Archive for December, 2011

Forrest Fenn's map in "The Thrill of the Chase."

I want you to know that I have looked at Forrest Fenn’s map on page 133 of The Thrill of the Chase for what seems like days, weeks, even months on end. Not that that is all bad, mind you. I love maps—even when they are of places I have never been or where, unfortunately, I will never go.

Maps help conjure up all kinds of great adventure stories and, in North America, the best ones to do that are the old antique maps made by those sometimes skilled, often self-taught cartographers of the early years of Manifest Destiny; of Lewis and Clark and the mapmakers that dutifully put to paper the names, words and places traveled by the mountain men, who, whether French, Spanish or Irish, had a way of describing the essence of a landscape that is lost on no one.

From Tetilla peak (Spanish) that I can see from my office window, to les Trois Tétons (French) of western Wyoming to . . . well, I don’t need to tell you about the Irish. You understand what I mean. These early travelers never lacked for realistic descriptions nor did they suffer a loss of imagination; and their vocabularies were very much those of uncommon common men.

But do I care for new, modern maps? Not so much. They all seem to be about ranches or farms sold to developers just so they could undo the ancient trails and traces—the very names of which tell of hardships and successes won only with great difficulty—and then saddle them with designations like “Lily Lane” or “Hibiscus.” Now the falls, cataracts and steep narrow canyons that were always dangerous encounters for those early travelers, are hidden by reservoirs and diversions that have destroyed the very personalities of rivers that for many hundreds of thousands of years molded the landscapes of which they are a part.

And what have I found in Forrest Fenn’s map after all this blinking and thinking?  Well, for one, it’s just about the fuzziest map I ever saw, and it makes me dizzy, and it doesn’t help matters when I use a magnifying glass. However, after a couple of months of eye-blinking and brow-mopping over THE MAP as it has come to be called in our house, an epiphany of sorts occurred right there in front of me while I was re-reading Mr. Fenn’s wonderful story about letting children touch the nose of George Washington in a very expensive painting of that very same George Washington, when one of the young ladies discovered that that George Washington was the reverse of the George Washington she had in her pocket!

I’ve no doubt that many of you have looked at that MAP for hours just like me. And it made you dizzy and you used a magnifying glass. But how many of you have scanned that MAP and then put it in Photoshop so that you could reverse and then sharpen it?

Aha! And now you want me to tell you what I discovered? Well, here it is and it won’t cost you a percentage of the take if you find the treasure because of it.

What I found was that if you scan the MAP and then reverse it in Photoshop and then sharpen it, you have an image resembling pretty much every mountain range and river in the United States west of Arkansas.

I am sorry about this. It’s not much of a Christmas present. But maybe I can make up for it in the next installment about that MAP which will be coming more or less soon (maybe). You see, it has, indeed, snowed up at Ski Santa Fe where you will be able to find me over the next few weeks.

Seasons Greetings and best wishes,


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When I reached the second grade at Lincoln School, I began to win all of the spelling bees. Indeed, Lincoln School hadn’t seen anything like it before nor has it seen anything like it since.

But there was a problem and her name was Raylene Poe. I privately called her “Rosy Poesy” and she sat two seats in front and across the aisle from me.

It didn’t matter that I liked baseball and marbles and snowball fights and fishing like just about any other kid in class of my gender because mostly what I liked was recess and a good game of “chase” where I could almost catch her. The thing was, she was a couple of inches taller than me and that was mostly legs. She could outrun anybody.

She also had long curls that cascaded to just below her shoulders and her breath was a pure mixture of grape cool-aid, Red Hots and flour paste. And, of course, the spelling part was just to impress her. In all the other classes what I did mostly was dream.

My favorite of my two favorite dreams was where Rosy Poesy and I were married and had two children and a bicycle and we lived next to a baseball field where I played for the Brooklyn Dodgers and hit nothing but home runs and laid down really, really successful bunts. In the other one I dreamed that she would come over to my house so that we could build highways together in the dirt under our big elm tree. We would use my favorite “earth moving” equipment which consisted solely of a six inch piece off the end of a 2”x4” and a potato. Of course, I would let her use the 2”x4” because it made the best highways.

All this dreaming, however, meant that my arithmetic was horrible, my singing was worse, and my “cursive” suffered so much that the teacher made me stay after school and make little “o”s and then big “O”s in long straight lines and she watched to see that my elbow never touched the desk. But I shined in spelling class.

Then, on the very last day of that very same class, I was sitting there just looking at the back of her head when she turned around in her seat, gave me her best second-grader Jezebel smile, lifted her foot towards me and there on the sole of her shoe was printed “RP+RS”. I haven’t been able to spell since.

My guess is that Forrest Fenn had a similar experience only it was in “counting class” and if you want to know why I believe this, follow along as I highlight the nine clues in his now famous poem (page 132 in The Thrill of the Chase) in which he tells us just what we have to do to find his treasure.

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.


Begin it where warm waters halt

And take it in the canyon down,

Not far, but too far to walk.

Put in below the home of Brown.

From there it’s no place for the meek,

The end is ever drawing nigh;

There’ll be no paddle up your creek,

Just heavy loads and water high.


If you’ve been wise and found the blaze,

Look quickly down, your quest to cease,

But tarry scant with marvel gaze,

Just take the chest and go in peace.


So why is it that I must go

And leave my trove for all to seek?

The answers I already know,

I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak.


So hear me all and listen good,

Your effort will be worth the cold.

If you are brave and in the wood

I give you title to the gold.


So there it is; a poem with nine clues except that, if you have been paying attention, you already know that there are 15 clues—not nine.

What, then, does this mean? Either Mr. Fenn had a similar experience as mine only in his “counting class” and there really are 15 clues or, he has pulled another Fensterism and we now must figure out just which of the 15 are the real nine. Going on a treasure hunt with Forrest Fenn seems always to be interesting; but it will never be easy.



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