after a “detailed analysis” of his profile, I am  not sure if this bit of information helps a whole lot. Before, we had to look in what amounted to two National Forests, a couple of areas managed by the National Park Service and several square miles belonging to the Bureau of Land Management. Now we have over a hundred National Parks and Forests covering several million acres that we have to think about.

I figured this out just as I was closing in on a promising spot along the road between Canjelon and El Rito. And now I have to go to Alaska?  Not bad, I say. It is something I have always wanted to do. I even have a nephew who has been a fishing guide up there for years—so long in fact, he’s not even afraid of grizzly bears—a real Joe Meek.  Surely he knows where the home of Brown is.


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Just over a year ago an event was held in Santa Fe, New Mexico to celebrate the release of a new publication by Forrest Fenn (The Thrill of the Chase-A Memoir One Horse Land & Cattle Co. Santa Fe. 147 pp). The book is a collection of short stories that relate to Forrest Fenn’s time growing up in a small Texas town, his summers spent in and around Yellowstone National Park, his time as a pilot in Vietnam, and his years as a business owner in Santa Fe, where he still lives. Additional pieces include a touching ode to his wife and daughters, an essay on how and why he created and cast a series of bells that he has buried around New Mexico and a third piece, the one that will ensure that his book is the most studied of any book recently published, has to do with his hiding a treasure chest that holds over a million dollars in gold and jewelry and his promise that anyone who finds it can claim ownership.

The book contains a poem with nine clues that tell how the treasure chest can be found; other “subtle” clues are scattered throughout the book.  A bit about his affair with a waterfall in Vietnam and another about drinking tea with a neighbor named Olga who wanted him to scatter her ashes over the Taos Mountains (he did) are other of the stories that have attracted the attention of the amateurs out looking for his treasure.

I am one of those amateurs. Mr. Fenn has only recently discovered this although my wife had earlier told his wife that I am not only looking for the treasure but that I have “found” its hiding place three times already but the treasure was never there. She also asked Mrs. Fenn to have Mr. Fenn declare the treasure “found” before I spend all of our retirement funds on equipment from REI and on overnight trips to nowhere. I must say that it has been a lot of fun so far.

Sleuthiness.  In my first posting to this blog, I suggested that you might want to follow my lead in finding and interpreting the clues of Forrest Fenn. Here, in the interest of full disclosure, I confess that the extent of my mystery-solving, puzzle-breaking training consists solely in a bit of undergraduate work with Agents “86” and “99” of Get Smart in the 1960s and unfinished half-hearted graduate work with Colombo in the mid 1990s. The first had a whole lot to do with serendipity and dumb-luck and the second with an eye for detail, meticulousness and dedication to discovering the meaning of even the most absurd of clues.  Both, by which I mean serendipity and dumb-luck, will be needed if my search for Forrest Fenn’s treasure is to be successful.  This, I believe, is what so worries my wife.

A lack of trust not-with-standing, I have forged ahead and composed several self-imposed guidelines designed to keep my enthusiasm in check as well as to ensure my utmost attention to detail.  There are twenty of them:

  1. Find everything that is possible to know about Forrest Fenn. To the degree possible, read everything he has written or that has been written about him.
  2. To find the “hidden” clues in The Thrill of the Chase, look for ambiguous or forced words or phrases or for unnecessary changes in detail. Find at least one “clue” in each chapter no matter how far-fetched or improbable. You can cull them later.
  3. Develop an exegesis of each of the known and suspected clues. Find out what “exegesis” means.
  4. Develop interpretations to all clues in as much detail as possible.
  5. Be aware of the possibility of blind alleys; we are matching wits with Forrest Fenn.
  6. Do not, however, discount anything that Mr. Fenn says is a “clue.”
  7. Evaluate the authenticity of any evidence discovered.
  8. Interpretations of any clue must support interpretations of other clues—responses cannot be mutually exclusive.
  9. Question anything not understood.
  10. Do not make hasty conclusions. Try to disprove any conclusion felt to be the correct one.
  11. Search for rival reasonable interpretations of all clues.
  12. Search out related information or images elsewhere in any of the writings he mentions.
  13. Question anything that appears as just a coincidence.
  14. Do not discount any “clues” no matter how absurd they may appear.
  15. Check all key words in all clues against all definitions of those words.
  16. Be aware that the sequence of clues given in the poem in Thrill of the Chase must be followed.
  17. The best alternative will be the one that responds to all of the clues especially if interpretations to clues found elsewhere backup the alternative chosen.
  18. If you get tired of these guidelines, forget about them.
  19. Intuition is not an enemy.

Of course, this list may not work for you and you can invent your own. The 20th guideline, however, must work for everybody:

20. Explore. Whether it is inside or out-of-doors, if your heart is not beating as it did the first time you kissed your first beau or beauette, you’re probably not going in a very important direction.

Best, r/

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For someone who can barely open his e-mails, starting a blog is a foolhardy task at best. Who knows if I will ever even find the thing again let alone change its design or add something new? But I have friends who are under 40 and conversant in all things virtual who can help at what they say, with a roll of eye and shake of head, will be “minimal cost.” I will do it without them.

The purpose for writing this blog is to tell you how my search for the world’s most awesome geocache is going and give useful clues along the way that may help you get off your duff and start looking for it as well. The cache is a treasure chest containing over $1,000,000 in gold and jewelry hidden by fellow Santa Fean, Forrest Fenn (http://www.kob.com/article/stories/S2261145.shtm). I will explain more about that later.

Others are searching for the treasure as well and some of them also have blogs that tell about their failures to find the chest. But mostly their blogs are wonderful stories beautifully written about the discoveries they make while out looking for what they haven’t yet found (http://lummifilm.wordpress.com/).

Mine will be different. The way it is to work is that I will explain the clues Forrest Fenn has given us in his book, The Thrill of the Chase, as I understand them but with just enough of a time lag so that the final clue, the key, the closing argument will be known only to me until the treasure chest is safely locked away in my storage shed.

I will also be like Forrest Fenn and give just enough information to send you in the wrong direction even though the clue, if faithfully followed, will lead you in the right direction, down the correct valley, along a perfectly defined trail to the exact spot where Forrest Fenn could have carefully placed his treasure.

But you will have to do your part—especially if you want to get there before I do. First, to follow along or even jump ahead, you will need to buy the book The Thrill of the Chase, A Memoir by Forrest Fenn that is available only from the Collected Works Bookstore in Santa Fe, New Mexico. http://www.collectedworksbookstore.com/. Profits from the sales go to help pay for the treatment of children with cancer; how many children will depend upon you.

Second, you will have to “forge ahead” no matter how boring the post. I will try to keep each one at 750-900 words so you won’t get dizzy.  Come back often and there will be something new depending on the snow conditions at the Santa Fe Ski Basin; I have reached the age where skiing is a “freebie” so deadlines may not mean what they mean.

The book, The Thrill of the Chase itself, is “filled” with clues; probably more than Forrest Fenn intended and fewer than those I have ‘found.’  I have divided all these clues into three parts: 1) clues that will help us figure out just who Forrest Fenn is—a necessary task for a number of reasons. Of course, he will accuse us of making things up but pay no attention. He is much more open than he wants us to believe; 2) clues that will tell us whether or not it is true that he has hidden a fortune for anyone to find and possess—after the IRS has taken its share; and 3) clues that will lead us (me!) to the treasure. One of my favorite clues has already been repeated in this very post. See if you can find it. Of course you will also have to decipher it if you are to have any chance at all of finding the treasure.  Don’t Google “thrill of the chase” though.  I tried that and the first six results were porn sites; they definitely will not help you find Forrest Fenn’s cache.

The last thing you must do is to get in shape: learn where ‘North’ is, build up your legs and lungs and trim your toenails. We are about to follow Mr. Fenn on a fine, fine journey.


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